Internet Marketing for Architects - Interview with Eric Bobrow
Welcoming back Eric Bobrow for his third interview on archiCADmonkey. We discuss his new big project, a tutorial series all about an extremely important yet neglected topic all Architects need to be aware of nowadays - Internet Marketing for Architects. For a limited time he’s also doing some FREE Webinars to get everyone started.
Also, if you’re interested, check out the previous interviews : Interview #1 - The Best Practices Course , Interview #2 - The ArchiCAD QuickStart Course
Download the interview (…also check out the transcript below)
Apollo: Hello archiCADmonkey fans! We are back with Mr. Eric Bobrow, internationally renowned ArchiCAD master, tutor and author. He has created quite a few courses since we last spoke to him, and here we are to have him tell us how busy he's been in the past few months.
Eric: Hi Apollo, nice to talk to you again.
Apollo: So since our last interview, you've been very busy maintaining and expanding your coursework on the ArchiCAD Best Practices course, the QuickStart course, and loads of other projects. And now you have started a brand new venture that concerns not only architects in the ArchiCAD community, but all architects. So tell us about it. [0:00:52]
Eric: Thanks. I've spent a lot of time in the last few years figuring out how to get the word out to architects who use ArchiCAD that I had products that would interest them in terms of MasterTemplate and then the training course, ArchiCAD Best Practices course and QuickStart course. Now as I've been doing that, figuring out the ways to reach people who I can help, I've learned a tremendous amount about marketing in general, and specifically how to work with the internet to leverage people who actually would be looking for me but don't know how to find me or don't even know who I am. [0:01:36]
In that sense, it's exactly like what an architect faces, and that is, you're sitting there, you've got some skill, experience, passion; and you know that people could use your services, and that they're looking for help, they're looking for someone to design a building or remodel for them, but they don't know that you exist. So how do you , as an architect or a building designer, actually get the word out to just the right people so that they can find you. And this is what I've discovered and I've turned into a whole training course on internet marketing for architects. [0:02:14]
I launched the course in the summer and actually developed the materials over twelve weeks. We had twelve lessons, live sessions where I presented each time on a different topic. And it's all been recorded. The feedback from people has been really amazing. It's just opened people's eyes to the possibilities, revealed the mistakes, the things that people thought they needed to do or just weren't even aware that they were doing wrong. And it's been very exciting. I think you will agree with me Apollo that in general, architects aren't well trained in or aren't focused on martketing. They tend to have a belief that if they do good work that there will be word-of-mouth; and that's going to actually bring in the business. And unfortunately, with the economic downturn in particular, and not enough work to go around, it just doesn't work the same way anymore. [0:03:14]
Apollo: Absolutely. I have been seeing that as well. People think that - architects think that the work speaks for itself, and it usually does, but people have to find you first to see that they'll like you. And some pretty pictures on the internet just aren't going to cut it if you don't actually put the work in. You have to show yourself. It's what your skills are. And I'm guessing a lot of the architects just don't know anything about marketing as you said. And they really need a push to get to know what this new world of online marketing is. It's not just handshakes and meetings and billboards or whatever. It's a whole new world. [0:03:53]
And you seem to have been able to conquer it and show us the way. We've seen that there are many ways of online marketing. There's email of course, there's websites, there's posting on Facebook or Twitter, etc.. What do you think is a general good practice, just to get someone started who has no clue of how to, who is too afraid of venturing on this new world? [0:04:20]
Eric: Okay, well good question. One thing I want to sort of get out of the way right away is there is a lot of buzz about social media and say Facebook and Twitter and Linkedin and things. And these are all good tools for communicating with people who already know who you are; and then maybe you tell them about your Facebook page or encourage them to sign up to your Twitter feed. But in general, they are not going to help you find new clients. Now, a website I think is a primary tool. I think everyone should have a website if they are offering serivces, if they have a business. [0:05:02]
