The perennial marketing problem is twofold: getting noticed and being considered as a solution when a need arises.
A Survey As A Marketing Tactic
I am a fan of a marketing tactic that you probably could use. Surveys. I have mentioned this before. Here is the link.
There are things that you can learn from a survey that just aren't available as quickly or cheaply. Things that are valuable. Here are some things that you can accomplish with a survey.
I have been going on about how to do marketing as though I know how to do it.
What ‘makes’ someone choose you to help them spend a boatload of money?
How do you even know who is going to be spending the kind of money that it takes to build a building?
My experience is that you can’t control the process. There are too many variables.
The truth is my firm didn't do a great job of marketing. Luckily we had repeat clients. Maybe because of the repeat clients we found it easy to not value marketing.
If I were starting all over, knowing what I know now, here's what I would do.
During my career we saw a wide range of projects. They ranged from really small and simple to really big (for us) and complicated. On the small end of the spectrum was a two-car garage addition to the side of a house. On the opposite end of the spectrum was a new high school. I will show you how the five fee tables of a fee schedule can span that kind of range. Let's take a closer look at the five tables that make up the fee schedule.
I use POCKET to save articles that I stumble upon while surfing the net. My methodology is to browse through several sources and save the articles that seem like good references on a variety of topics. Marketing for instance.
I am sharing the cream of the marketing articles that I have saved this year. I think you will find a thing or two to save in your own digital library.
How I Found The Secret Sauce For The No 1 Marketing Tool
I started publishing a newsletter using Constant Contact about 10 years ago. In hindsight there was a lot we did wrong. Besides focusing on what WE thought clients SHOULD BE interested in, it was a newsletter. We had three articles and several tidbits in each issue. It probably took three days of effort once a month and cost $25/mo. When the economy tanked, neither the time or cost was sustainable.
When I started writing Architekwiki I learned from the blogging gurus that you want subscribers because you will eventually want to know who likes your stuff. I implemented that idea using Google’s Feedburner. Feedburner takes your blog posts and turns them into email and sends them to your subscribers for you automatically. Google doesn’t really support Feedburner anymore. A better solution is FeedBlitz, although it has a modest monthly cost. There are a lot of cool things you can do with FeedBlitz. It is a valuable tool. There is just one problem.
Before I retired we had a prospects list of over 400 names, most with email, and we never used it. Since I have been retired, I have learned how we should have used it. Using your email list is the number one marketing tool because it is the only tool that gives you measurable results as an architect.
We DID use marketing in my firm. We used lots of methods and they all gave us zero results. Maybe we were doing it wrong. But the time and expense was significant. The best tool we used, based on positive feedback (but not new work), was project signs. We asked the contractor to put up our 2' x 8' sign with our firm name on it. People said they noticed it. Usually the people were friends or relatives.
Why do I think email is different?
In mid 2014 I got involved in a project to build a bookkeeping system for architects. To find out if there was a need, I emailed thousands of architects. I asked them to take a short survey. 1,300+ took the survey. This was almost a 4% response rate. A 2% response is good. So I am convinced that email done right, gets noticed.
Your job is much easier. Your clients and prospective clients already know you. All you have to do is make it worthwhile to open your email and spend a minute looking at your message. Easy!
I think using email is key, but it has to be sustainable. It has to be easy for you and worthwhile for your audience.
You need to do just three things.
When you are looking for work, this may seem counter-productive; but it is a good practice to evaluate every job beforehand.
Your insurance agent, your attorney, and your marketing advisor will all agree that making sure this project is worth pursuing is a good thing. The insurance agent and the attorney are looking at the potential for trouble that working with this type of client, this particular client or this project type can lead to.
Your marketing advisor is looking at the big picture of where you want to go and whether this opportunity is a step forward, sideways or backwards. The type of work you do and the people you work for speaks volumes to all your clients and potential clients. Choosing the right projects and the right clients is a key element in developing your niche and reaping the rewards that come from not being a commodity.
From a purely business perspective, a project is like a new product line. You should evaluate both before jumping on board. For a project a detailed evaluation doesn't need to take much time, especially if you have an established method for doing the evaluation. The attached form came from combining several processes that were recommended to us over the years.
