Monday, August 31, 2009
It's reasonable to say that if you owned a design firm that was working with or hoped to secure work with a particular public agency you would not hire a candidate with a history of opposing your client/prospect. It just doesn't make business sense. But what if you hired someone that had no obvious opinions about your clients/prospects, at least not initially, but then began publicly announcing, either through words or actions, that they held disdain for them? As an employer what are your options? Can you ask the employee to abstain from sharing their views on the client and/or prospect, even if it stifles their freedom of speech? Can you fire them if their activism becomes problematic in securing work from the client/prospect, without risking a wrongful termination lawsuit? And from the employee side, do you have an obligation to abstain from becoming involved in a political campaign/cause that has the potential to negatively affect your employer, even if it's something your believe strongly in?
I imagine these questions will become more prevalent with the increasing adoption of social media. Social media gives everybody a (louder) voice while giving more controls to employers wanting to keep tabs on what their employees are up to outside of the office (which in itself brings up another ethics question - should employers keep tabs on employees' personal lives just because the tools are available to do so?).
As information becomes easier to share and get it brings up new questions related to appropriate employer/employee relationships. If your firm starts thinking about them now so that there is a strategy (that's been run through legal) in place your job will be easier when (if) you run into the questions posed above. And if you've already been in any of the above situations and have feedback you'd like to share, I'd love to hear it.
Image credit: Sniderscion on Flickr
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Two years later and I no longer think it's the best tool for me. Wordpress is easier to customize, stats are built right in and there's more flexibility to the design and different pieces of content you can add.
So here I am breaking one of the rules. I'm migrating to Wordpress. For the time being I'll keep both blogs going while I get a hang of Wordpress. And I'll think of what to do with the two years of content living at Blogger; let it live there or transfer it to Wordpress one post at a time.
For now you can find me at Blogger and Wordpress, both with the title Marketing Engagement by Valerie Conyngham. It's where I post about everyday marketing ideas that strike me, with a particular bent toward the design industry, as in architectural.
And if you're thinking about breaking any of the rules, I'd say go for it. Remember, technology changes often and our best offensive strike is to be flexible. Live by rules, but not rigidly.
Image credit: Flickr user givepeaceachance
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Click here to download September from my website.
Print on 5x7 card stock. I use eco-white from Paper Source.
Friday, August 21, 2009
When looking for a service provider there are key things you look for - reputation, alignment of services offered with needs, trust and value.
Reputation can be earned through existing client relationships, which in turn create word of mouth referrals to your firm. Reputation can also be enhanced through media stories (assuming they're positive) and through the reputations of individuals that serve as the face of your organization. These types of things generate content for a firms' news section. Something most firms are already incorporating into their on-line presence.
For alignment of services with needs we're going to assume, for the sake of simplicity, that the visitors to your website need the services you provide. Your only responsibility is clearly communicating what services you provide. Remember - you don't have to be everything to everyone. Focus on what you do best and communicate that.
Now the meatier part - value. Let's think about how a design firm can provide value. Hint - it has nothing to do with fees. Instead it's giving clients value for their investment. A design firm can do this in many ways. As an example, perhaps you differentiate yourself through a unique public engagement process that's been shown to generate buy-in from stakeholders earlier in the design phase. That's valuable; buy-in is key in many projects and getting it earlier in the design process saves time and money. Tell your prospects about it through case studies that show solid metrics, post the case studies on your website and drive traffic to them through SEO optimization, e-newsletters, status updates in LinkedIn, etc. Or maybe your visualization services are superior to other firms, explain that to you prospects by telling them why it's important. Does it save them money, or make approval processes easier, or does it make the overall project less time consuming? Talk about your visualization services in the context of how they will solve your prospects' problems, not in the context of "look how pretty these are." Explain what you mean by visualization and give solid examples. Tie the examples back to metrics if you can.
Now on to trust. Trust is a lot harder to win on a website, particularly a static one. But by incorporating a blog into your website you have a vehicle to start a conversation with your prospects. A blog can be used to position members in your firm as thought leaders. It gives people a forum for expressing ideas and communicating thoughts and if comments are allowed (and they should be) it gives readers an opportunity to interact with the blog's writer(s) which will put you on the road to gaining trust. However, before incorporating a blog make sure you have buy-in and commitment from the would be authors. There's nothing worse than a blog that goes for weeks on end with no updates.
The above isn't an exhaustive list of things that would make AEC websites (or any websites) better, but it's a start and I hope it makes you think a little harder about the content you're incorporating. The point to leave with is showing a bunch a pretty pictures, while attractive, doesn't tell your prospects why you're better. You need to explain that through non-promotional, educational content.
While a picture is worth a 1000 words, your competitors "1000 words" are just as appealing.
Oh, and heavy flash sites are just annoying. They take up a lot of bandwidth, some companies restrict access to flash sites on their employees' computers and if the version of flash you've built your site with isn't compatible with the version a prospect has on his or her computer you can guarantee they're leaving your site before setting (the figurative) foot in it.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
- Dive in personally, then transfer what you’ve learned to help your company succeed on Twitter.
- Concentrate on quality of followers, not quantity of followers
- Share valuable content, remember it’s not all about you
- The RT (that’s twitter speak for retweet) is the equivalent of telling someone “hey, I like what you’ve got to say.”
- Follow people. You don’t want to be that company that’s only interested in having people listen to them. Not sure who to follow? Find a few people you respect on Twitter and check out who they’re following.
- Expect organic growth, rarely are there overnight successes on Twitter or any platform for that matter.
- Participate. Twitter, like any social media platform, is only as good as the effort you’re willing to invest in it.
- Let people know you’ve joined twitter - add a link in your email signature, blog about it, talk it up in your newsletters.
- Follow people in your industry and learn from them.
- And because Twitter can turn into a huge time suck if you let it, get organized. Use an application like TweetDeck to categorize the people you follow by topic, get notice of your mentions and direct messages, shorten your URLs and handle multiple Twitter accounts, all within the same window.
Friday, August 7, 2009
In recessionary times our firms’ mantras tend to shift from niche, niche, niche to diversify, diversify, diversify. Diversification is important. The firms that focused all past efforts on developer projects are likely not doing that well today. Those that focused solely on municipal work are probably doing OK today, but what about tomorrow. The point is, diversification is an important strategy, provided the execution is smart. It’s when firms take the position of trying to be everything to everybody, just to get work in the door, where things start to fall apart.
I’m sure you’ve noticed your competition on any number of job opportunities has increased. But if you take a close look at the competition you can break it down into three categories:
- The usual suspects; all qualified to win the job.
- The bottom feeders, you know, the guys that are sort of qualified, but appear even more qualified when they start low-balling the bid.
- And then there are the firms that are diversifying.
Number three isn’t too much of a worry for you. Yes, you may be among 40 respondents instead of 10, but those that are qualified will rise to the top. Those diversifying for the sake of diversifying aren’t going to get much consideration (unless they hold brand creed and the prospect is swayed by that over credentials which is another post altogether).
The firms that are scared and turning that nervousness into a diversification strategy that’s more akin to ready, fire, aim are setting themselves up for failure. Instead they should reflect on their strengths, put thought into where true areas for growth are and pull together a strategy to enter those markets in addition to their existing ones. Better yet, develop and execute your diversification strategy before you need one. But when crafting it, remember, not everyone has to like you. It’s only important to be liked by the ones offering the projects that are a fit for your firms’ strengths.
Originally written for Help Everybody Everyday
Image Credit: wanderinghome on flickr