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 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.

3 Cool Competitions During #AIA2012

The 2012 AIA National Convention is just days away here in DC. While I can’t say enough about how fun the tours and Host Chapter Party are sure to be, there are also some really unique competitions worth highlighting. The competitions range from honoring High School students to recognizing architects from some of the largest firms in the country – quite a diverse group of designers!

30x30x30 – Student Design Competition: Architect’s Workstation of the Future

This competition “takes me back” to architecture school. It poses a fantastic challenge for students from six area universities to create an architect’s workstation of the future with some very specific design criteria.

  • 30 Sq. Ft: The installation must fit within a foot print no larger than 30 square feet, with a maximum dimension of 5’- 0” in the smaller direction – a challenge in the judicious use of space.
  • 30 Dollars: The mock-up submission must cost $30 or less to create – a challenge in the re-use and re-purposing of materials.
  • 30 Miles: All materials used in the installation must be sourced within 30 miles of your school campus – a challenge to be local.

The entries will be judged on the Convention floor.

Could Be: The AIA|DC Awards for Unbuilt Architecture

This year is the fourth year of the AIA|DC Unbuilt Competition. The winners of this year’s competition were announced last month and are now on display in the exhibition Could Be: The AIA|DC Awards for Unbuilt Architecture at the District Architecture Center’s SIGAL Gallery. The awards recognize and celebrate projects that have been prevented or delayed from realization, as well as concepts that are entirely theoretical.

The exhibition includes winners from the previous three years of the program as well, and is organized by the National Building Museum and presented in partnership with The American Institute of Architects, AIA Legacy, ARCHITECT Magazine, Hanley Wood, the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA|DC), and the Washington Architectural Foundation. Award winning projects will be displayed at the District Architecture Center’s SIGAL Gallery until June 30th, so make your way off of the convention floor to go take a peek!

2012 Constance Whitaker Maffin Memorial Competition

The Washington Architectural Foundation and the Constance Whitaker Maffin Foundation will present the 2012 Constance Whitaker Maffin Memorial Competition Award to a student from Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (Phelps ACE) High School during the convention. Students from the DC high school, their families and faculty will attend the award ceremony, and competition entries will be on display prior to the awards ceremony.

This competition required students to design an outdoor performance space on the Southwest Washington waterfront. The overall goal of the competition is to raise awareness among students about the built environment and public space. The competition also provides students experience in planning and design, motivates them to use analytical skills and creativity in problem solving and inspires community action.

The 2012 Constance Whitaker Maffin Memorial Competition Awards will be presented at 3 PM on May 18 at the AIA|DC Salon, Booth 2627.

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.