The thrust of the evaluation is to uncover any concerns you have about the project or client beforehand, and then to develop a plan for addressing those concerns or "passing" on the project.
We found it works best with just two or three people involved: the person who found the opportunity and who knows the most about it, a principal of the firm, and perhaps one other senior person.
Once you go through the process a few times you will find that you want to keep the form handy as a kind of questionnaire to use with potential clients.
I was pretty much oblivious to paper.li, the free tool you can use to publish a newspaper. I may have seen one - didn't think much of it.
About 18 months ago I had the idea to add a hashtag or two to my Twitter posts, @Architekwiki. I guess I am the last person to 'get' hashtags. I never use them to find info. Well apparently I am in the minority. Adding hashtags got my tweets found, favorited and re-tweeted! And that is how I found out more about paper.li because Architekwiki started appearing in other people's newspapers. That was good for the ego until I realized that the editor of the newspaper probably didn't know he had added Architekwiki. His newspaper found my hashtag and pulled me in.
I Use Wordle
The 'architecture' word cloud that you see here was created using Wordle. Wordle is a free Java app that works on any computer using Java - pretty much every computer. There are several other sources that you can use, just search for 'word cloud'. Wordle does what I am looking for. Here's a little background on Word Clouds before I explain how I made this one and give you my ideas for how you can use Word Clouds.
What They Are - Same Idea As Map Names
As you can see from the example above, word clouds are an arrangement of words where the frequency of use is designated by the relative size of the word. Maps use this same idea when they show cities with larger populations with larger names.
10 Years Old In Present Form
Using the size of a word or name to represent relative size has been around for several hundred years; but word clouds like this one are only ten years old or so. When word clouds, or tag clouds as they are also known, appeared about 2004, they represented the frequency that a word or tag appeared in a document, website, blog, etc. This took some serious programming to pull off. Now you can do it with an app using almost anything as your input.
Two years ago on September 27, 2012 Architekwiki went live with almost no content and zero readers. Today we are doing a little better; and most importantly our stats are getting better all the time.
So I am going to celebrate with cake and ice cream!!! You have my permission to splurge, too (just this once)!
AND - EVERYONE GETS A PRESENT!
During its 30 year existence my firm had quite a few logos. Many were BCE (Back in Caveman Era) and I had to photograph my business card collection to show you those. As you can see many of the versions were driven by a change in the name of the firm. These changes were mostly perfunctory. BCE a logo didn't have the visibility that it does now. Most people didn't see it until you handed them a business card, or sent them something in the mail. Email was ACE (After Caveman Era) so you didn't send out much promotional mail after a while because you eventually realized the time and cost that you were expending was delivering zero results. It turns out that people don't hire an architect because they get a piece of mail.
I can't recall who told me about HootSuite, but it was likely a post on TechCrunch. I used to be an avid reader of their posts. Anyway I tried it, then set it aside, and then picked it up again and, now, I use it constantly - the free account, that is. My blogging process uses HootSuite as an integral part. I work out a concept/outline in Inkflow. Then I use iA Writer to write it up. Cut and paste from Writer into Weebly where I add formatting. Publish the article. Grab the URL and post to Google+. IFTTT sees the RSS update and posts to LinkedIn and Facebook. I go back to Writer and turn out some tweets. Cut and paste the tweets, with URL added, into HootSuite to post them at the selected times. Rinse and repeat. So I use HootSuite almost every day.
Being able to schedule all the tweets about the new article at one time is a real time-saver and makes my process achievable in one to two work sessions a day. Somewhere along the way I heard about Buffer and ignored it because I had HootSuite. This past week I read a post about the best blogging tools, and Buffer was mentioned. So I checked it out again, thinking "what do they know that I don't". So I signed up for the free account and started kicking the tires.
I don't remember how I heard about Stu Rose, but everything I know about sales is due to his coaching and the technique he calls the Mandeville process. Stu has a consulting firm called Professional Development Resources, Inc. Its website is www.pdrinfo.com. I attended a couple of workshops and brought him to the firm for a day of training. It was worth every penny. I have spent lots more on seminars and conventions that in hindsight were useless, at least to me.
