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board4You have developed your mission statement and then checked it, in what will now become a regular process of client feedback after all projects. The Directors understand the basis of the three year business plan and have focused the senior staff on close contact and follow up with the core clients as far as possible on the basis of one to one meetings. You have discussed the psyche of the professional and resolved to use where feasible, the most empathetic staff as contact people. You have in hand a series of papers, follow up meetings with past clients, workshop ideas that can attract new clients of the future and form the core of your future Awareness Plan.

Now for Step 2 in the Awareness Campaign – using the Internet.

The Internet is a uniquely relevant and cost-effective effective way of maintaining client awareness.

The internet has created an extraordinarily powerful, accessible and cheap means of maintaining market awareness. No profession is better suited to this than that of architects. The questionnaire will have given you the e mail addresses of your clients. Gradually build your data base to include everyone who could have any possible influence over your business – bankers, consultants, clients, intermediaries, developers, planners etc. Prepare an internet frame for a simple but brilliant photograph of your latest completed building. Add a title, the mission statement, and a factual paragraph about the project together with your corporate address and contact number and mail one such image every 3 or 4 months to your complete list. Nothing simpler, almost no cost, and more effective for keeping your name, your core strengths and your brand in front of your target audience than anything else.

A few words of caution; always ask the contact’s permission, as in “may I put you on our news list?” and never be tempted to turn the e mail into a selling document. It is there only there to maintain the awareness level. And don’t overdo it. Every time you send an e-mail to your list, you might be irritating them!

During a recession you will want to reduce wasteful expenditures and idle time. E marketing allows you at a stroke to stop throwing money at clumsy, time consuming, largely self indulgent and wasteful efforts such as brochures, magazines and even in some cases whole coffee table books.

Step 3 – Using PR consultants.

The role of PR in the marketing mix is governed by a no less robust need for clarity and focus. In too many cases companies set general briefs, and vague, if any quantifiable goals. Without a clear idea of your market, its sectoral make up, and the precise media with the most influence over your target decision makers you end up in that frustrating no man’s land of spending scarce cash on uncertain ends. Here are the stages in deciding your PR strategy:

  1. Define the core market sectors for your company.
  2. Describe the key decision makers in each sector.
  3. Set out the prime messages you want them to receive. This will largely be formed by the mission statement together with your understanding of the firm’s economic engine, the perceptions of your client base following your questionnaire meetings and your business plan.
  4. Identify the precise range of media influencers in order of likely impact – the most influential UK media is likely to be a half page review in the Financial Times, a week end colour supplement in the Sunday Times – but these are very difficult to achieve. The Architectural trade press will be of little importance except for consultants, planners and future recruits. Other Trade Press of course can be paramount depending on the targeted sector, thus a page in the Times Higher would be gold dust for a firm targeting Universities. My point here is not that many of you will need the FT or be able to justify it. However you should be precise about what will add value, really impress and reach your client’s attention, and set your consultants these specific targets.
  5. Now identify the PR firm with the greatest pull over the ideal media targets, having prepared a detailed list of deliverables you want met, the type of article you want published and see whether this can be achieved.
  6. Throughout the process avoid any idea that general small articles will have any value, they won’t! Far better to focus your efforts on the e marketing initiative.
  7. And one final comment; it will be safest to assume that no printed media will have much impact of itself. It is likely that your best target clients will miss even a half page article in the FT; selective perception rules, perhaps they didn’t read the esteemed paper that day, perhaps they were on holiday etc. So ensure your media advisors buy a “pull” of the article, make a hundred copies and then send them with a little covering note to your target contacts – ” Dear John, I thought you’d be interested in the FT’s recent article about our Research Building for LSE”.

A great deal of money, effort and vanity is wasted on all sorts of marketing endeavour that does little more than allow the leaders of your company to remain at one remove from the target client: to avoid the one to ones, duck the confrontation and possible rejection. It is after all far less threatening to send a brochure than to meet one to one; it is far easier to delegate to a bunch of PR folk, who know precious little about your firm, than for you to set the agenda and insist upon it or nothing. But oddly enough if you are genuinely passionate about what you do, if you have taken the trouble to define what you are best at, and if you really listen to your clients, to the market and to your communities, they will enjoy your company and they will want to talk with you.