The Value of Reputation…and Marketing

The past few weeks I’ve been in search of several different service providers: accountants and programmers to name a few. In each case I reached out to my network as a first step. Who do I know that may have used these services recently, and whom did they call?

My friends and colleagues put me on the right path with their recommendations but my journey didn’t stop there. After I received a few referrals, I spent time searching these people/businesses on the web to find their websites and/or any social media profiles they may use to promote themselves.

As I took a step back and thought about how I came to my final decision, I realized the parallels between my own search and what I emphasize to clients regularly. While there is no denying that businesses in the AEC industry rely on referrals as a large percentage of their revenue, it is still very often their marketing efforts that either seal the deal or turn people away. Let’s not forget how often people seek out multiple referrals or opinions before they make a decision as well.

Have you ever had a colleague or client tell you that they recommended you to a friend, you should expect a call…only to never get a call? Plenty of obstacles may have gotten in the way of that call, but the firms with the best marketing and communications strategy are doing everything they can to remove those obstacles. A strong cohesive marketing message not only helps land a client the first time, but reinforces their referrals to help develop future business.

But all the Architects are doing it!

Jumping off the social media bridge

I’m the first to admit that I’m kind of a nut about my website and blog analytics…almost obsessive about it really. I love looking at traffic swings from day-to-day, month-to-month and beyond. Of course, who doesn’t love to look at a good benchmark comparison as well, right?

One thing that is a constant trend when I’m looking at search engine traffic is social media. Roughly 60% of my search engine related blog hits are the result of a keyword search for architects and social media, in some combination. I find that even more interesting considering that I don’t REALLY love posting about social media all that much. I don’t mind it, I just don’t want to constantly tweet about tweeting and blog about blogging so to speak…it gets kind of repetitive after a while.

Well, I guess this is my obligatory blog post about blogging…and stuff.

As architects, engineers, developers, builders, etc. continue to dive into Twitter and Facebook, I just want to ask three questions to help you find your way. Actually…just the same question three different ways.

1. Why am I doing this?
Because everybody else is? Because I have something unique to share? Because I think I’m going to get some business from it? There really isn’t a wrong answer to that question. It’s ok to jump on the bandwagon, as they say. Just figure out what the answer is and make sure that you’re working towards a goal…as any time that you spend doing THIS, you’re spending time not doing THAT.

2. Why am I doing this?
Whatever your role is, if you’re the main tweeter, blogger…how come? There’s a reason that you have chosen (or someone else chose you) to be a voice for your firm or the industry. Share information and create fresh content that is valuable to the rest of us based on your personal experiences. Other professionals that are at your level in their organization will value your insights more when they believe you feel their pain, whether you’re a CEO, Project Manager or Marketing Director.

3. Why am I doing this?
Don’t confuse activity with progress. Retweet because it’s something of value or interest, not just to make sure you tweet 25 times a day. (*disclaimer: Some seasoned tweeps may disagree with me on this, and that’s ok.) Before posting your next blog entry, see if there is a timely reason to write something new. i.e. Big conference next month, good article in the latest Marketer that made you think about things differently. For me, as a social media-wielding professional, I prefer to give a good mixture of my own original content and forwarded or RT’ed info. Everything you send shouldn’t necessarily be “advancing your goals” specifically, but you also don’t want to inundate people with so much information that they stop paying attention to the original thoughts that actually came from you.

I guess when looking at the growing number of AEC industry professionals using social media, mom’s question “If everybody was jumping off a bridge, would you do it?” applies now. I’ll liken a good strategy to a bungee cord on this one, and say, “Yes mom, I believe with the proper equipment, I would.”

How much more can we say on a booth display?

Depending upon your particular perspective, conferences can be a necessary evil or a welcome opportunity for networking and business development. Regardless of how you view them, if you exhibit at any conferences at all, you’ve grappled with booth design, how many brochures to take, which stress squeeze-balls to give away…etc.

All serious make or break decisions…right? Truthfully, for services organizations how much you say can detract from what you say with your booth.

I once worked with a client on “developing a conference experience,” not just a booth. Our strategy included everything from what to take, how to set it up, how many stools to put in the booth…the whole nine yards.

The main problem we kept running into was the booth content. They couldn’t imagine having less than a hundred words on their booth. Their concern was that anything less couldn’t communicate what they did in a unique, yet quickly understandable way.

So what was the solution? They were right. A booth backdrop can’t communicate everything that your firm does and it isn’t supposed to. It is only a backdrop after all. Booths with too many words either distract or blend in with the busy conference surroundings.

The strongest booths are designed (and written) to attract attention and make people want to say “so, tell me what type of work your firm does.” That’s the best intro you could ask for.