Here’s a Marketing Strategy that Works for Small Architects and Contractors
Do you own or work in a small architecture or contractor firm?
Then I’m sure marketing is not always the first thing on your to-do lists.
You have always more urgent things to do—working on projects and trying to meet deadlines, talking with prospects, drafting proposals, pleasing clients, administration and invoicing… the list goes on.
In busy times, it may seem like you don’t have time for marketing. But that means you’ll have fewer projects later on.
Marketing and communication is growing increasingly important though for architects and contractors, as illustrates this quote that Harold Linton – Professor or Art at the George Mason University – shared with me for this article:
“At a time of increasing global competition among architecture and design firms, as well as a growing mine of digital technologies to plumb, an architectural firm’s success can often hinge on effective design communication. Important questions need to be asked such as, What tools are helpful and strategically important to growing a firm’s exposure? and How do you determine if the cost of advertising on any level makes sense and provides the right exposure(s)?”
Or as Richard Petrie shared with me:
“Everyone has two jobs, their first job is marketing their firm. Their
second job is doing the thing they marketed.
If you do not do job #1 there is no job #2.
If you do a bad job at #1 you end up with average projects and skinny
The world does not buy the best pizza or best hamburgers or even elect the
best qualified presidents but PizzaHut, McDonald’s, and Trump are all
making money from job #2 because they are better marketers.”
The world does not buy the best pizza or best hamburgers or even elect the best qualified Presidents but Pizza Hutt, McDonald's and Trump ar all making money because they are better marketers. Click To Tweet
And when you do think about marketing, you immediately think: expensive.
Spending $20,000 on a new website, $300 per month on Google ads, or $1,000 for a magazine spread might not be feasible for your budget.
Sound about right? Then keep on reading.
In this article, I will share an important insight that will help you get better leads without spending tons of money on old-fashioned marketing.
Inbound and Outbound Marketing Explained
Before delving into the specific tactics, let’s take a step back and think about what marketing is and what we try to achieve with it.
Marketing is not necessarily advertising.
Advertising can be a part of marketing, yes. But I think it’s a very bad marketing channel for small architects and contractors. (More on this below.)
A good definition of marketing is the following:
“Effective marketing is the process of making your prospects aware of the value your firm provides and persuading them to take the next step in your process.” — Enoch Bartlett Sears, AIA
Put simply: Good marketing helps potential clients get to know you and trust in your knowledge and expertise so they’re motivated to take that next step, whether that’s subscribing to your newsletter, following you on social media, or simply asking you for more information or an appointment.
In other words, it’s basically everything you do to bring people closer to an actual sale.
There are many ways to accomplish this that don’t cost a lot of money.
Everything is marketing.
Marketing is not a department. Marketing is something everyone in your company is doing all the time.
Think about it this way: if the goal of marketing is to attract new projects, that means everything you and your team does is marketing.
This includes doing the best possible job for your current clients so they come back and refer you to their friends, sending out a newsletter or an invoice, taking pictures of your projects and sharing them on Facebook, answering the phone, even talking with contractors on the construction site.
It all counts.
Marketing isn’t just a few individual events. It’s the total sum of everything that everyone in your company is doing.
But what’s the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing?
Let me explain.
Let’s start with outbound marketing, which is actually an intrusive marketing strategy.
Most of the older models of marketing are based on the notion of stealing customer attention from something else, of getting in their way, or screaming for attention long enough to get them to do something.
Outbound marketing uses a variety of methods to get the word out about products or services.
- print and direct mail marketing
- magazine and newspaper ads
- cold phone calls or emails
- Google and Facebook ads
- those annoying pop-up ads on almost every website we visit
As you have undoubtedly experienced yourself, these strategies can be quite intrusive and impossible to avoid.
And that can cause frustration. We don’t always want to see those ads, nor the annoying spam emails we receive every day, right?
Outbound marketing is what used to be known as “marketing.” It’s intrusive and imposes, whether people want it or not.
Apart from the intrusive element, though, there’s another good reason not to focus too much on old-school outbound marketing strategies: they’re expensive!
It’s estimated that an outbound marketing campaign costs 62% more per lead than its inbound counterpart.
