Marketing an Architecture Firm Part 2 With Architect Mona Quinn
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Marketing an Architecture Firm Part 2 With Architect Mona Quinn

Intro: This is The Business of Architecture. Helping architects conquer the world. And
here is your host Enoch Sears.>>Welcome back agile architects. This is
Enoch. Today is part two of my interview with Mona Quinn where she takes us behind the scenes
of the successful marketing strategy that booked her architecture firm solid in less
than four months. Welcome everybody to Business of Architecture.
I want to welcome back Mona Quinn to the show today. Sheís talking to us today from New
Zealand. Sheís the Principal of New Zealandís leading character home Architecture firm.
They specialize in renovating, taking care, and restoring the beautiful homes in New Zealand. So, Mona, welcome back to the show.>>Thank you.>>Last week we talked about your background
about how you got your start in Denmark.>>Yes.>>In Architecture school. Then, met your
husband whoís from New Zealand.>>Yes.>>Ended up moving to New Zealand, and completing
your schooling. Somewhere along the point there, you started your firm.>>Thatís right.>>So, could you tell us from the time that
you left school till you started your firm, tell us a little bit about that experience
and what brought you to starting your own firm?>>Yeah, alright. So, when you finish your
degree, you think, ìOh, I better go out and, hey, get some work.î Thatís the first adventure,
isnít it? Sometimes itís quite hard to get work as an architect, so you, sort of, take
what you can get. I did. I took whatever job I could get. After that,
I tried to move up and try to work for a big practice because, obviously, that must be
the best thing that could possibly happen to you ñ working for a big practice. I did
find as I was working in the big practice, I ended up taking all the heritage homes that
were being restored in that practice and ended up working on them. So, that was an interesting
exercise for me. Unbeknownst to me, I was already becoming a specialist in it even though
it wasnít consciously formed in my mind. In terms of trying to get my registration,
I found that the large practice was very busy being a very large practice, and not so busy
maybe trying to help me get registered. So, I decided to leave because I thought I wasnít
actually getting the work required for my registration even though I was very busy hitting
up this branch of restoring all these heritage homes for them. So, I actually went home for my brotherís
wedding, and when I came back, the phone was ringing. What had happened while I was away
was all the clients that Iíve been working with on the heritage homes and the heritage
restoration of the properties in terms of theÖ it was character restoration pretty
much. They all went back and asked, ìWell, whereís Mona? Why is she not here? We donít
want to work with you unless sheís here.î So, they had to hire me back on contract at
a higher rate, of course. I thought, well, if thatís the case, even
if I wasnít the director or anything ñ I was just a little person in the office ñ
people were ringing up asking for me. I thought, well this is definitely a reason for me to
try and go out on my own; in that vein as well because, obviously, I had this, sort
of ñ I donít know if you call it ñ jelling expertise, a jelling ability to make residential
project work. Lots of people think, oh, the hardest thing to do is a commercial job, but
I find, itís the other way around. The hardest job to do is a residential job because people
come with so many emotions ñ what they would like to do ñ and the process is longer and
is more detailed, but the challenge and the satisfaction out of it is also great.>>So, Mona, one thing that Iím picking up
from what youíre talking about is that you have an ability to connect with people, it
sounds. It sounds like these clients wanted you back; they wanted to work with Mona.>>Yes, thatís right.>>So, from your perspective, what is your
superpower? If you have a superpower, what is it?>>The ability to crack jokes on site? I donít
know. Iím not very good at advertising myself straight on screen, but people do say I have
great communication skills. We talked about this previously at our last interview about
having that ability to get everyone to focus on the end goal, and focus on the vision for
what it is you want to achieve, and start the actual building of that vision, and whatís
the steps required from all parties to make that in to a successful project. So, I think, maybe, itís the complete lack
of ego. Thatís not necessarily a bad thing, I think. If you try and have that vision or
mission of trying to create a better place and you try and implement to people around
you, then they become interested in talking to you about it, and wanting to become part
of it.>>Would it be fair to say that you have collaborative
approach to your relationships?>>Most definitely. Thereís no pyramid structure
around here.>>Okay, alright. So, it sounds like your
superpower is being able to collaborate with others, inspire them, and help them achieve
their goals.>>Yeah. I mean, itís hard to have people
try and get you to say that about yourself, I guess. It comes back to having a genuine
feeling about something and a genuine wish to do something. If people see that you have
that, then you have it, then they become attracted to that, I think. For me, good space is very important. Maybe
itís my background growing up in Copenhagen and biking the streets over there with my
little bicycle when I was a student, I donít know. Itís just all around you thereís good
space in Copenhagen. How people interact ñI had a fantastic teacher when I was at the
University, [Inaudible] who is a famous person. I think London has currently hired him to
see how they can make their public space better. He came out to New Zealand a couple of years
ago, and I worked for him over the holidays. This is before I started my own practice.
Heís just such an inspirational man. In reality, what actually happens to humans ñ they just
want to be happy, and want to be in environments that make them happy. I know a good example. Thereís a franchise
owner who builds versatile shits. Itís just the most horrible shit that you could possibly
do, but they also make them in to houses of people. This guy who owns this franchise,
he lives in a beautiful, old, restored character home himself. So, there seems to be this disconnect
from, ìRight, I want to make the money, but I donít actually want to be in that environment
myself.î So, itís almost that idea of having a wider
responsibility. You could say, well, thatís almost going back to environmental issues.