But unfortunately, architects tend to be very naive if they felt that if they put up something pretty, if they put up beautiful pictures of their work, then it would somehow bring the clients to them, or the clients would find it. I think what you need to understand is that there are two key parts to this whole puzzle, and you have to have a strategic plan to really succeed at it. One part is traffic, and that is part of the general question of how do you become known or seen when someone is interested? How do you get them to visit your website or find out who you are? [0:05:44]
And then the other is, once they come to your website or find out who you are, what do you do to engage them, to develop a relationship with them, and ultimately to win their trust so that they are interested in hiring you for their next project or whatever problems that they need resolved? So there's traffic and visibility is one side, and conversion and development of relationships and engagement is the other. And if we look at architect's websites, there tends to be just this focus on making something a beauty, and showing beautiful work, but it's all about "me". [0:06:27]
In other words, it's saying, "Here's who I am, this is what our firm does." And it's not focused on the experience of the visitor. And I think that's a key thing that people need to start thinking about is, what are people looking for when they come to that site? Are they looking to solve a particular problem? Do they have issues in terms of zoning or permits or budget that they want some professional asssistance on? Or are they doing some research on different styles or materials or ways to approach their project? [0:07:00]
And for each of you listening, you may have a different feel for that. Some of you may focus on green architecture, and when someone in your area is looking for sustainable design, you want to be found, because that's one of your specialties. So then you need to offer some things beyond just pretty pictures that maybe teach about green architecture or tell them how it can be integrated without changing the budget. Or maybe even improving the cost of the building, things like that. [0:07:31]
Apollo: That’s a very good point, you need to share more of what you can do for the client on the website. I've seen a few architectural websites that are attempting to do something like that, either through giving advice through building styles or interior design, but mostly quite a few have been using blogging as helping to start. Even just talking about their projects at the moment, how they're going, what they did to solve problems in a certain style or technique in a building or house they built. [0:08:15]
One interesting one is a great blog called Life of an Architect. And he started blogging about himself, his work and his views, but also he has been updating, which is quite interesting, about his company's building sites as well, and how they're going, the problems they've had, and it makes it a bit more personal experience instead of just giving advice. So more talking about how they operate. Do you think that really helps out, or is it more about learning about the person behind the company? [0:08:55]
Eric: Yes. I think that blogging and adding personal stories or updates or news is an essential part of making a website effective. And I will tell you why. Two reasons: one is that if you have fresh content, every week or maybe at least every month, you have something new on your site, it will tend to make the site rank higher in Google. Google wants to send people, when they are searching, to sites that have useful content. That's their whole job is to make good referrals basically; a list of the more interesting and useful sites. [0:09:35]
And if the site hasn't been updated for months, if it's the same material that was posted last year, Google will tend to say, "Well, people aren't going to be as happy going there." So it won't rank as well. But in addition to that, once you can achieve some decent rankings for some searches, then when you have blogging, it gives people a reason to come back. After all, the likelihood that someone will come upon your site at just the right moment that they're saying, "I've got to find an architect for this project," or, "I need to find another one to interview, because the one I talked to, I'm not sure about." [0:10:11]
The likelihood of that is relatively small, compared to it being somewhere else in their cycle, where they are researching, they are looking at who is out there. They are looking at different building styles. They are thinking about whether they can afford it or if it's feasible. So by having things that are interesting, that keep on coming up, people will come back to the site. They will have a reason to. They will think, "I wonder what's up there now." [0:10:38]
Now in terms of the personal side, and you mentioned this, people buy from people. And you may feel, if you are a company with more than one person in it that you are a firm, that you want to promote the fact that you have a bunch of people who can do the work. But ultimately, there's some personal connection, whether it's the principal, or possibly someone else or more than one person at the firm. If the visitor, the person who is researching and looking at your website, feels some sense of connection, feels like, "Ah, I like this person," feels that they can relate to them, they're going to want to contact that person and that firm to talk about possible work. [0:11:28]
