Online Marketing

How To Market an Architecture Firm – Part 1

This is Enoch Bartlett, Sears, AIA, host of the business of architecture show now maybe you’re a die-hard listener of business of architecture or maybe you’re new listener. I’m going to try something new here for a couple of episodes and I want to see how it goes.

So. Here’s the deal leave. This show a review on iTunes, with your constructive feedback and I’ll read your name and a brief message over the air. Now this will do two things. It will help me make this show better and it will bring you more of what you want to hear now. You can do this one of two ways you can visit iTunes and search for business of architecture and leave the review there or you can go to business of architecture.

Com visit, the show page click, the iTunes link, leave your feedback there and make business of architecture. Yours for 2014, because that’s what it’s about I’m doing this for you and your support is appreciated in today’s episode. We’re going to talk with Kyle McAdams AIA he’s a licensed architect and he is the former managing director of marketing and business development for the American Institute of Architects.

Now, during our conversation, Kyle’s going to talk to us and tell us about the three C’s and the four PS of marketing, basically marketing 101 for architects, listen, I’m not going to beat around the bush here. The information we cover in this in these next two episodes are going to give you the information that will put you ahead of 95 % of the other architects out there. So if you want to get more of the right kind of projects, you want to dominate your local market get out a pen and paper, because you’ll want to take notes.

Here’s the show well welcome back agile architects. Today joining us is Kyle. Mcadams AIA he’s a licensed architect, he’s a former managing director of marketing and business development for the American Institute of Architects, national and in his own words he is an evil genius marketer. So he is an experienced marketing and business development executive and we look forward to talking to him about marketing for architects.

So Kyle welcome to the show thanks it’s great to be here in person yeah and I’ve readed. Many of these things never actually taking part. So it’s pretty cool to be here that you know, and it is an honor thank you for spending your time to come and share your knowledge with with architects and talk about business of architecture and talk about marketing it my pleasure. So in listening. It’s initialling combination! How you you’re licensed architect, but you have the specialty in focus on marketing yeah, tell us how that happened in your career and also just a note there.

Let’s sum move your camera down just a little bit, or maybe your screen, so your heads a little higher here there we go that’s good, so we get you in full. Full frame, yep yep a little bit a little bit back a little exactly there. There you go, that’s good, perfect, all right, good, so trauma patient. You bet so tell us a story so licensed architect to you know. How did you what took you from being a an architect to being the former managing director or the director of marketing and business development for the AIA? Um? Well, I would say: I’ve always been an architect, so once you’re knocked, I think we all believe that once you’re, an architect you’re, always not matter what you’re doing and many of us take some different pads for me, I was a very fortunate coming out of business School, not a physical out of architecture school to go work for the cambridge 7 associates up in Boston and got to work on some really exciting projects with some really smart people who are the Cambridge, and what’s that, what does the Cambridge 7 tell me about them? Their work, Cambridge, is a is a very well.

It’s a it’s a back, forty-year-old, firm in Boston and if you know the New England, Aquarium, Boston or the National Aquarium in Baltimore, those are all Cambridge seven projects. I think in 1993 they won the firm of the Year award so they’re a truly long, well-established firm. In Boston, New England and they’re kind of known worldwide as the aquarium firm, that’s their real claim to fame. I worked there.

I didn’t work on the aquarium projects. I worked on the the ones that made money the the less glamorous. I worked a lot about shopping malls and movie theaters and they were actually really interesting because both of those types of projects when you design you’re, designing with business in mind and a business process and it for this operation – and I was really getting intrigued by it – And loved working with my clients and started thinking about the business side of things and decided to go to business school.

So I went back to business school and while I was there, I really became fascinated with marketing and I don’t think people by helping people who aren’t in marketing always know that it L strategic it is, and I compared it I think. Actually, most architects are probably we could be wired to be great marketers, because it is really about designing a marketing strategy you’re. Just not you know, working with visuals but you’re, looking with understanding consumers and developing a strategy and a product around those consumers.

Much as you would be developing a program around a client – and you know, building a building around a little bit more about that, because you know for a lot of us. Marketing is sort of a different language. So when you say strip being really strategic about us about it, help us understand what you mean by that. What does that mean? Okay, this is the way I think about it. If you ever go through a marketing class, probably one of the first things they’re going to tell you about, is to always remember three seas and the four p’s, and that’s just that’s that baseline of marketing.

I all the thinking goes around those things and the three C’s are the company meeting you, the company, you are what are your strengths and weaknesses? What can you do very well what you not do and you have to decide? What is it I’m going to do? Am I going to make dishwashing liquid? Am I going to make soap and I got the tires okay and if I do make tires, do I make racing tires? Do I make up you know snow tires, I’m a dishwashing liquid.

