Archive for the 'Marketing' Category

Make it Your Job

Today I was watching a recent talk by Chris Brogan and among many thought provoking ideas, he proposed one tasty tidbit that stuck in my head.

Chris is a successful marketing pro, NY Times bestselling author, magazine contributor, blogger, speaker and mega-nerd (he knows more about comic superheros than anyone… ever).

He didn’t just decide to be successful… and BOOM, he had 220,000+ followers on Twitter. It took lots of time and dedication. Today he writes 4,000 words a day and earns thousands speaking at business conferences throughout the nation.

How did he do it?

He made it his job. He earned it. It took him 8 years to reach 100 subscribers to his blog and years more before it finally took off.

Since 2006, I have been blogging and building my social media empire. The difference between Chris and me? I haven’t made blogging my job. It has always been a “side job”. I know blogging is important for the success of my business, but I have not dedicated the time and effort that is required to have it reach its full potential.

For my real job, I get up every day and go to work. I do all the things necessary to make Fivecat Studio the success that it is. Why? It’s my job! If I don’t do my job, I fail. The whole company fails.

Want to succeed with social media and blogging… or anything else in your life? Make it your job and earn it.

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My Time Online: Presenting Portfolio, Creating Context and a Top Google Rank

This week, we’ve been exchanging website URLs over at the Entrepreneur Architect Linkedin Group. It is very interesting to learn some background on the people we’re interacting with on that forum.

I shared our website URL (which is in the midst of an upgrade from our original site to a new one). Then, I posted links to all my other work online. Here is my original post:

In addition to our website at http://www.fivecat.com, below are the other places I spend my time online (and with my spare time, I’m a very involved Dad to 3 and I run an architecture firm).

Entrepreneur Architect Blog: http://www.EntrepreneurArchitect.com
Entrepreneur Architect on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EntrepreneurArchitect
Entrepreneur Architect on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/EntrepreneurRA

Fivecat Blog: http://www.LivingWellinWestchester.com
Fivecat on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FivecatStudio
Fivecat on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/FivecatStudio
Fivecat Squidoo Lens: http://www.squidoo.com/Fivecat

Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/markrlepage

I am very active on all of the above sites. It has absolutely benefited the firm and me professionally. I have a Pinterest account, a Google+ account and a Tumblr account as well, but I don’t spend much time with these (yet).

How about you? Other than actively participating here (thank you very much) and our new sub-groups, Architect Led DesignBuild http://goo.gl/U2heu and Architect Developer http://goo.gl/DJZTr, do you spend time online elsewhere?

Where? Why? and How much time?

A few group members asked if all this online presence was worth the effort. Do I really benefit from spending so much time online?

First, I enjoy writing and interacting with people all over the world. I have met so many people and have learned so much from my work online.

As for the business, we literally built our firm using our website. When we launched the firm in 1999 almost all of our work came directly from our website. Today, it’s about 50%. The other half comes from referrals from happy clients. We have a form that prospective clients complete when we meet for an interview. One of the questions we ask is where they found us, so we know exactly from where our leads are originating.

The blog, twitter and facebook do not typically lead directly to work, but they allow prospective clients to learn more about Fivecat Studio and more about me. They create context. When I meet with prospective clients, many tell me that they feel they already know me and that most certainly gives me an advantage when presenting a proposal.

All the work online also leads to very high rankings on Google, which is the point if you want your website to lead to sales. If you’re not found on the first page of a Google search, you are invisible to your prospective clients. Search “Westchester Architects” on Google and you will find us within the top 3 results on the first page (the results vary day to day).

I have never quantified my time online. I probably don’t want to know. I don’t recommend that everyone invest as much effort online as I have, but for us, it has been very, very successful.

Great Architecture Will Not Build a Great Business

1) Design great architecture. 2) Get noticed. 3) Thrive!

Isn’t that how it is supposed to work. Well… it doesn’t.

The trick is step 2. Getting noticed. How do you get noticed?

The answer in a word, is Marketing.

Even uber-successful “starchitects” have a marketing team working to get their “great architecture” noticed.

Whether you want to be published in national magazines or looking to get noticed by the homeowners around the corner, you can’t reach your audience without marketing. Great architecture alone will not build a great business.

Marketing is the action of promoting and selling products or services. So, how does it work?

First you need to know your target market. What type of architecture do you design? What range of budgets do your clients have? Who are your clients? What do they do for a living? You need to know as much as possible about your target market.

Have no fear; defining your target market does not restrict you from taking on other non-target work. It just allows you to focus your marketing budget and effort appropriately.

Once you have a target, prepare a marketing strategy (and add it to your business plan). How do you best hit your target? Should you advertise in local newspapers, magazines or online? Should you focus your efforts on getting published in national magazines? Should you attend local networking events? Should you focus your attention on Twitter, Facebook and other social media? Whatever it takes to get YOUR “great architecture” noticed by the people in your target market responsible for hiring an architect is your marketing strategy.

Now you have a target market and a marketing strategy. Next you need to execute.

