Design on the Haus
Editor’s Note: April is World Landscape Architecture Month #WLAM2015. In recognition of this month-long celebration, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) held numerous events to bring greater awareness to the discipline. As part of that effort, Dr. Tami Hausman, president of Hausman LLC, participated on a panel about social media for the ASLA NY Chapter. The following is based on her presentation.
One of the most important keys to marketing and PR, even social media, is that it’s about developing relationships. In fact, unlike traditional media where information is presented without interaction, with social media you can start and participate in conversations.
To be effective, however, social media must be part of an overall, integrated communications strategy. Integrated communications is a holistic approach that can help you in three ways:
- First, it’s proactive. Take clear steps to disseminate messages about your service and products.
- Second, it’s targeted. Focus on building relationships with people who are receptive to your messages.
- Third, it’s strategic. Articulate your value proposition and talk in your clients’ language so you connect with them.
So how can an integrated communications approach help your social media efforts? Keep the following strategies in mind when you’re writing your next LinkedIn post or drafting your next Tweet:
Address your various audiences. You will never have just one audience; you have many. So it’s important to remember that your messages must be targeted to different groups, which include:
- Potential clients
- Existing clients
- Decision makers
- Your own broad network of people
Focus the information you share and target it to each audience. Give them new information about your firm that will be useful for their business and what they do. And, if you really want to connect with them, you must use clear language that’s free of industry jargon.
Define your messages. It’s really important to craft your messages so you can differentiate your firm from your competition and define your identity in the marketplace. What makes you different from the other firms in your area? Are your firm’s principal’s hands-on and accessible? Are your designs traditional or cutting-edge?
Above all, remember that you’re selling landscape architecture services. So you need to be able to explain what you do to potential clients who may not have the knowledge of your field – or even what the difference is between LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS and LANDSCAPERS. Don’t assume that your audience already knows your message. Be clear!
Get Visual. Visually based social media platforms are the places where landscape architecture firms can really excel. You can use Instagram or Pinterest, but now Twitter and even Linked In have added photo send capabilities, and Twitter is even adding the ability for you to tweet short videos. Statistically, it’s been proven that Tweets with images get the highest response.
The other reason that these social media platforms are so useful is that you can start a conversation about a project even while it’s in process. We all know it takes a long time for landscape projects to be designed, built, and then developed. But you don’t need to wait until your project is finished to start a Pinterest board or launch a campaign on Instagram.
Video is also really important because it allows you to actually describe a project in real time. It’s also a good way for people to get a sense of your “on-camera” style if you are trying to book speaking engagements or get interviewed on broadcast TV, for example.
Above all, remember to keep it brief. With social media, less is more. You have to be able to say what you want to say in just a few words or pictures. Make sure your message is focused, you know your audiences and you use all available channels for communication, as we’ve mentioned above.
Grab their attention and excite them with your dynamic projects and ideas. And, above all, be true to yourself: just as nothing beats good work, sincerity is the most effective tool you’ve got in your social media arsenal. Don’t forget to use it!
by Steve Whitehorn
The financial success of any firm is built upon its personal relationships. However, many firms often fail to realize this basic truth. The endless pursuit of new clients to expand market share is an outmoded, counterproductive strategy. You can spend an overwhelming proportion of your marketing budget trying to win new clients, but in the process you miss out on the bottom-line benefits that come from nurturing existing connections.
According to Donna Fenn, contributing editor for Inc. Magazine, acquiring new clients can be costly, while existing relationships are more reliable and profitable. In fact, repeat clients spend close to 70% more than new ones. By investing in existing clients, firms earn trust and fortify their alliances. For example, if you need to renegotiate a fee during the design phase of a project, a long-term contact is more likely to approve a higher fee than a first-time client.
Furthermore, adding a new client to make up for those that leave you is actually decreasing your profits and increasing your marketing costs. If you gain a new client, but lose an existing one because you were unable to give them the attention they need, you end up with the same number of clients as before. Except now, your profit margins will suffer because it costs more to get new customers than to nurture the ones you already have.
