Our Solutions News Blog was envisioned to gather and share information from the very best to help you and your business to become more effective.
No one can do business with you if they don’t know you exist. In order for you to start making some traction in your business or to level up, you must invest in your personal branding, and work hard to get the word out...
When Chic CEO was in its first year of business, I remember getting to a networking event after just leaving another and met a woman in the bar line - because #wine. We introduced ourselves and she said, “I see you everywhere.” It was the first time we had chatted, but she already knew Chic CEO. My business partner and I were on a mission, bound and determined to be seen.
Obscurity can be one of the biggest business killers to any venture. Here are some ways to step out and get known.
Niche Down, Down, Down And Find The “That’s me!” Response
Homing in on your target market is one of the very best things you can do for yourself and your business. When you can get super clear on who you work with, marketing becomes exponentially easier. I recently met a woman who is a hair stylist and she said she specializes in blonds with short hair. “That’s me!” I squeaked. Brilliant. I rarely hear of a stylist getting that specific when describing what they do. Cut, color, style, what else is there? Turns out, a lot. I didn’t realize that stylists niche down too, until that moment. She actually made me say, “that’s me!” and that’s marketing gold. The more specific you can get on who you serve, the easier it is to break out of obscurity and the internet noise.
Pick One Social Channel And Hit It Hard
Watering down your presence isn’t a smart strategy. Your audience might hang out in a few places, but chances are, the majority of them prefer one social platform over another. Focus your time in being ever present on that channel. Melyssa Griffin, a prominent blogger who teaches others to create profitable blogs, doubles down on Pinterest. Larry Kim, founder of Mobile Monkey, puts a lot of his effort into Medium. It’s not that they aren’t present on other social channels or platforms, but you can see they have found where their audience hangs out and they show up to that party. If you are working solo, your best bet is to stick to one social channel and hit it hard - so you can maximize effort with the little time you have.
Post Content Where Your People Are Hanging Out
To piggy back off of the previous point, you may notice that there are more people hanging out on platforms like Medium, than they are on your blog. When you are posting non-stop to your own blog with little traction, start posting where people might actually see it. There are many media outlets that allow you to write for them, or places you can post your content. Start pushing your message, ideas and value to platforms that already have an audience, rather than your blog where only a handful of people might see it.
Create Strategic Partnerships
Linking up with another business who has the same audience but an ancillary product or service can only help the both of you. Get creative on how you can promote each other to gain more awareness and value for the customers and clients you serve. Related: How To Create Strategic Partnerships. Find ways to create cross promotions, team up on events, help each other achieve the peak end experience or simply do some email swaps. Leverage each other to bring more value to your customers and benefit from the awareness it brings.
Become The Local News Expert
One of the fastest ways to get seen is through press. Press can be tricky, but the key is to provide value. Always provide value. When you are someone that the local press knows can give great tips on how to keep the kids busy for summer, or the proper way to stretch before a marathon - they will call you first. Be their trusted expert in your subject matter and they’ll think of you when something comes up.
Source: Forbes / Written By: Stephanie Burns
"Every company’s biggest problem is communication,” says Scott McGohan." Read on to discover some solutions.
“It really doesn't matter how many times you do it,” says Scott. “If you do any of it, then you have a problem. If you do a lot of it, it's still going to be the number one problem.”
It’s a lesson he learned at an early age from his father, Pat McGohan, who started the business more than 45 years ago. “Growing up in the business and hearing from my father that the number one problem every business has is communication, I believed it,” says Scott. Over the years, he also saw it first-hand.
Here are 4 key ways to become more conscious and mindful about effective workplace communication.
1. Let employees do it on their time
Scott learned the most powerful way to communicate is to deliver content in a way that employees can consume it on their own time. “From a leadership standpoint, it's understanding that we have to recognize that our people aren't available to learn from us on our time. We have to figure out how to do that on their time,” he says.
Envision different channels you can use to deliver stories to employees in a way they will embrace.
For example, McGohan Brabender has a podcast they create in-house and they have a YouTube Channel. McGohan Brabender has learned that the podcasts are popular with employees since they can listen to it on-demand, whenever they have time.
“Some people like to see things, some people like to hear things, some people like to touch things,” says Scott. As a leader, your vision is to get people to feel things.
Right now, Scott focuses on trying to be short, simple, and sweet with content. “We’re embracing the fact that a lot of people today want to learn via their eyes and ears, in probably less than two minute snips. Any longer than that, we lose people's attention.”
2. Stick with it
McGohan Brabender has monthly meetings with all employees. “We look at: Where did we win? Where did we lose? Where are we at? How are we performing?” says Scott. It’s a meeting that encourages transparency and connection between employees.
They also have quarterly employee luncheons. “We'll invite the whole company in, and we'll have lunch. They can bring their kids, they can bring guests, and we've even had parents there.” Over lunch, they also talk about how the organization is doing, how they are performing, and where there is opportunity.