Yes, it is about environmental issues and about sustainability because if you have an
old building thatís already been around for a 150 years, and itís still working, and
you can still make it work for todayís needs, isnít that much more sustainable than building
something that has a fifteen-year turnaround on it? Because, a lot of the neighborhoods
that are being put up in New Zealand at the moment, in fifty years, I donít think theyíre
there anymore partially because the materials are so substandard. People move in there with
the intent, this is my stepping stone to a better place. They might not all actually
make it out of there, but it [Inaudible]>>Exactly. So, theyíre willing to settle
for something that might not be the ultimate and, sort of, look at it as a stepping ladder
instead of retaining what they have.>>Yes. Part of that also comes back to marketing,
I think. Because dealing with an architect is seen as dealing with an architect is seen
as an intricate, complicated process. If you buy a phone, there are so many market
deals, and itís so easy to buy a phone. Iím not saying Architecture is like buying a phone,
but Iím trying to come up with some products around us that are so easy to buy. If you
went back twenty years, no one had a mobile phone. I still remember when my uncle bought
a mobile phone. It was this huge clunkers that was just like a massive brick and you
had to carry a big box around ñ he was so proud of it. Maybe, Architecture is the box and the clunky
thing that you have to carry around with you stage. We havenít made it in to something
thatís easy to understand, easy to purchase, and easy to have all around you. Whereas,
the mobile phone has made that quantum leap in what ñ is it twenty years or ten years?
I canít remember how long theyíve been around. Sometimes, itís just if you have that mental
push to make something succeed, it already starts succeeding. Weíve certainly experienced,
just by telling people that we want to grow and that weíre passionate about trying to
do what it is we want to do about restoring old homes and trying to preserve character
neighborhoods and character houses in New Zealand, the response we get out of people,
not just clients but also other industry experts, and people wanting to work with you, has been
huge. Thatís another thing we do. We write a monthly
newsletter just talking about all these aspects. Itís a great way of keeping people on the
loop of whatís happening. You can tell them, sort of, indirectly how great you are. Just
from telling [Inaudible] invited to and nominated for. As I mentioned to you over the email,
weíve been nominated for the [Inaudible] Business Award in our local area, which has
been really great for us because weíre still just a small practice ñ just me and four
part-time staff. Itís not like weíve got a conglomerate, massive office, taking over
the world.>>Right.>>Maybe [Inaudible] Just from having all
these lead generators and from actually being in a position to have too much work means
that we can now ñ I think the Modative person you interviewed previously touched base on
that ñ you can become selective about what you do. From the ability of having too much
work, to [Inaudible] and actually starting to decline people that youíre interested
in working with, while pre-vetting them.>>Sure.>>That means that you would just continue
to grow ñ youíre on the upward spiral. I think thatís a very great place to be.>>Sure.>>For example, this is my typical day: Iíve
got twenty-five leads that I need to get back to today ñ just today. Theyíre starting
on our little process journey here. I talked about last time where theyíre sent various
information. If theyíre still not interested, they just go on to the newsletter list. Filling
our Circle of Love, so to speak, so we still have contact with them, and we still spread
the word. So, weíre already starting to get people
who come back that originally didnít take us up on our offer to work with us on the
first round. But, because they are in the process of being in the Circle of Love, they
come back and ask, ìOh, actually, we thought about it, and we would really like to work
with you.î>>Excellent.>>So, in that short space, weíve really
only started thinking about this very actively in June, this year.>>Okay.>>Itís gone superfast for us.>>Wow. How long have you had your firm, Mona?>>Iíve been on my own probably since 2009.
I started working on a contract from our old firm because they hired me back.>>Sure.>>I did that for a year, year and a half.
Then, I started out Callidus Architects as a proper company in 2010, just because work
started coming in outside of the other practice. So, yes, maybe itís a conscious decision
to do it, but it was also sometimes the opportunity just arrives and thatís the time you hop
in with both feet up, I guess.>>Okay. You said that one of your keys to
success of your marketing plan has been working with a marketing consultant. Is that correct?>>Yes. Because architects are crap at marketing,
I think.>>Yeah.>>Weíve just never known about it. Thatís
not something that really comes in when you take your degree, does it? Again, because
we come out with the sense that we are on par with lawyers and doctors, and weíre necessary
for society, but the only problem is that society doesnít know that weíre necessary
for them. I mean, thatís about education, and itís about changing the mindset of a
lot of people. Everyone knows they need a lawyer if they [Inaudible] the world and stuff.
Itís just not something thatís common knowledge in terms of trying to have a great house.>>Okay.>>There are lots of other businesses out
there trying to tell people that they donít need architects.>>Absolutely.>>There are no businesses that are telling
people they donít need lawyers.>>Or doctors.>>Yes, that they donít need doctors. So, one of our, sort of, jokey pitches have
been, ìIf you had a kidney failure or something, would you have your mother or your cousin
operate you?î No, you wouldnít. Youíd probably go to a surgeon. So, we try to make that comparison
with an old home. You know, you open it up and there are wires, and lagging, all sorts
of stuff. But, itís been scary, in the past, how much leverage their mother or sisterís
brotherís uncle have in their decision-making, versus trying to take our recommendations
instead.>>Yeah.>>But, just from doing all this marketing
and education, we donít have that problem anymore.>>Awesome.>>So, thatís been great for us.>>So, letís jump in to the marketing thatís
allowed you to get there. Just to rephrase and let everyone know that are tuning in right
now in the middle of the interview for some strange reason: Weíre speaking with Mona
Quinn. She is the Principal of Callidus Architects in Wellington, New Zealand. Theyíre an Architecture
firm that specializes in the restoration and theÖ>>Preservation.>>Thank you. The preservation of character
homes in New Zealand. So, Mona, you mentioned that you worked with a marketing consultant,
and there probably some architects out there with little light bulbs going off, and theyíre
thinking, ìOh, that sounds like something Iíd like to do.î Just to let me finish setting the stage here,
Mona, just explained to us that with her firm is now in the position to basically hand-pick
the clients and the projects that they want to work on.>>Yeah. Weíve just recently put up our fees
quite substantially. It made no difference whatsoever.>>Okay.>>So, thatís the other thing that youíve
got to get yourself over.>>So, youíve raised your fees. Now, this
is where this whole Business of Architecture show is going towards. Itís helping architects
figure out how to get where youíre at. So, itís really great to have you on right now. There are maybe these architects who are thinking,
ìOkay. How do I go about finding a marketing consultant?î They may not know where to start.
