Architects build the foundation of their projects with concrete relationships.

If you intend for your products or materials to become the commercial architectural firm standard, a strong relationship between architects and your physical product, your sales reps and your overall brand will be essential. Architects want to see and feel the products they are specifying, and they often are eager to talk with manufacturers about specs, applications, how well the product has performed on other projects and the support that you are able to provide with documentation and modifications.

You can capitalize on a variety of venues to get your product into the hands of architects and your product knowledge into their thinking. In some cases, you can participate in an event sponsored by an architectural association or manufacturer’s industry group. In other instances, you can create your own sessions to bring your products forward and interact with architects.

Whatever the setting, fostering interactions with your product and your people can cement an ongoing relationship with architects that help you rise above the competition.

Trade shows, conferences and other events can spotlight your products from multiple directions.

The 2023 AIA survey found that, for those who attend in-person events and conferences, the majority want to ask questions and engage with exhibitors. The activity they ranked as most important, however, is to see and feel products. Just under half—47%–listed this as their number-one reason for attending.

Nearly all of those surveyed placed the highest value of such events on in-person interaction with reps and products. Many said these events are opportunities to receive direct answers to their questions from reps and serve as sources of inspiration for new products, as well.

Obviously, then, a trade show is a great place to launch a new product or begin your entry into the commercial segment. Architects want to be able to see, touch, feel, smell and hear (or not hear, if it’s soundproofing) the product so that they know how to specify it and to gain confidence in doing so.

Shine a light on your products by ensuring that your exhibit offers plenty of opportunities for a visiting architect to interact with them; by staffing the exhibit with reps who are thoroughly familiar with the product; and by providing materials that promote other interactions, such as upcoming conferences or lunch and learns that will feature your products.

The presence of your sales reps may be your best reason for exhibiting at a show or conference.

The AIA survey made clear that relationships matter, especially with younger architects. It determined that, for those under 43, some 80% felt that making a contact with specific manufacturers was an important part of events, and 78% of those aged 43-57 rated it as important. And 66% of older architects felt the same way.

The fact is that people buy from people, not companies. The relationships your sales reps have worked so hard to build generate a great audience, especially for a new product launch or a company entering the marketplace. Success in becoming the commercial architectural firm standard begins with relationships. Features and benefits come later. First you must build trust.

Your reps may start out by helping you approach clients that are likely to be most interested. The reps can have soft-launch conversations with a small, friend-of-the-company audience that is most inclined to trust you with the risk of a new product. Their buy-in will not go unnoticed by other architects and can spark a mounting interest in your product’s specifications.

Lunch and learns are an excellent way for architects to digest product details.

As a type of continuing education and for access to manufacturers, lunch and learns (L&Ls) are very popular with architects. The AIA survey noted that in-person lunch and learns are the preferred way for 77% of the responding architects to gain knowledge about new products and materials. The same proportion judged these sessions to be their favorite way to interact with manufacturers.

Your reps are likely already giving L&Ls to architectural firms. You should use these opportunities for interacting with architects to create a new L&L relevant to your new product or more aspects of your company if it recently arrived in the commercial segment. Your reps can mention a new-product curriculum during their current L&Ls and offer to provide another educational experience. The AIA says continuing education, like lunch and learns, along with webinars, remain architectural professionals’ most-used sources for keeping on top of product and material trends (83%), so your audience should be enthusiastic about the chance to learn more about your new product.

Be sure to submit your L&Ls to the AIA for accreditation as a continuing education unit (CEU). More than half (54%) of architects reported live or on-demand courses as one of their preferred ways to learn about new products, and 77% want building product manufacturers to keep them informed about new products.

Architects are very busy people, working on deadlines, and some may not have time for your lunch and learn on the planned date. So, also host online sessions for CEUs, through either a webinar platform or a pre-recorded, self-guided experience. While L&Ls and CEUs are not allowed to be product specific—they are required to be about the general industry and trends—they frequently lead to informal product discussions after the training is over or to a more formal product knowledge session where you can again get your product in the architect’s hands.

Product knowledge sessions can reinforce what architects have just learned.

Frequently, a product knowledge session will follow a lunch and learn or CEU. This is the time for your rep to really show off the new product or material, highlighting its distinguishing features and benefits and starting conversations around an architect’s active or upcoming projects for which your product may be a perfect fit.

These sessions are good opportunities to discuss case studies—and to hand out case study materials—as well as your future plans for the product. They provide a chance to talk about how the product can be applied to the various industry segments that the architects in attendance specialize in. (“The same properties that make this material perfect for supporting buildings and bridges in cold-weather locations also make it ideal for pipes carrying freezing water in community water systems.”)

