The Two Times Marketing Should Be a Priority for Your Firm

Throughout the years, I’ve had countless conversations with A/E firms about the right times to market. I don’t mean on the micro level like, “What time of day is the best time to tweet?” I mean on the macro level like, “We are a little slow right now so we figured we should market our firm a bit.”

So, I thought a brief post about the best times to market would be helpful. Below are the two absolute best times to market your architecture, engineering or construction firm.

  1. When you’re busy.
  2. When you’re not busy.

Yep, pretty much always. Marketing should be a priority year-round for your firm. Your campaign direction may change, your media may change, but a focus on marketing isn’t something that should come and go when you get the free time. Marketing is a long-term business process that builds a foundation of awareness for your firm, your team, your expertise…it isn’t just a one-time lead generation exercise when work is slow. (Lead generation is a part of marketing, but it’s more like the end result of successfully doing a number of marketing and communications activities.)

Do you pay employees every once in a while, when you have the free time? Or do you process payroll regularly as a part of managing your firm?

Marketing is just as necessary as paying bills to run a successful firm, but may not happen if you don’t get it on the schedule and build your expectations around the time that has to be dedicated to it – time from yourself, your billable employees, or even your marketing team that may spend the bulk of their time responding to RFPs.

Using Google’s Keyword Planner to Better Understand SEO

We’re excited to announce the first in our new series of brief video tips for architects and engineers. We’re looking forward to posting a number of short, helpful videos highlighting online tools and tricks that can help firms improve their marketing, online presence and SEO.

Today’s video is focused on understanding a little more about what it means to optimize your site for searches based on looking at the what people are actually searching for! We are taking a look at Google’s Keyword Planner tool and highlighting how simple word choice changes make big impacts on search results and your architecture firm’s SEO strategy! Have questions? Leave them in the comments and we’ll address them or post more videos!

Five Architecture Marketing Trends that Won’t Change in 2015

It’s a new year and that means it’s time for content creators all across the world wide web to forecast what the new trends and expectations will be for the architecture and design world! If you haven’t seen all of the posts, here’s one, here’s another on construction growth, here’s a color forecast, and well…here’s one about chunky knitting in interiors.

What does that mean for us? Will it be more of the same in 2015 or a brave new world? We decided to create a post about trends in architecture marketing also – but not in a “we’re predicting the future” kind of way. So, here are:

Five Architecture Marketing Trends that Won’t Change in 2015

  1. Your Marketing Will Require Time from Senior/Billable People
    Marketing for your firm can’t sit on cruise control and it can’t rest solely on the shoulders of ‘others’. Regardless of the size of your firm, effective marketing for architecture and engineering firms requires the involvement of senior team members with technical or design background. This is because marketing in 2015, just like in 2014, is not about a catchy headline and pretty picture, nor does it rely on proposals – it must come from authentic knowledge and expertise that is then packaged, presented and disseminated to a particular client-type.
  2. Chasing Funding Will Leave You Out of Breath
    This is a tough point to argue for many senior professionals. However, if the last few years of industry activity have told us (and our clients) anything, it has been that building a focused marketing platform on the basis of your expertise, your passion and your strategic goals is much more successful than chasing market trends and budget projections. The same will be true moving forward. This is not to say you should ignore market forecasts, but chasing a big budget all the way to a client that you’ve never talked to before is rarely effective.
  3. Data Is STILL Important
    Marketing decisions can no longer be made based on what used to happen or what we THINK used to happen. Perhaps one of the best things about marketing in 2014 was that the data got even better! SEO is more accurate and authentic than ever before. Increased online efforts mean increased metrics of everything. Advertising can be purchased for $20 and we can be sure that it’s seen by 1,000 people before we spend the next $20. Views, visits, followers, downloads, leads…pretty much everything we do can be tracked as we kick off 2015. The challenge moving forward for architecture and engineering firms is to continue to refine the data and make the connections between data sets more sophisticated.
  4. So Is Your Website
    We can’t talk about marketing, we can’t talk about data, we can’t talk about getting press, we can’t talk about referrals…without talking about your website. In 2014 we finally started to see a drop-off in firms and new clients saying, “We’re embarrassed by our website. It’s something we put together ten years ago just as a placeholder and it’s been limping along ever since.” The same will be true this year. Your website is crucial and DOES in fact lead to new business, help close the deal with referrals and much, much more. 2015 will continue to be more of the same – clients will use the web to inform their buying decisions.
  5. Competition Will Continue to Increase
    …but not really. Firms are trending smaller and a large number of professionals started their own firms/design businesses over the last five to ten years (for a variety of reasons – layoffs, lack of career advancement, design control). This trend will stick around in 2015. However, there are a few factors that make the increased number of firms irrelevant when it comes to your firm winning work. First, the more focused you are on the appropriate target market, the more clear the buying decision will be for your clients. Your messaging, your marketing, your portfolio and your SEO will all eliminate a majority of the clutter from being seen as legitimate competition if they’re all done in concert. Additionally, what we’ve seen in many of the new firms is a break from the traditional “architecture-only” service model. A lot of new architecture firms aren’t necessarily practicing architecture at all, but are looking to apply their expertise as consultants, property investors, industrial designers, etc. This means the concept of who is and is not a competitor has been completely reframed within the industry.

So what will it be for your firm in 2015? How will your marketing improve given the ever-changing landscape of the rest of the industry?

Five Things to Know About Your Competition

While helping architecture and engineering firms develop their marketing plans, we look at a number of factors that determine the tactics we will use – target audience, budget, business goals, etc. For the record, I always say ‘tactics come last,’ and quite honestly they’re easy to determine if you’re able to do everything else that comes before them.

One topic of discussion that brings a great deal of uncertainty to the conversation is competition. On the surface, most firms know who their competitors are, but have very little idea what that really means. ‘Great, we have a list of people we kind of don’t like that may or may not be poaching our staff…and…then what?’ Well, here are five things to know or pay attention to when it comes to the competition.

  1. They’re probably not your competition.
    Just because they’re local, doesn’t make them your competition. Likewise, just because they show up higher than you on Google search rankings doesn’t either. Your competition is based on your target audience and the firms they may have been interested in, not any practicing architect in your state.
  2. They aren’t you.
    How is your firm different than every other firm out there? And don’t say your people, because guess what…everybody says that! (and your people leave eventually) Your brand is what makes your firm unique. Look inside to see why what you do is different – your process, your passion, your portfolio, your pricing. There are plenty of ways to distinguish your firm.
  3. They’re the least important people in your business world.
    If you’re like every other busy principal, marketer, architect or insert title here…you don’t have a lot of free time. While it’s not a bad idea to know a little bit about your competition, with limited resources available, they are FAR less important than your staff and your clients.
  4. If you’re doing it right, they don’t matter.
    I am a firm believer that your competition CAN’T win a contract that was meant for you. (bureaucratic issues aside for public market folks) If they win a project because they were cheaper than you, you would have lost money on the job. For any other reason, the fact of the matter is that you weren’t the right choice or you didn’t understand the client well enough. If it’s the former, move on. If it’s the latter, spend more time understanding the client.
  5. They’re good for something
    Superficial metrics used for benchmarking are just about the only thing I would recommend paying much attention to when it comes to your competition. An example might be social media growth. It’s easy to tell if your competitors are getting more action than you on social. Are they growing? Are they engaging? It’s all out there in the open. If you want to know whether or not you’re working hard enough to build awareness and communicate with your target audience, then you can look at your competitors to see how they’ve done.

The moral of the story…spend time understanding your firm, your business goals and your clients. The competition can’t be better at being ‘you’ than you are.