Another way Scott feels the pulse of the organization is through a weekly blog. He’s published the internal blog for more than 5 years.
Whatever a leader decides to do in terms of communication, the most important part is consistency. “If you say to your employees you are going to write a weekly blog, you have to it every week. You can’t miss. Our blog is five years in the running and it shoots out every week,” explains Scott. “Be consistent and be on time.”
3. Use affirmations
“Affirmation is probably the one thing that everybody desires,” says Scott. Scott’s learned to be intentional about how he uses affirmations to his people. In doing so, he’s able to energize and inspire his people.
“ As a leader, when you're telling stories about people in your organization, it affirms the great work they are doing. The magic happens when it inspires other people to want to be a part of a story,” says Scott.
“They hear what others are doing, and they want to be a part of that story. They want to have a chapter written about them. There’s magic in that—that’s what storytelling does.”
4. Show vulnerability
As a leader, have the kind of self-awareness that allows you to show vulnerability through your communication.
“Some may think if you are vulnerable, you’re looked upon as weak,” says Scott. “Vulnerability is a sign of strength. It lets people know they are not alone.”
Find a channel or format of communication that allows you to authentically open up with your people. “For example, for a lot of people, there's an uncanny way for people to be vulnerable in writing versus face-to-face with people. It is an opportunity for leaders to talk about areas in their life where they're vulnerable, or maybe where they're afraid,” says Scott.
“And it lets other people know that you might just be human. You might be just like them.”
When you get vulnerable, your people will respond with trust and openness, too. The result is a culture where employees experiment, take risks, and drive innovation.
Source: Forbes / Written By: Aileron
"...should we be concerned about the possibility of a downturn?"
Avison Young - Trends You Need to Know About for 2020
#1 Lower for longer
How investors are dealing with a low inflation, low interest rate world – and
whether they should be concerned about the possibility of a downturn.
#2 Power to the people
Landlords, developers and occupiers need to pay increasing attention to local
political activism, as today’s street protests increasingly signal tomorrow’s
The pace of globalization is slowing, and in some areas is starting to reverse as
nearshoring and the localization of supply chains gathers momentum.
#4 Building resilience
Cities across the world are leading the charge in responding to climate change,
to ensure economic, social and environmental sustainability.
#5 (Place)making an impact
Placemaking creates great environments for people, organizations and
communities. It is becoming the focus of
#6 The rebirth of retail
Urban design initiatives, an explosion of technology-fuelled experiential retail
and the emergence of new omni-channel strategies give an insight into the
future of physical retail.
#7 Let’s talk about flex
Forget what you may have read in the newspapers, flexible offices are here to
stay and will remain one of real estate’s hottest growth areas in 2020.
Augmented intelligence? Your new best friend could be your cobot, a
collaborative robot who will make your life easier by helping you work
quicker – and smarter.
#9 Wishing well
Wellness is the new front in the war for talent, and buildings have a huge part
to play in supporting companies’ efforts to look after their staff.
#10 Heavy lifting
Logistics is currently a labor-intensive business, and the sector is facing the
twin challenges of staff shortages and a growing volume of e-commerce
Source: Avison Young / Written By: Nick Axford
"We have partnered with Dominion Blue for our trade show promotional needs and other printed matter."
Scope of The Project / Aim & Outcome:
We worked with their project team to provide various displays and roll-ups to help them promote their brand at events and trade shows. All displays were portable and easy to set up.
We have partnered with Dominion Blue for our trade show promotional needs and other printed matter. We’ve worked with your company on two major exhibition events recently – the NACS show in Atlanta and the Realtor Quest show in Toronto. The booth exhibits and graphics you produced for these important shows were really sharp and crisp, and faithfully represented our brand. They were also easy to transport and assemble. In addition, your team was responsive, professional, and went above and beyond to ensure our materials were shipped to the venues on time. When we had a question from the venue, we appreciated the rapid response. So – thanks to you and your team, and we look forward to sending you more requirements as we expand our presence further. Regards, Leigh
"...the interpretive signage up at Britannia. Thanks for all of your help with it – looks great!"
Scope of The Project / Aim & Outcome:
Improve the clarity and quality of the interpretive signage. We worked with the project leader to better understand their final objectives. With our UV in flatbed technology we were able to product a new level of quality and print directly on a durable media which offers longevity, while retaining impressive image quality. The client was please and in short order requested additional work which included.
Wanted to send you a photo of the interpretive signage up at Britannia. Thanks for all of your help with it – looks great! Rebecca
As author and entrepreneur Seth Godin puts it: “Personalization wasn’t supposed to be a cleverly veiled way to chase prospects around the web, showing them the same spammy ad for the same lame stuff as everyone else sees. No, it is a chance to differentiate at a human scale, to use behaviour as the most important clue about what people want and more important, what they need.”
Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution:
Trends in customer trust by Salesforce Research reinforces the notion that brands can win more business by creating personalized customer experiences — a message we’ve heard for some time now. Based on a survey polling over 6,700 individuals from more than a dozen countries including Canada, the 2018 report finds consumers are demanding greater personalization and will often disclose the kind of personal information needed to create more personalized experiences if they feel the business is being transparent about how the data is used.
“Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an era defined by continuous technological innovations that are transforming customer expectations. As lines between digital and physical worlds blur, today’s customers demand deeply relevant, personalized experiences across devices, channels and interactions,” according to the report. “In fact, the average customer uses 10 different channels to communicate with companies. Despite this, today’s customers expect tailored engagement across all channels.”
Fifty-four percent of respondents say the marketing messages they receive aren’t as relevant as they would like them to be – suggesting that some companies drastically need to improve their personalization capabilities – while 84 percent say “being treated like a person, not a number” is very important to winning repeat business and maintaining brand loyalty. “Customers expect businesses to understand not only what they are purchasing, but why, as well as how they use products and services, and they expect it fast,” the report reads.
The majority of survey respondents say they are willing to share personal information if it is used to deliver more personalized engagements, and expect that personalization to be coupled with transparency. What’s more, 51 percent of respondents across all age groups say they are comfortable with companies “applying relevant information about me in exchange for personalized engagement,” as compared to 64 percent of millennials and Gen Zers.
What’s interesting is 86 percent of total respondents – and 91 percent of millennials and Gen Zers – say they are more likely to trust companies with their personal information when they explain how it is being used to deliver a better experience for them, suggesting that strict security and privacy protocols alone may not be enough to dispel fears of data misuse and breaches.
“As time goes on, businesses will contend with a more savvy customer base that expects greater personalization, along with respect for the data they swap for it,” the report concludes.
Source: PrintAction / Written By: Alyssa Dalton
At Dominion Blue, our story started in 1912 with an ad featured in the city directory. It was one of eight companies involved in blueprints. We were located in the Bank of Hamilton Building at 432 Hamilton Street. Our focus was simple, offer what architects, engineers, contractors, the government and businesses wanted; preeminent quality large format Maps, Blueprints, Brown Line, and Blue Line Prints.
It was not a splashy opening, but it was honest. Our "can-do," "just-works" and our clients soon realized that we were ultimately providing print solutions that helped them to succeed. By hearing our story and knowing why we do what we do, they quickly discovered that we understood their needs.
A lot has changed since then. Of course, our state-of-the-art digital printing equipment and the breadth of our product and services offer is immense in comparison. But one thing has not changed; we've been building trust with our clients ever since that day and won't stop until we either meet or exceed each one’s expectations.
Knowing how to tell your business story needs to be a crucial part of your operations. A brand story has a strategic purpose aimed towards drawing people in. To perfect your story, try the following tips, and when you're ready give us a call because print can help bring it alive in many ways.
To perfect your story, try the following tips:
#1: Set The Parameters
Your business story should be engaging. But if it doesn’t have a clear focus, you’ll quickly lose the attention of consumers. Establish context right off the bat.
To start your brand story, answer the following questions:
Parameters will help you develop an engaging story that makes sense to your audience. Set the scene so that consumers know exactly what you’re talking about. Most importantly, establish why you’re telling them this story. This will guide the audience through the narrative and hook them all the way to the end.
#2: Be Authentic
Authentic storytelling is key to gaining consumer trust. Don’t try to fool your audience with an over-the-top tale. Customers know when you try to pull a fast one on them, and they don’t appreciate it.
Your business’s story doesn’t need to be elaborate. In fact, if your business doesn’t have an earth-shattering history, your story shouldn’t try to create one. A genuine narrative is more likely to connect with consumers than one without a shred of truth.
Transparency celebrates your uniqueness and acknowledges the human aspect of your brand. Recognize that things are not always easy by showing your own challenges and failures. This creates an emotional connection, as well as reveals admiral characteristics, like innovation and resilience.
You might want to take an “open book” approach to communicating with customers. Explain how things are made/done at your business. For example, you might use all local ingredients at your restaurant. Use these details to create an interesting story.
#3: Have A Clear Outcome
A great business story leaves your audience with something. What lesson was learned in the story, and what should consumers learn from hearing it?
Business stories should have a clear outcome. Provide a hopeful, thought-provoking message with actionable points that compel your audience to connect with your brand.
Here’s another story for you: In the late eighties, my partner and I wanted to write software, but we were not sure about the niche we should pursue. After doing tons of research in the phonebook and at the library (there was no internet back then), we learned that employment agencies had a desperate need for a recruiting network solution. Over thirty years after launching our startup, Top Echelon’s recruiting network has hundreds of recruiting firms and millions of candidates, which helps hiring professionals make more placements.
