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PropTech lessons from Amazon's Builder Studios
Have you heard about Amazon’s Manhattan and Santa Clara Builder Studios? If you’re involved with marketing, selling, or procuring B2B tech, listen up.
The Builder Studio is a new sales approach courtesy of Amazon Web Services (AWS). According to the Wall Street Journal, the new strategy revolves around an in-person space to allow prospect decision-makers to test and trial various tools powered by Amazon Web Services. This includes a range of third-party tools such as holographic display startup Proto, digital twin implementations, and opportunities for AWS clients to begin the prototyping process hands-on with Amazon’s in-house engineers. According to Shaown Nandi, director of technology, strategic industries at AWS, “The tangible aspect makes everything go from seeming sort of theoretical and I read about it to like, ‘Oh, this is real, and there are other customers doing it.’”
Is in-person selling for you?
In-person selling can help companies bypass many of the challenges that plague online tech sales. Ambiguity around a feature, leading to a back and forth via chatbot or email? Not a problem in-person. A clunky web demo process that needs to get updated with every product update? No issue when the prospect is using the live tool in-person. A lack of clarity around how the tool is actually implemented by the end user, beyond just web sales copy? Just run through the process in-person.
Needless to say, in-person selling is no substitute for web marketing and traditional tech business development strategies. But in “target-rich environments” such as the New York real estate industry, operating a test studio could lead to big improvements in close rate. For the companies that already have a physical footprint in NYC, the logic behind this kind of strategy becomes even more compelling.
A good tech procurement process relies on more than just the quality of the tool itself. It also assesses the ability of the vendor to be an effective implementation partner, particularly if the deployment process requires a custom build-out. This is what Builder Studios allows AWS to showcase in a venue that is more real, more hands-on, and ultimately more convincing than even a screen share-enabled selling process.
The implications for PropTech are clear. At this year’s Blueprint conference, a number of venture capital firms had clustered networking spaces for a handful of their portfolio companies, allowing prospective users to interact with a range of technologies as well as, potentially, the VCs themselves.
Because so many built environment tech platforms rely on robust ecosystems—the universe of tools that integrate with a different property management platform, construction management tool, CMS or ERP system—this kind of experiential selling might be a valuable model for other platforms to adopt. Many PropTech hardware solutions are inherently interactive: virtual reality applications, sensors, visualizations, and various types of building amenities. But even PropTech SaaS platforms could benefit from this kind of interactive selling, which could bridge the gap from prospect discovery to post-close.
Let’s say you run a Proptech SaaS tool that helps real estate companies manage their leasing process. In addition to your already-established digital presence, offering your own type of Builder Studio could give prospects the chance to actually use the tool firsthand, with perhaps a sample of their own data, all under the helpful guidance of a business development representative or even a product team member that can share tips and advice with a super-tight feedback loop. In theory, your prospect’s decision-maker could bring their own end user to the studio, improving communication both ways and helping you get in front of pushback points before they grow into real selling obstacles.
Builder Studios-style in-person selling and implementation is far from a solution for everyone but if you’re already located in a dense market, have a complex or highly varied product, or simply want the benefit of selling to a real person instead of a video screen, it might be a strategy worth considering.