October 30, 2008 at 5:23 pm #176194Matthew E WilsonParticipant
Just trying to keep everybody motivated during these trying economic times. . .
One of the more difficult areas of business for most folks is that of sales and marketing for we are talented at our relative areas of expertise but were never educated at the importance of marketing until our sales slump. We ultimately come to the realization that in business marketing has to be understood and implemented correctly in order to attract potential customers? When there are no customers calling then their can be no sales and a business dies from the weight of its overhead burden. All architectural firms are no different than any other business in respect to marketing. How do we get the message out to the general public and more importantly to potential clients seeking our unique skill set specifically? There are several answers to that question.
A proven area of marketing is that of photographic image in your advertisement and it works very well but it has to be presented in the correct context to the specific market share that you are trying to attract. To many times I am questioned by my peer group as to what publication to place print media in. Many times cost is the primary decision making vehicle and frankly it could not be more wrong. You must afford the proper size advertisement in the correct market demographic regardless of costs or you will not only be wasting your time but also your money as well. An advertisement that is too small or lists some arbitrary group of words describing all your areas of expertise is dated and tired. Try to solve a problem for your specific client. Ask the question right in the copy of the advertisement “are you looking for a sanctuary of your very own?” as apposed to “we design and build beautiful landscapes”. My observations suggest that if you are truly creative in your respective field of expertise than that creativity should spill into your adverting as well. Think original and creative thoughts to design a campaign unlike anybody else’s. Your distinctive advertising campaign itself will display your creativity to those savvy clients that really want something uniquely different. The visual image that a photograph of your work conveys speaks volumes over simple words describing what your firm can provide. However a combination of both a strong visual image that is combined with a few very carefully crafted words can paint a picture for your prospective client. A full page advertisement can be very expensive but the image it conveys to a prospective client is that of success and professionalism. Remember that perception is reality for most clients! A small advertisement for the most part states a thrifty approach and works for that market share that wants a value in their purchases. For my specific market share I go big or I go home. My clients have achieved a level of success and strive to set themselves apart from the crowd and therefore they contact me for that reason. They find me in magazines that appeal to their taste and interest. Not in any publication that fits my given budget. If I don’t have the funds available for a full on campaign I change my marketing plan to accommodate that level of funding or I postpone my efforts until I do have adequate funds. Running a campaign short on funds does not work. A small effort for a short duration of time, 1-3 insertions, is a waste of money. It is called an advertising campaign for a reason. It takes a concerted effort to launch and maintain a campaign as apposed to throwing a given amount of dollars at an advertisement sales representative and hope for the best.
When you do decide to run an adequate sales campaign may I suggest that you hire the best photographer that you can afford for the project? To many times people try to cut corners by taking the photograph themselves or asking their neighbor to shoot the photo on their day off. Take the time to research a top notch photographer, look at examples of their work and pay their fees as requested. They are worth the money as surely as you are worth what you charge. They have skills with a camera that you don’t and there is a noticeable difference. Take the time to stage the photo with all the applicable props relevant to the income level of your prospective clients, such as yard sculptures, fresh flower arrangement, expensive patio furniture, etc. . .that you would need to portray a convincing scene for people to visualize themselves being apart of. You would not want a plastic table and chairs set in your photograph if your target clients are upscale professionals. You might find that type of staged item acceptable but you are not your target client are you? An attractive person in your photo shoot not only paints a picture of usefulness it also provides scale to the surrounding amenities. Essentially, go to the time, trouble, and expense that this sales medium requires for good results. Install anything that completes the photograph for your clients. Make them wish that they were in the picture and they will likely ask you to duplicate that landscape for them.
Remember that you are not a creating a scrapbook of memories intended to boost you ego, you are simply providing one photograph for your portfolio and advertisement campaign that best displays your firm’s abilities to prospective clients. Do not make the uninformed mistake of taking your picture before it has adequate age and maturity of the surrounding landscaping.
You will need to have the photographer shoot several Polaroid’s before hand to ascertain the correct aperture setting and lens to use. Try to avoid the temptation to shoot multiple angles of the same project as this stunt does not fool anyone but you. If you don’t have enough photographic content to fill your portfolio considers graphic material along with text or articles to fill the gaps.
When the inevitable sales lead arrives be prompt and punctual always. Big money waits for no one so be prepared and have all the answers before you meet.
Another marketing avenue that is frequently over looked is the press. The newspapers and magazines of your community are always looking for public interest articles to fill their pages. Your significant project has an angle that is of interest to many people but how would they know anything about it unless you let them know. This is not a time in our economy to be shy so start blowing your own horn and make yourself known in your community.
Hire a copy editor to proof read and rewrite your written words. They are affordable and nothing should be released without your copy editors approval. You only have one opportunity for a first impression and if your written word is less than professional you will loose a client before they have had a chance to evaluate your skill level because of your grammar or phrasing.
Another example that seems to have fallen through the cracks these days is your appearance so dress for success. Don’t dress like your fellow architect because “that how everybody in my line of work dresses”. When you are in front of a potential client you cease to be a Landscape Architect and must portray yourself as a competent salesperson that is passionate about their profession so dress like one. The market share I have chosen is the top 2% residential community and my attire reflects my level of success and professionalism. Many times I am dressed nicer than my clients and that’s ok because they are not at work – I am. Your clothing and vehicle that you drive are a direct reflection of your success, or failure, as perceived by your prospective client’s.
Your vehicle should reflect your success as well so wash it prior to a sales meeting. I would strongly suggest not driving a conventional car to a sales meeting unless your target market is more value oriented. Take a spare change of clothes if need be so that you look fresh and rested before a sales call. If you are late for appointments, your appearance is haggard, or you cannot return a phone call your organizational skills need work and that will certainly be conveyed to your prospective client. Nothing is good enough any more and if you want a viable shot at competing out there in this market share you will have to bring your ‘A’ game all the time.
Want to jump start your sales and marketing immediatley? Read the book ‘The Answer’ by John Assaraf
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