Can you give us any suggestions for how you found the person you worked with and what
to look for in a marketing consultant?>>I think itís important to find someoneís
whoís prepared to actually spend the time with you. Because we found, the guy we talked
to had never tried to launch an architectural practice in terms of marketing. He didnít
know of anyone else who had tried to launch an architectural practice in terms of marketing,
and he had been in the business for quite some time. So, you have to, sort of, spend some time
trying to explain. This is the other problem architects have. They think everyone knows
what it is we do, and everyone knows what our process is. Of course they donít. Thatís
the first thing that you have to get in to your own head is that no one knows what you
do. So, take some time out and actually try and explain to the potential marketing guy/person/woman
that youíre going to work with what it is you do and what the process is. If theyíre used to selling copy machines,
it takes a little bit of time for them to actually get their head around trying to sell
Architecture. A copy machine, you know, thatís a one-time thing, alright you might sell a
service deal on top of it, but when we get a client on, we work with a client, for the
first project, probably one or two years, if itís a big project. So, you have to really
explain to them what it is you do. By explaining that, you actually explain it to yourself
as an outsider, and that just starts the whole process of thinking about: What is it actually
that people see you as? What do people think that you do?>>Interesting.>>Sometimes, we felt like weíve been told
that we need to [Inaudible] so itís stating the obvious, because of course everyone knows
that. No, they donít.>>Yeah.>>Also, what you touched-base on previously,
you thought it was ñ I donít know if you call it ìlong-windedî ñ but it was a long
process in terms of converting the leads. I thought it was too. Why canít they just
think weíre great and hire us on the first contact instead of all these hoo-ha, pussyfooting
ñ is what I want to call it ñ around.>>Yeah.>>But, what actually happens when you do
that, especially with residential Architecture, by drawing out the process a little bit, that
gives them time to think about it and time to realize Iím not actually pushing for a
sale here.>>Yeah.>>So, that goes back to, ìI must be interested,î
ìI must have a vision of making better places,î ìIím not actually here to make money.î
Of course, Iím here to make money, but I would also like to see nicer spaces in our
environments. Thatís probably why architects donít make
so much money because theyíre all a bit interested in the better quality product more so than
earning the money. If you were an Engineer, yes, alright, if you built the new London
Bridge or something that could have great credibility and credo in terms of your popularity
as an engineer, but most of the time they deal in concrete and steel that no one sees.
So, their ñ I donít say ñ love of the job is maybe a little bit different [Inaudible]>>Yeah.>>So, then theyíre not so, you know, ìIím
not going to do it for nothing,î sort of thing.>>Well, that is something that frequently
that I hear people talk about in the online space and social media, and Twitter, is the
fact that as architects, most of us are really passionate about what we do.>>Yes.>>Thereís a higher goal involved. So, youíre
right, I think that because of that it reducesÖ Iíve seen how it reduces our bargaining at
the table a little bit because we just want to do the project so badly, sometimes we devalue
ourselves, I find.>>Yeah. You have to turn that around and
make that in to your strengths. I think itís the greatest tool we have that we are actually
passionate about something. Thatís also why architects are so exciting to talk to.>>Yeah, absolutely.>>Even if slightly weird in the head sometimes.>>Now, tell me how youíve taken that and
made it your strength, Mona. Tell me how you use that principle.>>So, for example, I think it was in our
last interview, we talked about the Christchurch Cathedral and the earthquakes in New Zealand.
So, we turned it around and said, ìWell, we want to try and do something to save this.î
So, we do these seminars. We are part of the money ñ if people pay to come along to them,
weíll go to try and save the Christchurch Cathedral. That is a mission. But, what actually happens is people come
along to the seminar and fill out the form because, obviously, they hear about what we
have to say and want to know more because we offered this free booklet. So, all of a
sudden, without them knowing it, they get in to our system and become one of our leads.
It sounds terribly like youíre a devil or something like that. But, what weíve used
is that weíve used our mission as a point of getting people to come and talk to us.>>Okay.>>At the same time, we use the marketing
strategies for them so that we can indoctrinate them ñ I guess, is what you could say ñ
in to our way of operating in our system. So, when it actually comes to the fees ñ
thatís almost a by-product in terms of the journey that we would like take them on.>>Sure.>>So, you have the whole lead generation
process and the lead conversion process. But, then, as I said previously, we have a one
to two-year working relationship until a product is finished. So, thatís the next step. Itís
called ìA Remarkable Client Experience.î Thatís what weíre working on at the moment.
