Larry Bell, co-owner of Bell Plumbing & Heating and the subject of this month’s cover story, says the bath-and-kitchen remodeling business is gaining strength in the Denver area. If that’s the case in your market, then the following survey results could help you capitalize on this trend.

Accountability Information Management conducted the research at last year’s Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Chicago. President Jim Nowakowskiand colleagues asked seven questions to more than 200 designers, architects, showroom consultants and other show attendees, 85 percent of whom say they specify and recommend products. Their answers can give you insight into the factors that these people weigh when designing a new or remodeled bathroom or kitchen, including how they evaluate and select products.

Their top two answers to the first question, “What has the biggest impact on the way you design projects?” won’t shock you. Leading all considerations are the designer’s client and the project’s budget.

What’s more surprising is “green product design” appears in only 4 percent of the responses. This result seems to fall in line with what Bell Plumbing has experienced with green products in Denver, so perhaps it’s not a big surprise to you.

When asked, “How do you evaluate products that you recommend or select for your projects?” designers say the quality of the product and their experience with it are the most important factors. The survey report notes that a designer’s judgment can be harsh if the quality is missing or the experience is bad. “If I have any problem or hassle with a manufacturer’s product, I never use them again,” one respondent said.

The report points out that many designers research the products they recommend to their clients. They talk to sales reps and installers,relying heavily on recommendations from industry professionals, such as you.I’ve added the emphasis to the last point, just to make sure no one misses it.

The survey’s third question asks, “Why do you select one brand over another?” If you expect the top two answers to be the same as the second question, you’d be only half right. Quality still leads the way, but experience with the product falls all the way into fifth place. The project’s budget jumps into second place followed by customer service from the manufacturer and aesthetics of the product as important factors in product selection.

How designers evaluate bath-and-kitchen products differs from how they select them for a project, the report states. Another example of where this occurs is a product’s availability, which turns out to be much more important when designers select a product than in how they evaluate it. The same can be said for a product’s warranty, which gains in importance at product selection time.

In the opposite direction, a product’s durability plays a much bigger role in how designers evaluate a product than when they actually select one for a project. A product’s ease of use, by the way, does not rank as a critical factor in either evaluation or selection by designers.

When asked, “Where do you go for inspiration?” more than half say they turn to magazines and books. The Internet and trade shows tied as the next biggest sources of designers’ inspiration. HGTV was inspirational for just 3 percent of the designers.

When it comes to where designers go most often to get product information, however, the Internet becomes the clear leader. Magazines/publications fall back in the pack of other sources, which include suppliers, trade shows and sales reps.

The survey results were intended to help manufacturers market their products more successfully to the design community. They can benefit you, too, as you provide your professional expertise to the designers you work with and to their clients.