19 Marketing an Architecture Firm: Interview with Architect Mona Quinn

Audio Only:

Clients lining up out the doors through marketing an architecture firm – this is Mona Quinn’s situation in Wellington, NZ. Mona is the principal of Callidus Architects, New Zealand’s premier character home architect specializing in New Zealand historic home restorations and preservation.

In this interview Mona Quinn takes us behind the scenes of the successful marketing strategy that Calllidus Architects has used to book the firm solid in less than 4 months.

We discuss:

  1. How to turn prospects into your biggest fans
  2. How to raise the fees you charge for architectural work
  3. How to get out of the commodity rat-race and have clients recognize the value you provide

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Show Notes:

  1. Callidus Architects
  2. Article on Mona Quinn in the Dominion Post Article

Transcript (scroll past transcript to leave a comment):

Enoch: Well, thanks everybody. Welcome out to this episode of Business of Architecture. Today, we’re joined by Mona Quinn. She is the Principal of Callidus Architects, which is New Zealand’s leading character home architecture firm. Callidus specializes in renovating character homes in New Zealand.

So, Mona, welcome to the show.

Mona: Thank you, Enoch.

Enoch: Please tell us a little bit about what your firm does. What is a “character home?”

Mona: What’s unique about New Zealand is that most of our older housing stock is built out of wood. I’m sure it’s the same in New Zealand, but where I come from originally in Denmark, that’s not the case.

When New Zealand was colonized, there were a lot of beautiful old homes built throughout the whole country. A lot of the building skills and building knowledge of how to continuously upgrade and also modernize and renovate those for today’s market, that’s quite a unique skill.

There are a lot of new builders that come out on the market, they don’t know how to deal with old properties, and how to detail them correctly and restore them correctly. So, we saw that as a huge niche for us to, again, try and go in, and just try to establish ourselves as specialists in the market. The other problem I find is architects try and be a jack-of-all-trades who is not specialized in stuff. In ten years, you want to do great architecture, but you also have to run a business and try to make some money to put on the table.

I’ve always been really interested in heritage. I think it has a lot to show us and we can still learn a lot from the past. A lot of it has been forgotten in today’s world of just fast action and quick buck all the time.

We wanted to take that old houses and the old neighborhoods of New Zealand as a way to start having conversational, “How are we going to do the new neighborhoods of New Zealand, and the new houses of New Zealand to be just as great?” So that in a 120 years, you still want to restore those and preserve those because we suffer, truly, from a lot of cookie-cutter houses and cookie-cutter neighborhoods.

I’m sure is happening in the States. We see a lot of photos from neighborhoods over there as well. Unfortunately, I don’t see that as a very sustainable way of managing the Earth’s resources and, also of managing people’s happiness.

We’ve recently had a case where one my friends, who was also an architect. He bought a Greenfield site in a new neighborhood. He built this amazing home, his own design. He was so happy with it. It is now eight years down the track, and he’s deeply unhappy with his house, because all around him he’s got – I don’t know if you call them cookie-cutter houses – but he’s got, you know, really fast three-months turnaround, built houses. He actually thinks it’s devalued his property and also devalued the neighborhood because there’s a hard turnover in terms of selling and buying the houses in the area.

So, just trying to put some value back in, well, a good design, and also to take the time out to do subdivisions, and do neighborhoods, and do houses for the residential market better.

Enoch: Sure. Is there a difference between the value that is placed on the more traditional housing stock between Denmark and New Zealand?

Mona: Totally. Yes, very much. So, the housing stock in Denmark is a lot older because we’ve been around for longer than New Zealand has in terms of being a nation. What’s really interesting about it: As you probably well know, Denmark’s very well recognized for design, and style, and quality throughout design. It also applies with respect to housing and how people see investing in their properties.

So, one typical example would be my aunt and uncle. They were just putting a little small room extension on their property – not a flashy neighborhood or anything in Denmark, but they’re still waiting to see an architect, because, of course, you go and see an architect if you want to do anything to your house. That’s the first point of call.