Take your strategy, set some goals and create a marketing action plan. What are you going to do and when will it be done by?

Marketing. It is not a dirty word. Try it and watch your business grow.

Are You “Locally Famous”?

What are you doing to become “locally famous”?

Do you have a facebook account with which you post regularly and interact with your fans? Do you follow Twitter feeds for people who have influence in your local communities… and respond to their tweets?

Do you blog… consistently, and have a website which reflects the expectations of the market in which you wish to become “famous”?

What happens when you Google your name? Your firm? The term “architect” followed by your location? Are you there… on the first page? (Google Entrepreneur Architect and see what happens.)

Do you network with local business organizations?  Do you share your passion for what you do with others… with large groups or organizations… as a speaker?

Does your business card include your website URL and email… as well as your facebook and Twitter accounts?

To become “locally famous”, you must first truly “know your stuff” and be viewed as THE expert people turn to. Second; you must be everywhere they are and everywhere they look. Third; you must interact with the people from which you are seeking “fame”… and fourth, smile (a lot) and be nice. When you are sincerely nice to people, good things happen.

BUILD LLC… the documentary

Check out the new short film documenting the life and times of the Seattle-based architecture firm, BUILD LLC. It is beautifully done.

A film like this can be used for so many purposes. First, it documents a specific time in the life of this specific firm. Andrew, Kevin and their team will have a great record of what they were thinking in the early days of BUILD LLC.

It is fantastic for marketing. How many firms have a well produced documentary film created for them? I would not be surprised when the online video goes viral. People love video and love to share.

It will help sales too. When prospects view the video, they quickly learn about the firm’s work and philosophy. They see and hear the partners talk about their love for what they do and the passion they have for being “architects that build”. When a prospect finally meets the partners to discuss their project, they will feel a sense of familiarity and comfort. They will have context.

What do you think about the film? Have you done anything similar? Have you seen other firms use video to spread the word?

Let’s talk.

How do your clients find YOU?

At the end of an interview with a prospective client, I ask them to complete a short questionnaire. Most of the questions are names, address and telephone numbers, but near the bottom of the page is this question, “How did you learn about Fivecat Studio?”

The question is followed by a few choices, “Magazine or Newspaper?”, “Lawn Signs?”, “Internet?”, or “Other?”. I track this information and have found that most of our clients start their search for an architect at Google. Although, many of our projects are referred by happy clients, without a doubt, the majority of our prospects find Fivecat Studio on the Internet.

How do your clients find YOU?

How important is your firm’s name?

Our firm’s name is Fivecat Studio.

It took quite a long time to settle on the name when we launched the firm back in 1999.

Our intent, then and now, is to build a great and enduring firm that will long outlive its founders. We did not want to build the firm around any single person or personality. We wanted a name that was not only memorable and differentiated us from our competitors, but a name that we could build a brand around. We think Fivecat Studio does that.

What do you think?

Question of the day: How important is your firm’s name?

Do You Tweet?

From Architectural Record:

It seems like everyone these days is constantly plugged into their technological devices, tweeting their whereabouts, Facebooking their statuses, and publicizing anything and everything about themselves. Companies are even engaged in the phenomenon, using social media tools to market their products and services. But for architects, do these online pursuits pay off?

Design firms that have integrated social media into their practices report a spike in interest in their work — particularly from journalists, publishers, and other architects. However, few can say their efforts have directly led to new projects … yet. Social media is so new to the profession that it may take a few years before the benefits can be measured, but some firms are investing now with high hopes for future rewards.

Read more.

Being present online and social networking has worked for us at Fivecat Studio.

About three hundred people read my Living Well in Westchester blog every day. Several past and future clients have become our “fans” on Facebook and we’ve received several new inquires for residential projects directly referencing Twitter as their source.

Are you ready to tweet? Come “follow me” at www.twitter.com/FivecatStudio.

Non-Traditional Architecture Firms

A member of our Linkedin group, Entrepreneur Architect, posted a response to my discussion, “Learning From Other Industries: Could an architecture firm be successfully structured to run like a high-end salon?”.

Amy Burke, NCARB is a member of a design group named Hyperform Design Co-op located just outside Denver, Colorado. Hyperform is an informal collaborative with approximately 50 members and shared studio space.

Members of the co-op (architects, designers, landscape architects, artists, etc.) come together as necessary and build teams to meet the requirements of each specific RFP. Between projects, they share resources, network and continue their education with planned events… and clearly they work together for PR and marketing.

Amy shared a link to an article in the current issue of Architect magazine that discusses several start-up firms with unique business structures, including her own group, Hyperform Design Co-op.

(Thanks Amy.)

What are your thoughts? Do you think a co-op like Hyperform can be a successful firm structure? Do you have other examples of non-traditional firm structures?

Let’s talk…

Fivecat Studio: Interviewed on WVOX 1460AM

Last week, Marsha Gordon, President and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester, invited me to join her at WVOX 1460AM in New Rochelle, NY. I enjoyed speaking with her about Fivecat Studio, the business of architecture and our annual campaign to support local animal shelters, Pillows of Puppies.


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