Product Specification Fail: Why Your AIA Course Stinks and What to Do About It - Part 1

Posted On: 
Jun 4, 2018
Product Specification Fail: Why Your AIA Course Stinks and What to Do About It - Part 1

Have you spent a small fortune developing your AIA continuing education course only to see it bomb? Are your course participation numbers as bad as Steven Seagal’s acting? Building product manufacturers spend significant budget money on developing AIA courses and the last thing you want to happen is for the course to flop. Today we’ll review the top reasons why AIA courses fail and what to do about it.

How AIA Continuing Education Helps Manufacturers

Over 90,000 AIA professionals are required to take AIA courses annually. Each AIA member must complete 18 hours of AIA courses to maintain their membership. That’s over 1.6 million CE hours needed by architects, specifiers, and other design professionals! Over 40 states require architects to take continuing education. Building product manufacturers have significant opportunities to reach decision makers via free AIA courses.

Building product manufacturers need to invest their dollars where they get the highest ROI. Poor branding, lousy content, bad photographs, awful customer service – these all can sink a product manufacturer even if you sell a great product. AIA continuing education is the strongest tool a manufacturer has in their arsenal to educate architects. Therefore, it’s crucial that manufacturers make the most informed decisions when developing AIA courses.

Every AIA Course Should Have These 3 Goals

  • Educate the decision makers about your product. Tell them the benefits, applications, and amazing things your product can do to solve their design problems.
  • Increase your specification opportunities. Whether you are delivering an AIA lunch and learn, a AIA webinar,or have an online anytime course, your presentation should ultimately generate leads, brand awareness, and help build relationships with design professionals.
  • Set you apart from your competition. Your competitor’s products may have some great attributes. However, they’re not going to solve an architect’s problem like your product can.

Content is King

Content is king and it’s a crucial component to developing an effective AIA presentation. Content can make or break an AIA CE course. There are three key things to focus on when developing content: a subject matter expert, professional media, and following the AIA guidelines.

Your company needs a qualified subject matter expert to develop the course. This is not the CAD Operator, college intern, or office janitor. Make sure you have assembled the most experienced subject matter team to build the narrative about your product. Every AIA online course should be written by a subject matter expert who can convey the crucial aspects of a building product while keeping the audience engaged.

The subject matter expert should be very familiar with the topic, industry terminology, and provide anecdotal content when possible. Architects love case studies and real-life examples. If you bore your audience to death, your leads will be ice cold.

Hire a Professional Media Expert

Let’s be honest, an amazing building product manufacturer can’t afford to feature low quality images or video in their presentation. How many presentations have been ruined by crummy images, poorly lit photos, and blurry product snapshots? Your team may have created the greatest AIA presentation in history but if the product photos are bad, your CE course was a waste of time and money. Design professionals demand more and your company better deliver, or your competition will.

Stock photography has its place in AIA presentations, but hiring a professional photographer or videographer can make a world of difference. Stock images can be used by anyone and everyone and the stock image you selected may even end up in your competitor’s presentation!

Great photography sells more products. In side by side comparisons, most consumers choose brands with great photography over products with mediocre imagery. Nothing says amateur like a bad photograph of a building product. Building product manufacturers want architects, spec writers, and contractors to trust them and to trust that they run a professional shop. If your building product images are lousy, maybe your products or customer service are, too.

AIA Rules & Limitations About Content

Per AIA guidelines, “a building product manufacturer’s course content must be unbiased, non-promotional, and generic. A manufacturer’s products or services can only be discussed once the credit portion of the course is completed.”

The course materials including PowerPoints, handouts, brochures, product sample, etc. used during the credit portion of the course may not include any proprietary information. The course materials must be educational, and they must serve to reinforce the learning objectives. Only the first and last slide of a presentation may include a company’s product or service information. Just the facts! You’ll have plenty of time after your AIA lunch and learn or webinar to tell architects how great your products are.

PDF: The Worst AIA Course Format

In a previous blog, How Your Outdated AIA Course is Affecting Your Brand , we discussed that the wrong AIA course format can damage your brand and specification opportunities. If the primary delivery format for your AIA education course is a PDF, you better fire your marketing manager! The Portable Document Format (PDF) was developed in the early 1990’s as a way to share documents. Architects need to download the PDF and read the document like a newspaper article. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

A substandard format like a PDF can decrease user participation rates, damage a company’s brand, and waste precious budgetary dollars. We are going to review the formats that need to be avoided if you value your marketing budget. Anyone who suggests that you should use a PDF, magazine article, or Word Doc as the primary format for your CE course should get into a different industry or retire. As someone who values your budget almost as much as you do, if I heard someone suggesting such a ridiculous idea, I would be forced to call them out on the lack of value and the low ROI of PDF courses.

PDFs aren’t lead generators, they’re lead killers. Shockingly, a large well-known education provider in the AEC industry uses this outdated delivery format as their primary education tool. If the price they are asking for is in a 2018 budget, then the way they are marketing your product should be in a 2018 format.

Print Advertising Advocates, Have You Heard of The Internet?

Total print advertising in the United States dropped by over $30 billion between 2011 and 2016, and yet online ad spending reached $62 billion in 2016. You do the math. Magazine CE courses have roamed the earth since the days of the dinosaurs. How many architects do you know that still read a magazine article to obtain their AIA education hours? Yea, me neither. Magazine CE courses are on life support and about to go the way of the illustrious brick phone, the pager, and the beautiful TRS-80 Laptop by RadioShack. Someone cue the violins please.

The Most Effective AIA Continuing Education Formats

PowerPoint by Microsoft has been the primary tool for developing AIA courses for decades. It’s been the warhorse of tools but also the butt of many jokes. Death by PowerPoint is a nightmare no one wants to suffer. We’ve all experienced bad PowerPoint presentations where the speaker reads the slides verbatim, mountains of text drown out crummy stock photos, and architects suffer from narcolepsy and fall out of their chairs.

The good news is that PowerPoint has come a long way since it was launched in 1990. The best PowerPoint presentations utilize video, animation, and voice over. Great PowerPoint presentations tell a compelling story about a building product. PowerPoint presentations with voice over and video clips work very well for online AIA courses. The most successful building product manufacturers in the industry have learned to use a single PowerPoint as a universal format for their online course, lunch and learns, and webinar programs. That’s right – no more paying for each presentational format. One PowerPoint presentation, 3 ways to deliver it.

In our next segment, we will discuss the most effective format in the AEC industry, the biggest lead generating platforms, and tips for making great courses. Does your company use a PDF as its primary delivery format? What have the consequences been besides subpar participation rates and low ROI?

For more information or to discuss the topic of this blog, please contact Brad Blank