How can we make that journey, which is normally incredibly stressful, especially for residential
and time-consuming, and etc., etc., ñ how can make that easier for them? By actually helping them out in some of those
and attaining value to make all of that decision-making, if we help deal with it, or if we did it,
and consequently charged you more for itÖ>>Yeah, sure.>>Ö then, that process could be a really
enjoyable experience.>>Wouldnít that be something.>>Yeah. Again, it comes back to you have
to try and teach them, or educate them about the value that you do so that you donít end
up just going for free to the lighting shop with them helping them to select lights. Thatís
your time, you should be charging them XYZ amount of dollars an hour because if you just
do it for free, itís got no value for them. The other thing that weíve been told and
were told by marketing guy, people donít go for the cheapest product. We can just take
the mobile phone analogy again. They probably all have an iPhone or something to that effect.
Thatís certainly not the cheapest phone in the market. I would say itís the most expensive.
We, especially as architects, because we like design and style, we purchased one of those,
havenít we? We havenít brought the cheapest Nokia at $45 or whatever they cost.>>Well, let me interject here, Mona, because
I see where youíre going with this and itís a very interesting conversation that youíre
talking about. Here in the States, I donít know down there in New Zealand, but here we
call that ìCommoditization.î>>Yeah.>>I think, if Iím saying that correctly.
Basically the fact that when you have cell phonesÖ As architects, we need to differentiate
ourselves somehow.>>Yeah.>>We need to not be a commodity.>>Yes.>>I think thatís where youíre going with
this. So, a lot of architects Iíve spoken with had difficulty seeing or making that
case for value of differentiating themselves.>>Yeah. The problem with that is we have
fear of not getting the jobs. The first thing I would do ñ because I didnít set my fees
up straightaway, I did it when I had too much work. Well, Iíve already got another fifty
leads coming next week from this other thing Iím doing. So, Iím just going to put my
fees up now because rather than saying ìNo,î itís much better to put my fees up and then
continue it upwards. If you price your concept drawings to the
same cost that, say, a franchise home builder would do a concept for a client, why would
they go with you? Whatís the value you can do? Itís the same value.>>Yeah.>>The house will be cheaper to build. Itís
just that architects are very keen to get the work and they love to do it. So, they
think, ìOh, if I just squeeze my price down a little bit, they will take me on.î Actually
what happens is the opposite. Itís such a nerve-wrecking thing to do. I
mean, we put our fees up by 30%, which is a huge number, and weíre going to continue
to evaluate it. Someone said this phrase to me the other day, ìIf you take care of the
pennies, the pounds take care of themselves.î We donít have pennies and pounds in New Zealand
anymore, but it is true though. Because if you could just add a 5% increase in your fees
or in some component of your fees, that makes huge difference because youíre still doing
the same thing, weíre actually just being paid a little bit extra for it.>>Sure, okay.>>The other thing we are working in to our
contracts at the moment is that the deposit ñ normally, architects donít ask for a deposit.
Everyone asks for a deposit.>>Yeah.>>I just bought a carpet recently. They wanted
a 80% deposit upfront before they came to put it in. I thought it was outrageous. So,
we charged all concept drawings and we package it up. Thatís other thing. Youíve got to
package it up. Itís just comes back to the deal, you know, like when selling a mobile
phone. It sounds ñ I donít know if it sounds ñ it doesnít sound very sophisticated, but
weíre talking about marketing today, right?>>Thatís right.>>So, weíll take some of the sophistication
out of it. Of course, it comes across as being a little bit more sophisticated when we pitch
it to our clients. It comes back down to packaging the deal.
So, we have a three stage process. Initially, we do the [Inaudible] assessment of their
property. So, thatís the initial consultation. Then, we move on to rather than just doing
concept drawings, we do a concept package for them. Again, it comes back to the emotion,
the emotive brief, the actual brief of what it is that they want to do, especially with
residential. That cold stage needs much more time and effort spent on it. People think, no, theyíre not going to pay
for that. But, if you sell it to them as of course this is the most important stage. Why
shouldnít you be paying more money for it? This is really important. This is about your
home, and where your kids are, and where youíre going to grow up and have all your family
memories. Why isnít this important to you? Again, because we defined what our USP is,
we can do that. We can package it up very specifically to that. If we were just a generalist
architect, we canít just go in and start talking about the residential, emotional values
at that stage.>>Okay.>>So, you have to [Inaudible] previously
to where we were initially in the conversation and take that conversation with yourself and
your practice of where you want to pitch yourself.>>Sure.>>So, anyway, going back down to this concept
package. Once thatís sorted out and people are happy with itÖ Yes, it takes longer and
you, as an architect, in the past will be so frustrated, ìWhy canít they just make
up their minds so that we can build them up.î But, we already asked for a deposit, so in
terms of that weíre all fine. We actually would like them to be a bit slow in making
up their minds because weíre so busy.>>Sure.>>So, thatís the other thing. Youíve got
to actually take on a 150% of work so that you can afford to allow the clients to be
slow.>>Sure.>>Once they do sign on with you, they always
underestimate how much time theyíd take to get back to you. The best thing you can do
is actually be so busy so that you donít ring them up every five minutes to ask where
they are with their decisions. They ring you back. So they get the idea, ìOh, actually,
we have to push it ourselves if we want this done.î So, again, you put yourself in the
driverís seat, I guess, is what you could say.>>Yeah.>>Then, from our concept package, then we
do the construction or the rest of the package. That still gets charged with a deposit, not
as much as the concept, obviously. That comes back to talking about cash flow ñ another
thing unbeknownst to architects normally. Itís all about how you offset the mission-vision
versus running the practice as a business.>>Good. Well, this is great, Mona, because
this is a great case study right now. Weíre getting a sneak peek at a well-oiled machine.