So, that’s folks, standard, average people, but they still see that of course you have to have an architect. It’s not even a question. It’s just a given. Whereas, I don’t know about the States, but let me just go and hop out, and say I think it’s the same in the States as it is here. That is not what people think when they first want to put just a one-room extension on their house.

The whole value of what architects can give to a property and what they can give to a neighborhood or an area is somehow lost here. It sounds like a big chunk to take on, but I would like to see if I could change it and try to attain that value back and make people understand what it is we do.
So, one thing we’re doing – we’re doing lots of different things at the moment – one thing we’re doing is actually, we’re working with a franchise. Whoa! Shock-horror! They’re the horrible people we hate, isn’t it? What’s actually happened is… So, they specialize in innovations, but we do go in and work with them at a slightly smaller fee because we don’t have to spend any time getting the clients.

They try to persuade their clients – because they can see the value in what we do – to go and just spend some time with me trying to put the concept together even for just the quite basic stuff. There have been positive outcomes we have out of these very skeptical clients who normally who would go the renovation builders, they don’t want to go to architects because we’re expensive and terrible people. The responses we’ve gotten out of them once they do see what we can do for them, and how we can help the planning, and make the money they spend be spent more effectively is a joy for us. Also obviously for them because all of sudden it clicks, and they hear, and they see what value architects can provide to properties.

Enoch: Fascinating. How much of the process is you educating the client or how many clients come to you already knowing what they want and realizing the value of what you do?

Mona: Yes. In a way, we try and set up our business is that we want to – how do you say – pre-vet them before we even talk to them. I’ve actually spent a lot of time talking to people where no work comes out of it. We set up our systems so they’re basically pre-vetted. So, before I even go and see them, they already know who we are, they’ve already received all the referrals and the photos, and all that sort of stuff.

They’ve gone through, I think, it’s a six-day process. I already know what their brief is. I already know how much money they want to spend. So, when we have our first meeting, it’s really effective, and we can very quickly go – it only takes about an hour to actually turn it around and then the whole [Inaudible 00:07:01] thing is almost probably about… We have a success rate, after our initial meeting, of about 80% in terms of clients signing on. That being said, you’ve also gotten rid of the few who didn’t actually want to work with you before you actually spend the time you go and see them.

Enoch: Exactly. Okay. Well, you just described there a very complex sales and marketing process.

Mona: Yes.

Enoch: I’m going to leave that open to hook our listeners here. We’re going to come back and circle around to that in the later part of the interview.

But, before we jump in to that, Mona, let’s take a step back really quickly and just tell us a little bit about your journey to become an architect.

Mona: [Inaudible 00:07:38] Yes, an interesting role to be in as a woman, I find. I was pretty much sold on it from the first time I met my first female architect back in architect back in high school because of the things she had to say, and how she was dealing with the build environment and space all around us.

I think, particularly from a residential market, probably is of great interest to women. They seem to spend a lot of time looking at magazines about house decorating. I wanted to be one of the ones who actually did the homes as well. So, I guess that’s where my initial interest came, and also from having growing up in a very old part of Denmark where we can trace the ancestry back 2000 years.

Enoch: Wow.

Mona: Just all around the neighborhood. It goes back to the whole thing about heritage for me, I guess, and the sense of belonging, and the sense of being part of an area. So, that was where I decided to become an architect in my youth. [Inaudible 00:08:38]

So, I tried to get in the Architecture school in Copenhagen, which is quite hard because it’s very popular and there are lots of international students. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but it’s connected to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts there. So, it took two [Inaudible 00:08:52] but I finally made it in, so there, it was great.

And while I was there, I met my husband who’s from New Zealand. That was why I ended up in New Zealand in the long run. What has been a great benefit to me is actually having had the opportunity to study both at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen and also when I transferred to New Zealand. I did my last year and a half at the New Zealand school of Architecture here in Victoria University of Wellington.

