Should I Pay to put a Spec on one of the Spec Platforms?

Several companies that publish master specification libraries will publish a manufacturer’s proprietary guide specification section… for a fee. Manufacturers frequently ask me if they should buy into one of these spec libraries. Here is my brief reply:

1.  Participating in a commercial specification system should be seen as an adjunct to publishing your own guide spec, not a replacement for it.

a. The commercial systems place emphasis on creating a spec section that fits their own formatting and style; this sometimes places the system's own need for consistency above your needs to clearly present your product.

b. The commercial system may not be available to all specifiers. The specifier should spend time understanding your product and their project needs, not learning to navigate an unfamiliar specification platform. In contrast, most specifiers will know how to edit a guide specification written in CSI format and published in a .doc format.

c. Once you have attracted a specifier to your product website and the specifier has decided to use your product, it is risky to introduce the specifier to a commercial specification system where the specifier might discover alternative products.

2. The commercial specification systems usually offer to write the spec for you as part of your participation fee. They do a good job with standard products. But if you have an innovative product, the commercial system's writers may not have the time or motivation to work with you to understand your product's unique features and benefits, how you go to market, and your exposure to product liability.

3. Participating in a commercial specification system is an advertising decision. At the "point of specification" (POS), a specifier that uses the commercial system will turn to the system's table of contents and might pick your product.  This is great. However, the decision to participate in the commercial systems must be made in comparison to other promotional and advertising expenditures.  Placement at POS works for products that are spec-driven, but does not reach designers, job captains, or other decision makers involved in product selection before the stage of spec writing.