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nscape recently launched a new CEU entitled Business Development for Architects and Designers. In the introduction we talk about 3 marketing myths. We may not say these out loud, but if we’re candid with ourselves we’ll admit that one or more of these myths are deeply engrained and have an impact on our marketing strategy.
MYTH #1: “If you’re talented, work will find you”
OK, this is sometimes true, especially if you’re a star and your work is regularly published. But most of us have to find projects rather than count on them consistently falling in our laps. Part of the reason for that is there are many talented firms, and while a design pedigree may get you to the table, it’s not a differentiator.
But every firm does have some attribute that makes them different — something that you do better than your competitors. Your EDGE. Spend some time in a firm-wide session figuring out what that is and then teach everyone in the organization to describe it in the time it takes an elevator to go 30 floors. This “elevator pitch” will become the basis for your presentations and will help you to focus even when you’re given more time to describe what sets you apart.
MYTH #2: “The best portfolio always wins”
As architects and designers, we’ve been polishing our portfolios ever since college and I’m not suggesting we stop now. A solid body of work, beautifully and simply presented can establish instant credibility and inspire your prospective client. But in my 20 years as an A&D Principal, we won many projects against firms who had prettier pictures than we did. In fact, one of our largest commissions was secured without ever showing a single image from our portfolio. What clients want more than images of work you did for someone else is confidence that you can deliver what they need.
That kind of trust is primarily built by listening. I used to think that the best way to win someone over was to tell them how much I could do for them. But the more I went through my monologue, the more apprehensive they became that I really didn’t know them at all. Conversely, the more I improved my listening skills, the more engaged they became, and the more our win rate rose.
MYTH #3: “What worked yesterday will work tomorrow”
Clients are more sophisticated. Projects are more complex. Stakeholders are more diverse. In order to stay ahead of it all you’ll need to continually monitor and refine your approach to finding, pitching and winning new business. Many firms have embraced the internet and social media as a way to communicate their brands, but remember that your cyber-content has a short shelf life. In order to stay relevant and have people visit often, you’ll need to post new things on at least a weekly basis. Lots of firms make a good start but then give up because they don’t see any results. It takes time an effort to build a following but if you stick with it you’ll begin to see connections that you could never have found at an industry event.
But don’t ignore the physical world. There are many conferences, seminars, speaking opportunities and charity events that will help you connect with others and stand out from your competitors. Now more than ever firms need to “divide and conquer” rather than just leaving networking to the Principals.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on what has worked for you as well as things you’ve learned from the ones that got away. Share a comment below and please contact me if you’re interested in scheduling the Business Development CEU at your firm or institution.