I think that was a great benefit to me because Denmark comes from such a strong tradition of design, and taste, and style. When you are at schools of Architecture there, the focus is so much on design, and style, and taste. But, you get coughed at, in the other end; you don’t actually know how to run an office.

So, that can be quite frustrating and hard, whereas if you take the last year of Architecture school in New Zealand, it’s much more pragmatic. Of course, you still got do a good design, but the last year also focus a lot about pragmatic aspects of how to run a practice, how to just do all the, sort of, business aspects of it, I guess. So, I find it usually beneficial to have actually studied at two different schools and two different ways of thinking.

Enoch: Fascinating.

Mona: Another thing that happened in between coming from Copenhagen down to New Zealand was I actually worked on a building site for a year in Jamaica, which was great. Dealing with a really big contractor, working for them, dealing with slightly unconventional Jamaicans in terms of how you deal with health and safety on site, and smoking cannabis, etc., etc. That was a great experience for me as well.

The other interesting aspect of being an architect is you go to all these higher forms of taste when you are at a university, and everyone speaks of this high-level plane. Then you go out and you talk to the builder who’s like, “Yeah, mate. What you gonna do?” So, how you actually negotiate that huge scale and range of people that you interact with and deal with… I think it’s the conversation that’s the biggest challenge for architects, because if you don’t get everyone on your boat, believing in what you want to do specially the builders on site [Inaudible 00:11:18]

Enoch: Okay. So, you’ve mentioned so far two, different conversations that you have with people and the power of convincing and persuading them. The first one you mentioned was talking to the client when they come in, and you sort of describe the process of renovating and how you go about your practice. You mentioned you have an 80% success rate partially because of the vetting that you do.

You also just mentioned, Mona, the talking with the builders and being able to relate to them and have that conversation with them. I call that a sales conversation, I don’t know if that’s what you call it – the conversation where you’re convincing someone, and you’re bringing them along, and compromising, and building that. What pointers can you give us? What have you learned about having those conversations?

Mona: If we just take the builders first, I think, the first thing I normally do is I go in and I just crack jokes about architects. Because they think we’re so high and mighty, and full of ourselves, so they do find it… You know, an architect and a woman – that’s pretty tough going.

Enoch: I need a joke now. Can you give us one?

Mona: Oh, come on. What could I say? “Architects are such shits at time management.” Something like that…

Enoch: Yeah.

Mona: When there’s a problem on site. So, they just see instantly that I can actually crack a joke. New Zealanders, especially in the building industry, is all about cracking a joke. If you can crack a joke, then you’re, sort of, on their side a bit more, because they often see architects pretty much is betting on the client side, but you have to try to be fair and impartial to people that you deal with.

There’s a lot of tension especially when you start a building a building project, but also when you finish it. In some ways, I almost find it that you’re the mediator between the person paying for the job and the person building the job in respects. So, just try to see if you can keep the jelling process going.

The other thing is, well, it’s very traditional here to go out for open tenders so that anyone can bid for the job. We try and tone that down especially because we would like to set ourselves up as being more exclusive and to deliver a high quality product. We try not just vetting the clients, but actually also vetting the builders. We’re very reluctant to work with builders that we haven’t worked with before just because of ultimately what comes out the other end is the level of quality that will get us the next job as well. So, I don’t know if that answers your question with respect to the builders.

Enoch: Yeah, absolutely. You had some great… What I heard is that you can use humor, and that works with the builders.

Mona: Yeah.

Enoch: Any other thing that you use when you talk to them that you notice has been successful for having those conversations?

Mona: Just show that you have building knowledge. That probably comes back more to being a woman on the building site. If you just drop a few hints of other building sites you’ve been on, or projects you’ve done, or specially mentioning dealing with a huge contractor in Jamaica, that you were the one reporting back to your own big, big, big boss back in Denver. That does give you a bit of credo, I guess, in terms of how to deal with contractors. Drop it in the conversation sort of thing.

Enoch: Okay.

