But I’m Just A Part of the Choir

I really enjoy receiving my issue of SMPS’ Marketer in the mail. I read it more regularly than most publications I receive, to be quite honest. In each issue, there is usually at least one article that excites me or makes me feel like blogging. This time was no different.

Ron Garikes’ piece “We Don’t Need No Stinking Marketing Plan” was a great read and it made me think to myself, “Awesome…he totally gets it.” Of course, as the title of this post suggests, he is preaching to the choir.

Then my excitement was slightly tempered when I realized that pretty much everybody that receives Marketer is part of the choir. I honestly don’t think I’ve met a marketer in the industry that didn’t WANT a marketing plan. There have been plenty that didn’t quite know how to do it, didn’t have the time or weren’t able to build consensus with firm management…but I think most marketers at least wish there was a plan.

Garikes’ sample excuses were great as well, (including the one about hiring an “overpriced consultant”). I’ve heard all of them myself plenty of times.

The concern I have is that the right people aren’t reading this article, or whole magazine actually. Articles like this need to be in Architectural Record or in AIArchitect. Marketing efforts (whether plans or their associated tactics) fizzle out when buy-in isn’t there from the top, rarely from lack of effort on behalf of marketing departments. In fact, part of why consultant efforts can be so successful is that it sometimes takes an additional expense hitting the bottom line before leadership takes things seriously.

So I guess in closing I’m asking all of my fellow marketers to put your issue of Marketer on a Principal’s desk, opened to your favorite article. And to my fellow writers, let’s try to get published in the publications that our bosses read, not just our colleagues.

How Can My Architecture Firm Use Social Media – Part 2

Way back in April of 2009 I wrote this post on how architecture firms could use social media. Interestingly enough, it’s still the most traveled post on my blog through organic search traffic.

I figured it made good sense to update that post a bit. For one, it’s pretty old…I mean, how much has changed since April of last year in the world of social media? Also, my post at the time was much more tactically focused. The suggestions I provided were really just ways to “dive in”.

For this post, I’d like to highlight a couple strategic ways that architecture (or any AEC) firms can use social media. More specifically, here are a few examples of goals that AEC firms may have, and how they can use social media to achieve them.

Approach New Markets – The dialogue created by social media is a powerful tool – not just in terms of networking, but also for monitoring, researching and analyzing trends. If you’re focusing on a new market, your firm can use social media to build your understanding of the priorities in that market/industry, as well as learn how to “talk the talk” appropriately. If you are really into the research, using a tool like ScoutLabs is a phenomenal way to gain insights and see what people are REALLY talking about.

Expert Positioning – If you’re amongst the firms that have been able to clearly define your areas of expertise or service offerings (meaning that your website doesn’t list every project and project type that you’ve ever completed), the use of social media can go a long way to help you establish yourself as the expert in a certain area. For a smaller residential firm, the example from that earlier blog post about being a neighborhood expert applies. For a larger firm, it may mean beginning a blog, ning community, and/or tweeting about acoustics engineering. The idea isn’t that you need a million people to follow, it’s that the right people appreciate what you have to share.

Develop New Skills – On the flipside of the expert coin, is the ability to tap into vast resources that you would have never known existed prior to social media. Just to use an example, there are currently 73 twitter users tagged in wefollow under BIM. A large number of these users are experts actively seeking dialogues with other people on how to better use BIM, what the benefits are, what the best training courses are…and better yet, just flat out sharing small tricks they’ve learned over time. Why not start there if your firm is considering a large investment in new technology this year? The same applies for project management, photoshop, CAFM and others.

As with any marketing, the best way for your firm to use social media is going to be based on your firm and its goals. There is no question though, that social media can and does have a place within your firm’s overall communications goals, it just has to be harnessed properly.

The Missing Ingredient – Eggs

I had the pleasure of meeting a very nice gentleman recently. The owner of his own mid-sized residential construction firm, he self-admittedly had never marketed in more than twenty years of business. Our conversation progressed well and he mentioned that he was actually quite interested in discussing marketing and marketing strategy with me because his business suffered this past year, as did many firms. Although he was interested in marketing he very quickly dismissed the word branding…he knew for sure that wasn’t what he needed.

He continued to list a few things he’d done to market himself.

  • He launched his first ever website last year. It didn’t “bring in enough sales” so he decided there was definitely a problem with the design and therefore redesigned it.
  • He signed up with a few local referral services that pre-qualify leads for him and take a cut off the top of the contract amount if a job works out.
  • Last but not least, he’s been purchasing pay-per-click advertising, such as Google AdWords and the likes.

The overarching theme in our conversation was that he wasn’t very pleased with any of his results. He then told me a few things that he knew he needed – Search Engine Optimization was at the top of list. He was determined that Search Engine Optimization was the key to unlock the hidden potential in his contracting company’s website.

SEO will not do the trick.

His missing ingredient is not a tactic, it’s a strategy. For the first time in more than twenty years, he is marketing his company out of necessity, but with no clear direction. He has decided to focus on all of the things that people tell him he should be doing because they are important ingredients to marketing success…but he’s missing the one major ingredient that makes things stick together – eggs.

Marketing strategy and brand strategy are the ingredient that hold your “dish” together. With no clear message, brand platform, unique value, established goals/metrics, etc. his marketing efforts are scattering around the area without reaching the right clients or telling them why he’s the right choice for them.

I hope to have a chance to partner with this company sometime in the future. I think for now though, he is busy shopping for other ingredients.