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!

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.

Top Five Myths about SEO in the A/E Industry

Long ago, SEO had a mystique. It was new and technical and allowed anybody to take the lead in search results. It sometimes even led to deceptive practices like hidden keywords in the background or in the footer of your web pages. My how times have changed though, and having an optimized website isn’t about chunking a bunch of metadata into your source code any longer. Search engines are smarter and our understanding of SEO has evolved, especially for service firms like those of us in the A/E industry. In order to help clear up some confusion, we pulled together a Top Five Myths about SEO in the A/E Industry for you!

Myth 1 – SEO can be done in a bubble

It can’t, not well anyway. Search Engine Optimization has ties to almost every major question at the foundation of your business and marketing plan when it’s done properly. In order for it to be successful for any sustainable amount of time, there has to be a strategy behind it and that strategy has to rely on other marketing efforts, social media and valuable content. That’s why when firms ask us if we do SEO, our answer is typically a bit complicated.

Myth 2 – SEO requires no effort from staff

This is a great follow up to the point above. Often firms hire an SEO company thinking, “All I want is to be at the top when somebody Googles best architecture firm. Done, send me the bill.” Firm leadership later gets frustrated to find out it isn’t that simple and realistically, that’s not even what they need. At a minimum, significant time should be invested up front to determine what terms are even relevant for the firm. Beyond that, however, the to-do list for firm principals, subject matter experts and marketing staff could continue to grow because if you multiply any number by zero, you still get zero. You can’t optimize what doesn’t exist, so firms with small websites and very little content will always struggle to outperform others who invest time in writing.

Myth 3 – SEO is a silver bullet

Many firms contact us with the hopes that if they achieve the Holy Grail of SEO status – First organic result on Google – that their work is done and the leads will just roll in. Unfortunately, neither of those is true. The work is not done, because rankings change every day. Leads also don’t just roll in because of your Google ranking; potential clients have to find what they’re looking for after they click through to take the next step.

Myth 4 – SEO winning = First place

Who doesn’t want to be number one? But we’re not talking about “also ran” or participation trophies. Increased traffic, improved awareness and eventual conversions are the ACTUAL goals behind any SEO effort. Seeing your A/E firm show up in the number one spot may feel great, but looking at analytics and monitoring your traffic are the only way to know if your efforts are successful. And then what? Increased traffic doesn’t equal a new contract for your firm unless you convert – which isn’t about SEO, it’s about marketing and BD.

Myth 5 – SEO firms are a rip-off

I’ve honestly lost count of how many clients and potential clients have called us to say they paid an SEO firm for nothing, zero results. This post may sound a little anti-SEO, but that’s not at all the intention. The point is, you wouldn’t take your car to the shop to get the brakes fixed then be upset with the mechanic for not putting gas in your car every week or two afterwards. Search Engine Optimization is a task you can take care of on your own or pay for (one-time fee or ongoing retainer), but it should only be one portion of your architecture firm’s marketing strategy and without putting a little gas in the tank yourself, your car is only going to get so far.

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.