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Marketing to Specifiers - Understanding Their Needs + Motivations

"Specifier" is a broad term in commercial construction that actually encompasses three distinct audiences: engineers, designers and architects. They're often thought of as similar but are actually quite different in their view of the world and what motivates them.

Which specifier(s) you choose to target may depend on what kind of product you offer (interior vs. exterior, aesthetic vs. functional), and understanding the mindset of each audience will help you more effectively sell to your desired target.



  • Analytical with the belief that how something performs is the only thing that matters
  • Skeptical of "subjective," untested data

Responsibilities/Relevant Products:

Designing building systems (electric, plumbing, HVAC) and structural components (concrete, etc.)

How They're Involved:

  • Often brought in once the architect has laid out initial ideas
  • Tends to also specify categories where the architect perceives the choice as commoditized or having no significant impact on function/design of the space


  • Understanding how something works and why it performs better
  • Reassurance that the product will do what it promises through concrete proof points
  • Want to understand the limitations (e.g., code restrictions, climates) and incompatibilities (or compatibilities with other products) of the product—not just its benefits
I want to understand how your product will bring value to the owner.

How To Reach Me:

  • Sales rep (but don't "schmooze" me—set a meeting; show me your technical knowledge; beware of jargon)
  • 3rd-party testing, spec sheets/sales materials (I prefer written communications over face-to-face interaction)


Responsibilities/Relevant Products:

"Dressing the space" with fixtures like lighting, floor/wall treatments and "soft goods" like carpeting, textiles, and furnishings


  • I want the space to communicate something about me as a designer and evoke just the right feeling based on how the space is supposed to function and my client's vision
  • I use color, texture and pattern to enhance how people experience the space


  • Products that excite my creativity
  • Understanding a material (I have to see, touch and feel it)
  • Working with the customer to understand their ideas, so I can develop a vision for the space that will surprise and delight them
I prefer companies that make it easy to browse and select products, and help me to demonstrate my ideas to clients with samples or visualizers.

How To Reach Me:

  • Search engines (e.g., Google, Bing)
  • Design magazines, blogs, newsletters and websites (e.g., Houzz)
  • Word of mouth from other designers
  • The art world
  • Company website (product selectors, visualizers)



  • Take pride in the power they have to make an impact by defining a vision that gives purpose to the space, enhances the experience of occupants and meets building owner needs
  • However, every project requires me to consider hundreds of products, and my time is limited, so I try to focus my energies on the categories that allow me to be creative and make a real impact

Responsibilities/Relevant Products:

Creative Problem Solving
Creative Problem Solving
  • Defining the physical space of the structure, including the building envelope and interior structures with products that create spatial definition like dividers
  • Defining the aesthetic tone for the space, inside and out with materials like exterior cladding, faucets and lighting
  • Enhancing the performance of the building with energy- and water-saving features

NOTE: Depending on the firm, architects may be responsible for selecting interior design elements. However, some firms delegate interior finishes to a designer.


  • Solving the intellectual and creative puzzle of combining form and function to express my ideas
  • Finding creative ways of using materials while respecting the material's truth
Don't try to push products on me that pretend to be other things. Don't waste my limited time—save me time.

How To Reach Me:

  • Seach engines (e.g, Google, Bing)
  • Word of mouth from peers
  • Sales rep (educate and inspire, assist with spec writing)
  • Email (newsletters, personal communications)
  • Company website (spec sheets, product selectors, visualizers)
  • CEU courses

Selling To Specifiers

With these types of customers, it's not all about free lunch or CEU credits—do your homework on the firm, and don't be afraid to set a one-on-one meeting. During your discussion, focus on educating and inspiring, not selling. Be prepared to talk about both the benefits and limitations of the product.

When it comes to product, be sure that you know yours inside and out. You'll need to be prepared to counter misperceptions and to answer very detailed, technical questions. Go into depth when requested, but also provide an overview of your full offering.

Lastly, recognize that the sales cycle can be long—the right project might not arise for a while—even a year. Stay in touch, so your name is top of mind, and they know you are there as a resource when questions, and needs, arise.