Many industries have a hierarchy, and at the top are the influencers. They are the people that define a project, and guide a client through the buying decisions. They are the clients’ trusted advisors.
In the construction industry the influencers are architects and designers. They’re the firms clients go to first. The architects and designers scope the project, develop the plan, and determine what’s needed. And it’s their work that triggers the buying cycles of a variety of other suppliers: building supplies, equipment, construction firms and contractors, to name a few.
The hierarchy is well defined, and it shapes how companies in a space sell their services and grow their brands. Octopus Products, for example, may not be well known by the end clients, but designers definitely know them.
Influencers drive purchase decisions
Tom Bernard, President of Octopus Products says, “Our industry is very project driven, and people call on us only when our name is specified in a project.”
Octopus Products provides specialty surfacing products. These are the eye-catching wall surfaces you will see in retailers or hotel lobbies. They can be laminates, translucents or wood, but all their products have the power to make a space pop.
Next time you walk into a premium retailer take a look at the surfaces of the counters and walls. Look how designers use accents and panelling to create depth and visual appeal in the space. These are the kinds of products that Octopus delivers.
Tom continues, “The way the purchasing process works is a designer specifies our products, and they go onto a set of architectural drawings. The drawings go out for a bid, and whoever wins the bid ends up buying from us.” The end customer, the firms who win the bids, are woodworkers, cabinet makers and contractors.
To drive sales, Octopus works closely with the influencers of their industry to ensure their products are specified in their drawings. It’s a crucial step. If they ignore the influencers their sales will plummet.
Relationships create leverage
The hierarchy creates symbiotic relationships. Designers rely on Octopus Products, and Octopus Products relies on the designers.
Designers rely on Octopus’s inventory, unique materials and advice. It saves the designers time, because they have a go-to resource they can rely on. They know they will find surfacing products to pull their design concepts together, but also have a trusted advisor on interior design trends and techniques.
The relationships with the designers also benefits Octopus Products. Instead of developing relationships with every possible client in the marketplace, Octopus can focus its sales resources on a much smaller group of influencers. They know projects start with the designers, and they can be much more purposeful in nurturing these relationships to grow their brand and reputation.
Cut through the clutter
Influencers have demanding jobs, and are constantly strapped for time. For companies trying to attract their attention and influence, they’ve got to cut through the cutter. They’ve got to position their brand as a go-to resource.
Tom says, “For designers to make their designs great and unusual — it’s obviously about the design, but it’s also about the materials that they use within the design. A design can be amazing, but if they use the wrong stuff it can be a disaster. We try and find things that no one else does out there. When we get the comment, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before.’ That’s the kind of comment we’re really trying to evoke.”
It’s the materials that can make a design pop, and this is the position Octopus Products strives to own.
A strong market position is essential in a hierarchical structure. When the influencers cannot distinguish one supplier from the next they’ll default to price and convenience. A strong brand position shifts this behavior, because it creates a preferred choice. It ensures the influencers think of your brand first, and recommend it first.