Am I going to fight grease or make shiny dishes, make your hand saw decide who you are what you do well and don’t try to do all things to all people um. The second C is the customer or the client or the consumer. You can put the seat to any of those, but it’s really who you are trying to serve and you, if you’re going to find a client or a customer. You want to find one that it’s looking for what you need right.

So it’s it’s sort of like a Unity game. They got to go together. You can’t be trying to force-feed the wrong clients, things that you don’t do right. So you deciding what your company is, helps you realize who the customer should be and finding the customers that you can serve best means you’re going to perform best you’re going to be happiness and your customers are going to be just as happy. But that’s a very strategic decision you have to make and I don’t think people realize how much thought and strategy goes into that and then the other scene.

This example: I’m going to pause you right there, because this is such this is great information Kyle and I don’t want. I don’t want you to gloss over anything that, to you might seem second nature, because you’re, a professional that does this and the late delay. People like myself out there who are learning from this process, so you say: there’s a lot that goes into that. You know the second C, which is the client and the first C, which is the company.

Can you sort of give me sort of an example to help me understand, what’s so complex about that, and I guess how to do it correctly? Okay, so let’s say you want to in an example, I I’m going to also be jumping into one of the peas as well there’s the product, so the product is what you are developing for the customer and the client so you’re having to find something that you See people want so you know, let’s say you your Starbucks right and you’re, not Starbucks, yet you’re, just Howard Schultz, right, let’s say architecture firm.

Can you can you switch it and say? Okay, we were an architecture firm right and I have experience with. Let’s say schools. I work I used to work for a big firm and I did a lot of school work, so I know a lot about designing schools and I’m going to start my own firm and gosh yeah, there’s so many things I could do. I think I might you know, want to design a kitchens. Well, I don’t have any expertise in that.

I could develop it, but maybe I get started a lot quicker. If I know I can do schools and if I feel like I have enough bandwidth and the right people to do, schools, and if I don’t, I have to you, know, find the right people and can I afford them all those kind of questions have to say. That’s that’s what I’m to do so. I have to gear up to do that and can I afford you have to do that? Okay, that’s great, but am I in a market where they’re going to be schools right? I am I do I live in the desert and there’s not another city around for 300 miles.

Well, you’re, probably not going to do well design the schools do it. Do I live in a growing community where lots of young families are moving into on that’s going to explode with development yeah? That sounds like a pretty good place to do schools. So those two things are critical. So then you might start thinking about the product. So within you yourself as doing schools, what kind of school are you going to be say this like really well sustainable, sustainable schools? And that’s you know it helps it.

That’s what you get in the past, but you’ve got to figure out what the product is, that you’re going to be making and they’re all sort of symbiotic, they’re, the customer, client and the product kind of all go together and you sort of in you equip yourself To do that, that needs your staffing, the technologies you’re going to be using, but knowing those things you can start to address the other P’s and C’s and that sort of stuff, because it’s ready, you give a very interesting example that made me think about, for instance, When, let’s take the school example, say I’m an architect and I’m wanting to target school districts, would you recommend, in terms of product or service? In our case, would you recommend, focusing in on a tiny little area of the school district needs like, for instance, maybe classroom remodels or maybe a compliance, as opposed to just saying: hey, we’re a school architect and we’ll do anything and everything for schools talk about that, Especially if you’re just starting out right, especially just starting out, find something narrow, the narrower, you can be the more of an expert you can be and the more of a specific problem you can be solving because you know clients don’t mean, I don’t say most clients.

Most clients, most customers, think in terms of needs and problems right. If you are a noted problem, solver and leave FULFILLER people are going to turn to you more quickly than if you are a yeah. I do schools. Eventually, you may be able to step back and say: yeah I do schools. You got to start somewhere solving a problem by doing that, you’re, making it a little bit easier on yourself, because you’ve only got to worry about one minute to get really really good at before.

You expand to something else, as opposed to like trying to be all things to all people. You know 88 compliance. You can say to people. I am the expert about 88 compliance and you have questions about 88 compliance. Ask me whether it’s architectural or not on the expert and so being an expert like that you’re creating demand. Did people have that problem? If people have that need on, you are the solution to the demand they have okay.

So let me just rephrase that, and in my own words, to make sure I’m understanding and our listeners can apply it to themselves. So, for instance, instead of going and saying hey, I’m an architect and I do anything relating to schools that would be basically telling them what we can do, but in terms of needs and solving problems. If I tell them, hey, listen, I’m an expert at a DEA compliance and I can go through your school and if you have any projects that need to be done, I can tell you how much it’s going to work.