Mona: Because if you came outright and told them, you know, “Well, look, I was a,” blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, then they’ll just take five steps back and not want to talk to you sort of thing.

Enoch: Okay. So: Just dropping little hints of competence and then also being very, very disarming.

Mona: Yeah. I mean, that works for me. But, maybe it’s just [Inaudible 00:15:01] as a woman you say you don’t use your female charms. I don’t know. It sounds terrible, doesn’t it? I guess, you just do what you can when you’re on site to make things work. My goal is – I don’t actually care about being pretentious or being a snob, or anything of those sorts of things you’re normally supposed to be when you’re an architect as I understand it to be.

What’s the big goal for me is the end product. I just want to make sure that the end product is how it was visualized. That’s the biggest thing for me. Once people that are on the building side realizes that that’s actually what she’s all about, then they become much more committed in terms of delivering it themselves as well. Because there’s a lot of, in guys’ worlds maybe, but the ego and whose ego is the biggest. So, I’m not really interested in that aspect of it.

Enoch: Absolutely. So, let’s switch over to the conversation with the client. How do you approach that conversation?

Mona: Yes. How we deal with clients? I guess that comes back to initially how we do this, the marketing pitch for us. When we first started looking at: “How can we grow?” “How can we get more clients?” “How can we get so many clients so we can pick and choose who we actually want to work with and also put our fees up so we can earn more money?” that always helps. We decided upon who – I don’t know what you call it here – here you call it a “Marketing Avatar” of who you are to your client would be. Well, I might just take a couple of steps back.

So, I was floating around here in my little practice thinking, “Well, how am I actually going to get more work and more of the work I want to do?” because we just finished some great projects. Then, obviously, I hope that leads on to the next project. But it wasn’t happening. It wasn’t clicking over in to the next couple of great, big projects. So, I thought I’ve got to do something because I don’t want to go in to a downward spiral and not continue this process – it has to go up instead. It probably would have, but it would have taken longer.

So, I just started looking around to see what was available. There was a marketing outfit here in New Zealand who was marketing how you could sell big-ticket items. I thought, well, architectural service is rather a big-ticket item, and there’s also, again, the stigma of working with architects here. I thought that it could be an interesting challenge for me to see how I can actually turn that around and make that something people would like to have and hanker after, so that all of a sudden you’re in the driver’s seat in terms of setting the time expectations and setting the fee expectations.

So, I went along to this seminar. I thought, “Oh, yeah. He had a few pointers, and then women also go with their guts when they make big decisions.” So, I felt, “Oh, I think I could work with this guy.” We decided to try it. We did it for, initially, a three months period, but it’s going really well. Then, what he actually does once you do really well in the first three months in terms of working with your marketing approach, etc., etc., you join up in this 100k club. They call it that because aim is for the next six months is to have earned a $100,000.

It sounds crazy when you do it because architects feel, “Oh, we have so many big expenses in terms of our fees and keeping up insurance,” etc., etc. But, it is actually working, so I could see that we could very easily reach those goals, which is great for us.

What it comes back to is we want to create who our ideal client would be. So, that’s someone who’s just as passionate about heritage and Architecture, and trying to restore and relive old homes as we are. Then, we thought, “How can we start searching for those and pre-vet with them?” So, when we actually get to the stage of spending time meeting with them, they’re already interested and already pre-sold to our product.

Sorry, I speak quite a lot.

Enoch: Perfect. I’m listening.

Mona: You can say something now, and then I’ll go back to talking like a rabbit.

Enoch: No worries. Well, when these pre-vetted clients come in to you, how does that conversation go? Do they usually come in with a good idea of the product they want to do? What’s that first meeting like?

Mona: I might just take a step back from the first meeting.

Enoch: Please

Mona: Our goal is to have ten, different lead generators by the end of this year. We’re currently up at six at the moment, and they consist of various things. I’ll just tell you what they are.