The story gives an idea of who we are and where we come from. The outcome sparks confidence in our offerings and values. You can use your business’s real-life outcomes to convey a message to your customers.
#4: Be Consistent
A disorganized brand story leaves customers confused and uninterested. Make sure your brand is consistent across all communication channels. Use the same colors, logo, and slogan for digital and print marketing materials. The repetition of images and verbiage associated with your business creates brand awareness.
You need to be consistent when speaking about your brand. Business storytelling takes practice. Know the story inside and out before presenting it to customers. This will help you tell the story naturally.
#5: Get Customers Involved
Use business storytelling to strike an emotional connection with customers. Talk about how an event related to your business affected you and what you learned. This creates an immediate response that makes your story memorable and shareable.
People like to be a part of stories. Your customers can be characters in your brand. Come up with ways to get your audience involved.
For example, Patriot Software reached out to some of our customers to hear their startup stories. Black Sheep Boutique and Lamplighter Brewing Co. were among several companies featured in business storytelling examples on our blog. Showcasing these businesses directly linked our customers to a part of our story.
Telling the story of your brand is an ongoing process. Each day, your business grows, shifts, and adds new chapters to its story. Make business storytelling an essential part of your operations to attract and retain customers.
Source: Forbes / Written By: Mike Kappel
Marketing often gets thrown on the back burner because it feels like time away from your business.
You’re happiest when you’re talking to your audience directly.
You’re telling them all about a product, service, or cause that you care about — and there’s a level of connection there that marketing can’t touch.
Or so you think.
It’s true — there’s plenty of yawn-inducing marketing material out there that makes you wonder if the writer herself was asleep at the keyboard.
But your business can do better than that. You can share something with your audience that awakens their attention, evokes emotion, and fosters ironclad loyalty..
Can storytelling really do all that?
Stories are the seeds of connection. They have staying power — think back to all the stories you can still remember from your early childhood.
And they’re more important than ever as a way to stand out from your competition.
Here are a few things storytelling can do for your business:
How can you start incorporating storytelling in your business?
Once you start to see the benefits of storytelling for your business, you’ll start wondering how you can start using it right away.
Luckily, you have plenty of outlets at your disposal. Your website, your signage, brochures, and printed communications, email and direct mail, your blog, social channels, presentation centres, and so much more.
When you're ready to start planning it all out give us a call and through our Print with Insight Program you'll be turning heads your way in no time.
Source: Constant Contact / Written By: Miranda Paquet
"Building a skyscraper? Forget about steel and concrete, says architect Michael Green, and build it out of ... wood. As he details in this intriguing talk, it's not only possible to build safe wooden structures up to 30 stories tall (and, he hopes, higher), it's necessary."
Vancouver’s Michael Green Architecture, a firm specializing in timber buildings, has been acquired by Silicon Valley startup Katerra.
Timber is trending. Earlier this year, Azure wrote about the proliferation of plyscrapers around the world: thanks to the possibilities of cross-laminated timber, which is fire-resistant and as strong as concrete, wood construction is being considered for 70-storey buildings in Japan, 80-storey residential projects in London and mid-rise college campuses in Toronto. And one of the most prominent champions of timber construction is Vancouver-based Michael Green, whose firm has been pushing wood buildings – and indeed wood cities – since 2012.
Green, who authored The Case for Tall Wood Buildings and won a 2017 AZ Award for Environmental Leadership for his T3 Minneapolis office building, promotes timber as an environmentally friendly alternative to concrete. Earlier this week, Michael Green Architecture (MGA) was acquired by Katerra, a Silicon Valley construction startup that received $865 million from Japanese venture capital giant Softbank Vision Fund. Reportedy valued at over $3 billion, Katerra is run by former Tesla interim CEO Michael Marks; it lists itself as a tech company, though it aims to disrupt the construction industry.
Green says that, after the acquisition, he will remain the president and CEO of his firm – it will be called Michael Green Architecture, a Katerra company. In an email, Green says that its parent company will help “advance our agenda on design, quality, sustainability and affordability.” MGA and its two dozen employees will remain in Vancouver.
Katerra, Architectural Record notes, wants to vertically integrate all aspects of construction, from design to subcontracting. Founded three years ago, it, like Green, focuses on affordability through efficiency: Katerra has created market-rate multi-family housing and student and senior housing, with projects focused on mass-timber construction. The acquisition of MGA, it seems, is a step towards making its architecture division more environmentally friendly – and could provide Green with wider resources, both human and financial, to achieve his wood-built ambitions.
The terms of MGA’s acquisition by Katerra were not disclosed.
Green said the acquisition allows him to make a bigger impact on the North American market – though his reach already extends beyond his Gastown office. MGA’s recent projects include the OSU College of Forestry building at Oregon State University, a proposal for the world’s tallest timber tower in Paris, and Riverfront Square, a 2,000-unit residential project in New Jersey.
