Is Your Website Helping or Hurting Your Firm?

By: Nick Cafferky

In today’s world, having an internet presence is an absolute necessity. But just HAVING a site is no longer the bare minimum; having a GOOD one is. Here are a few things to look at when evaluating your  website.

Overall attractive layout

Your website is the store front of this century; how it looks impacts what people think of you and whether they want to do business with you. Just how important are aesthetics? An Adobe study found that 38 percent of people will leave a company’s website if they think the website’s layout is unattractive. And having people leave your site before they even learn about you is the last thing you want. Speaking of which…

“About Us” page

Once on your page, over half of all visitors will want to go to some sort of “About Us” page. Things like your firm history and personal bios are a great way to help your visitor learn about you and feel more connected. Contact information should also be readily available, as well (either on this page or a separate one). Email addresses, phone number, social media accounts — providing as much information as you can is a great way to distinguish yourself from other websites. In fact, over half of the respondents in a KoMarketing study said that “thorough contact information” is the most important thing missing from many websites.

How does it look on mobile devices?

The average adult spends 5.6 hours on the Internet, but over half (3.1 hours) of it is on a mobile device of some kind. So to them, it doesn’t matter how gorgeous your site may look on a desktop if it looks like trash on a mobile device. If you have fancy bells and whistles on your site, make sure they don’t show up as broken links and poorly scaled images on a phone or tablet. Beyond how it looks, it’s important to also remember that sites are now becoming penalized by major search engines for not being mobile responsive. If your firm’s web strategy didn’t include mobile before, it should now!

How easy is it to navigate?

If you have a logo at the top of your page, does that double as a “home” button? If not, then it should. How about your tabs/dropdown menus? How easy are those to use? Internet users are incredibly fickle, and if your site is hard to navigate, people will leave. Remember, just because something seems easy to find to you, that doesn’t mean it is for everyone else. After all, you did make the site. Try asking a friend or close client to find information on your site and see if they find it just as easily.

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

4 Tips to Put Your Sponsorship Dollars to Work

The AEC Industry really doesn’t have a long history of “marketing” in a true sense of the word. Business Development is a little more prevalent than marketing in many ways – there are almost always expectations placed on principals or other senior folks.

However, the one marketing tactic that does seem to come up over and over, even in firms that don’t think they market at all, is sponsorships.

  • My son’s little league team – slap a logo on that shirt.
  • My spouse’s local charity  – absolutely, we’ll pay a few hundred bucks for an ad in the program.
  • Industry conference/convention – may be a little pricey, but what the heck, we get a mention in the print magazine AND the website, go for it.

What tends to happen, is that all of these sponsorships add up at the end of the year and management is looking at a $5,000 line item in the budget (often grouped together as advertising) and saying “What the heck happened? We spent 5K and didn’t see a single new lead from our advertising efforts!”

The issue isn’t that sponsorships aren’t worthwhile – it’s that money was put in the wrong place and not backed up by a solid commitment. Here are a few recommendations to make those sponsorship dollars have more of an impact on your firm’s bottom line.

Show up.

If you want to sponsor an event, don’t just throw money at it. Go to the event, volunteer with the team – do what you can to show that you and your firm care about the cause.

Stay on brand.

It’s easier to show up, when you actually DO care about the event, team or publication you’re sponsoring. With that in mind, choose to support things that make sense for your brand. Sure, it helps from a marketing perspective, but it also allows for greater buy-in and less teeth-pulling to actually get people to participate.

Stay on budget.

If you don’t have a marketing budget, you should. And if you have one that doesn’t include a line item to support sponsorships, it should. It’s inevitable that your firm will place an ad in a program or on a banner throughout the year, so track that cost and be realistic about how much you plan to spend.

Include your message.

I’ve written on the importance of a good name and logo countless times, but let’s just say that your firm happens to have an acronym of your principals’ last names. Placing your acronym logo on a banner, in a program or on a shirt does nothing to build awareness or even show your firm’s support for the cause if people don’t already know who you are. Be sure to develop a logo with some form of messaging included, if it isn’t already immediately recognizable what your firm does.