Understanding your audience is critical to the success of your sales and marketing efforts. For most building product manufacturers, the architectural technician is a crucial decision maker. Defining and understanding who this is, what they like, how they prefer to be communicated with and what their drivers are, is essential.
Many of our customers refer to the architect as the most powerful specifier, but at Pauley Creative we believe the architectural technician and architectural technologist has a greater influence on product specification. In this article, we set out a fictitious character who’s traits, behaviours and drivers, are likely common. Many individuals in the architectural community we hope would concur with.
The Architectural Technician
Alex is more likely to be Male than Female; data from 2019 quoted by Careersmart gives UK figures as follows for the category Architectural and Town Planning Technicians;
Women 7174 (31%) Men 15953 ( 69%).
Alex will have a good educational background, probably a degree or even a masters if working in a bigger organisation, or may have qualified through a strictly vocational educational environment via FE college or an apprenticeship. He is likely to be a millennial aged between 25 to 35 and will be confident, used to taking responsibility and expect providers to be of the same ilk.
Alex will enjoy the creative aspects of work as well as the functional.
He will appreciate and understand design, aesthetics and the choice of finishing materials which are critical to the built environment.
Although a member of a well-qualified and specialist profession dealing with scientific and engineering principles, there will also be close involvement in a range of critical commercial and procurement decisions.
Whats the difference between an architectural technician and an architectural technologist?
We often get asked what the difference is between a technician and a technologist. Skills and knowledge acquired along either journey will encompass 3D design, studies of the built environment, surveying and planning. There is a blurred line between those designated Technicians and Technologists, if anything the former will concentrate on the drawings, specifications, regulatory compliance; all those issues which determine performance such as those relating to fire safety, thermal and acoustic deliverables, light levels and so on. Certainly Alex will be right in the firing line if a building fails to perform, something that suppliers should take note of and respond accordingly. A reputation takes time to build but can be quickly lost.
Technologists may well be focused on more strategic matters such as design, planning, briefing and risk assessment but demarcation lines between the two roles are not particularly well defined and in many practices would be seen as virtually interchangeable.
Both the range of job responsibilities and their importance to the business should not be underestimated. Alex will work closely with the Architects/Partners and may well feel that, while they often get the plaudits on major project, it’s actually the AT who is responsible for delivering the end product. Alex will foresee the time when those contributions are fully recognised and will be ambitious to achieve Technical Associate status in the highest managerial or director levels of the organisation
What does an architectural technician’s job role include?
This checklist helps to understand and appreciate the potential scope of Alex’s role within a project lifecycle;
- Early stage project briefings with other consultants, professionals and the client
- Understand building design requirements to influence positive outcomes related to performance and function
- Advise on legals, regulations, environmental impacts
- Conduct planning application administration
- Identify site and land surveys required for successful planning acceptance
- Develop the project brief
- Design building and surrounding areas using cad packages
- Coordinate the flow and sharing of building design data and assets
- Research product
- Advise clients on procurement of materials and labour
- Liaise with local authorities as required to support the project
- Provide detailed specifications for materials
- Carry out risk assessments
- Administer contracts
- Obtain building occupant and user feedback once complete
- Appraise the performance of buildings in use
Outside of project work, architects spend much of their time on the following tasks
- Researching and understanding building regulations changes and new localised guidelines and standards
- Researching and understanding products – mostly through Google search, manufacturer websites and product directories
- Meeting key material suppliers
- Carrying out face to face or online CPD
- Reading and digesting industry publications of interest
- Looking for inspiration from peers for their next project
- Attending relevant industry events
What do architectural professionals need from product manufacturers?
When dealing with Alex as or on behalf of a provider it’s well worth remembering that your product or service is one element of a larger specification and a highly complex project. You’ll be expected to respond to the changes in timescale, design and even prevailing economic conditions. This will start at negotiation stage and of course, during the tendering and pitching process there will be an intense and stressful final period before outcomes are known. ‘Going the extra mile’ with availability, response times and fulsome information will endear you to the AT.