It sounds like youíve started to put in these marketing things in to place in your business,
and you have a marketing funnel thatís actually working for you. Thatís actually bringing
in clients automatically with a little bit of effort on your part. Youíve already produced
the materials, and it has momentum, so itís going to keep on growing.>>Yeah.>>Tell me about what is a USP and how you
went about developing yours?>>I didnít know anything about USP before,
four or five months ago. So, USP is actually ìUnique Selling Pointî ñ whatís your perch.
Itís scary that we havenít thought about it before in our practice and itís scary
that hardly any architects talk about it, even the large practices. If I went in to the previous large practice
I worked for and asked them whatís their USPÖ I think I have a couple of ideas now
what their USP should be. They shouldnít even be bothering about heritage restorations
or character homes. Because, I reckon, in my opinion, thatís slowing them down having
to deal with both this incredibly time-consuming residential stuff versus this huge, educational
facilities theyíre building for other clients. So, theyíre trying to be everything to everybody
and large practices are still trying to be everything to everybody. These guys got satellite
offices in four, different towns, and theyíre still trying to be everything to everybody. It just takes courage, doesnít it? It takes
courage to say, ìNo, Iím not going to do this job because Iím not going to make any
money off it. But, youíve got to take a step outside of the box or off the practice and
say, ìWell, actually, is this job going to get me my next job that I would really like
to do? Because my avatar or my best client would be this guy, and if I have done a garage
alteration, is he going to come and hire you because of that job?î No, itís probably
not. Weíve also been spending too much time treating
all our clients the same. If we get the right clients, we would just spend time on doing
them. Actually, you still follow to the smaller ones, but I normally just put our fees up
and getting ready to say no or go away. If they continue to go on, obviously, they have
become educated and committed people just like my aunt and uncle did [Inaudible] an
architect for a one-room extension. Then, [Inaudible] because theyíre committed to
it, and youíre still going to make money out of it.>>Excellent. So, take me through the process.
Letís see if we can get just a really broad overview. Youíve already given it to us once
before, but Iím just going to rephrase it here. So, we have youíre developing your
USP, which is your Unique Selling Point, your Unique Selling Proposition, what differentiates
you from others. You mentioned that you have a goal of having seven ñ was it seven lead
generators functioning?>>Ten. We are at five at the moment, I think.>>Okay, youíre on five.>>Ten may be too much because itís already
quite busy.>>Yeah. So, youíre at five right now. Iíll
just run through those. You said that you have a relationship with franchise renovators
who are other builders in the area?>>Yeah.>>Thatís, sort of, your bread and butter
ñ your baseline. Then, you have key referral partners.>>Yes.>>What industries are these referral partners
in?>>Itís all about relationships, really.
Some of them are the builders that do good quality work. Again, just because architects
have shut themselves in their fees so much lately, a lot of people go to a builder first
for a project, they donít go for an architect.>>Yeah. Sure.>>So, thatís another good way. Find good
quality builders in your neighborhood and try and set up. Just spend some time driving
up to see them and having a chat, drink their horrible cups of tea or whatever theyíre
eating on the building site. Just see that youíre just as interested in what theyíre
doing as being in your flashy office ñ not that itís flashy behind me at the moment. So, just invest some time in trying to get
some key referrers that are interested in working with you. Look around in your local
neighborhood. Once youíve sorted out what youíre USP is, then it opens up your eyes
to find people that may be of interest to you. So, Iíll just try and quickly run off a number
of people. Another guy I work with is a builder, but he runs a franchise of heritageÖ replica
homes of [Inaudible] which sounds terrible, but we are actually currently working on doing
a six-property development with them. We wouldnít have gone with such a big job unless we had
previously established our USP and worked out, ìOh, it might not be the most award-winning
project yet, but it will still be nice homes for people that weíre building.î Weíre also talking to a planning and surveying
company because they specialize a lot in subdivisions of old properties. Old properties often have
really large tracts of land around, unless they havenít been chopped up previously ñ
again, old homes. Back to the USP, what is it weíre doing? So, we have a working relationship
with them. We run dual advertising together in other magazines, etc. We have some previous architects that are
now retired, but still, you go out to drink coffee, drink tea with them because people
still ring them up. Theyíre at the tail-end of their careers, so theyíve already set
up all their referrals more or less unconsciously. Thatís great for us. We just landed a really large job in two years
time in Wellington through one of those retired people. They still want to work on it, but
they just donít want the hassle of running their own practice. The greatest thing about
that is you get to work with someone who has been through all the ropes and you can learn
a lot from them. Thatís the other thing you got toÖ Well,
for me, whatís been important is that ñ I donít know if you call it ñ humility or
just willingness to hear or to listen. If youíre willing to listen, then theyíre willing
to tell you, and after that, theyíre actually willing to forward you work.>>Wonderful.>>So, just builders, other older architects,
and just other people in the industry which is relevant to what youíre doing. Structural engineers, we also get work through
them. We send our newsletters to them, and we try to help them as our key referrals.
Previous clients are, sort of, the next run down of the key referrers. Then, we run our
newsletter which is another lead generator in terms of people who may contact with us.
