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William L. Shannon, Editor

William L. Shannon, Editor of CISCA

Why Do We Register Binders?

for the July / August 2005 Issue, CISCA's Interior Construction Magazine

"Please be sure to fully fill out the binder registration card and send it to headquarters. When we receive all of the registration cards we will send you your next case of binders!" Sound familiar? Why exactly do manufacturers want the registration cards back? It may surprise you to know that there are a number of different reasons.

One would assume that headquarters wants the registrations to be sure to have a database of recipients enabling them to keep the binders updated. Seems reasonable, or does it? Perhaps the real reason is to be sure that the binders sent to the field are actually distributed to appropriate individuals and not just sitting in a storage room somewhere. Perhaps the reason is actually not fully understood by those asking for the registration and just one of those policies that are handed down from year to year. Why do you have your binders registered?

Recent surveys of architectural firms indicate that most architectural firms do not have an individual, with full time responsibility of maintaining the firm's technical library. Usually they use a summer intern to attempt to "clean up the library". In those firms, sending regular updates to your binder is usually a complete waste of time. Visit one of these firms and you will find many stacks of updates, many from years ago, piled in a corner. In some of the firms, an occasional program is instituted to try to update the binders, and one will find miscellaneous items clipped to the inside of the binder in no particular order, not very useful. Some even have your binder from ten years ago and not the binder you just delivered last week.

Some firms hire professional firms to maintain their libraries, they are the exception. These libraries are generally up to date, and actually perform a function to the designers in the firm.

In all instances, if your product is popular, do not be surprised to have your binder removed from the library for a particular project, never to be returned. They are often misplaced, cannibalized, or more commonly, taken home by members of the team for their "moonlighting work".

If you expect your sales force to be responsible for updating your product binder, you must really determine if you want them to spend a majority of their selling time updating binders or actually selling your product. Think of these facts for a moment:

  • If your sales person distributes two binders a week for fifty weeks a year.
  • At the end of year one there are 100 binders that require updating.
  • Assume that updating one binder requires at least 1/2 day, including travel, parking, visiting the firm, and actually updating the binder.
  • At the end of only one year, your sales person is spending fifty working days updating binders, or ten weeks of valuable selling time.
  • How much time is required after two, three, four or more years?

Do the math, it becomes obvious very quickly, that updating binders is a complete no win situation. You certainly do not want to have high paid sales professionals spending 1/2 of their year visiting libraries to update binders.

If we all agree that binders are important, I think we can also agree that with the advent of websites, binders are less important than in years gone by. Perhaps a firm must acknowledge that providing binders is a cost of doing business, and to assume that they will stay in a firm's library, be regularly maintained and updated, is an unreasonable expectation.

There is a middle ground. A company needs to be sure that the binders they distribute to "the field" are placed appropriately. A firm understands that binders are important; they are part of the overall marketing and sales package, but only a part of the package. It is far less costly to replace binders on a regular basis that to spend valuable sales time updating or replacing binders. Keep the cost of the binder reasonable, with the full understanding that they have a limited shelf life.

If a product binder, properly placed, results in one significant project, the cost is justified. Also keep in mind;

  • Larger territories require more binders than smaller, secondary markets.
  • "Punishing" a sales team by limiting binders if registration is not up to date may adversely affect your business.
  • Binders are only one of many tools; if they are your only tool you have a serious problem.
  • Binders are an important tool, if you don't have a good product binder, you have a serious problem.

Don't lose track of the reason for registering binders. Registration is not important for any other reason than to be sure the binders are distributed. Remember, the reason for any of your marketing and sales tools is to sell more product.

William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award

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