A few weeks back I discovered SpecifiedBy via LinkedIn Groups, a digital file sharing platform for building product manufacturers. I approached the founder of the platform, Darren Lester to see if he would be up for explaining what SpecifiedBy is and who its for.
We know our readers are predominantly marketers from building product manufacturers and therefore felt this would be useful for our readers. If you would like to be part of the BETA testing team of SpecifiedBy platform then please email them here. You will also receive a 12 month FREE subscription to the platform for doing so.
Hi, please introduce yourself to our readers.
I studied Architecture Technology and Environmental Sustainability at Napier University and I am currently a Resident Entrepreneur in Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. At the minute within SpecifiedBy, I handle everything apart from the actual web programming! The long-term goal is to create innovative products which can help improve the construction industry, and we want to do this through the use of new web technologies and media.
How was the idea of SpecifiedBy created?
It’s an idea that has developed over time, from initially a solution to allow manufacturers to promote their products using 3D CAD models of their products, to the specification library that we will soon be launching.
I’ve looked around and done a lot of research into what already exists, and I haven’t come across anything that particularly excites me. We believe online product directories could, and should, be better. We’ve spoken with a lot of specifiers and manufacturers over the last few months and are confident we are building a solution that will make the lives of both easier.
Is it open to just organisation within the UK businesses or is for organisations worldwide?
The plan is to start off within the UK, but with ambitions of breaking into Europe, the US and as you say worldwide. With a web platform, there isn’t many barriers to new markets, we will just need to create search filters or sub-domains to ensure specifiers are viewing relevant suppliers and vice versa.
There is already a plethora of product directories and sharing platforms around, what makes Specifiedby different to the others?
There are a lot of others around, but we don’t see a lot of innovation from them. They are mostly happy that they have a model that has worked for a long time, and as long a specifiers continue to use them, manufacturers will want to promote their products there. I am certainly in no position to say this is wrong. But what I do believe and will say is that we can do more.
In many ways, I would see SpecifiedBy as perhaps the next stage on from a product directory within a specifiers product search. Current directories are great for finding a manufacturer that provides the product you are looking for, but they don’t really provide much information on each individual product, no comparisons, no reviews. So perhaps we can work with current directories or maybe we will be purely seen as an alternative, the either way, we have no intention of being ‘just another’ directory.
Then there is also the value that is provided for the manufacturers. I think this is an area that is not tackled very well at the minute. It’s important to move away from marketing and advertising just because it’s what you have always done, or everyone else does. Companies need to really measure the value of what they are doing and react accordingly, and we hope to give them better ways to do that.
What benefits do Specifiers get out of using this platform?
We want to give them more than a directory. A directory is just a categorised list of resources, in this case building product manufacturers. We believe specifiers deserve innovative tools, real functionality, to help make the product sourcing and decision making process easier.
Firstly, we will provide much more detailed information for a manufacturers range of products, including CAD details/3D models, BIM components, tech/spec documents, case studies etc. But once you have access to this information you want to be able to do something with it…. such as save it, organise it or create comparisons.
You may also want to easily share information with colleagues and clients and you may want to collaborate with others to do all this. We also think specifiers would benefit from each other’s experiences of working with particular products or materials, so they can share that too.
What are the benefits for the product manufacturer?
First and foremost, we need to establish an influential and loyal base of users in order to make the platform valuable to product manufacturers, but with already over 1000 specifiers signing up we are making good inroads there.
Our aim is to make sure manufacturers can really monitor the benefits of promoting through SpecifiedBy. This will be through a combination of metrics based around how their content is being interacted with on the platform. We want to give manufacturers more control over this marketing channel. Rather than uploading information on the site and forgetting about it, waiting for sales leads to flow in, we want them to get involved and use the platform to interact with specifiers, kicking off those initial conversations that can lead to an ongoing professional relationship.
How do you intend to connect the manufacturers and specifiers together?
Specifiers will be required to sign up, providing some basic information and creating a username. This will give the specifier access to all the manufacturer information they need without having to go through a sales rep first. But it will also allow the manufacturers to start generating sales leads. There will be ‘best practice’ guidelines in place, but essentially, manufacturers will be able to monitor which users are saving, sharing and downloading their product information and will be able to contact these users directly through the SpecifiedBy platform.
Similarly, specifiers will be able to start up conversations with product manufacturers to request more information.
Is document sharing through online technologies such as Dropbox and Google Docs becoming much more of a priority now?
I think document sharing has always been really important. But obviously, with modern technologies making sharing documents with colleagues and clients pretty seamless, it has become much easier. Perhaps the more important aspect here is that manufacturers have more digital content to share than ever before, and as BIM becomes more widely adopted this is only going to increase. Manufacturers are also becoming less protective of their information and are starting to share this content much more freely.
What’s the future of directories considering manufacturer websites maybe first point of call?
There’s a stat that around 85% of specifier searches are by product not manufacturer, so I don’t think manufacturers websites are the first port of call, some form of search, whether it be Google, or an online directory, usually precedes that, unless the specifier knows exactly who they are looking for.
Aside from that, SpecifiedBy has a lot of potential advantages for the specifier, such as product comparison, reviews and recommendations from other specifiers and the ability to gather, organise and share information for different product solutions, from a range of manufacturers.
For manufacturers, it’s much easier to go to the specifiers than to get them to come to you.
How can marketers measure or justify spend on directories?
I think justifying using a directory is easy. If there is a large number of people in your target market going to the same website regularly, looking for products, it would be very sensible to have a presence there! Measuring the return on investment is much trickier, and directories are traditionally very difficult to measure.
This is the main thing we want to improve for manufacturers. There are a number of key metrics that need to be tracked, such as traffic, page views, click through, downloads etc. all of which will be measurable. Most importantly though, we believe that by sharing relevant, product specific information, the quality of sales leads will dramatically increase, saving time for both specifiers and manufacturers.
When does SpecifiedBy launch?
We are planning to launch early in the New Year. At the minute specifiers can sign up to our launch page to keep informed, and we are also looking for around 100 building product companies to be our beta testers. These 100 or so companies will receive a free year’s subscription in return for some feedback to help us tweak the platform over the first few months.
If you would like to be a BETA tester and get a free one year profile then please email Darren at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also want to to join the SpecifiedBy LinkedIn Group for further conversations on all things specifications; otherwise we look forward to seeing the launch of the platform in the new year!