You can buy a DVD from PDR that is excellent for teaching yourself the Mandeville technique. I'm going to describe Mandeville here, with Dr. Rose's blessing. You really need to know this stuff if you ever find yourself in a sales situation - full time, occasionally or by accident. The beauty is that it is really easy for anyone to do, except maybe the egomaniac or narcissist.
In a nutshell the Mandeville technique is modeled after how other professionals treat their clients. First they ask about your issue(s); and, when they have enough information, they prescribe a course of action. These other professionals NEVER present credentials. By comparison most architects act like used car salesmen, going on and on about awards, recognition, and name-dropping client names and projects. The typical architect makes a first meeting with a potential client all about themselves and their firm. The typical client that is about to spend hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of dollars would rather talk about their issues.
Whoever does the most talking feels the best about the meeting. Let the client do all the talking. Just guide him/her with the Mandeville questions to get the ball rolling. Oh, and you work from notes and MUST take notes. So you have your (limited speaking part) script in your hands the whole time. Are you starting to believe me when I say ANYONE can do this?
I didn't work enough at developing a blog to see any results when I had my firm. This points up the fact that it is a long range project. The sooner you start the sooner you get results. My first blogs were on Blogger and later Tumblr. I was attracted to the 'free' part of the equation. Both are good blogging platforms. Blogger, a Google offering, lends itself a bit more to text and has more features. Tumblr shows off photos better, which I think the many users of Tumblr would agree with. WordPress, which I have not used, seems to be very popular these days, so it's worth investigating. They all work a lot like developing a website - pick a theme that will control fonts, colors, and organization of the page, then start adding content. It is pretty easy. Of course, a service like Weebly* includes a blog, which makes the integration tighter. However you can always link to your third-party blog in your menu system if blogging isn't part of your website's capabilities.
I have confessed to being “distracted” when it comes to Business Development. My favorite tool for overcoming the distracted-ness is a contact management tool developed by 37signals called Highrise.* The thing I like about Highrise is that with the minimum of effort you can track the development of a relationship with a prospect. I blind copy or forward my emails into the prospect’s page, set tasks for making the next contact or the needed follow-up, and add notes from meetings and phone calls. I end up with a chronology of all my interactions. With just a few minutes a day, which works much better for me than once a week, I am able to keep all my efforts moving forward.
The four main features I use in Highrise are Contacts, Tasks, Cases and Deals.
Contacts: individuals or organizations that you want to manage a relationship with
Tasks: TO-DOs related to contacts or other efforts, say, your website. You can get notified by email or SMS when due.
Cases: this is a way to pull together multiple contacts to make it easier to manage the effort to win a potential project where several people are influencers. Perhaps members of a board or building committee...
Deals: once a project is formed, you can use a Deal to track RFPs, interviews, value of the fee, wins and loses.
Check this all out at their website.
I am not particularly good at the key skill that every architectural firm must have - SELLING. You might have the same problem that I do. I have always had to wear too many hats, and one of those other hats always seemed to 'need me' more than sales. Being an introvert doesn't help either. Nevertheless, I have learned tons about how you are supposed to do it; and I have a pretty good track record when it's crunch time.
My preferred strategy, which happens to fit my personality, is to:
One of our largest projects was a private high school that took 7 years to get to the point of getting hired. Then, I helped the Owner put together an RFP process to meet oversight requirements. Needless to say, with what I had learned about them and the project in 7 years, we were the obvious choice - even over a couple of alums.
There Isn't Any One Way To Go About Sales
How tall does a sign need to be to be readable from a mile away? I needed to know that because a regional airline we were designing a hangar for wanted a sign readable from the terminal across the airfield. Luckily hangars are big. We needed a spot that would accommodate a 25' long x 12' high 6-letter logo - 'Comair'.
Font Size vs Distance
I had been vaguely aware of the relationship between font size and distance. I knew from past experience that 10" letters worked well on schools, but that was about it. I think I found a rule of thumb in Graphic Standards; and, once we had a graphic, we verified the suitability with the sign manufacturer.
