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Monday, June 09, 2008

Making publicity and the web your focus

Focus on PR/media relations and an effective web presence -- these are the marketing priorities of successful architects such as Kasian Architecture.

What are the most effective marketing resources available for professional service firms serving the AEC community? Media publicity and effective use of the Internet, says Erin Isberg, a marketing manager with Kasian Architecture in Vancouver. I interviewed her last Friday as I prepare to write a story on the AEC Marketing/Economy in Canada for the SMPS Marketer. Erin is one of the few Canadian SMPS members; we don't have the wonderfully effective network of vibrant local SMPS chapters in most major U.S. cities, but Erin believes it is important to advance her knowledge and professional capabilities -- and so soaks up the information and resources provided through SMPS publications, online programs, and its website.

Kasian is growing rapidly -- with new offices in Shanghai, Mumbai and Dubai -- it is finding business in part because clients are comfortable with the quality of the practice's work and its Canadian identity. (The practice also has offices in Calgary, Edmonton, and, in our Ontario neck of the woods, Toronto and Waterloo.)

"In February, I went down to New York City for a conference on Return on Investment, and how to look at it from services firm perspective," Isberg said. While in New York, she visited the director of public relations for a major U.S. architect. "They didn't find any value in a huge mix (or marketing techniques)," she said. "They don't advertise, they don't do any direct mail pieces -- they stick to public relations and their website."

"My firm does that as well," she said. "We don’t put huge investment in advertising, we focus on niches and we’ve appointed someone to do public relations full time, to get out our key message; to have our firm name come up from that."

"(And) we’re also going a lot more in terms of the web, with an E-newsletter program and a website designed with a lot of care in mind." She also said the Kasian is making use of interactive mini sites. "When we've created a larger project, we send an E-postcard about them to anyone interested."

I think Erin has it right. For external marketing, focusing on the web and PR/communications will produce much higher returns than any conventional advertising and outbound marketing for AEC firms, and this makes sense whether you are in Canada, the U.S. or anywhere in the world.

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