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A collection of building materials marketing trends and insights focused on helping building product manufacturers BLD their brand.

Spotlight on the Elevator Industry

image of Paul Giovannoni

Article Date: May 28, 2020

By Kevin Mayer, CEO, BLD Marketing

Development of a sound specification strategy in the commercial segment is imperative to success for any building materials manufacturer (BMM). In the elevator industry, the journey brings a unique level of complexity and challenges.

Elevators as a System
Elevators are delivered to market as a product, but in essence, a complete elevator product is truly a system. These systems include an integrated mix of components, many manufactured independently of the elevator manufacturer that delivers the finished system to market. Often, these components are delivered under their own brand names.

The finished systems by the large elevator manufacturer all have unique performance qualities and proprietary attributes, which differentiates one company from the next and leverages both intellectual property and any patent protection.

Proprietary performance attributes cover both elevator mechanics and systems used, but also controls and how the elevator is maintained and serviced. It is important to remember that an elevator installation is promptly followed by an ongoing maintenance program with the building owner. Elevator maintenance programs are unique to each manufacturer and system. With that being said, aligning an elevator specification correctly, including the ongoing maintenance program, is imperative to maintaining a positive perception with the architect and building owner.

Earn Trust (& Repeat Customers) with Stellar Maintenance Programs
There are a variety of channels that elevator manufacturers use to deliver their systems and coordinating maintenance programs:

  • Manufacturer direct – through factory-owned distribution.
  • Manufacturer indirect – through distribution partners and/or independently owned elevator contractors (IEC), and strategically through agreement with the contractors.
  • IEC direct – sold directly through independently owned elevator contractors. Delivery to market is traditionally dictated by project size and type, e.g. new construction, renovation, and/or end-user direct. For new construction projects, the delivery will be dictated by the project specifications and their proprietary nature as developed by the architect and/or building owner. How those specifications impact ongoing maintenance of the elevator is also a factor.

Master the Spec
The majority of elevator manufacturers’ specifications reside within architectural firm master specifications. Each master specification will list approved manufacturers, or a singular manufacturer, as the basis of design. Master specifications are most often organized by building type, e.g. education, hospitality, etc.

Due to the health and safety impact of elevators and the need to support the system with ongoing maintenance, decisions in the architectural firms to update master specifications and list new manufacturers traditionally requires senior-level review and approval. Project architects’ and design leads’ time is extremely valuable, as their primary objective is to work on active projects. Therefore, unless there are project-specific or code-driven reasons to update these master specifications, changes are immensely difficult to make.

Conversely, there are a litany of independent elevator contractors delivering complete elevator products directly to market. Many of these firms have little to no presence in architectural specifications, and although they are trying to sell complete systems direct, they also might be working with larger manufacturers as a channel partner or providing maintenance services for the larger companies’ elevators.

Due to challenges associated with master specifications updates, the bulk of these independent elevator contractors seek approved equal or alternative status from the architect as the project is going out for bid or negotiation. In many cases, the investment made by the large manufacturers to garner listings in master specifications and protect them is lost when competing with local independent elevator contractors, many of whom they might be using for ongoing maintenance contracts.

Another approach independent elevator contractors take is to introduce non-proprietary systems to architectural firms. The goal is to entice them to move away from proprietary specifications from the larger manufacturers leveraging perceptions that this approach limits optimum levels of elevator performance and ongoing maintenance. This approach provides significant risk to large elevator manufacturers, to the significant investment they have made to obtain these specifications, and to their current share of market.

The Main Ingredients
Large elevator manufacturers require a few quintessential elements in their architectural specification strategy:

  1. Maintain the company’s position to remain in architectural master specifications.
  2. Provide architects and building owners consistent content and education on elevators systems, ongoing maintenance, and the proprietary and non-proprietary approaches. As a building owner, these are good reasons to partner with a specific manufacturer.
  3. Maintain relationships with architectural firms and building owners through marketing vehicles and direct sales touches. Do this with specification writers, project architects, and design leads to establish relationships as a trusted advisor and industry subject matter expert. In addition, continually reinforcing similar positions for the company and its signature products is key.
  4. Maintain synergistic connection between marketing teams and sales teams. The goal is align the most efficient response plan while delineating between engagements that can be handled by marketing and those that require direct engagement from sales.
  5. Deliver consistent and fully integrated content using the industry’s latest digital marketing vehicles and a well-planned digital ecosystem.

BLD Marketing has experience working within the elevator industry that we can leverage to help you earn your way into master specifications and stay there.

About the Author
Kevin Mayer is CEO of BLD Marketing and serves on the board of directors of its sister company, CNVRT. As one of the most knowledgeable and recognized leaders in the building materials industry, Kevin has spent his entire professional career working both for and with building product manufacturers. Kevin began his career as a regional manager for a mid-sized building product manufacturer, then escalated to the C-suite level, where he led building product companies domestically and globally. As an industry veteran, his areas of expertise include P&L management, return on investment modeling, business development, and sales and marketing initiatives. He now leverages that expertise on behalf of BLD’s clients to deliver integrated marketing programs that are engineered for success.

BLD Marketing is a results-based, digitally-focused, full-service strategic marketing firm exclusively serving the commercial and residential building materials category.