People who came through this initial selling process but didnít actually decide to be
a client at that point of time, but theyíre still in the Circle of Love. So, we still
keep in contact with them. Some of them have already come back and said, ìOh, well, you
know, weíve had time to think about it. Now, we really want to go ahead. Because we keep
hearing from you, obviously, you spring to mind.î So, thatís quite good for us.>>Interesting. I love how the languageÖ
Youíve defined your marketing through certain language like you talk about the ìCircle
of Love,î things that are very descriptive. You coin these phrases. One of the things
that you talked about was the ìMonkeyís Fist.î Whatís the origin of the Monkeyís
Fist? Thereís a story that goes along with that, right? Why they call it the Monkeyís
fist?>>Yeah. I have been told this. I think it
was a guy who was telling dish washers or something in America many years ago. I canít
remember the name of him. He was not selling anything. He was despairing, thinking about
throwing himself off in to the sea ñ no, not quite. He was watching a cruise ship coming in to
dock in the harbor. Then, he looked at the huge rope coiled on the deck and the massive
anchor. He thought, ìHow are they going to throw that off it? It weighs a ton.î Throw
this mess of rope and hook it up to the bollard. What actually happened was they threw a skinny
rope, which at the end had this knot, which the sailor on the dock caught. Then, he use
the little rope to pull over the incredibly heavy rope and then tie it on to the bollard.
In sailorís terms, apparently that little knot is called a Monkeyís Fist. So, if you have a Monkeyís FistÖ You have
to see this is your free element in your marketing, and then that huge ton of money ñ the massive
coiled rope ñ that is your fee that you could potentially get out of it.>>That is such a beautiful and descriptive
story. One thing I love about stories so much, Mona, is that there is so much meaning behind
them. Because as I hear you tell that story, Iím thinking of that huge coiled rope as
the challenge of selling an architectural project.>>Yeah.>>Because like you said, the stakes are high,
itís a lot of money clients are spending. Itís a long process of building trust. Thatís
a big rope.>>Yeah.>>So, you have a smaller rope, in other words,
the Monkeyís Fist that you attach to that, that brings the client along that process
of selling.>>Yes, thatís right. The other aspect, I
think, I mean, we havenít quite finished with what lead generators we have. We just
keep talking, but thatís alright. Yes, the coiling of the rope. The other aspect
to that is also the respect for ñ if we keep with the cruise ship rope terminology ñ the
guy throwing the rope and the person pulling it in. So, maybe youíre the one pulling them
in, so to speak, but you also have to have respect for the guy on the ship because, especially
in residential terms, itís a lot of money as you just mentioned. Another pitch we market is we donít want
toÖ Itís about the slowing down of the marketing process, right? So, in terms of slowing down
our service, filling our fees, everyone wants to get to the construction stage because thatís
where a lot of the money is because itís a larger map. But, we say, ìNo weíre not
going to rush in to that. We want to make sure that this project and our concept drawing
package can be what we want it to be.î So, if that means weíre going to take another
month of filing around or getting a [Inaudible] to look at it so we get different pricing.
Again, it goes back to the mobile phone packaging of different ways of getting the project priced
depending on how they would like to work the project through to completion. From us actually
saying, ìNo, we donít want to do it until itís been priced so that you could be assured
that you can afford it,î theyíre not used to architects saying that. They think, ìGosh, why is she saying that?î
ìIs she actually interested in delivering us a project we can afford?î Whereas, normally,
architects try not to talk about money too much because theyíre too scared it would
kill off the project. What weíve only received incredibly positive responses from our clients
from that.>>Can you repeat what that is because the
sound was sort of getting out a little bit?>>Oh, sorry. Just putting a halt to the process,
wanting to make sure they can actually afford the concept package. What often happens is
that they agree to the concept, everyoneís friends, and so all happy. Then, we draw it
all up and it goes out for pricing, and it comes back at twice the price, and everyoneís
unhappy. Then, the architects, because everyoneís unhappy, redraw it all at very limited cost
or for free depending on how bad we feel about it. Thatís a big problem. Itís not actually
helping you as a practice. So, itís much easier to actually do that
whole ìNo, weíre going to wait.î It might take us a month longer to get this project
priced up or re-negotiate it down, but itís downright faster to do it concept stage where
itís changing sketches around which is changing Sketch-up model around rather than having
to do it when youíve already received your billing [Inaudible] and itís a mess of undertaking
to change it all.>>Exactly.>>So, the clients react very positively to
that, I find, saying that, ìYou know, Iím not interested in fleecing you out of everything
you own. Iím interested in delivering a result that meets your expectations.î Whatís interesting
is that when the price comes back and itís too high, and then we say, ìWhat would you
like to do?î All of sudden, they actually have to take the things out rather than feeling
like theyíre forced to do it because they canít afford it so that we end up having
to take things out. So, again, it comes back to them. We currently have a client at the moment.
Now, I think itís slowly dawning on them that they are actually holding up the whole
process. Itís taken them two months to realize that because, in the past, they thought we
would be the ones wanting to rush them along. But, again, because we have so much work and
we have so many leads, we donít need to rush them to get the job, to get the commission,
we can just let them stew on it ñ I guess, is what you can say.>>Wonderful.>>Then to realize that it has to come from
them. We canít hold over their heads what it is they want. As much as we would like
to, as much as we want to tell them whatís good for them, we have to just get that respect
for the client and the clientís money. We all know how long it takes to earn a $150,000
ñ it takes a long time.>>It does. How much time and investment did
it take, Mona, to put together this system because it sounds like itís pretty involved.
From what you told me so far, you talked about your marketing system, youíve talked about
each, individual little step of the process, and youíve actually broken it down in to
lead generators, and then youíve broken those lead generators down to specific people or
specific gift items, or things that you give them.>>Yeah.>>Then, you talked about your remarkable
client experience. So, youíve actually set this goal for having this client experience.
