What Is The Future Of The In Firm Library?
Mpowered Podcast, Episode 23 Show Notes
Welcome to Mpowered, the podcast brought to you by Material Bank and created by ThinkLab.
In this bite-sized episode, we tackle the question, In this bite-sized episode, we tackle the question “what is the future of the firm library?”
We know the approach to the materials library varies from firm to firm, and location to location. Host Erica Waayenberg, head of research and content at ThinkLab, explores the solutions and tactics that you, as a rep, can be sure your product is seen within the mix of these activation spaces.
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Welcome to Mpowered, the podcast brought to you by Material Bank and created by ThinkLab. Consider this your new weekly dose of bite-sized, actionable insights to help you succeed as a B2B rep. I’m this week’s host, Erica Waayenberg, head of research and content at ThinkLab.
We’ll be answering one key question each week, many of them submitted by you. Want to join in? We’ll share details about how to submit your question at the end of this episode.
Our question this week: What is the future of the in firm library?
ThinkLab estimates that pre-pandemic 1 in 3 firms had a dedicated librarian. As with every downturn those numbers tend to decline, and we are seeing many creative staffing approaches today, many involving sharing insights between different geographic offices like never before.
While the approach to the materials library varies from firm to firm, and location to location, ThinkLab research does show that whether a firm is doubling down on their material library space, or cutting all binders from their shelves, one nearly universal truth remains, firms are shifting from a library, to a material lab. So how can you as a rep be sure your product is seen within the mix of this activation space?
Some may be asking, what’s driving the shift with how material libraries are used anyways? Well, the answer is threefold.
First, material libraries have historically been plagued with being cluttered, and unreliable in regards to the completeness of information that could be found within the physical binders or sample books.
The second factor was the great reevaluation that took place during remote work through the pandemic. Without the resource of the library at their disposal, architects and designers had to find ways of working, and accessing material samples on their own. Material bank as a sample aggregator quickly became the lifeline of designers, allowing them to review finishes them self, as well as with clients asynchronously.
The third factor that has led to the change in material libraries is the hybrid working model of the architectural and design community today. What has historically been a place of reference, and a dumping ground for manufacturers reps to showcase and leave behind new samples, has become a lab, an active hive of collaboration and connection when teams are in the office.
But with a new model comes new rules of engagement for reps, and that varies from firm to firm.
So you may be thinking, how can I make a plan, if you don't know the rules of engagement?! Don't let this shift get you frustrated, Step one is simple...set aside some time this week to reach out to each of your firms and speak with someone and better understand how they are utilizing their material space, what type of supporting product information they like to have on hand, how they prefer to order samples, and what their hopes are for that sample once they are done using it. You should also ask if they have a space dedicated towards new product displays. If they do, take their lead, if they have a pin up board, use it, don't leave your sample on the table. And ask if they would like you to come retrieve the samples, if so, when? Minding your manners and showing respect for this space is part of being a good partner. Step two is to better understand what types of information and sample formats they are wanting to see at your next new product update.
Depending on the product category some firms may keep certain architectural staples on hand. While many are ordering project specific related memos, swatches, and large format samples on demand. For those important product update presentations, we suggest flipping the script, reaching out to the firm to find out how much space they have available and dropping off the samples a week in advance so that designers get a sneak peek and can come with great questions to your update. Designers also appreciate when they have the flexibility to return a sample after it's used within the firm. This supports their overarching sustainability goals as a firm, which you can hear more about that in our episode highlighting the top concerns of the interior design giants of design.
Rather than a library, the space has become a lab, an active hive of collaboration and connection in today’s A&D firm, and the best way to make sure your product is seen and stays top of mind, is to simple start a conversation to learn more about how you can support the firms work within this space.
For a deeper dive on the future of the A&D firm library, we recommend you listen to our recent Design Nerds Anonymous Podcast where we explore the stories of one firm doubling down on physical space, while another is going completely digital. You’ll find the link in the shownotes.
I’d like to take a moment to thank you for listening in and invite you to listen in each week for more tips and tidbits to empower you as a rep. Drop us a note with your success story or question through the messaging function on instagram, or by leaving a comment on linkedin.
Special thanks to Material Bank for partnering with us to provide bite-size, valuable insights for B2B reps in the interior design industry.