Though the acquisition is a victory for Green, it’s also a promising step for the future of timber construction. Silicon Valley’s embrace – and investment – in architecture, green design and wood construction could have a lasting impact on the built environment. For a glimpse of what the future may have in store, watch Green’s influential TEDxTalk above.
Source: AZURE / Written By: Mark Teo
Last year was all about taking risks in graphic design. But most of the graphic design trends we predicted last year have become mainstream. Like incorporating a whole new world of colour, and breathing life into print with a rainbow of metallic huges. Click HERE to download the metallic ink design guide.
What are the BIGGEST graphic design trends of 2019 that you should be following?
That’s what this design guide will tell you. For an in-depth guide to the biggest graphic design trends in 2019, check out the full article and infographic HERE.
The blog post contains a ton of examples for each trend, as well as templates that you can use to stay on top of the trends. In the video above, we introduce you to the 8 graphic design trends that we predict are going to take over in 2019. We’ve included examples from some of the biggest brands in tech right now, including Apple, Spotify, MailChimp, Facebook and more.
If you want your branding to be ahead of the curve, try incorporating some of these graphic design trends into your proposals, marketing materials, packaging and internal communications.
Source: Venngage / Written By: Ryan McCready
The strategic use of psychology in direct mail can drive amazing results. Did you know that our brain is doing most of its work outside of our consciousness? If we are able to create a good direct mail psychology strategy that enables us to tap into subconscious decisions, we can generate a greater response from prospects and customers.
How Can This Work?
1. Emotional Triggers
Both men and women need emotional engagement for direct mail to work. This requires the use of both good emotional copy and imagery. Segmentation can really help you target the right people with the right emotional copy and images.
When there is too much clutter of messages, either copy or images, the brain cannot process it. Make sure that you leave white space and use concise copy so that the brain can easily process your message.
The brain likes puzzles and humor. Keep them simple for easy understanding. They are effective, with increased engagement.
4. Women and Empathy
If your audience is women, you need to tap into empathy. Women engage with images depicting faces and direct eye contact. Women also respond to group/community activity images and, of course, babies, too. Some women will pay attention to messages that make life easier, celebrate her or allow her to do multiple things.
A complicated mail message will most likely be ignored by the brain. There are ways to simplify your copy and images to capture attention.
How to Capture Attention
Novelty — This is the No. 1 way to capture attention. Our brains are trained to look for something new and cool. A novel message or layout can really help you stand out in the mail box.
Eye Contact — Humans are social beings. Images of people or animals making eye contact with your prospects or customers grab attention and draw them into the mail piece.
When you are able to integrate a multiple sensory experience into your mail piece, you create a richer and deeper engagement with your audience.
How to use the senses:
As you can see, the brain is powerful and is very good at ignoring messages. Taking the time to consider all of these psychological factors can really help you drive your response rates up. As always, focusing your messaging with targeted segments to really reach the right people with the right message will increase the success of your mail campaigns. Are you ready to get started?
Source: Target Marketing / Written By: Summer Gould
“Without trust, your relationship does not exist; all you have is a series of transactions,” says Rosa Sheng, architect and senior associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.
Trust is the foundation of any relationship between architect and client, and cultivating trust has huge benefits: repeat clients, patience when challenges arise, and referrals to new clients. But a weak or eroded sense of trust can harm your reputation, cost you future business, and even drive clients toward litigation.
Due to the complex nature of architecture projects, a number of factors can make or break an architect-client relationship. Here are seven tips from architectural experts to help you build and maintain trust.
1. Have an Effective Online Presence.
The first way to build a client’s trust—before you ever meet in person—is with your online presence. An unsubstantial or outdated online presence can be a red flag for prospective clients, so keep your website and professional profiles (including LinkedIn) updated with information about your firm and projects. “How is the client supposed to build trust if they look you up and can’t find anything about you?” Sheng asks.
2. Communicate Well Consistently.
Good communication is the cornerstone of building trust. “We get lost in the design process, and then we forget to communicate what’s happening and how it’s happening in an effective way and on a regular basis,” Sheng says. A regular check-in can bring potential problems to the surface early in the process and show the client you’re fully engaged.
Communicating your design intent to clients in a language your clients can understand is also essential to building trust. Make sure you don’t use “archispeak”—words such as “parti” and “trombe wall.” Architects often assume that clients can read drawings well and share the same technical vocabulary, which is usually not the case.
3. Show Your Vision With BIM.
Using 3D-modeling software like BIM, you can convey design and site-planning concepts via virtual walk-throughs and visualizations, leaving little room for clients to misinterpret your designs. This process also allows you to anticipate conflicts that may come up in construction with more accuracy so you can solve problems and reduce change orders.