You know where you need to put the grab rails where you need to put the ramps and how that’s going to work that that speaks a lot more to the specific problem and needs yeah. It’s worth salient right. You know it’s probably, I think more often uh. The kind of project that somebody needs to be fulfilled is going to really be like building a whole school like it’s going to be solved. This problem, quality and I’ll come back to you getting to solve that problem, but now I have a relationship with you and so yeah you’re an architect right yeah.

I do 88 employees Wow. Could you Doug, you know renovate a section of our school? Well, of course, I can, and you can guarantee it’ll be a DA compliant when I do that, but then you sort of like you got that you’re expanding a relationship. That’s like trying to overlay which need do you have right now right, whether the instead, you are growing out from a service you provided in a a solution you provided in building the relationship from there.

That’s why it’s important one of the biggest pieces of marketing is staying in touch with the clients you had like the ones you’ve already provided services for not forgetting about them and okay you’re done now that you’ll find more clients, it’s equally as important to stay involved And engage with the client you have already solved for even if it’s building a house – and you think well, you know they’re not going to they built the house, they live it and how many houses can you have? Well, they probably have a lot of friends um that will need houses and the most likely person to build a house.

Is somebody either know somebody who has built the house or they don’t want the front themselves. So that’s some of the best spent marketing time and money that you can have and it you can spend – and it’s probably the cheapest, because you’ve already got the relationship you’re not having to build the awareness or build the consideration. They already know you and you’ve already got an ongoing relationship with them and in a building your network and your network is not just you know who I know and you I can call on, but they’re also the people are going to be marketing for you to The public so that you’re building yourself a a marketing network of your very own who hopefully will speak highly of you and you doing work for you, okay, I think that’s something that most architects have is past clients and Givi.

Can you give me some examples of how architects can keep in contact with past clients right uh? Well, you know just checking in say. Okay, if anything needs work, anything needs to be revisited. That’s always it’s a given, but then you can also be bringing more information. So information is power and it it makes you look more and more like an expert so for schools there may be some innovation so or change in codes.

They not may not be aware of a DA compliance. I look like that’s going to change again in the future, but what it does change, that’s an opportunity to go back to all your previous clients say: hey just want to. Let you know about the new changes in a DA rules right begin, so you’re not you’re, not fishing for business as much as you are notifying them of innovation and changes in the industry, so you’re adding value without they have.

You had to pay you for that, but you’re, just really in your own line, your marketing right, there’s, if the opportunity does it right, it’s a chance. Actually, it’s just a chance to have a conversation with them again and add them once again. Look to you as the expert who solved my problem in the past and is letting me know, it’s done me a really big favor of bringing me up to date on some other specific issues.

So you know, innovation is all just letting you know about some other work that you’ve done. Hey just learn the lectures you so use. Excuse me show you some other schools that I’ve worked on and just checking to see. You know if and in you what, if people are happy with you, they’re always going to be happy to refer you you can also, I hate, let me know, and if you know any other, you know principals or school board members or if it comes up in Conversation, I would really appreciate it if you could pass along my name and you need to leave in the stack of business cards.

You may throw them away, but he’ll like remember, or she will remember that you are there seeking their help and if you’ve helped, then people are going to want to help you back. You know I really like that, because I know that a lot of us struggle with, for instance, when we want to reach out to people we want to try to drum up work. It often feels like we’re approaching it from a position of weakness because it feels like we have the need it feels like.

We need the work and there’s almost a little bit of desperation there. So we lack confidence when we make those calls, but I like the way that you’re approaching a cow because then it gives me some ammunition. I can call – and it’s not just hey, I need some work. It’s hey, I’m just checking in, and I want to see how it’s going and hey there’s some changes happen with the new year. I wanted to make you aware of you know what you’re going to be looking at for the next year and sounds sounds like a very effective way to do it yeah.

So it is an easier approach. Right, I mean people like to work with people they like and if you just take the approach that you know, I’m just here to find people I like and stay in touch with the people. I like you’re, basically marketing without feeling like your hard selling or being desperate, you’re, basically building your network and you would hope they’re almost like your friends right. You know – maybe that’s going too far, but I don’t think so because, like I said people like to work with people, they like so that’s a great take away.

So I’m going to challenge any of our audience members who out there wondering how they can apply. Some of this to their firm into their business map out a day, take out your list of old old contacts and just start dialing the phone and just say hey. It’s me just checking in see how you’re going so that’s a way to do it so and if you do that drop me an email or drop Kyle a little a note, so we can know that you got something valuable out of this conversation.