Sometimes, however, you need to shake off the dead weight. Just as you can benefit greatly from nurturing your best connections, you should let go of those that aren’t working in your favor. Parting ways with a client may seem counterintuitive. However, difficult clients waste resources and diminish profits. Assess your client list and separate them into three categories, identifying your favorite clients, those you like or need to get to know better, and then those that you would rather not have to deal with. Hopefully, you don’t have anyone in the third category but, if you do, take stock of why you don’t like dealing with this client. Do they always pay late? Do they consistently expect you to double your workload without adjusting your fee? Are they constantly eroding your time with incessant e-mails and phone calls for things that can be addressed at your regular meetings? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, it may be time to part ways.
As an architect or other design professional, you can’t afford to spend time on negative client relationships, especially since your business is subject to unique pressures that often result in diminished budgets and strained cash flow. Think of it this way: the Pareto Principle, also known as the “80/20 Rule,” cited here by Forbes contributor Dave Lavinsky, can demonstrate that 80% of a firm’s profits are generated by 20% of its clients. By keeping strong client relationships and discarding unprofitable alliances, firms free up time and energy to devote to their top 20% clients, resulting in greater financial stability overall.
By recognizing that client relationships directly influence your profitability and by nurturing these relationships as your best assets, you can create a solid foundation on which your business can grow.
Steve Whitehorn is the author of the upcoming book, Ensuring Your Firm’s Legacy, and Managing Principal of Whitehorn Financial Group, Inc. The firm is the creator of The A/E Empowerment Program®, a three-step process that helps firms create a more significant legacy and empowers them to achieve greater impact on their projects, relationships, and communities.
For our featured guest post this month, we welcome Susan Murphy, Principal of Murphy Motivation & Training, which takes a rigorous approach to help clients learn proven successful ways to take their communication, relationship building, sales and presentation skills to a higher level. Susan is a woman with a mission: to teach and coach the same behavior that led her from being a timid girl to a woman whose feet hit the floor each morning in flame-throwing communication mode.
By Susan Murphy
It’s summertime and the living is easy. Sometimes too easy. That can makes things more difficult when the Fall energy hits and everyone is raring to go after Labor Day.
Here are three things you can do to use your time well and become more productive during the lighter and slower days of this glorious season:
- Respect Nature: Get up with the sun. Consider opening your office an hour earlier than usual and getting out earlier. Yes, we know many of our clients (and we) don’t rule our lives by a meager eight-hour workday, but summer could be just the time to try that. You might be surprised at how you and your people learn to prioritize work if you know that, come five o’clock, you can be by at the pool or the beach instead of on the subway.
- Re-Connect: Although business is on the uptake, things do tend to slow down in the summer months. Use that time to see clients and friends in the business for breakfast or lunch. This time of year feels more festive. It is reunion time, too. Things are looser and connections are easier to make. Business Development never felt so good. Pick up a picnic lunch and meet a client by the river or in the park. They’ll think of you first all year long.
- Re-think Space: Who says you have to meet or work inside? Just as that client picnic revs up the relationship, being outside gives you and your colleagues or partners a boost. If anyone in your office has access to a pool, meet there. Take breaks with a dive. Read and write reports sitting on your front porch. Have your conference call from the front lawn or terrace.
Sometimes becoming more productive and more organized is a function of being more relaxed. Put the time-tested tenets of summer to work for you. And, don’t forget the keystone of organization and time management: keep track of your progress so you can see what works. That dive into cool water might just be the management tool you were looking for!
By Steve Whitehorn
For our third post this month, we welcome Steve Whitehorn, managing principal of Whitehorn Financial Group, Inc., which provides architects and engineers with strategies to maximize profitability, while reducing risk and improving cash flow. Steve is a relationship expert whose firm created The A/E Empowerment Program® and is the author of the upcoming book, Empowerment by Design.
The A/E/C industry is a relationship business. Many architects have built their entire careers on strategic relationships. In fact, a recent study by the Society for Marketing Professional Services showed that regardless of the economic climate, firms had a 70% greater chance of getting a job if they had established a solid relationship with the decision maker at least seven months prior to the RFP.