Signage Rules Of Thumb
Architects and Facebook
I have Kraig Kramers to thank for describing how this tool works. The tool is called a ’Trailing 12 Month’ chart. You can find a lot of useful tools for managing a firm at his ceotools.com website.
What does a Trailing Twelve Month [T12M] Chart do?
Hopefully, you are tracking how much new work you sign up each month. This is good data, but there can be many, many reasons why a given month is either up or down when compared to recent months. So the idea of the T12M chart is to also look at the total sales for the past 12 months by simply adding up the past 12 months.
What's the benefit of the T12M?
By totaling the past 12 months, these ’reasons’ for ups and downs month get wrung out of the data and you are left with the trend. An increasing or upward trend is good, and you want to keep doing more of whatever you are doing. A decreasing or downward trend means corrective action is required right away. The 12 month total for sales is like looking at your batting average for the season. There is no positive story that explains a lower batting average. It simply needs work.
How does it work?
As the example in the image shows, you simply record three bits of data every month - the amount of sales, the month-year, and the total of the past 12 months. This last piece of data is calculated by a simple SUM formula. Each month ’fill’ the formula into the new month’s 12-month-total-cell. Very simple. This example shows the process step-by-step. The only tricky part is setting up the charts to display the graphs. The graphic above came from the ceotools website. You can also buy the XLS spreadsheet already set up and awaiting your data ($20).
The beauty of the T12M chart is its ’early warning system’ effect. A downward trend will always predict a cash flow or loss of profit. Immediate action will minimize the situation. And of course there is no end to the things you might want to track - monthly revenues, monthly number of blog posts, client contacts, ...
You may have noticed that I have a poll running. Take a sec and vote. Polldaddy is embedded in Weeby and is pretty easy to use. I think the actual free Polldaddy account is even easier, and it has the benefit of offering a few more features - like quizzes! Take my Masonry Expert Quiz below to learn a bit about masonry and see how Polldaddy works/looks. BTW there are several themes/color schemes for your polls, surveys and quizzes.
How did you do?
Publishing to Build Your Niche
One of the best strategies for building a busy, well-paid architectural practice is to develop a niche. The main obstacle for most firms is being recognized as knowledgeable about the niche and therefore considered or sought out for those niche projects.
Publishing on a topic is one of the key tactics in developing a niche and demonstrating your expertise in the project type. Fred Stitt, publisher of Guidelines newsletter and founder of the San Francisco Institute of Architecture, has described the process of developing a niche in his publications. Paraphrasing, these are the steps:
A byproduct of this process is that you will get to know a lot of people in the industry you want to work for and will be in the right place at the right time to find out about upcoming projects. Always ask what they have in development and if they know of anyone else who is planning to do something.
The goal is to know as much as your clients do about their industry, and eventually, to know more so that you are the expert and can ask for a premium. You can imagine other things that you can do.
(This flowchart above shows the steps in the process of developing articles for publication and will enlarge when clicked.)
orig post date OCT 2012
The ideal follow-through on your fee calculation efforts would be to capture all the key parameters of the fee and project. Put this data in a table for future reference when you are proposing the next fee. Strictly speaking this is not necessary, but there will be many times that you wish you had this information. Besides this table, keep a copy of your calculations in one folder for easy research when you have a similar project or client under consideration.
I recommend setting up the table as a spreadsheet. Place each fee proposal on a row and use the columns to capture the data. The spreadsheet will let you sort the proposals by any column or even filter out proposals that are not relevant.
Here is a master listing of column headings you might consider, but just use the ones that pertain to your type of work.
You may never need to print this table, so don’t worry about how wide it is getting, but use ’word wrap’ and vertical column headings if you prefer. If you do need to print it, use 11x17 in landscape or your plotter.
As you can see from the list, not all information that you want to have is available when you are working on the proposal. Fill in what you know right after you complete the proposal. Then update any blanks in the table the next time you work on a new proposal.
Over time I think you can see just how valuable this information will be.
Hey, I'm Rick Wolnitzek and Architekwiki is my blog for sharing what I've learned practicing architecture for ... a long time. Enjoy!