Interaction with providers of products and services will also involve consideration and evaluation of key contract elements such as technical performance, supply-chain issues, aesthetics, reliability and of course, price.
Alex will be confident enough to manage a project from concept to completion. Although reporting to a senior level – often at partner / director status- he/she will be taking a high degree of responsibility, whilst not always having the final say on policy, nor indeed fully sharing in the recognition when success is achieved.
In his context Alex will appreciate those who overtly recognise the contribution of the AT and as the day-to day contact with great influence over purchasing decisions, it’s a wise move to cultivate the relationship.
- Concise and comprehensive information
- Great marketing communications
…will go far to cement your relationship.
Why is your digital presence so important for Architectural professionals
Because of Alex’s age and educational profile, he/she will have grown up in the digital era. Ambitious, well-motivated, talented and gregarious, Alex will be a regular and enthusiastic user of professional software, the internet, business and social media.
Although very likely, given the emphasis on aesthetics in the profession, to appreciate the value of design in communication, especially on websites and online tools, Alex will not be patient with any information source that impedes rapid progress to the necessary information. Sites which don’t offer clear navigation and an empathetic user experience won’t cut it.
Bear in mind too, that as a likely user of relatively sophisticated design software he/she may well be knowledgeable about web design and even build. Time saving websites, content, tools and resources are a must.
Over 90% of the architectural community turn to search engines first to research product, followed shortly by manufacturer websites, and closely followed by reputable product directories.
Having a website that is not just easy to use, but ranks for the questions the community is asking is number 1 priority.
This ability to morph between aesthetics and functionality is a characteristic familiar to Alex’s colleagues, who will see his/her involvement in many of the practical features of a project, including planning and estimating for potential setbacks. This work might include such detail as;
- Analysing and drafting interior measurements
- Creating project managed schedules
- Making construction plans from design and concept work using specialist software
Sources of reference used by architectural professionals
In this and the other tasks inherent in the work, Alex may also use, as information and reference sources ;
- RIBA Plan of Works
- Journal of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (likely to be a member)
- Architects Standard Catalogue
- Barbour ABI Index or Glenigan
- Trade Journals such as Riba J, Architects Journal, Architectural Review, ABC&D
How to communicate with architectural technicians
Alex is not ’old school’. Although involved in a profession that is still, in many ways, ‘white, male and conservative, Alex is of a generation where traditional business disciplines, suits and ties, gins-and -tonic matter a lot less than professional self-esteem. The job is based on performance, where mistakes are generally laid bare and glaringly apparent.
So, to become Alex’s ‘most valued’ be the consummate professional and recognise the responsibility and influence of the AT role. Deference is not necessary but mutual respect definitely is.
First and foremost, Alex is looking for providers that are absolutely dependable, competent, knowledgeable and efficient.
Most architectural professions prefer communication to be light, timely and when necessary. Bombarding architects with comms is an sure fire way of turning them off. However, educational posts with information that keeps them up to date with regulation changes, new product, great looking case studies are all very welcome. Many specifiers use email as their new ‘product catalogue’, saving information in well organised folders to search and refer back to when it becomes relevant.
With that in mind, its important to follow good email title practices and describe the detail of your email well in the subject matter.
Most architectural technicians would agree that they are ‘time poor’. Face to face meetings are reserved for two reasons;
- Technical and design support on a project
- Required CPD
Key to building relationships is quick turnaround when they need it the most.
Make your next customer look great
Get to the point rapidly and you’ll make a friend – assume a friendship before you’ve shown your value and you might be making a big mistake. Alex’s role requires evaluation of many suppliers so you’re always in a competitive environment.
Above all, stand in Alex’s shoes. As someone not actually an Architect in what is notoriously a self-regarding profession, Alex wants you to help him/her look great in the practice or business and become absolutely indispensable.
Architectural Technician’s are looking for you, your marketing communications and your technical help to be precise, accurate, efficiently and rapidly available, comprehensive and up-to-date.