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.
Here’s a simple overview of what to do.
- Prepare an email list of your clients and prospective clients and people who are influencers. Just name and email address.
- Get a blog if you don't have one. Write a blog post once or twice a month. 150-400 words. Add image(s).
- Import your email list and connect your blog to an Email Marketing Provider* which automagically formats the blog post into an email and sends it to your list.
A blog works best because it is simple and permanent and electronic. Maybe you have a blog. If not, check out these 12 options. Ignore the focus on monetization. It's a good list of blogging services. I use Weebly ($40/yr), but there are free options available.
Simple - just about like writing a Word document.
Permanent - there is value in having your past work accessible and searchable. Value to you and your audience.
Electronic - well, because email is electronic, and your Email Marketing Provider is electronic. Electronic is easy and sustainable.
Why not a newsletter?
The main reason to not use an electronic newsletter is that it requires too much time to create each issue. It is also more expensive than a blog. Back issues are hard to find. And by its nature a newsletter gets saved for later = never gets read. Paper newsletters cost a fortune to publish for the same impact as electronic.
It is easy. People use email every day. There is a sense of urgency about email. If you provide something useful or entertaining, it will get noticed. The whole point of marketing is to get noticed enough to be top of mind when a need arises for your services. Email is easy for your audience to respond to with comments, questions or compliments. That gives you a chance to build on whatever relationship that you have with that person. That is ideal.
Why not just a simple email?
A simple email will require more work and will not provide some of the advantages of a service like an Email Marketing Provider. If you use simple email, you have to maintain the email list - adding subscribers, removing un-subscribers. Sending your Blog Post looks better and your images are displayed. In simple email, graphics are just attachments in most cases. You don't know who opened your simple email or clicked on any links you included. The Email Marketing Provider solution costs just a few bucks a month, $10 - $20, or may be free.
Focus on creating the impression that will get you hired by your prospective clients.
Start with simple blog articles. See my suggestions in Marketing - Simple, Cheap, And Easy.
Always use images. They get “read”. If you post photos of a project, mention some facts about it that would be interesting to your prospective clients. Cost/SF. Range of bids received. Client's challenges being solved. Special features. Obstacles overcome. Construction time. Design innovations. Consultants' contributions. As your posts accumulate you may find you have the material for a lengthier article on a specific topic. I developed a number of downloadable tools that we offered through our website. Emailing them would have been infinitely better. Take a look and feel free to customize them for your own use. Writing about tools like this opens a whole world of topics you could explore.
What can you expect?
No one hires you because of an email, but they will consider you because they feel they know you thru your emails. Check your metrics in your Email Marketing Provider to see how you are doing and which topics strike a chord. Adjust accordingly.
In a way an Email Marketing Provider is the secret sauce that makes it all work. Setup will take an hour or so, but after that, it is automatic. There are several Email Marketing Providers that I am familiar with:
- Aweber - Popular with blogging pros. $19/mo after 30 day trial.
- Feedblitz - Full featured. Geared to professionals. 100-500 subscribers = $10/mo.
- Feedburner - Google product. Free, but not supported.
- MailChimp - Very easy to use. Free up to 2,000 subscribers.
Here's my recommendation.
The benefits of using an Email Marketing Provider are:
- HTML - your blog goes out looking as good as it does on your website, but also as simple text if the recipient doesn't accept HTML.
- Mobile friendly - your blog is reformatted for phones and tablets.
- Feedback - who opened, clicked, what's working, etc.
- Subscriber forms - collect new subscribers using forms that your Email Marketing Provider helps you create. Place the forms on your website, Facebook page, or in your email signature.
- Manage unsubscribes - you do not want to be tagged as a spammer. All sorts of email systems will block your email - even email to your mom.
- Support - terminology can seem pretty foreign in the email marketing world, your Email Marketing Provider has support to get you unstuck.
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