So blogging is great for multiple things. It improves the chance that you are going to rank, in terms of being found in the search engines. It gives people a reason to come back more than once to your site, if there's content regularly updated; and thirdly, it can easily give, in a natural way, a more personal sense. Not everything needs to be personal. You can have press releases, you can have announcements that you are finishing a project or things like that. But some personal stories, whether it's volunteering for Habitat for Humanity or the problem that you had at the building department and how you resolved that, or the way that you took care of a contractor who walked off the job and you had to deal with finding some other way to get things done. These all make for a more interesting place for people to visit. [0:12:23]
People like stories, too. I think if there's a story behind the article, as opposed to just matter-of-fact we completed this project, and it was a 2.1 million dollar addition to this mansion. But there's a story about how you struggled to get planning approval, or the budget had to be reworked because of things. And you were so happy that you were able to come up with an alternative strategy with the value engineer. These are things that when someone reads that, they go, "Oh, boy. I need someone who is that creative," or, "I need to have someone who is really on my side, like I am seeing this architect is." [0:13:05]
Apollo: Absolutely. Speaking of Google ranking, as you mentioned, that's a very good topic. And I'm guessing that you do mention it in your course, as I've seen some websites I've been to, for architects in general put a lot of effort into design, as you said, lots of pretty pictures, though not great interaction. Maybe they're even blogging, but they're not really versed in SEO. They're quite clueless of how to get Google to rank them well. There was even a case where great architectural website that I found that was really great, and looking back into the code, the keywords, the Alts of images, there was nothing, absolutely nil. The designer was great, but he had no idea about SEO. So do you cover any of that in your course? [0:14:02]
Eric: Oh, absolutely. I think that SEO - and just for those of our listeners who are not familiar with it - stands for "Search Engine Optimization". Basically, making the website work as well as possible for the search engines. It's a key part of understanding how to make a site effective. After all, if you are not found, if you are not listed when someone is doing a search for an architect in New York or a home remodel in Cleveland, or whatever they're searching for, then they're not going to find out about you. [0:14:43]
Now the key thing about search engine optimization is that you want to create content that's useful to a human being and then tweak it so that the search engines can understand what it's about. So you may feel that pictures are useful to a human being, because they can see your work, but the search engine doesn't understand what that picture is about. It doesn't know that it's a remodel or a kitchen, other than maybe the name of the picture. In general, you want to have words on the page - text - that explains the pictures, or tells a story, or gives informaiton to the human visitor, and then the search engine can understand, "Oh, this is about a home remodel in Cleveland. [0:15:28]
And if someone is looking up home remodels, and they happen to be based in that town, then Google will say, "Ah, this could be a useful page." There are some other tricks or things that you want to pay attention to having to do with headlines and tags for the photos called Alt Tags that give information about what the photo is about. But the primary thing is to make it useful for a human and tweak it in terms of the words to make it clear to the search engines. [0:15:58]
And that is going to go a long way. We see so many architect sites where there are very few words, almost all pictures. And unless that site is referenced by many other sites on the internet, as in, Wow, this is a famous architect. Check out their site, it will never show up in the search engines. So if you are just an average architect just having pictures, you will never be found. You need to have text and you need to tell a story and help the human vistor and then the search engines can start saying, "You know, this is an information-rich site. This is a site that people will be happy to go to, let's put it in the list." [0:16:38]
Apollo: That sounds great. So I have a question. If I had an architect that had no idea about any of these things, where would you tell him to start, if he wanted to start online marketing? He had a website that was decent, and he knew how to navigate the web, but he just wanted to get started. How would you start him off? Would you tell him to stop, think about it, start something like your system, as you have an automated marketing system? Would you tell him to go ahead in steps, or would you make him kind of research and go for a higher battle ground and be able to blow out a big marketing campaign? [0:17:28]