In other words, you’re paying more to annoy people who aren’t necessarily interested in what you have to offer… which may actually turn them off of your service entirely.
Sounds a bit stupid, doesn’t it?
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, focuses on a less aggressive and more personalized approach to getting prospects to take the next step in your process.
It is often referred to as self-directed marketing.
That sounds nice, but what exactly does it mean? And how does it work?
Instead of your reaching out to lots of people, you want people to search and find you when the time is right for them.
With the rise of the internet, the power shifted from the seller to the buyer.
Potential buyers aren’t dependent on your sales efforts to inform them about your services anymore. The can do a simple search and find all the information they need.
And that is exactly where we can tap in with inbound strategies: by offering information, and by educating people.
With good content, prospective clients will come to trust you and your expertise. And people buy from people they trust.
Inbound Wins According to Statistics
Let’s check out some statistics from the HubSpot State of Inbound 2018 Global Report on the current state of inbound marketing.
1 – Inbound Marketing is More Effective
Inbound marketing teams are more likely to rate their marketing strategy as effective than their outbound counterparts.
2 – Inbound Marketing Provides a Higher ROI
When respondents were asked ‘Which marketing approach has given your organisation a higher ROI?’, 53% answered inbound marketing, whereas only 16% responded with outbound.
3 – Paid Advertising is Overrated
When asked which marketing tactic was the most overrated, 30% of respondents answered paid advertising.
People who search for a solution and find your business have already demonstrated their interest in your service. And once you win them over with your awesome content, they’ll be motivated to work with you specifically. It’s way better than screaming to get someone’s attention—especially when that someone isn’t interested in the first place.
Outbound marketing, as just throws ads at people who might not even be seeking your service or project because they don’t have a construction project in the pipeline right now. In that sense, you are wasting money on targeting people who are not even remotely interested in your services… and potentially annoying them so much, they won’t use your firm once they are.
Inbound marketing, however, attracts people who are looking for an architect or contractor right now. They will discover you, read what you have to say, and check out your website. And if it resonates with them, they’ll reach out to you.
4 – Buying Decisions Begin Online
Modern clients educate themselves.
They no longer need ads or salespeople to tell them what to buy.
That’s in the past!
Research by Kathleen Booth at Quintain Marketing reveal the following eye-opening figures:
- 80% of buying decisions begin online, usually by typing a question into a search engine.
- The average buyer gets 60% of the way through the buying process before they are willing to speak to or engage with a salesperson.
- The average person consumes 10 pieces of online information before making a buying decision.
- Outbound marketing techniques are responsible for less than 10 percent of the clicks on the web, whereas inbound marketing techniques generate 90 percent of the clicks.
And that’s why inbound marketing will help you get better leads and help save you money at the same time.
Example 1 – What do you do?
How do you make buying decisions?
Think about this example: you need a new website for your architecture or construction firm.
There’s a web design firm that’s sent you 20 cold emails. If you’re like most people, all that spam means you’re actively annoyed with this firm. You don’t even like them, let alone trust them to build your website.
Instead of replying to the cold emails, you probably start by running a quick Google search and find a blog post that contains all these interesting tips and tricks on what architects/contractors should take into account when building a website.
By reading the article, you learn a lot of cool stuff that’s actually relevant to you: the advantages of using WordPress, the importance of project references with beautiful pictures, the importance and power of client testimonials, and so on.
Reading this useful article makes you trust these guys. So you navigate to the “contact” form to reach out to them, and they eventually get to create your new website.
Example 2 – Clients also use Google
The buying process a potential client goes through is likely very similar to yours.
When this potential client starts to look for an architect in the New York region and with skills in durable construction, the first thing they’ll likely do is Google search it:
For example, They will click on GLUCK+ and be redirected to their website. First thing the client will notice, is that GLUCK+ are sharing a wealth of valuable information, as you can see here, on their news stream.
They share educational blog posts and videos on how they tackle things, what they’ve learned on a given project, best practices, and so on. Take, for example, this short blog post on their experience with a Philadelphia high rise.
GLUCK+ also often shares status updates with pictures on their projects, and they’re active on social media, too. Check out their Twitter activity.