It’s helpful if you develop a series of questions you would like to answer at the session, because the answers would point out benefits that distinguish your product from competitors. If these questions are not asked, work them into the conversation with phrases like, “You know, often I’m asked about….” Or, “I should tell you that the one question that’s hardest for our industry to answer—and that is answered beautifully by this product—is….”

Customize the presentation of your samples.

A good way literally to get the architect’s hands on your product is to deliver free samples in sample boxes, either resulting from a direct request through your website or via one of the online sample sites discussed earlier. The box and its contents present the opportunity for you to make new connections with an architectural firm, even though it’s not a face-to-face opportunity.

Consider creating a durable wrapper for the box that bears your branding but that is also adaptable to focusing on the recipient, in both the words and the graphics. Under the lid, include a brief, personalized note to the recipient with thanks for his or her interest or recalling the last time you were face to face. If you are deluged with sample requests (Lucky you!), customizing the box may not always be practical, but you can still include a personalized note that thanks the recipient by name and firm.

The product or material itself might be amenable to bearing two or three labels (it shouldn’t look like a Christmas tree) that point out distinctive features, such as, “100% recyclable,” “Touch-free sensor,” or “Scuff-proof surface.”

Even if a specific architect or designer doesn’t request a sample of your new product, you can include literature about it in sample boxes that are go out to that professional with your other products.

Check your product into the architect’s in-house resource library.

In seeking the opportunity for your brand’s offerings to become a commercial architectural firm standard, you will want to do all you can to ensure your product or material is included in the firm’s resource library. This is one place where architects and designers often start when selecting products for a project.

How to get your product on the figurative shelf will require some strategizing, as will considering ways to keep it from gathering dust.

Do you know whom to contact or what that particular firm’s approach to adding new products is like? Similarly, are you aware of other architectural firms that have added your product to their library? If so, try to find out what convinced them to do so and carry that information into your plans to approach your next target firm.

Do you have other products already in the library? If that’s the case, see if it makes sense to position your new product as an evolutionary advancement of the current one or as a valuable supplement to it. That may lead the firm to consider the new product as an update that ought to be added.

If your product cannot be directly related to one currently in the resource library, you might consider an email nurture sequence to familiarize your prospect with your product and to suggest its application to the kinds of projects in which that architect or designer specializes.


And, of course, don’t overlook opportunities for your rep to directly contact the person responsible for making decisions on library inclusions and to request that your product be added. Person-to-person interaction, again, can go a long way. 

Lending a hand with specs can strengthen relationships.

When your product or your company is new to an architect, he or she will need your help in developing specifications for its place in the project. You can generate specs for the architect, review what the architectural team has assembled, or anything in between. In any event, architects will want you to provide very specific details and guidance regarding your product or material and your perspective on how the spec should be developed to ensure the best outcome.

Your willingness to help will allow for more in-depth conversations about the product and its applications and will make certain the specs are written correctly for a successful install. During these conversations, you may discover other areas of the project for which your product is equally suited. For example, in helping with specs for flooring in a theater, you might ask the architect if he or she is considering adaptations of the same flooring for the outdoor entrance under the marquee and for the lobby to create a unified environment.

By taking some work off the architect’s plate, especially for more complex specifications like structural exterior products or complete systems, you are building the architect’s confidence in your organization and are becoming a reliable resource.

Keep showrooms updated and interactive to display and demonstrate the product.

Design showroom displays are a great way to feature new and updated products to distributors and architects. It’s unlikely that you can feature every version of every product in one showroom, so you’ll need to make some tough decisions about which products to show in the limited space available. Would it make sense to swap out an existing product for a new one? Or does the new product merit an entirely different display? Can you show the product applied in context and for unconventional uses?


Some products defy a static display and are best showcased with accompanying video, demonstrating how they function and perhaps including testimonials. Other product exhibits, such as smoke alarms at one end and soundproof walls at the other, may benefit from interactive pushbuttons and VU meters.


To help in deciding what to display and how, you want to be sure your have alignment with channel managers in your organization. They will be in touch with the needs of their retail partners and will know which partners want to take on the new product and how they can help showcase it to drive adoption.

The more ways you can find to get your product or material into the hands of architects and to foster great relationships with them, the more they will raise their hands when considering your offerings as their firm standard. Create opportunities for architecture and design professionals to learn about your product, to hold it, see it, feel it, hear it, find it and apply it. Give them the chance to admire the physical side of your product and to use it to help inspire their creativity. You’ll up your product’s acceptance by a touch.