Eric: That's an interesting question Apollo. One thought is that you can do it incrementally. You don't have to throw everything away and start over. But it does help to have an overview. It does help to have an understanding of the key landmarks, the key things that you want to achieve in your website. Probably the best place to start would be the webinar that I'm going to be presenting and that you're going to be co-hosting with me coming up soon, because I'm going to be spending an hour going over essentially what you need to know about internet marketing as an architect or building designer. [0:18:12]
How do you apply these principles so that your website can start being an actual tool for lead generation as opposed to just a brochure. And one that can actually develop a relationship with prospective clients in a way that will lead to more projects coming in the door. This webinar, which I developed earlier this year and have revamped is going to teach a whole lot. It's great training as a starting point. I'm really excited about sharing it with architects in general, because I think that once your eyes are opened, then you understand the basics of this, and you can do a whole lot on your own. [0:18:54]
Or, you can direct a web designer who you are working with in a way that is going to make it effective. So many web designers will, just like an architect, will be specialists and create something that is a beautiful design or functional, but they won't know about the marketing side. They won't know about the strategy about how do you bring traffic and nurture the visitors so that they eventually become clients. So that's what I'm going to be offering during that webinar is to give you an overview and an understanding of the key things that will make your site and your whole online presence effective. [0:19:35]
Apollo: That sounds great. We are really looking forward to - I'm looking forward to the webinar. We are doing it sometime next week I believe.
Apolllo: And we'll post this on the Facebook page, on my page, and you're going to tell your listeners and your students on your page when we're actually going to be live. So that sounds great. We look forward to all your wisdom. You have guided us well through ArchiCAD, and through many, many problems that we've had in the past. And I think people are really going to enjoy the future webinars, and the course, obviously. [0:20:13]
Eric: Well, I'm looking forward to sharing that time slot with you and giving people a lot that they can chew on. And yes, the course is something that would be if they want to go deeper. So in other words, the webinar will give some really excellent information in an hour and those who want to go deeper and further, the course will be an option. I'm also starting a coaching program as part of the course, so there are recorded lessons and then they'll be live, ongoing training for people who join the course. [0:20:47]
So I think this is a chance for architects to take a quantum leap forward in terms of bringing in clients. I think so many have been confused about - what can I do? The phone isn't ringing. And there is an answer. There is a way to do it. I have, just like you, found the way through the internet to reach people who need what I have to offer. I have 500,000 views on my YouTube channel for ArchiCAD tutorials, partly because they're good, but partly because I've learned how to market it. I have learned how to reach the people who are eager to find it. And just like you've got 1,500 likes on your Facebook page, you have found ways that you can reach the people who really love what you have to offer. [0:21:40]
Apollo: Exactly. You have definitely mastered the internet marketing thing. I am still learning, obviously, as we all are. But it would be interesting to see as well how people interact with the internet marketing course with this new knowledge. Do you think in your next step - you have done this all online - do you think that you would be going maybe later on to conferences, speaking at BIM seminars or marketing courses at conferences? What do you think? [0:22:16]
Eric: That's an interesting question and right now, I'm quite happy to be working in one location and reaching people around the world. Having I think 200 countries that people have been visiting from on the YouTube channel is very interesting – 201, I didn't even know there were that many countries out there. However, that being said, I have been to come business conferences and found them very stimulating. And the idea of actually running my own or speaking at other ones is an intriguing one. And who knows? Maybe next year there will be some live events that I'll be speaking at or organizing. It's quite possible. [0:23:00]
Apollo: That's great, we look forward to it. And great, thanks Eric. We will talk together next week at the webinar. And we'll see what listeners think then. But thank you so much for having this opportunity to interview you.
Eric: My pleasure Apollo. I'll talk to you shortly.
Apollo: Okay, bye Eric.
[OUTRO MUSIC, END OF AUDIO 0:23:29]
Now go check out the INTERNET MARKETING FOR ARCHITECTS page for more information.