Now, this is a mid-sized architectural firm with about 40 people, so they must have a decent marketing budget. But, in the region of New York, there are probably dozens of firms of that magnitude, making it harder to rank higher on Google.
How are they ranking on the top of Google’s search results, and getting a lot of website visitors without spending lots of money on advertising?
By sharing valuable content.
That is the main reason they rank high on Google— which means people searching for an architect in New York will likely check them out.
When they do, they’ll learn a lot about architecture and about how this specific firm works.
That means chances are high they’ll come to trust GLUCK+ and reach out to them directly—rather than the other way around.
The Strategy – Create and Share Valuable Content
One of the most effective ways to rank near the top of the Google search results is actually by just offering valuable content.
Share your knowledge and make people come back for more.
These people will trust you, and when the time is right, they’ll buy from you.
Unlike outbound marketing, with inbound marketing, you don’t need to fight for your potential customers’ attention.
By creating content designed to address the problems and needs of your ideal clients, you attract qualified prospects and build trust and credibility for your business.
As Jason Fried, the co-founder of Basecamp and co-author of the book Rework, says: “Marketing is sharing. If you don’t have an audience, you have to constantly spend money to tell more and more people about your service […] But when you build an audience, when you generate content, when you generate useful content, people keep coming back to you instead of your having to go back to them.”
Start a Blog
Start writing blog posts with specific topics your clients seem to search for or have questions about.
According to a recent study from Hubspot, businesses that blog get around 55% more website visitors than do those that don’t blog.
Shoot for one article either every week, or every other week.
Write about your expertise, your projects, about how you’re tackling certain problems, about what makes projects successful, about what you learned on a certain project, about mistakes you see your peers often make—it’s up to you what to write about.
But just make sure you write.
Finally, be persistent. Don’t get discouraged and give up after two months. Go into it knowing you’ll likely see very little result at first.
Keep on going… and in the long run it will pay off.
Gradually build your audience, and you’ll eventually reap the benefits—just like this guy, who once started from nothing.
Psst: Don’t have a blog yet and not sure how to set one up? Check out this tutorial to setup a WordPress blog.
What to Write About
You might want to take a few minutes to think about your ideal client profile.
Knowing who you want to your clients are and what they need will help you create visible, informative, relevant content.
Start by imagining your perfect client.
Better yet, imagine the perfect project— the kind of project that matches your firm’s specializations, pays well, and in which you have lots of experience.
The person who wants that kind of project? That’s the client you should have in mind when writing your blog posts.
Idea 1: Answer questions
“If you know more than your audience, you are the expert, for that audience.”
Start writing about the things you know will be useful for your perfect client.
Share valuable information, and give them the answers they are searching for.
Don’t underestimate your own knowledge.
If you’ve been working in the construction industry for a couple of years, there’s undoubtedly a ton of information in your head that other people will be interested in.
Let’s take the example of sustainable construction. You could write about what makes a building durable, simple construction tricks with a big sustainability impact, which materials are good and which aren’t and why, or how to reduce waste during the construction process. And that’s just the start!
By creating this content, you are not only positioning yourself as an authority in your field—you’re also attracting qualified leads and keeping them coming back for more.
All you have to do is write it down and share it.
Idea 2: Share Your Experience
Jason Fried advocates sharing content in your profession/field without fear of the competition “stealing” that information.
What might seem like a simple process or idea to you, might be very valuable information to someone else. So don’t worry too much about having the information stolen—just write and share what makes you a better architect or contractor.
Talk about your experience, the problems you have encountered and how you have solved or avoided them. Talk about how your company has grown and why. Talk about your life as an architect or contractor, your passion, your ideas and your evolution.
Share what you know about how to become an excellent architect or contractor!
Here’s is an example of a blog by a Roofing, Basement and Remodeling contractor – Royale Crown Construction – where they share a lot of useful tips like:
- “What to Look for in a Roofer”
- “3 Potential Directions for a Basement Remodel”
- “Improve the Value of Your Home With Exterior Remodeling”
Often companies fail at inbound marketing because they are afraid to share unique and valuable information with potential competitors. But the truth is, when you share, you build credibility, expertise and most importantly: an audience that trusts you.