First of all, we have our already pre-fee-established working relationship with the franchise renovators. So, that’s great for us because that gives us work. We don’t have to do anything to get the work, we just get told when we go to the first meeting with the clients. Obviously, they’re already ready to go when we see them, so that’s a great earner for us. It may not give us the most exciting jobs all the time, but you also look at how you’re going to do your bread and butter.

Then, we have our key referrals and potential customers, which is, sort of, sitting on what we call our “Circle of Love.” So, they get something sent to them once a month. Normally, it’s a newsletter, sometimes it’s a voucher for something, sometimes it’s a certificate, or an incentive to actually refer us to other people.

Then, we have our articles. So, we’ll set up… It takes a little bit of greasing back and forth, but we’ve managed to have a really great relationship with some journalists now in New Zealand. So, you’ve already seen one of the articles that I forwarded on to you. At the end of each article, there’s actually a call – the whole thing is about having the call to action or offer something for free.

So, our offer or our call to action for potential clients is we’ll provide a little book that we’ve written about for renovating houses, and what are the key considerations, and how do you actually hire an architect. Another perception in New Zealand is that architects are always skimping. They don’t have any money, and they don’t give anything away for free because we work so hard for our fees, which we do.

I don’t think people understand how hard architects actually work for their fees and how much they actually do. So, for them to all of a sudden have this architectural practice offering something for free, which is of value to them and of interest to them… They don’t want to hear about how cool we think we are, they want to get some information that can educate them and help them make some informed decisions about what they would like to do with their properties. Basically, in marketing terms, you call it the “Monkey’s Fist.” You give something little for free and they’ll come back for more, and that’s when you start billing them. So, that’s worked really well for us.

The other thing we are starting to do now is we do seminars. As you may know we have had a rather substantial earthquake in Christchurch which is on the South Island. Unfortunately, that was really traumatic for the whole nation. But, what’s come out of that is there are a lot of the old heritage buildings in Christchurch that’s being pulled down. One of our aims is that… We joined in this campaign to see if we can help save the Christchurch Cathedral which is of great importance to the city. It’s the biggest landmark, but unfortunately, there are a lot of people who would like to pull it down. We would like for it to be restored and maintained.

So, we do these seminars, and they take a variety of form. Sometimes we invite guest speakers through some of our builder connections, or renovator connections, or other people of interest. We’re also a member of Protect Heritage in our local council area. That’s another great way to set up the seminars and just trying to spread the word.

Because if you’ve seen, in Architectural terms or in marketing terms that you have a mission and that you have something that you want to do for the wider community, people instantly become very attuned to you and very interested in what you have to say. If you went out to say, “I just want to bill you lots of money so I can make a nice living and go on holiday every year,” that’s not really a great sales pitch. You have to have a higher vision and a higher mission in terms of what your practice would like to do and what you would like to do yourself. The great outcome or the great byproduct of that is that you actually have a lot of fun doing it and you meet a lot of interested and like-minded people as well who are just as interested in all those aspects, whatever that may be – it may not be heritage for other practices, it could be something else.

So, further with the seminars, and we always try to have a Monkey’s Fist. Often what happens in the seminar is a little bag of stuff on each seat with various information. So, we have some call to action things, you know, “Do you want to receive the booklet?” We also do a guide of how to actually write a brief for an architect. Lots of people don’t know what to do and don’t know what to say to architects. So, we’ve come up with this guide so they can fill that out.

The biggest thing most people also forget is, and that again goes back to trying to attain value to architecture: “What is the emotional outcome that you would like to have in a building?” “What emotions do you want to feel?” That’s the conversation that most people don’t have: “I want to put a room in my house?” “Why you want to do it?” So, having that conversation.

Enoch: Do you actually ask them that? Do you say, “What emotional outcome do you want to have” or do you phrase it in a different way when you’re talking to them?

