13 July 2020

With multiple sites closed, production slowed down or stopped and staff having been furloughed or working remotely across the industry, there’s no doubt the impact of novel coronavirus COVID-19 has been huge. Even with many sites now reopening, the effects will continue to be felt for a long time.

With many commentators predicting a looming recession, it might seem logical to cut back marketing activities if it looks like your audience has disappeared. This, however, is a common misconception; analysis of previous recessions has shown that the companies choosing to maintain or even increase marketing spend emerge from economic slowdown in a far stronger position.

The key is not to shut down your marketing activity altogether, but simply to alter it. Your audience hasn’t gone anywhere, they’ve just changed their habits, with digital increasing in importance as a route to finding your products.

To give an example of this in practice, at NBS, we’ve seen a 75% increase in use of our cloud-based specification platform, NBS Chorus, since February. What’s more, the specification of manufacturers’ products has also increased by 32%. This suggests that rather than stopping activity, specifiers have simply moved to using services that allow them to work wherever they are.

So, how do you adapt to meet the changing preferences of specifiers and ensure information reaches them where they need it?

Get in front of your audience

Digital is now the preferred route for product research, specification and purchases. A third of manufacturers we spoke to for our recent Business Continuity Survey said they’d seen an increase in customers asking for digital information with two-thirds currently, or soon to be, providing more material in electronic formats.

This is a part of a larger transformational trend: recent research from McKinsey & Company into B2B business purchasing, found that digital sales have doubled over traditional sales since the start of COVID-19. Alongside this, digital is now the preferred route for B2B purchases with manufacturers’ websites the most important source.

As the physical world emerges from lockdown, the digital one has shown the real adaptability of the internet. Specifiers are online and that’s where their search for your product starts. It’s more important than ever to ensure your website has the right information, and effective SEO to appear in relevant results.

But, your digital presence goes way beyond your website or google search ranking. Platforms such as NBS Source can augment your website by supporting SEO, granting you additional exposure to specifiers and providing them with high quality information about your products, in the exact way they need it.

NBS Source consolidates all of our current manufacturer services in one place, including Product Selector, NBS Plus and the NBS National BIM Library — currently used to specify around £52bn worth of projects each year. Improved search functionality and information on over 22,000 leading manufacturers’ products, make it easy for specifiers to find the products they need with technical data, digital objects and product specs all in one place. It’s a truly digital route to market.

So, how do you get in front of your audience?

Guide specifiers to your products

Your marketing strategy should make it easy for architects, specifiers and designers to find you and your products. If you can simplify the specifying process for them, you’ll be head and shoulders above the competition. Your customers want accurate and detailed product information in a digital format, including as digital objects.

A platform like NBS Source presents products in specification format, with information supporting existing and upcoming industry demands, which they can easily drop into their designs and specifications. So your products can be found, and specified in no time at all. The emphasis on high quality project specifications is increasing, and being written into the specification is the best way to ensure your products make it to the final build.

Give specifiers content that benefits them

Architects, designers and specifiers need to stay up-to-date with industry news and keep developing their skills; even more so when working remotely or furloughed. Great content in the form of how-to guides, online CPD programmes (such as those available through our RIBA-accredited CPD service, which can be in a multitude of formats from podcasts to live webinars) and sharing insights into new legislation, for example the April 2020 reform of building regulations - make it easy and effective to keep in regular contact with new and existing customers.

NBS Source is also a great way to achieve this, allowing you to host product literature and case studies alongside your technical product information, as well as linking to your CPD material.

Webinars and live Q&A sessions are another great way to share your content and communicate, and they are reaching bigger audiences than ever before. With no need to travel and participants able to watch at their leisure, it’s a hassle-free way to connect. This should be supported by social media, PR, email marketing and digital advertising to share your content as widely as possible; an integrated strategy is essential.

Go directly to your customers

When specifiers have found you, it’s vital that your staff are on hand to answer any questions a potential customer may have. Queries through live chat services are up 44%, so a rapid response time - even when working remotely - can have a huge impact on sales. We’ve recognised this need by creating NBS Source, a platform that provides everything customers need to specify your products, reducing the likelihood of questions. And through our NBS Chorus specification system, designers and manufacturers can work on project specifications together, collaboratively via the cloud – as demonstrated recently by Franklin Ellis Architects and Dulux Trade

If you’re able to respond to a customer’s questions quickly and remain contactable when your competitors are not, specifiers will remember the quality of your service and be sure to return to you.

Gather data and use it

Instead of cutting back on your marketing activities, now is the time to optimise it. Identify where customers are dropping off and use that knowledge to make improvements where necessary; ask repeat customers for feedback, find out why visitors to your site didn’t make a purchase and test new lines and strategies to ensure there are no obstacles. If you have a marketing budget that was previously assigned to events, trade shows or print runs, this can be reallocated more effectively to digital activities.

As the industry becomes more digitised, the demands and opportunities to utilise data as a competitive advantage are becoming greater. We’re currently developing NBS Source to give you tracking features and insight into specification trends for your products and wider industry practices, so you can make informed decisions and better plan your marketing and product operations.

An end-to-end marketing strategy

The COVID-19 pandemic is transforming the way the world works and, while some things remain uncertain, a marketing strategy that enables you to go directly to product specifiers isn’t going to change. The way you reach them, however, is changing faster than ever before.

Our cloud-based platform, NBS Source, puts your products in front of thousands of specifiers and practices with all the technical information and data they need to specify your products, across all stages of the project timeline. NBS Source is designed to make it easy for specifiers to find the products they need for their projects and to link seamlessly with our specification tool NBS Chorus, making including your products as simple as dragging and dropping them into the spec.

For more info on how NBS Source enables you to reach specifiers, click here. Or, to discuss how NBS Source can support your integrated marketing strategy, contact us today on 0345 200 1056 or email manufacturers@thenbs.com.