“With BIM, you can go in with a wider array of tools and answer questions that would never have come up if you were just looking at 2D plans,” says Philip Noland, design visualization artist and owner of Noland Design Studio. “It brings about new exploration. The questions aren’t glazed over—they’re really looked at.”
For architect Lionel Scharly from Scharly Designer Studio, using BIM visualizations instills trust because clients can see the whole picture. “The more the client has details of the project, the better they understand, the more you accumulate their trust,” he says. “They are the ones paying, but they often don’t have a background in architecture, yet they want to be ‘in the project.”
4. Don’t Overpromise.
One of the most fundamental ways to build trust is to deliver what you’ve committed to doing. “The fear of saying no is rampant in our industry,” Sheng says. It’s especially hard to say no when it’s a down market and architects are starved for work. But in the long run, when you’ve said yes to something you can’t deliver just to get a job, your client will stop trusting you.
To avoid biting off more than you can chew, talk your clients through their project goals to confirm what they want can be done. “If it passes the three-question challenge, then it might be okay,” Sheng says. “Ask about the desired goal in three different ways—with a focus on design, budget, and schedule—to make sure they thought through their idea.”
5. Do Your Homework.
Designing a building entails a lot of moving parts. It’s important that you do your homework on factors such as applicable codes, the properties of materials you want to use, and what things cost. Clients rely on architects to be the experts in many arenas, and by doing your homework, you will convey the correct information and make fewer mistakes. “You definitely have to know what you’re talking about, so when you tell the client something, always double-check that it is accurate,” Sheng says.
6. Be Honest in Setting Expectations.
If you discover a problem, it may be tempting to cave to your client to curry favor. For example, if you learn the project will cost more than the client can afford, it’s important to deliver the message without wavering—even if the client pushes back. “There’s an expectation for an architect to push the boundaries, be innovative, and stretch the dollar, but the architect still needs to be financially responsible,” Sheng says. “Show conviction and maintain integrity in your professional expertise. Trust is built on consistency.”
Clients may also have unrealistic demands to squeeze the budget and schedule, and it’s your job to be honest about what’s feasible. “Sometimes the truth is hard to swallow, and in some cases, we lose out,” Sheng says. “But in the long term, the client realizes that you were right, and the truth prevails.”
Being up front about cost and viability can also prevent you from absorbing costs outside your initial scope, which can negatively impact your profit margin on the project.
7. Offer New and Creative Solutions.
When trust is lost due to a mistake or failed promise, it may take a long time to re-establish it. The best way to regain trust is to acknowledge where you went wrong, apologize, and offer solutions.
A contract BIM manager in the Facilities Management Group at Carolinas HealthCare System, Meghan Ruffo regularly collaborates with architects. For her, defaulting to problem solving within a linear 2D process—design, then engineer, then build—can erode confidence. “The willingness to think about how to solve the problem is important, rather than relying on the traditional approach or what an architect has always done in specific scenarios in the past,” she says.
For Sheng, creative problem solving is particularly important when the stakes are high: “Because construction is such a costly endeavor, costing hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, it is a huge responsibility for architects to be the steward of that kind of money in the form of a building.”
Source: Redshift by Autodesk / Written By: Taz Khatri
Think beyond “educating the client” to build transformational relationships.
“If only we could educate the client about the true value of architecture,” goes the wistful narrative, “then they would have greater appreciation for architects and what they do.” It is clear to many members of the profession that this painfully slow enlightenment process needs to be accelerated. What if architects used an evidence-based approach to design a better way to transform their client’s thinking? What if these initiatives made use of research on experiential learning? What if more clients engaged in interactive experiences that generate exceptional value?
The shift to transformational experiences
Transformational client-architect experiences are based upon mutually beneficial exchanges of knowledge and aha’s that occur before, during, and after the project. In contrast to fee-driven transactions, these two-way engagements bring out the best in both entities. They are built on empathy and the trusting relationships that develop when the architect and client think through possibilities and constraints together.
“I love my clients,” says Gregory Henriquez, Architect AIBC, FRAIC, managing partner of Henriquez Partners Architects and a leader among a new generation of ethical, activist architects. “We decline one or two project requests a week because we choose our clients. Rather than being reactive, we decided to take control of our careers and surround ourselves with people who have a reciprocal relationship with us. Clients are attracted by our commitment to doing something meaningful and exceptional together. We provide them with a positive experience.”
“Like a lot of architects, I used to be fearful of showing clients my work in progress,” Henriquez continues, “then I experimented with sharing the design as it evolved and discovered to my surprise, the more I did that, the more excited they got about the emerging ideas.”
More architects are taking the initiative to shape project opportunities and the selection process. They are using fresh thinking, meaningful interaction and empathy for clients to be the proverbial firm that has the inside track.
What is empathy-driven marketing?