We’d really appreciate that Kyle we’ve so far we talked about two of the seas and one of the peas. Can you run us through the rest? Oh absolutely to the seas, will appease the other sea is the competition right? Ideally, you want to go a place where the competition isn’t, so, if you can so one of the things I think about – and you know I’ve mentioned this to you before – I worked as my very first job in any architecture.

Firm was basically a marketing intern for the summer, for this, a person firm and what they were doing was they were trying to build their practice of building schools as that’s the sample. I was focusing on earlier. It’s because I focused on the before what we found was why state is. This is an Austin Texas. I would need worship, Texas, school architecture, and there are a lot of Architects in in Austin and when you’re looking to do, schools in and around you near into Austin you’ve got a lot of competition, but what we found it’s like.

Okay, when you start, you know doing a 200-mile radius around Austin and start. You know, let’s stop thinking about the University of Texas and the high schools in Austin, but what about Dripping Springs or trainer? Or these places that you know there aren’t any architects and people? Don’t consider architects very often or talk with them very often the competition is less. So if you can decide you know, I do schools and I want to do them in in smaller areas.

I’m not going to focus on universities going to focus on junior colleges. Suddenly you are narrowing your competitive space that you’re playing in and you’re also limiting the amount of work you’re having to you and you get to target yourself in a place that you might have be doing from a position of strength as opposed to up against. So many other important competitors that might have bigger advantages than you so figuring out the competition and – and you know how you’re going to be different right, it’s all about differentiation, so we talked about and once again all of this is symbiotic all right.

That’s all it all looks together right. This is the strategic part. I’m talking about is that they, the customer, the company, the product and the competition, define greatly. It is what you’re going to do an example I like to use a lot is a visual washing liquid um. You know it back in the day there was, you know, joy and Palmolive. He said you may remember some of the old advertising around us joy cleans right down to shine Palmolive mad you’re, sucking it what dishwashing liquid! Oh it’s mild.

Yes, it softens your hand. Softens hands, you know, needs a clean, shine, um. What’s another one. I don’t know if something else, but people were you know, so Procter gamble is trying to think of okay. We got to develop a new dishwashing liquid in this space and we asked consumers. What is it that’s important to you? Well, you know shiny dish and soft hands or important to me and so they’re saying.

Well, maybe we developed something that you know softens hands, but there’s really somebody already doing that. Let’s do some testing, so they went into kitchens and literally read people wash dishes and they were filming it and they would come back in Cincinnati the locations and read these films and some of they kept seeing over and over again was the person put the dishes In and they would put their hands into the water to wash the dishes and they would have this look on their face like uh in they kept saying what is that uh and they started asking the question: what does that scowl? You have with your face.

It’s like I hate going into the grease. Oh the grease, so I get back there. Scientists say hey: can we formulate something that cuts through grease? Why sure we’ve had it a long time? Just nobody ever told us, they wanted it all right, and so they developed Dawn dishwashing liquid, which, which is really is a sentence tone. You know very innate in boring, but in his face of dishwashing liquid dawn is a relative baby compared to each other grant dawn.

Katyn, and probably in the early 80s, some of these other brands have been around for 50, it Burt since the 50s and 40s, but in one year dawn became the number one selling dishwashing liquid in the world because of that differentiation, finding the customer need. That was unspoken that nobody else was uh solving, for they made a product based on those needs in the competition and what they were capable of doing that broke through the market, because nobody had really even thought about it.

So those are the things I’m talking about. They also look together the other piece, okay, placement: where are you going to sell this thing? Um, that’s made it baby seem obvious, but I would say: look at books right. Twenty years ago you sold them in a store. You don’t see bookstores very often, because somebody innovated and sold them online change the whole of spectrum of the business and suddenly you almost have to choose that blog, but because they chose that blog.

That’s what made Amazon a monster right because they were the first to realize we can sell through this blog that nobody’s even thinking about right now. So that’s another big strategic decision, which also said there can be selling to the the smartest people who read the most books because they’re going to be the ones online first right and they they built themselves to do that better than anybody else.

By building the warehouses. They have throughout the nation that they can give you gitche books so quickly, but they had to be able to make a decision. Our company can do that. We’re going to build ourselves to be able to do that, so the blog is important. Now, architects, you know, I I don’t know, maybe some how we can do it virtually well, maybe you know we consider it whether you’re using BIM or not.

Then it’s it’s not an exact comparison, but I think you get the point I’m trying to make here is that you still need to think about it in terms of how much you deliver differently than others in price. Now my the premium price and my Neiman Marcus or not Walmart you’re, going to have to change your practice to be one or the other and if you’re going to be the premium price, whoever you are, you better be delivering a product, that’s outstanding and if you Give me the low priced guy, you better be doing something that has high volume, I think about.

