I recently posted this on a Linkedin Group and thought it might be of interest here as well. The discussion was started by the marketing manager at a firm of structural and civil engineers in London. She wanted to know about marketing to architects in London. Here is my reply.
Can I answer your question as someone who runs a practice of architects and is often the first point of contact for consultants looking for work?
I get called and/or emailed several times a week by consultants with whom we haven’t worked before. Sometimes the person who calls is a marketing manager who is trying to set up meetings for a partner/director to meet as many architects in an area as possible.
I’m not suggesting this is how your firm would do it, but it is very common way consultants seek work with architects, and looking at the issues from an architects’ perspective might help identify an alternative strategy. The architects perspective might be summarised as:
- I don’t know you – so I have to make a decision in a sentence or two. So you’re on the back foot already.
- I didn’t call you – so I probably don’t need to speak to you right now
- You’re asking for some of my time and we’re not looking for what you’re offering right now so why would I say yes?
I’ve worked for half a dozen architects in my career and most of them employ a gatekeeper as soon as possible to separate them from dealing with these enquiries. Not just because they are very busy, but also because they find it difficult to say “No thank you”. This means you’ll end up meeting architects who say they want to meet you when they’ll actually be thinking ‘Oh God, not again, please go away!’
What we want your marketing strategy to architects to result in is exactly the opposite of the technique I’ve described above. So lets start with their pain.
When do they want you?
Firstly, when does an architect want to work with a brand new structural engineer (for example)?
- When the existing one screws up
- Er, that’s it
No-one wants change for the sake of it. The most likely change is that someone in the team doesn’t want the status quo any more.
So tactic number one – Work out how your competitors screw up and differentiate yourself as the exact opposite in character. Then when they are looking for someone new they are more likely to look favourably on your firm as opposed to the others.
How will they find you?
Secondly, what does the architect do when they need a new structural engineer?
- They ask their friends/colleagues/clients and then they look you up;
- They look up firms online and then they ask their friends/colleagues/clients
Either way, you’re not very likely to get a job without some sort of prior relationship, and the best prior relationship is a direct introduction from someone you know and trust, to someone they know and trust.
So tactic number two – build your relationships, not your direct mailing list.
Where will they talk about you?
Thirdly, who else uses or works with and therefore can directly recommend structural engineers? Other architects of course, and other clients and consultants. All these people talk to each other in many different ways, and you have to become part of this discussion.
The advice in the comments is all very good – Pritesh is entirely right that you should consider how architects will find your website. However I would stress that they will also be looking for a connection to you through a trusted person. That is where ‘social’ networking comes in.
Tactic number three is, use social tools as an extension of traitional relationship building, not as a tool to shout with.
The idea that social tools like twitter, facebook, linkedin etc are somehow separate separate from the ‘real, professional’ world is a myth, and a wasted opportunity to see who is there. Social tools, indeed any platform with an interactive, conversational element, are a direct extension of the palm pressing professional service firms have been doing for generations. The only differences are, you can do it much more quickly and effectively (especially to make the first contact or keeping contact between meetings), and some of it is in public (so that people can find you directly).
I am aware of thousands of architects and other construction professionals actively using twitter as a serious business tool. To see it as unprofessional is a mistake. Don’t be put off by people suggesting that people will be overwhealmed. This is a misunderstanding of the purpose of these platforms – they are about search, not browse. Here is how it works:
The reason you, your company and your ‘client facing’ staff should be on social networking sites is that these sites make visible the network of human relationships between people. As a result the architects who happen to find your website or blog can then google you to find where else you are.
Then they can go on LinkedIn, find one or two of your people and see who they know who already knows them. They can take a look, discretely, even anonymously, at your profiles on twitter and see who you are talking to, perhaps someone else they know. Then they can ring up, email, message, DM that person and say ‘how well do you know John Smith at Fred Bloggs Partnership? Only, I’m looking for a new structural engineer for…’
The great thing about this type of approach, take it from me, is that whilst you have to put in the legwork, you don’t have to call people up, spam them with email or hassle them when they are busy. They come to you, and the first thing you’ll know is when you get a phone call from them asking to meet.