Mona: In our guide, we talk about it. Our pitches have a little story. I’ve already had this with a client, this rough and [Inaudible 00:24:38] big bloke. “I want to add a room to my house.” “Why do you want to do it?” Because of this: Why, why, why, why. So, it turned out, in the end, he just actually wanted peace and quiet when he came home from work, but he also want to spend more time with his family. So, everything goes back to emotion, and everything goes back to interrelationship with the people that live in the properties and live in the residential house – especially in residential houses.

So, if you can get them to start the emotional outcomes they would like to get out of the renovation, all of a sudden, it’s like opening a box of money, really. Of course, if you’re not happy in your home, what wouldn’t you give for happiness? It’s all of a sudden what you can do for them. It gets a much higher value.

So, I’ll just try and hold this up to the camera. This is our little pamphlet, that’s one of the promotional materials here about how to write a guide. It folds out so that you can… It’s a bit tricky. I’ll just fold that out. So, you can start filling out that conversation. That just gets them thinking about architect and thinking about working with an architect prior to actually seeing us.

The other promotional Monkey’s Fist thing we do is this booklet here. It’s got lots of great photos in it. But, the front is actually saying, “7 Mistakes People Make When Renovating Their House.” I hated the title, and I was beaten over the head by my marketing guy saying that this is what you need to say because people don’t like making mistakes.

So, again, you think, “Oh, no. ‘Seven Renovations you have to do’ or something.” It actually has to be a little bit – I don’t know if you call it – ham-fisted or hard-handed, sort of, almost shock people in to starting to think about what it is that they want to do. Obviously, we focus on heritage. I’ll just hold another page up, if that’s alright, from the… Can you see the pamphlet?

Enoch: You bet.

Mona: So, it just talks about different things that you should consider. Again, it’s because we’re marketing, and our USP is about character restoration. So, all at once, you make that decision to become a niche expert in something. Starting to write educational material you can provide for free to people becomes really easy because all of a sudden, “Oh, yes. I know this is what I want to do.” I mean, I chose heritage and I chose character homes because that’s what has been of great interest to me, and because I love buying old places and restoring them in selling them at a profit myself. So, that’s my other, sort of, business.

Also, I guess, it is practice what you preach so that people see that you have done that yourself to properties, and you’ve made them [Inaudible 00:27:12] you’ve made them more beautiful, and you also made money out of it. Obviously, then, “She must know knowing what she’s up to or what she’s doing.”

So, once we have these [Inaudible 00:27:22] articles – just going back to the lead generators or the seminars. There are a couple of other ones, I can’t remember. We’ve got an ad in some sort of Suisse magazine down here about beautiful homes. It’s just a little ad at the back, which is not as expensive as a fifteen-page spread about how fantastic we are – just offering a little bit of something for free. It’s amazing what people… They’re just really interested in getting some information from architects because architects don’t normally communicate, and they don’t normally advertise that greatly about themselves, or they don’t normally provide information for free.

So, once that happens and people register their interest, obviously, then we have to have contact details. Then, we go through this process of sending them first to get the booklet package and the guide. After that, we send them a, sort of, little certificate that they could get a free consultation with us.

Normally architects are, “Oh, yeah, of course. I’ll come and see you for free.” But, by actually making it in to a present or a certificate, that attains more value to what you would normally do for free before. Then, you put a time-limit on it because you want to make them to actually react, take action. That gets followed up as well.

We’ve made some nice postcards with some of our projects on them. Again, it just becomes something that is a present. On the back, there is some note or comments from referrers, etc., etc. of how fantastic we are. It’s very subtle because it’s someone else saying it, it’s not ourselves. That becomes a postcard, which maybe someone could send to someone else saying, “Well, look. What do you think of this job?”

What’s actually interesting lately, we see some inquiries from the States. New Zealand is [Inaudible 00:29:06] but they want to move back and want to build houses here. So, we’ve got work already lined up for the next two years because of this whole process.

