How to Make the Most of Award Submissions

So you’ve spent hours preparing your design award submission, hoping to win and receive the praise of design peers and potential clients alike. You’ve hit the submit button, off it goes…now what?

Whether you win the award or not, the value of your effort doesn’t have to stop there. From a marketing perspective, the time you’ve spent on your submission has a number of other applications, allowing you to take better advantage of your investment. Here are just a few ways you can capitalize on your award submission.

Get Published

Going through the motions on an award submission forces you to identify the unique aspects of your project and explain them in a concise way. That’s what media contacts are looking for as well! Getting press for receiving an award is often less likely than getting press for delivering a unique project. Take the story you crafted and make it relevant for the media, regardless of the award outcome.

Share the Project with Your Audience

You’ve already written descriptions and gathered the best photos, now get an html email together, add the project to your website, write a blog post about it, etc. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an award before you share the work you’re most proud of!

Involve the Client

As a designer, you may feel great about winning an award, but what about the client? Whether residential, commercial or government, any building occupant would love to know that a.) you think their building is so nice it should be up for an award and b.) it actually won one. Keep them in the loop early, share your submittal with them for feedback and even influence them to share good news amongst their media contacts or colleagues. Getting client feedback during the award process may even uncover some unique benefits about how the building functions that you didn’t think about.

Submit It Again

The final, and perhaps easiest, piece of advice is to repurpose your award submission for another contest or event. Maybe there is a trade-specific contest, a neighborhood home and garden tour, or even an online design contest or forum. There is bound to be another opportunity to update your submission and adjust it to meet another set of requirements. Good luck!

How Do I Increase My Chances of Getting Published?

Proactive marketing and communications can be a tough concept to grasp at times. Beyond having a nice website and responding to RFPs, what other outreach is your firm actually supposed to be doing? One thing that everyone understands though, is getting published. It’s generally an immediate request when we meet with firms for the first time to discuss a communications strategy. So, how does the typical firm get coverage for their work and expertise?

Here are some of our tips to help you catch the eye of the media.

  1. Be realistic about what’s noteworthy. New projects and groundbreakings may get small mentions, but unless there is something truly unique about the project, those won’t get a lot of media attention. Identify projects or story angles from the perspective of an editor that’s trying to create great content on a deadline. What would they be proud to write about?
  2. Look beyond the big names. Not every project belongs in Dwell or Architectural Record. That doesn’t make them less important, it just means they aren’t a great fit. Often clients seek those out as the epitome of a great placement when in fact their target audience may not even read those pubs.
  3. Expertise is just as important as experience. You don’t have to receive a full project write-up to get media coverage for your firm. If you have subject matter expertise on your team that has key input in a newsworthy issue, your firm can still get the mention and the opportunity to build awareness as an expert.
  4. Develop relationships. What if a reporter or editor called on you regularly for answers to industry questions? It happens! Blind press release distribution doesn’t do the trick though. Finding publications that are in alignment with your firm’s brand and developing long-term relationships with business colleagues does.
  5. Awards are for you to promote. Winning design awards earns the respect of your peers and your clients alike. They help tell the story of your expertise more often than they are a story on their own though. Additionally, remember that many awards are sponsored by publications already, so the likelihood of another (potentially competing) publication picking up the story is diminished.

How Marketing Delivers Loyalty

In a recent marketing presentation on metrics, I opened with a slide titled “We Don’t Deliver Pizza, But We Do Deliver Loyalty.” Coupled with a few bullet points and a screengrab of a popular pizza delivery app, the slide drew some chuckles and it began an important dialogue. The purpose of the slide was to say, that while A/E marketers can’t offer coupons and BOGO specials, we have much more in common with consumer marketers than many people think. This may be hard to imagine, but let me explain.

It is incredibly common in our industry to assume that repeat business and referrals have nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with great service, top-notch design…pretty much anything on the billable side. I like to call it the Word of Mouth Myth. This myth basically says that word of mouth is not related to marketing and therefore cannot be influenced by marketing efforts. Either people will refer you or they won’t, and it’s solely based on performance. I’d like to use the pizza delivery industry as an example to show why this is wrong.

My family likes pizza. We have ordered it more than once of course, and when we do there are a number of options for us to choose from. Now, if I apply the thinking that many people in the A/E industry use regarding marketing, I would only order based on my prior experience and the advice of my friends. No amount of marketing from a new pizza company would change my mind. Additionally, and more importantly, no amount of marketing from my current, favorite pizza company would make a bit of difference either.