I mean, it would take me a month to try and think of all that. Generally, how much money
and time, just, kind of, give us an idea of the investment you spent developing this for
your practice.>>It has taken a lot of time. But, as with
everything, if you do the preparation the benefits after has been so great that it has
greatly outweighed the time and money investment.>>Sure.>>But, the thing about this, as with every
marketing exercise for any business, is you canít do it half-heartedly, and you canít
do it ad hoc. You have to sit down from the beginning. That comes back to defining your
USP. If you havenít got that, then thereís not much point in doing any of this. So, you have to commit yourself and say, ìWell,
look, this is what weíre going to do.î For us, it was forking out this exuberantly large
fee to this marketing guy. Flipping [Inaudible] if weíre going to pay him that, weíre definitely
giving it all weíve got.>>Yeah.>>So, we probably spent three months of working
very hard ñ because itís me whoís the boss, Iíve worked in the evenings and weekends.
The benefit of that though is because you try to turn it around really quickly is that
you become immersed in the whole way of thinking. Once you actually produce the first couple
of items, it becomes that much faster and quicker to keep it going.>>Yeah.>>The other thing weíve invested in after
two months of frustration on a computer because, yes, weíre good at AutoCAD drawings, but
weíre terrible at marketing and graphic design. I donít know anything about that. So, we
hired a graphic designer, and thatís been an absolute Godsend.
Because, now, the [Inaudible] are in the works, and I sent her the pictures, and she just
puts it all together. The beauty of that is she was able to deliver us this consistent
image. So, sheís designed every material, everything from what the letterhead is, how
it all works, what the gift package is going to look like, etc, etc. It frees up my time so I can actually do the
work. That comes back to branding. Normally, you spend too much time and too much money
on branding, but if you get the lead generation and you get the marketing in terms of getting
the work, then all of a sudden, it makes sense to have an adherent and consistent image.
But, again, youíve got to earn some money so that you can start paying whoever for that
as well. The other thing, probably, people say about
the newsletter, ìOh, my God. Itís so time consuming. Iíll never get around to it.î
Now, it takes probably an hour to do the information required for the newsletter. I send it out
to her, she spends twenty minutes on it, and itís done, we can send it out to the printers.
It goes out to two hundred potential clients at the moment, which is great for us considering
the size we are. I mean, itís a lot of effort, thatís why
no one else is doing it. Itís because it takes that amount of effort to upfront.>>It is.>>So, in terms of hours, you ask how many
hoursÖ I donít know.>>Also, let me interject and say how much
of that was spent one on one with the marketing consultant? Did he give you the framework
and then turn you loose and you had to come up with the specific action items, or did
he develop it with you to map out this framework?>>Yeah. Iím, sort of, gung ho normally as
a person. So, I said, ìIf this is going to work, weíre going to try and do it really
fast because thereís not much point floundering around forever and then get to Christmas and
itís not working, and Iíve spent a lot of money.î>>Yeah.>>So, I met with him once a week for two
hours. Then, we emailed and phoned if required. Then, we had an action plan. I had to email
him an action plan at the end of that day. So, we set goals for each week, and then I
just had to work every weekend to try and meet those goals. [Inaudible] I have three
kids myself. So, all around, all over the day, but because youíre doing it really fastÖ
Itís like Masterchef. I donít know if you have that program. Here, they work so hard
in the kitchen, they [Inaudible] four weeks.>>We do. Yeah.>>So, itís worth it hitting it hard and
going full on because if you just try and do a little bit all the time, it sort of becomes
a bit half-hearted, or you donít see results as fast so that you feel itís worth the expense. Whatís happened is we did three months of
intensive operations with this guy, and we have had most of it set up now. So, now weíve
gone to a monthly club. Whatís been really great about it is this is his, sort of, build
on packaging and become a member of this more exclusive club heís in, but itís actually
with lots of other people. So, weíre a group of, I think, twelve with all having been through
the process. None of the other ones are architects, but
thatís actually great. So, weíve got builders, weíve got people of [Inaudible] weíve got
PR consultants, and real estate agents. But, because they all know the process and have
been through that marketing exercise, then they all instantly know what it is youíre
talking about. So, on Friday, I have to give a presentation about what our business has
been up to and what our latest breakthroughs are. It just forces you to think that all the time,
which is good. Not that you always think itís 9:00 in the morning and you have to do these
stuff. But, it is, you have to commit and you also have to put aside time for it. But,
just thinking about, ìOh, Iíll give it till Christmas and see how far Iíd get.î So,
you put a timeline on all of that as well.>>Excellent. Mona, what would you say would
be the two, biggest Aha! moments you had out of this marketing process?>>The two, biggest Aha! moments for me is:
If youíre going to get a $15,000 fee out of this, why arenít you spending $500 of
your client up front? Thatís been the biggest thing for me to think about because I would
say, ìWhy am I spending $500, itís so much money?î Itís the changing around of your
thinking in your mindset. Of course, you have to have some money in the beginning to do
that because youíre not getting the fee straightaway. Itís having that belief in the system that
it is going to work because itís only going to work if you implement all of the things
that youíre being told to implement. Itís just that whole thinking. The other thing we do, once theyíve received
our fee proposal, and we donít hear from them, or even if we hear from them, within
that following week I go to the bookstores here and buyÖ Because youíve met your client
by then, so you know what they like, what sort of people they are, youíve seen the
home. I just go buy twenty books at the time ñ some of them are in interior design, some
of them are about landscaping because we do landscaping as well, and sort of try and tune
the book to their personality. So, I just send that free of charge. It costs me $50
New Zealand to do it, but itís nothing. Itís peanuts, isnít it? If youíre going to end
up with a big fee. But, people, the reaction you get out of people from sending this book
is huge. They just canít believe it.>>Awesome.>>ìOh, great! You sent me a book for $50.
