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Architects MIA at the AIA

  |  Posted in Architects, Trade Shows

Architects MIA at the AIA

At the AIA Show, I saw lots of architects sitting in classes and standing in line to get on tour buses. What I didn’t see was a lot of architects on the show floor visiting the manufacturers’ exhibits.

Some booths were busy for awhile and then the whole show floor was empty.

It’s the same story every year. It’s a great show for architects but not necessarily a good investment for the manufacturers who exhibit.

The manufacturers I interviewed told me they saw less traffic this year, but that the traffic they did get was high quality. 

Make sure you’re not wasting your time or your resources. After exhibiting at the AIA, you have to ask yourself these four questions:

  1. How many quality leads did you get?
  2. How much did you invest in the show?
  3. What percentage of those leads will result in how many dollars of sales?
  4. Is there a better way to spend this money? Can you get more business at a lower cost?

Here’s What I Noticed Walking The Show Floor

Scranton Products

Architects Want to Learn

The companies who focused on educating over selling did the best. It’s not just CEU credits – architects really do want to learn how to be better architects. They want to learn how to better meet the needs of their owner/developer clients. They want advice on how to avoid making mistakes and how to work more efficiently. 

Pabco Gypsum

Both Scranton Products and Pabco Gypsum had classroom set ups in their booths. Other companies, like Tamlyn, sponsored classrooms on the show floor that had very good attendance.

Architects Are Creative

Behr Paint AIA

Tapping into an architect’s creativity, Behr Paint asked architects to help them paint a bear.

Interstate Bricks AIA

Interstate Brick drew traffic and conversation by giving architects the opportunity to sculpt a clay brick that they will then fire and deliver to them. Great way to followup after the show.

Every Architect Wants an Eames Chair

Eames Chair AIA

If you’re going to have a sweepstakes giveaway, make sure it’s something the customer really wants. Giving away the right prize tells the architect “We understand you.” Next to designer glasses and cool pens, every architect wants an Eames Chair.

Architects Are Listening

Sound Control AIA

I saw more companies talking about sound control. It’s like sound control has taken the place of energy saving.

Architects Are Embracing Panelized/Modular

Sto Panel AIA

Sto Panel showed architects how to stay competitive by reducing waste and inefficiency in construction. The sooner the building starts delivering for the owner, the better.


USG asked a great question.

Nichiha AIA

And Nichiha offered technical design reviews, saving the architect time while helping them avoid mistakes. 

Nichiha AIA Ad

Nichiha also ran an online ad campaign before the show offering design reviews at the show top draw more traffic.

Better Ways to Reach Architects

If 20,000 architects attend the show…

And 2,000 of them walked by your booth…

And 200 of them become leads…

That leaves 100,000 more architects who didn’t walk by your booth or attend the AIA but might be interested in your product.

You are spending $15,000 to $200,000 for the booth and your people’s travel expenses. And you spend all that in two days.

Exhibiting at the AIA Show may be right for you, but there may also be a better way for you to reach and sell architects.

  • What if you spent that money doing a better job following up on the leads you’re already paying for?
  • What if you increased the number of lunch and learns?
  • What if you invested in your CRM program so it actually worked?
  • What if you improved your online presence so you can reach 1,000 architects a day, every day and not just for two days?

Try Different Shows

You’re not really trying to reach architects. You’re trying to get your products used in the buildings that are designed by architects.

Almost every type of building has its own association of owners, and many of them have their own shows. There’s a show for hotels, there’s one for multi-family, one for universities, for movie theaters and more.

Pick the type of building you want to reach and exhibit at their show. The attendees will be the owners as well as the leading architects and general contractors for that type of building.

And the architects will be on the show floor because they go there to get more owner clients. They don’t go for the CEUs.

At some of these smaller shows, you may be the only company selling your type of product.

Lessons Learned

If you decide to exhibit at the AIA Show next year, here are my recommendations for helping you get a better return on your investment.

  1. Don’t get more booth space than you need. If no one is walking the show floor, there’s no need to make a statement.
  2. Create messaging that speaks to the architect. Many companies use the same booth that they use at a show for builders or contractors. Architects will walk past you if you don’t have a message for them.
  3. Before the show, reach out to architects with a compelling reason they should stop by your booth. Be sure to pay extra attention to architects who are located close to the host city, as more of them will be attending.
  4. At the show, focus on education. Look for opportunities to speak, to sponsor education sessions or to teach in your booth.

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Thanks for the following comments.  I’d like to hear your feedback and suggestions on how to sell architects.

“Great report Mark! I feel like I was at the show.”
Maria Schell Burden
Director Of Sales
AG Millworks

“Yet another great newsletter. Valuable insights, examples and actionable recommendations. Consistently one of the best newsletters out there.”
Rob Geller
VP Corporate Realtions
Proenaid Handrails

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About The Author

I am the leading sales growth consultant in the building materials industry, I identify the blind spots that enable building materials companies to grow their sales and retain more customers.  As I am not an ad agency, my recommendations are focused on your sales growth and not my future income.

My mission is to help building materials companies be the preferred supplier of their customers and to turn those customers into their best salespeople. Contact me to discuss your situation.