Empathy is the ability to put yourself “in someone else’s shoes” to understand how they see things. For architects this involves being attuned to a client’s concerns, hopes and fears—both spoken and unspoken. When framing communication and marketing strategies for your firm, an empathy-driven approach can more clearly distinguish you from the many firms that vaguely claim they listen and collaborate. Empathy also means caring enough to interview clients long before they create their selection criteria and being in a position to influence those criteria.
Use empathy to triumph over apathy
When I conduct interviews with clients to understand why they choose one top design firm over another, they tend to talk about the working relationship. For example, they cite “someone who cares about my obsessions as a client, not just their obsessions,” and they praise the architect who “has our best interests at heart,” or the firm that “shows they really care about us.”
Overwhelming research on how people make major buying decisions indicates that emotions rule their choices. Typically, the purchaser’s conscious and unconscious feelings are then justified with logic (such as assigning point scores in the case of public work proposal evaluations).
In other words, an excellent way to build greater appreciation for what architects do is to communicate that you recognize the demands, risks, pressures and primal fears of being a client. Often when spending large sums of money, clients must justify their decisions to others, some are under hostile public scrutiny, and some may even fear losing their job if project planning mistakes are made. Also, clients are frequently asked to quickly digest concepts that may have taken a design team days or weeks to evolve back in the studio. So you can set yourself apart by integrating clients into your design and planning deliberations so that they can proceed with confidence.
Every project begins with a conversation
From my experience, thought leaders in the profession begin the design process with the premise that we must seek first to understand,” says John Stephenson, OAA, MRAIC, partner, FORM Architecture Engineering and current president of the Ontario Association of Architects. “This involves not just passive listening; it requires insightful questions that are ‘designed’ to achieve an exceptional level of understanding before leaping to a hypothesis. It poses design ideas not as solutions, which presume that the architect has all the answers, but as a series of ‘what if’ questions that challenge both designer and client. This quality of interaction brings real craft and greater perceived value to the design that emerges.
Where are you on the empathy spectrum?
A doctor can be dedicated to the medical profession while not appearing to care that much about patients. Likewise, on one extreme of the marketing spectrum we find architects who describe themselves as passionate about architecture without explaining how their passion translates into benefits for a client. Marketing profiles that neglect to mention the client’s role may unintentionally convey a message that clients will be viewed primarily as a means to expand portfolios, win awards and fulfill a need for self-expression.
On the other side of the empathy spectrum we find architects who see a common cause with clients, serving their own agenda as well as client needs, fears, hopes and priorities. These architects build trust and enthusiasm with clients through interactions that demonstrate they truly care.
From the client’s perspective, how can I tell where you fall on this empathy spectrum? Many architect profiles are written in a way that appeals to other architects, rather than speaking to the client as reader. If your clients would truly say you “care about us” this is a crucial differentiator that should be conveyed through all your written and verbal communication.
Caring does not mean compromise
If you practice principle-centred negotiation you know that in order to get what you want, you must first discover what the other person wants. Finding common ground—or agreeing on a common cause—does not need to involve compromise. So when we talk about a client-centric, empathy-driven marketing strategy for architectural services, it does not mean that design quality will be diminished. But it does require asking astute questions that reveal where your interests intersect with your client’s.
Bryan Croeni, AIA, director, B+H Advance Strategy immerses his clients in a rigorous participatory design experience that sparks animated dialogue about what’s truly important and meaningful to stakeholders. This empathy-driven approach has multiple benefits that serve to differentiate the firm. “In addition to enriching the value of our interaction with clients,” Bryan says, “our process saves time by surfacing challenges and opportunities early on in the project. In a rapidly changing, complex planning and design environment, our clients can’t afford to settle for easy conclusions and untested assumptions. Status quo mindsets are destined to yield status quo outcomes, which is risky in an environment of accelerating change.”
In my consulting work I encounter architects who have collaborative process talents that they take for granted. These capabilities, rooted in empathy and appreciation for the high stakes decisions that clients must face, often get masked by standard marketing claims. An empathy-driven approach to marketing can reveal fresh opportunities and strengthen client relationships. To do this, you need to paint a picture of what it feels like to collaborate with your team and the benefits of your unique way of working. How do you develop a deeper understanding of what each client wants their project to achieve?
Rather than rely on well-worn phrases that clients see as norms for the profession—such as years of experience and vague, me-too statements about excellence and innovation—what if you conveyed the quality of client experience and the benefits of that interaction? If empathy is about understanding how clients see things, how do you gain that understanding rather than proceed on the basis of assumptions?
Communicating a higher quality of interaction could encompass:
Describe your consultative approach
In recent years, doctors have added “patient interview skills” to their classroom curriculum. They realize that traditional, paternalistic ways of dispensing their wisdom must be replaced with a consultative approach. Design clients often don’t know what questions they should be asking, in the same sense that you may not know all the questions you should be asking your doctor. Also, clients frequently don’t fully understand their needs until the design process begins to unfold.