Idea 3: Client Case Studies
A well-written client case study could be enough to turn a close lead into a client.
Case studies work for two reasons. The first that people love reading stories. Instead of saying “We did this project and the client was happy” draw the story out. What was the issue or starting point? What was the challenge? How did you overcome it? What was the result? What did the client think?
Reading a story about another project with a client who was happy with the product/service provided can really make the shift, especially when we can identify personally with that particular story.
Secondly, they act as validation for your services—other people have worked with you are were happy with the result. It adds to your credibility and can show the potential client that you have experience and expertise.
Share Your Content
Once you’ve writen a post, share it on social media.
Share it on sites you know your client profile visits, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or on an industry forum or in a group, and make sure your content is accessible.
Getting started is simple: just write valuable content on your blog and share it online. Don’t over-engineer it. Select a topic, write what you know, and hit “publish.”
Take into account that in the first weeks and months, there will be very few people reading your blog. But if you write quality content (focus on quality over quantity), more and more people will gradually come to read your content.
Eventually, you’ll rank higher and higher in Google searches.
So, when people search for your version of “sustainable construction firm New York,” your website or one of your articles will rank on the top of the results page.
By the way, here’s another great benefit of sharing online content compared to doing outbound marketing: online content has an eternal ROI.
When you put a really interesting piece of content online, it stays there FOREVER.
At ArchiSnapper, we have blog posts that are more than 5 years old and that are still attracting new people to our blog—and our business.
If they like the content they’ve just read, they begin to like and trust us… and may eventually become ArchiSnapper customers.
So you write the article once, put it online, share it a couple of times, and it will be there forever, acting as a magnet attracting people who are searching for resources and services like yours.
Compare this to an ad in a magazine. You pay for the ad. The magazine gets printed with your logo in it. A couple of thousand people receive the magazine, which they may or may not actually read. Those who do read it may or may not even see your ad. And if they see it, they may or may not be interested in the services you offer. And after that, you’ll have to pay again for a new ad, and then again and again and again…
As we have mentioned before, the fact that you are sharing your knowledge and experience (for free!) will grow trust and credibility with your audience. Remember, we are focusing on sharing now to bear the fruits later.
Content sharing is a long-term marketing strategy that takes some patience, but renders amazing results over time.
There are other ways to share valuable content, too, like books, ebooks, videos, and speaking at conferences. But if you’re not yet blogging, you should do that first. It’s the best and easiest way to get started with inbound marketing.
Moreover, when you start blogging (and your content proves valuable), after a while, you will be perceived as a thought leader. That means you might get invited to speak at conferences or partake in other content-sharing opportunities. So just do it and start blogging!
To sum up, the inbound marketing miracle results from trying to engage potential clients without intimidating them. You want them to see you as an expert and gain trust in your expertise by offering valuable information.
Let’s end with an example that illustrates the effectiveness of content marketing: Chicago-based contractor “Maya Construction Group.”
Notice that they share a lot of updates and content on their Facebook page.
They have a Google “My Business” page with quite a few reviews—which also helps in ranking highly. I’ll cover this in more depth in my next blog post.
There’s a lot of useful information on their website, too. On it, the company:
- explains how they work.
- showcases their projects with clear pictures, challenges, materials used, etc. (See an example here)
- highlights client testimonials.
Instead of relying on pushy advertisements, Maya makes their brand appealing and trustworthy with valuable content. It’s just a matter of writing it down and sharing.
These guys are really nailing it…
Which is why, when you run a Google Search for “contractor Chicago,” Maya Construction is ranking in the top three results.
By the way, the same is true for “kitchen remodelling Chicago”, “bathroom remodelling Chicago” etc.
They are all getting lots of clicks and visitors every single day. Moreover, chances are high these website visitors are qualified leads, since they’re probably Chicago-based and in the market for home remodelling.
And now you know how to get your business at the same level of marketing :)
Stay tuned for the next blog post, in which we’ll share some other practical and easy tips on how to rank highly in Google.
Subscribe to our email list (via the red bar at the top of this screen) to be sure you don’t miss it!