What do architects, specifiers, or construction buyers need when they read your construction writing?
They just need the technical information.
They need factual technical information to do their job. This may be gathering ideas at the concept stage, designing a project, specifying the detail of a product, or in the case of contractors, breaking spec and searching for a cost-effective alternative.
As a marketer you may want to present your company’s products in the best possible light, emphasise their benefits and ensure your branding is properly represented. This type of writing is typically promotional, persuasive and in some cases aspirational. By all means, there is a place for this; it’s particularly appropriate on your home page and company ‘about us’ pages, or on exhibition display stands. But when you write about your products, always stop to put yourself in the shoes of your customer.
Su Butcher recently wrote about why hate architects hate the direct sell. Don’t we all? If a construction buyer receives pushy sales calls, it erodes trust. In the same way, if the writing on your website is pushy, it also erodes trust.
Construction specifiers demand trust in the products they specify – they need to be sure that they will perform over the long term. They also need to trust in the companies that manufacture those products. They will buy or specify from a sales rep they trust too – someone who listens and offers the type of technical information and advice that they need, when they need it. Salespeople and marketers who push their message when it isn’t wanted come across like they don’t understand the needs of the buyer, and they are the ones that won’t be trusted.
I often see writing on construction websites using overblown language to push the benefits of a product. If you are selling to architects, engineers, landscape architects, stop and think – they are educated, analytical and technical people – like most of us, they they smell exaggeration a mile off. There are many words to avoid – unique, outstanding, stunning, excellent, exceptional … I will be sharing many more thoughts on words to avoid in the construction writing tips category.
Construction writing: product descriptions
If you are unsure where to start, include some of these three simple things:
- what the product is
- what it does or what it is for
- who uses it or what applications it is suitable for
This text comes from Broxap’s web page for their Weyburn seat:
A contemporary all welded steel seat, straight or curved, made to various lengths and special configurations. This seat is designed to complement any environment and can be supplied with armrests.
A couple of sentences like this, which state in clear terms what the product is, helps the specifier. I might take issue with the phrase ‘any environment’, but that’s a separate issue.)
Here’s an alternative from Public Spaces’ Mago Situs seat:
Maintain your individuality. This combination of bench and seat with a backrest in a single piece marks your space. Because sometimes not everything needs to be shared.
There is a balance to be struck when a product has been designed for aesthetics and form, and is intended to appeal to the designer’s creative side. However, it is my opinion that a product description shouldn’t lead with this sort of conceptual idea. “What is it made from?” is arguably the most important question. To be fair to Public Spaces, this information is clearly available on the product page. I would still advocate leading with the technical information and leaving the concept stuff for display ads, or prioritise it a bit lower down on a web page. Design, style and aesthetics are best conveyed in good photography.
Resist the temptation to use the writing to make the products seem more exciting – your audience are specifying construction products, not buying an expensive suit or their dream car. Accept the fact that construction products are boring. Specifiers need the boring details!
Be specific when listing features and benefits. If a product is ‘highly fire resistant’ – it’s better to say what standard it is tested to, and precisely how long it resists fire for. If you haven’t tested the product to BS standards, state why the material is fire resistant, rather than making a general claim. Many products are described as ‘exceptionally durable’. Why not specify their expected design life – 10 years, 20 years, or 50 years? There is a difference.
Your audience are decision makers – their role is to make the correct choice of product for the project. For the most part, this is not an aspirational choice. So basing a relationship on exaggerated, misleading or deceptive language seems to me the best way to lose all hope of ever gaining any trust, forever.
Give them what they need – the plain facts – and they will trust your brand. Moreover, it will be easier for them to do their job – it will be simpler for them to specify your products in their design.