However, we know this isn’t true. Brand awareness, repetition and ongoing marketing campaigns are all incredibly powerful drivers for our decisions. Email marketing, branded boxes, mailings, commercials, car signs and more are not just ways for us to learn about other pizza places, they are ways to keep us thinking about our favorite one, over and over and over again. Every ad or flyer aren’t intended to get me to order right away, but they are intended to for me to make the right choice when I’m ready to order!

There are a few reasons why it is difficult to see marketing in the A/E industry in this same light. One of them is time. The buying cycle is far, far longer for an architecture client than it is for a hungry family. Therefore, it’s easy to dismiss marketing efforts as ineffective in driving action when in actuality what’s really happening is that firms are not keeping up the campaigns long enough. What may seem to be a failure was actually just ended too soon.

Another reason is a lack of comprehensive metrics. Consumer marketers kind of “have it easy” in that way. If they run a BOGO deal, they can tell quickly if people start buying. In the A/E world, we have to develop more ways to track success throughout the sales funnel because we don’t have many opportunities for a direct response and purchase to occur simultaneously. Simple calls to action to download, read more or join our list need to not only be measured individually, but also tied together so that the overall interaction with a particular client is captured over years instead of one email or event at a time. It is great that John Q. Client opened our last email, but effective marketing metrics should let me know that John opened three of our last six emails, showed up to both of our events and downloaded our whitepaper on IPD. Is this realistic to keep up with for every client? No, but that’s why strategic direction comes into play when it is time to prioritize our efforts!

When we start viewing A/E marketing from this perspective, one where our efforts aren’t just designed to drive new contracts but to engage all audiences and build loyalty, we start to see just how important marketing is. Marketing then becomes a complementary activity to project work, because the entire firm becomes responsible (and gets credit) for repeat business and referral generation.

Thinking About Trimming Your Marketing Budget? Five Areas You Shouldn’t Cut

We’ve all heard the news, and it isn’t pretty. Sequestration, furloughs, billions of dollars of budget cuts—across the board, everyone’s trying to scale back and pinch pennies.

In times like these, one of the first places many companies look to cut back is the marketing budget. This logic is flawed. (Yes, I know—we’re a marketing firm, so our perspective is a little biased. But hang on, and hear me out.) No matter how tough going things seems now, eventually things will improve, and the economy will recover. When that happens, clients will spend more freely—and you’ll want to make sure you’ve remained visible to prospective customers.

Also, because belt-tightening times inevitably mean that many businesses do scale back, you have an opportunity to capitalize on your competitors’ absence, putting you at a significant competitive advantage.

So, now that I’ve said my piece on why you shouldn’t cut, here are the ‘whats’: five areas within your marketing budget where you should absolutely not scale back.

1. Your Website: This one’s easy. Your website is your face to the world, and the first stop on any potential client’s list. First impressions are critical. Don’t skimp here.

2. Social Media: Currently, 84% of business-to-business marketers use some form of social media. It’s big, and it’s only going to get bigger. At the risk of sounding dramatic, social media is the future of marketing. Your business needs to be there, and you need to be active. (For more insights on the future of marketing, check out this great article written by Hubspot.)

3. Email Marketing: According to a study conducted by iContact, small and midsized businesses are allocating the largest chunk of their marketing budgets to email. Why? Well, for one, 59% of marketers perceive email to be the most effective channel in generating revenue. This area is a critical component, especially in relation to your company’s social media presence and its mobile marketing efforts. Growing your lists and accurately, effectively segmenting subscribers goes a long way in helping your company deliver targeted messages to the right audience.

4. Mobile: As you’ve likely noticed, everyone has a smart phone these days. Last year, mobile ad spending rose by 62% , reaching $6.4 billion. This area is growing faster than almost any other digital effort. If you want to make sure you’re reaching customers in today’s constantly connected culture, mobile marketing is key.

5. Analytics: It’s all about the numbers. Research shows that spending on marketing analytics is expected to increase 60% by 2015. If you’re not collecting and analyzing the data, you’re not getting the most out of your marketing dollars. And you’re likely missing out on a ton of opportunities.

So, there you have it. Those are our thoughts on how to get the most bang for your buck, even in tough times. What do you think? What areas are on your own not-to-cut list? Let us know in the comments.

By: Bethany Nguyen