Like I’m an architect, I can do low pricing. If I have something like a gas station right, it’s going to do multiple versions. So I can repeat it repeat: it repeat, and I can you know, make money off a thinner margin than I would if I’m doing in houses or skyscrapers or something like that. And finally, the last P is promotion and that’s actually what most people think marketing is. When you say marketing, everybody thinks that the advertising, the buy-one-get-one-free the brochure, but all that is it’s just the in promotion, and that is useless.

If you hadn’t done the other three P Reese’s, all the promotion is doing is communicating those things. It’s communication. This is what I do and you’re targeting your promotion to the customer that you want to do it to and you’re talking about the price and all of those things have to be put together. You can’t just throw out an ad, so you know this is why I’m different a a Walmart ad will be different than a Target.

Ad Walmart is all about bottom line. Prices target is about design, it’s still affordable, but they’re, not saying we’re the lowest price right, and because of that, I would say they have two really different experiences: two very different inventory and operations around those things to serve those clients better. Your advertiser is much different. So promotion is key, but you can’t just throw it out there.

It had your promotions, communicating all of the other piece and all the other C’s so that those customers that are out there saying well, I’m I’m that customer I have that need that’s who I’m going to go for right on so there it is. That’s the framework of the strategy and there’s you know every every one of those has implications in terms of how you structure your business, which customers you’re looking for where you important how you’re going to deliver.

But that’s what I mean by it being a strategic endeavor and I think you’d begin to see why I believe that architects naturally are really good about this, because we are so good at think about all the various systems on all the implications that every design decision Now requires in what you have to have done before you make those final decisions in terms of the preparation in terms of programming, it’s very similar to just dealing with different aspects, absolutely Wow.

Well, I have this. So I have this long list, Kyle that I wrote here. I have the three C’s I have company client competition. I have my psi got left one of them out. I have placement price and promotion place, price, product and product, of course, because you talk about that with the sees the product. Okay, so going upon, you know just what you what you explained about this framework here. I know for a fact that most people think of marketing as the last step, when we think of marketing, we think promotion to us.

I think that’s what marketing is, but now looking at this list, I’m seeing here that the bulk of the work and the bulk of the effort and the bulk of the reward almost is put into these one. Two three four five six steps before we ever even get to the promotion. That’s absolutely right! That’s where that’s my point is that people think of marketing as some sort of afterthought you know, let’s throw together something to let people know we do work out there as opposed to the final communication of really who I am and what I’m doing strategically to find The right you can you’ve got to find the right corner.

You can’t find a client, you got to find right clients and you have to develop yourself to be able to serve them, and so your promotion is much than anything else. Let’s just say you know why? Don’t we come see me but come see me if you want this and you’re one of these kind of people and have this need, and that also might determine where your promotion is going to be like. You may find that your promotion is sitting in a PTA meeting telling people about.

You know how to make homes more sustainable right and you may not need an ad, but the audience might be sitting right there and your ability to speak and communicate may be all you need, alright, so buying an ad. You know great if it’s an ad in the right place, speaking the right person at the right time, so it’s just one one one, one small part of it, there’s so much more excellent! Well Carly! I really appreciate everything you’ve shared with us today.

I think this is a lot of really good inform so that we can implement and in the second half of our interview next episode, I know you’re going to start to talk about what happens next. So we have the promotion and then we’re going to move into the funnel the pipeline and then how you, how you turn those leads. So this is sort of like lead generation, next episode, just to give them a little hint for what we have to expect.

You’re going to tell us how to turn those people into buyers and clock solutely good in rating fans. I like that even better. Well, thanks for being on the show thanks, Enoch pleasure, okay, dr. Laters and that’s a wrap for another show about the business of architecture. To get more resources about how you, as an architect, can raise your fees, land the projects, you love to work on and get the time in your day, back, join the members on the business of architecture, insider list for free by going the business of architecture comm Forward slash free, enter your best email address there and I will send you instant access to free resources, including my book, social media, for architects.

If you’d like to discuss a thought or insight from today’s show visit business of architecture, comm, slash podcast on that page you’ll. Also find my notes from today’s show and the action items I took away from our conversation until next week. Keep rockin and go conquer. The world he’s expressed on the show by my guests do not represent those of the host, and I make no representation. Promise guarantee pledge warranty, contract bond or commitment, except to help architects conquer the world bump music credit to Ben Folds.

Five. Do it anyway, you

Starting a business is not easy! Think about who will be working on your digital image. Hiring a good webmaster will help!


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