In support of Burwell Consultants, William M. Burwell writes articles sharing his experience in four keystone practice areas: Design; Marketing, Firm Management and Project Management. Check him out at www.burwell-consulting.com
Marketing Post 4.9
I admit to having a hesitation on content marketing until I realized that back in 2004 I had begun writing an annual series of "White Papers" that were nothing more than content marketing before LinkedIn (2003) or Facebook (2004) oreven Twitter (2006) were in high gear. As a business owner, I simply wrote about what I knew and my experience delivering that knowledge to my clients learned through many projects. I mailed between 400-500 a month in the form of a one page personal letter. No, I didn't invent content marketing but I professionally benefited from my own simple version - and that's when the light came on.
While for many practitioners, "Content Marketing" is a somewhat ethereal process. However, content marketing is simply what I had been doing but now with an updated, highly leveraged electronic delivery system. Today's practitioners have so much to do that it can seem impossible to deliver design services, keep clients happy go get the next job, and still find time for writing. And yet the value of marketing isn't in getting the web site up, or the next bit of news posted, or that next luncheon. The value lies in putting out a consistent message, telling your story or spreading your knowledge, one nugget at a time - over a long and sustained period. It is this time factor that places the author in the position of a seasoned expert, and who do client want to trust their project to? - the seasoned expert. And today the practitioner has sophisticated systems that leverage that knowledge over various platforms.
My favorite approach is to plan an annual week or long weekend away from the office and home, squirreled away in a quiet serene place. A fall time-frame allows for some substantial hindsight on the years activities and a small window of corrective time ahead before year end. The system works best to jot down things that happened; progress made; goals achieved; trends observed; best and most unusual projects - you get the point. Creating a simple numbered list and putting it in some order of priority or newsworthiness or isolating those gems of knowledge based design or practice gives the practitioner clear direction for writing. Next, go down the list and outline the main 3-4 talking points of interest for each topic. Then, take time to flesh out each story making certain to include the "So What?" so clients quickly understand the relevance and rationale. Write in your own voice, and make certain to think from your client's perspective. You want them to find themselves or their project in your writing. Take time while your are away, to write the first 4-6 so that you are ahead of the publishing dates. This gives you time to work on the next series.
Keep the process simple, do your own writing have a friend or associate do editing and manually post to your blog and LinkedIn. That seems to be what most do. Small firms have the ability to keep the posts both personal and meaningful as well as the ability to post at a steady frequency if the principal plans well and since small can be agile, there can be additional posts as circumstances dictate. Most of the time these posting are in the name of the principal and serve to build his presence and trust in the marketplace.
Certainly the idea is the same, but these firms typically have at least one administrator or social media guru that can help. The writing may still need to be penned by a principal, but can be edited and calendared by the Administrator and uploaded by the I.T. or social medial guru. A little staff help really improves the program flow and relieves the stress. The principal may also interview key staff to gain insight into issues in addition to their own experience but will still pen all the articles for a consistent voice. The media accounts may be in the name of the principal or in a firm account.
Content Marketing is NOT an optional activity
It is as critical as cash flow, paying taxes, finding clients and delivering the work. Placing content marketing, writing and social media accounts in a priority is often the difference between a static, complacent firm and a dynamic hard-charging firm regardless of size. It can set the stage to take any firm to the next level given time and perseverance.
If all this makes sense, but you are still in a quandary regarding any element of who, what, where or when, consult an expert that can rein in the anxiety and facilitate the process to make Marketing an everyday habit. A consultant can write from your ideas, or can let you know if your ideas have merit, or they can help you understand where might be the best posting opportunities. A consultant can give you the confidence and prompting to get it done. It is an investment that will pay off in spades.
William M. Burwell is a retired Architect and Interior Designer whose career focused on corporate interior architecture in sole proprietorships, and partnerships from 9 to 120 staff. Bill retired in 2014 and began a Small Firm Marketing and Management Consulting firm to share the wisdom and experience of those 45 years. He graduated from the University of Houston College of Architecture in 1971 and now serves the College on the Dean's Committee on Excellence.