Working the Net, Netting the Work


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Outline of a panel discussion for the SMPS (Society for marketing professional services) on March 14, 2007, about how architecture firms can use social media.

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Working the Net, Netting the Work

  1. 1. 1 of 3 SMPS WORKING THE NET, NETTING THE WORK PANEL Note: this is not a transcript of the actual panel. These are some ideas I had in response to the questions sent to us in advance. They are only my ideas, and less valuable in isolation from the contributions of the other panelists. Intro: Sallie Goetsch A natural-born pedant, Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with “sketch”) translated Greek and Roman drama for the stage and taught in the School of Theatre Studies at the University of Warwick in England before returning to the United States to start her own business turning busy professionals into authors. Sallie first got sucked into the online world back in the late Eighties. She started publishing on the Web in 1995, when she converted the electronic journal Didaskalia from text-only to HTML. She writes a weekly e-zine and blog, the FileSlinger™ Backup Reminder, which got a mention in the San Francisco Chronicle. Sallie started “drinking the podcast Kool-Aid” in April 2005 and immediately began to use podcasting to make connections and attract prospects from around the world. By September 2005, she had co-founded the Podcast Asylum. Sallie writes and speaks about podcasting from the listener’s perspective, working tirelessly to cure the epidemic of podcastus ignoramus through public presentations and private consultations. Foundation Why bother going beyond a brochure site? • Google juice (regularly updated sites rank higher) • Developing relationships • Multiple touches (usually takes 7-10 contacts to make a sale) • Appeal to auditory learners with podcasts Do you need to at least have a good brochure site before you start doing more advanced things? • If you don’t have a website yet, create an overall strategy, design, branding effort which encompasses New Media, e-zines, and your “static” website. What are the needs AEC firms’ sites could be serving, beyond presenting services and portfolios? • Offering tips and how-tos. • Teaching people to be better clients. • Qualifying and disqualifying prospects. What are some pitfalls to avoid and key factors to keep in mind when upgrading your site? • Flash. Stay away from it unless you’re creating an illustrative video. • Templates. The standard templates provided by sites like Blogger are the Internet equivalent of VistaPrint business cards. Working the Net 3/15/07 Sallie Goetsch
  2. 2. 2 of 3 • Webmaster unavailability. Make sure you can update the information on your site yourself, or that your webmaster can do so quickly. • Bells and whistles that don’t serve any purpose. • Bandwidth restrictions. Make sure you won’t pay too heavy a price if your blog or podcast takes off and becomes super popular. Working the Net What are some of the newer tools and strategies firms could be using? And can you give us some examples of how AEC or other service firms are using them? There are currently a very few AEC blogs and podcasts. That means there’s room for a lot more. Photoblogging and video blogging seem like they’d be particularly effective for AEC, both to show off your work and for how-to demonstrations. But audio-only podcasts are more intimate, more portable, easier to produce, and require less storage space and bandwidth. The AIA has interviews with its conference speakers, and there are some other AEC podcasts out there which interview working architects, etc. The architectural blogs I’ve seen write about famous historical and modern architects and their work. There’s also a blog about architecture in Second Life, and blogs about quirky or impressive buildings and building elements. The ones I’ve listed in the handout have links to others. What are the business benefits of these approaches? The more you can demonstrate to people that you have what they need, and the better a connection you can make to show them that you’re someone they could work with, the better your site will be at bringing you business. Second Life could be quite interesting for those in the AEC field, though there are probably other venues for 3D representations of architectural designs. I would expect being able to take clients on a virtual walk-through of their new house to be a convincing sales tool. Even something as simple as Google SketchUp might be of use here. Let’s dream a little here. Imagine a really cutting-edge, powerful ACE site. What would it be like? I think an ideal site would depend a lot on the business it was created for. But what I’d like to see myself on an AEC site includes a combination of 3D models, photos, videos, something I can personally connect to (like a blog or podcast), and the basic information any website should provide: what do you do, for whom, and how can I reach you? Netting the Work What are the ways that site could help the firm bring in business? • Podcasting and blogging establish your expertise and create relationships at the same time. They’re not necessarily instant-sales tools, but you become the trusted source people will turn to when they need an architect, engineer, or contractor. • Publishing articles does the same, as well as giving you a chance to link back to your own site from the article bank/website/e-zine. • How-to videos may demonstrate that they really can’t do it themselves. • Anything in 3 dimensions can pull people into your vision. Working the Net 3/15/07 Sallie Goetsch
  3. 3. 3 of 3 How can firms make sure that once they have these cool tools on their websites, they actually benefit from them? • Start by setting specific goals and check often to see whether you’re on target. • If your readers/listeners/viewers ask for more of something or something different, give it to them. • If most of your readers/listeners/viewers aren’t part of your target market or those who talk to them, change the focus of the material you’re producing. What kinds of follow-up or monitoring processes should they have in place? • Check your stats. Services like FeedBurner will tell you how many people are subscribing to your blog; Google Analytics is a free service for website statistics. • Monitor Technorati, Google Alerts, etc to find out who’s talking about your firm, your blog, your podcast, your subject. • Survey your readers/listeners. We’ve focused on developing your owns site so far, but working the net goes beyond that. What are some Web-based tools, beyond their own sites, that firms can be using to develop business? • Get interviewed on other people’s podcasts. • Write guest posts for blogs. • Become an active commenter. • Put your videos on YouTube as well as your own site. • Develop affiliate relationships with suppliers or those who do complementary work (e.g. interior designers). • Take advantage of social networks like LinkedIn. • Join discussion groups and forums. Strategy How can firms figure out which of these great ideas are right for them? What kind of process should they go through before pursuing site upgrades or web-based business development programs? Focus on differentiating yourself from your competition. Once you can articulate what makes you different and what you’re really good at, choose the tools that can help you demonstrate that. Working the Net 3/15/07 Sallie Goetsch