Iím going to sign you on for $3,500.î ìOh, perfect.î>>Yeah.>>But, if the mindset of, of course itís
fine to spend money on clients because theyíre going to spend money with you. Thatís been
the biggest one for me. The other one is heís made this millionaire
matrix calculation thing because unbeknownst to me I thought, in the old days, you had
to get every job that came through the door, obviously. Maybe I would get ten or twenty
contacts a week. If I didnít get every single job, I would be depressed and drinking too
much coffee or wine on Friday nights. Actually, what I realized is that ìOh, alright,
to earn this amount of income, I have to have three hundred leads at work a year. I have
to pre-vet them through to maybe twenty meetings, and out of those, I have to get ten really
well paying clients.î That whole notion of understanding that thatís what required so
that you can plan your year in terms of how many seminars youíre going to do, how many
articles youíre going to try to get in the news papers, how many ads youíre going to
place, all of a sudden becomes a numbers games. You can actually plan your income, whereas
before we were just hoping we could get whatever we could get. From realizing that, you can
set it up so itís a numbers game or itís a system to pre-determine your income for
the following year in an Architecture business. [Inaudible] thought about that. Thatís been
a huge thing for us. Itís been a huge boost and a huge confidence [Inaudible] You can actually plan your income, whereas
before we were just hoping we could get whatever we could get. From realizing that, you can
set it up so itís a numbers game or itís a system to pre-determine your income for
the following year in an Architecture business. [Inaudible] thought about that. Thatís been
a huge thing for us. Itís been a huge boost and a huge confidence [Inaudible]
You can actually plan your income, whereas before we were just hoping we could get whatever
we could get. From realizing that, you can set it up so itís a numbers game or itís
a system to pre-determine your income for the following year in an Architecture business.
[Inaudible] thought about that. Thatís been a huge thing for us. Itís been a huge boost
and a huge confidence [Inaudible]>>Excellent. Well, Mona, itís been an awesome
interview. Weíve talked a lot about money. Weíve talked a lot about business. There
has been talk of millionaires and Monkeyís Fists, and USPs, but at the same time that
there is a higher purpose to what youíre doing and that youíre not doing this simply
because of the money but that the money allows you to do what you want to do. My last question is going to be: Whatís the
future for Callidus Architects, and how are you going to change the world?>>I think I would have achieved success in
ten to fifteen years time if Iíll be walking down the street in New Zealand, or Iím reading
the newspaper maybe [Inaudible] and actually seeing conversations, and articles, and people
being passionate about design and Architecture to the same extent of whatís been published,
and talked about, and written about in Denmark. So, Iíll give you a little example. I donít
come from Copenhagen originally. I come from a small town and it has population of five
thousand people, which is, fairly small. In that town, we have three businesses, three
shops purely selling design items for your home. This is not talking about the supermarket
having a sideline of stuff for your home, this is actually purely exquisite, expensive
items for your home that you can buy to decorate or furnish. Itís not even talking about furniture
shops, this is design. This is in a little town of five thousand people. If you went to a town in New Zealand of five
thousand people, you wouldnít find that at all. You might find a gift shop, which would
have anything from antique pieces with tea or something like that to something else,
but weíre talking about high-quality items here. I donít think the seller would get
to that stage just as fast. For everyone to actually have joy and caring about good spaces,
good environment, and god design, and that becomes just as valuable as everything else,
I think that would be a great achievement for me. Iím not saying Iím going to do that on myself,
but if at least, I could keep that conversation and start that somewhere or just get the ball
rolling with that, that would be great for me.>>Sure. Well, you have already demonstrated
that you seem to have a knack for starting conversations. So, thank you for the wonderful
conversation, Mona.>>[Inaudible] too much.>>No, no, no. We really appreciated it, and
itís been a pleasure having you on Business of Architecture.>>Great. Thank you so much.>>Okay. Bye bye.>>Bye bye. Outro: Well, that puts a lid on a another
show about the Business of Architecture. I really hope that you’ve got something out
of this show that can help you have more success and profit in the world of architecture. If
you want to join the discussion about this episode, you can find it on the podcast page
on While you’re there, feel free to share the show using the
social media share links. If you sign up for the Business of Architecture Insider List,
I’ll send you other resources like the Architect Marketing Guide and information on how to
use web tools to get more visibility for your firm and your work. [Outro Music]>>The views expressed on this show by my
guests do not represent those of the host, and I make no representation, guarantee, promise,
agreement, affirmation, pledge, warranty, contract, bond, commitment except to help
architects conquer the world. Bump music credit to Ben Folds Five – Do It Anyway.

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2 thoughts on “Marketing an Architecture Firm Part 2 With Architect Mona Quinn

  1. I really enjoyed this conversation.  One of the major thing that Mona Mentioned is that there is a ratio between number of clients courted and the number which actually engaged architectural services.  

    I have found that to be true, and what I took on as a challenge was to see how I can craft my pitch to reduce the ratio.  

    Another thing that I find most worthy of consideration is the approach of giving Clients the time to make up their minds, so that while you are buying time to concentrate on other work, the client can steep in what has been presented and then respond to you with out feeling pressured. Very Good strategy!  

    I also like the idea of nudging the client along with the books.  Lovely Idea and great investment.

  2. Amazing! This was simply amazing! Thanks for the amazing video … I think I said "amazing" too many times already. 😀

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