Unfortunately, most architects and engineers didn’t learn how to build relationships in school. Don’t worry – great relationships aren’t born, they are bred. You can learn how to cultivate strong relationships that can help you win the projects you want.
Here are five tips to get you started:
1. “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
For me, leadership expert John C. Maxwell’s words sum up the process of building relationships. Don’t worry about trying to impress a new contact with your skills or your portfolio when you first meet. Instead, show them how much you care about him, his business, and his interests.
2. Know your target.
New York Times best-selling business author and acclaimed CEO Harvey Mackay built his $100 million envelope business around this concept. His tool, the Mackay 66, is a simple list of background information about his customers. Keeping a file on each client allowed his sales team to personalize their pitches, which drastically improved success rates. Take the same approach with your business relationships. Do your best to gather pertinent information and write it down. If you can remember some of these details in your communication, it will show how much you value the contact and the relationship.
3. Relationships are not a noun – Relationships are a verb!
In order to be of value to you, a relationship must be active, not dormant. Commit yourself to taking meaningful actions to sustain and develop your relationships on a regular basis, such as reaching out by e-mail, meeting for coffee or drinks, or sending a gift you know they’ll appreciate. Little gestures and personalized touches go a long way toward strengthening the relationship.
4. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Oscar Wilde said it best. Authenticity is crucial when you’re networking, because people can sense when you’re not being yourself, and they’ll react poorly to it. Be confident and aware of your specific skill set when you make new connections.
5. It’s a process.
Even if you follow the steps outlined above, don’t expect to build a relationship overnight. And be careful not to focus all of your efforts on one relationship above others, no matter how valuable it is to you. Your goal is to cultivate a wide network of relationships, so that you never feel dependent on just one.
There are lots of firms out there that do what you do. How do you get ahead? Develop effective, meaningful relationships with decision makers. These relationships will give you a strategic edge over your competitors.
On February 15, couples around the world breathed a sigh of relief. Whew – another 364 days until you have to shower your partner with material displays of affection! You may be off the hook in the romance department, but when it comes to developing your professional relationships, you’re on call year-round.
We think February is a great time to re-focus your attention on and re-direct your efforts around your professional relationships. That’s why our theme for this month’s installment of Design on the Haus is Build Relationships, Build Influence. Your network of professional relationships is a pipeline that brings you new business, new partnership opportunities, and recognition in your field. Overall, it enhances your credibility, and can make your job a bit more pleasant, to boot!
In 2014, building relationships involves more than just facetime and power lunches. If you harness the power of social media, you can truly make your relationships work for you.
Relationships that bridge both the online and offline worlds are the most valuable assets in today’s social landscape. In order to create these relationships in real life, start from the first point of contact. For example, whenever you meet someone in person at an event, follow up online the next day. Connect on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, like their company’s page on Facebook, and follow them on Pinterest.
Then, take it a step further by actively engaging. You can retweet, favorite, or respond to their tweets, comment on their LinkedIn updates, or repin their pins on Pinterest. Be creative! These little touches take only a few moments of your time, but they’ll remind your new contact that you are thinking of him or her. As we mentioned in our first post on relationships, it takes three to five touch points, on average, to build a strong relationship. Social media engagement is an efficient way to hit some of those touch points.
But social media is not enough to solidify the relationship. As you probably know, just because you’re Facebook friends, doesn’t mean you’re friends in real life. By the same token, connecting to someone on LinkedIn doesn’t mean that you have a viable professional relationship with that contact.
In order to do that, we recommend you meet any new contact in person. If you’re in the neighborhood, suggest a coffee date or offer to drop by his/her office. If he or she is too busy to meet that day, follow up a few weeks later with another invitation. If you’re attending a conference together in a different city, set up a time to catch up over dinner or breakfast. Setting aside the time for a face-to-face meeting shows that you are serious about developing the relationship. The best connections are memorable ones, and people are far more memorable than screennames!
This month, commit to getting outside your comfort zone as you develop your relationships, whether that means engaging in person, or online. We think you’ll find that when online and offline intersect, the result is a relationship that’s twice as strong.
Posted by Beth Connolly