Here’s a Marketing Strategy that Works for Small Architects and Contractors
Do you own or work in a small architecture/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 customers, 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 Pizza Hutt, 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
But when you do think about marketing, the things that come to mind are expensive. Spending $20,000 on a new website, $300 per month on Google ads, or $1,000 for a magazine spread might not be in the cards for your budget.
Sound familiar? Then keep on reading. In this article, I will share an important insight that will help you getter better leads without spending tons of money on old-fashioned marketing.
Before diving into the specific tactics, let’s take one step back and think about what marketing is and what we try to achieve with it.
Marketing does not equal 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 prospects 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.
And believe me, there are much better ways to accomplish this than by throwing ads at people.
Everything is marketing.
Marketing is not a department. Marketing is something everyone in your company is doing 24/7/365.
Think about it. If the goal of marketing is to attract new projects, that means literally EVERYTHING is marketing: doing the best possible job for your current customers 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.
Each of these things is more important than choosing which piece of swag to throw into a conference goodie bag. Marketing isn’t just a few individual events. It’s the total sum of everything that everyone in your company is doing.
That being said, if you want to do something more targeted in order to attract more and better leads, what should that be?
Here’s our answer.
That means we first need to talk about the difference between inbound marketing and outbound marketing.
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. Examples are:
- 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 interruptive and it pushes itself at people, whether these 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 very sweet and nice, but what does it mean, exactly? And how does it work in practice?
Instead of your reaching out to lots of people, you want people to search and find you when the time is right.
Nowadays, the power resides with the buyer rather than the seller. Potential buyers aren’t dependent on your sales efforts to inform them about your services anymore. The internet brings them 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 buyers will come to trust you and your expertise. And people buy from people they trust.
Let’s take a look at an example.
When Google searching for an architect in the New York region and with skills in durable construction, this is what you’ll get:
Let’s take a look at the second result, GLUCK+ (which also appears in the local pack on the google map, in a next blog post I’ll tell you how you can do that as well).
This is a mid-sized architectural firm with about 40 people, so they’ll probably have a decent marketing budget. But in the region of New York, there are probably tens of firms of that magnitude.
So why are they ranking on top on Google and getting a lot of website visitors without spending lots of money on advertising?
The main reason is that these guys 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.
As a result of sharing all this valuable content, 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.
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.
How to explain these results?
=> 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 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.
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… all while helping you save money at the same time.
Customers nowadays educate themselves. They no longer need ads or salespeople to tell them what to buy. That’s in the past!
Just think about how you deal with buying decisions nowadays.
For instance, maybe you need a new website for your architecture or construction firm.
There’s this one web design firm that’s sent you something like 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.
So instead of replying to the cold emails, you run 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 customer testimonials, and so on.
Reading this useful article makes you trust these guys. So you navigate to the “contact” form a reach out to them, and they eventually get to create your new website.
Conclusion: you should create and share valuable content!
One of the most effective ways to rank near the top of the Google search results is by offering awesome educational content. You need to 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 customers, 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.”
So what kind of content can you share?
You might want to take a few minutes to think about your ideal client profile.
We basically need to know who we want to educate if we want to deliver visible, informative, relevant content, correct?
Imagine your perfect customer. 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 customer you should have in mind when writing your blog posts.
Then, you simply write about anything you know that might be useful for this person. Share valuable information, and give them answers in their searching process.
Don’t underestimate the knowledge you have!
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!
All you have to do is write it down and share it.
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.
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 share what makes you a better architect or contractor.
Talk about your experience, about 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!
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.
Here’s is an example of a blog by a Roofing, Basement and Remodeling contractor – Royale Crown Construction – where they share a lot if 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”
Also well-written customer case studies might tip close leads over the edge to becoming a customer themselves!
Personal stories are what we want to read as customers. Before buying a product or contracting a service, we want to know what other consumers thought about the experience. Reading a story about another project with a customer who was happy with the product/service provided can really make the shift, especially when we can identify personally with that particular story.
Focusing on inbound content marketing might require more up-front work. It does take more time to write a high-quality blog post than to order an ad. But in the long run, it prevents you from wasting time and money on unqualified leads.
So, how should you package your content? Start with a blog!
Start writing blog posts with specific topics your customers seem to search for or have questions about.
According to a recent study from Hubspot, businesses that blog get around 55 percent more website visitors than do those that don’t blog.
Next, share your blog posts and articles on social media. You need to make sure your content will be found. Share it on sites you know your customer profile visits, be that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or an industry forum, and make sure your content is accessible.
But to be honest, 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 will 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.
So what’s next?
You guessed it: START BLOGGING!
Shoot for one article every week or two weeks.
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 see very little result at first. Keep on going… and in the long run it will pay off hugely.
Start from nothing and gradually build an 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.
Let’s end with another example to illustrate 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 customer 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 for “kitchen remodeling chicago”, “bathroom remodeling chicago” etc.
So these guys are 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 remodeling.
Stay tuned for the next blog post, in which I’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!