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.

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!