How effective are your client interview skills? Architects who establish an outstanding reputation for empathy are more than good listeners. They certainly are not order-takers, because they don’t accept what clients say at face value. They do not say “we will build your vision.” Instead, similar to a good doctor, they know that better questions lead to better answers.
Your ability to respond to what matters most
Enormous amounts of time can be wasted when we jump ahead without asking “what matters?” to clients. Are we making the right assumptions? Are we ruling out the right possibilities?
“We make our thinking process highly visible by involving clients in hands-on working sessions, rather than relying on presentations that require us to convince decision makers, says Tania Bortolotto, OAA, FRAIC, president, Bortolotto. “Our transparent approach allows us to spotlight how we explore project possibilities and creative problem solving. It also helps clients digest complex issues so they feel more confident as we move forward.”
Are you hiding your most valuable client collaboration skills behind a wall of “me-too” claims? Not every architect is interested in delving into these emotional aspects of the business. Yet an empathy-driven strategy will make the value of what you do more obvious to clients, and free you from the commodity services trap.
Source: Canadian Architect / Written By: Sharon Vanderkaay
It’s an age-old debate: direct mail versus email marketing.
Supporters of digital media will say why drain your marketing budget on direct mail campaigns that nobody reads when you can contact your customers using the channels they prefer — television, social media, and mobile?
However, the latest data makes a strong case for printed direct mail. Sure, social media and mobile marketing are on the rise. But that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t responding to direct mail or that this channel is losing its effectiveness. That’s just plain false.
The reality is, direct mail remains a critical part of the mix. So the next time someone tries to tell you direct mail is dead, remember:
1. Direct mail doesn’t require opt-in
Unlike email and text messaging, you don’t have to get a recipient’s permission to send them direct mail. This means, even if a customer doesn’t subscribe or unsubscribes from your email list, you can still get in touch with them. (Which is why it’s always a good idea to get physical addresses from those on your email lists!)
2. Direct mail never stays in a spam filter
"Yes, your message may be picked by someone else," notes Roger Buck, former director of marketing and product development at The Flesh Company. "But the chances are small - and direct mail never has a virus."
3. Direct mail stays effective longer than you think
Direct mail is a bit like a note on the refrigerator door. "We sometimes hear from customers that our mail stays on their desk for weeks," says Andre Palko, president of Technifold USA. "They may not immediately take action, but our brand lingers until they are ready to contact us. An e-mail does not last as well - and is far less striking. "
4. It’s still effective when the target recipient has moved on
“If you send an email to someone who’s no longer at a particular company, it bounces. If you send a postcard, the new person in that job sees it — and you’ve just introduced yourself as a vendor,” says Palko.
5. With direct mail you do not have to fight to get attention
E-mail is effective, but also overwhelming. In 2014, The Radicati Group concluded that the average business customer sends or receives 121 emails per day. In 2018 there are probably 141 in all likelihood.
Larry Bradley, owner of Proforma Sunbelt Graphics, writes: "The overwhelming deluge of e-mail in the office is a solid hurdle for e-mail marketers. It is difficult to distinguish the mess from the real mails, so that a large part of business e-mails is not read at all. By contrast, companies receive much less marketing by mail than ten years ago - a unique advantage for direct mail."
6. Certain offers just won’t get traction by email
There’s a reason businesses are more likely to get lending offers in the mail than they are by email. B2B decision-makers trust direct mail more than email, especially for high value products and services. Mailers can also include a wide variety of trust-building content not possible (or reasonable) to include in email. Yes, you can provide links. But with direct mail, you get that content in front of them in a tangible way right out of the gate.
7. Direct mail can reach high-level decision-makers
There are only so many things you can do to make email look more important. But beyond writing a compelling subject line, most of them look hokey. Direct mail offers options like kits, dimensional mail, and unique packaging options that, by their nature, get past the gatekeepers. (Palko has used everything from metallic envelopes, lunch bags, packing list pouches and prescription bottles to mail letters. “They are not only fun, but they get opened!” he says.) While these mailings may have higher price tags, they can also get near 100% open rates. When you’re trying to reach the C-Suite, that’s worth a lot..
8. Direct mail drives social media and online marketing
Many people believe you don’t need direct mail when you have social media and mobile marketing. What they’re overlooking is how social media and mobile marketing relationships get captured in the first place. Very often, it’s through print. Saying that you only need social and mobile is akin to saying that when you buy a house you only need the upper stories and not the foundation. Without print, getting social and mobile engagements is much more difficult.
Don’t let digital marketers get away with stealing your customers based on false contrasts. Open the discussion about the benefits of direct mail versus email—and when to use each. Be proactive and let direct mail showcase what you can do.
Source: Xerox / Written By: Heidi Tolliver-Walker