So, either you register your interest or you don’t. For a newspaper ad call I item I showed you, we’ve had seventeen inquiries to get this little, free booklet. So, we start sending them out and milling them through the process. Then, rather than us ringing them up and asking them to have a meeting with us, they have to ring us. Again, you are in the driver’s seat and you can fit it in to your schedule, and you can fit it in to your price range that you want to charge, etc., etc.

Once that happens, then prior to the meetings we send them another questionnaire about their project and also what money they want to spend. Then, we send them a description of how we operate the process of getting a job. Again, we tell them how we do things. They don’t come and tell us how they want to do things. So, we get them to work to our schedule and work at how we want to run a project.

That might sound, sort of, a bit dictatorship-ish, but people actually feel very, very confident, and they get a lot of trust out of that you’ve already thought that whole process through and thought about how you want to interact with them, and how you’re going to provide them with the answers to their problems pretty much. So, that’s the reason why they come to you. That’s working really well.

Then, the last thing we do prior to the actual meeting being signed up is we send them a gift box of who we are. Again, it comes back to that generosity and people think, “Oh, my goodness. This is a $100,” and this client you haven’t even seen them yet. But, yes, if you end up getting a job for $25,000, don’t you think it’s worth spending a $100? Maybe you don’t win them all, but then still only spend $300 or you still only spend $500, and you still get a job for $25,000.

I’ll just see if I can find… I’ll just get the box. I’ll hold it up. It’s a little hard to see in this little DVD. So, we have this gift box here that we send out to the clients prior to the meeting. It has all of the references, it has previous project sheets. It has a little diary people can start taking notes down – a couple of gifts. Of course, chocolates, everyone likes chocolates. I do, and just a couple of little things about us.
So, normally, all the things you spend the first twenty minutes of you meeting with: “Have you got any references?” “Have you got any previous projects?” We’ve already done all of that. So, when we see them, we just launch straight in to talking about their problems and about them because that’s really what people are interested in. They want to tell you about themselves and their project, they don’t want to have to sit and spend half the meeting trying to get information out of you. You already provided all that to them.

Enoch: Wonderful. When they come in for that meeting they have the understanding of who you are and what you do. So, it’s mostly you asking them about their project and what they want to get out of it.

Mona: Yeah. So, in the past, we’ve suffered from… I don’t know. I’m sure it’s the same philosophy. But, it sort of feels like you have to justify what it is you do and you have to justify who you are, and you have to try and convince them that what you do is of value. We already have all that. We’ve already done all that. It’s huge to see the different attitude people have to you once you’ve actually gone through it. You’ve spent that time and that money upfront sending them stuff. It’s still cheaper than you having to drive around in your car and get going to see them all the time.
So, we’ve had people are ringing up and say, “Well, look, we would like to see. We’ve got our gift certificate. This is not a thing that happened to me.” So, I went to see them and they haven’t actually decided to innovate yet, they just wanted to see if I could help them out. So, they said, “From now on, whenever we look at a house that we might buy to renovate, we just ring you up and we pay you the $140 a visit.”

So, they might be going out to look at ten houses, and they would like for me to come with them every, single time. They could see the value of talking to me prior to even buying their house to renovate. That’s been the huge mental change in the client’s. It gives us a lot of joy because all of a sudden we don’t have to do any of our justification – I guess is what you say – at the meeting. So, that makes a great difference. It makes our job more enjoyable because you can get started talking about what you can actually do with the properties we see.

Enoch: Excellent. Absolutely. Mona, you’ve really laid out a very complex marketing, sort of, funnel or platform.

Mona: Yeah.

Enoch: As I was listening, I wanted to interrupt, but I didn’t want to stall the flow of the conversation because I wanted to dig in to more information.

Mona: Yeah.

Enoch: So, I have some follow up questions about what you asked right now.

Mona: Yes.

Enoch: But, to keep our listeners engaged, what I’m going to go ahead and end this interview right now because we already have a good chunk there. We’ll pick up next week. We’re going to dive a little bit more in to the sales process that you go through, how you came up with your marketing plan, how you hooked up with this marketing consultant, and get some more information. How does that sound?

Mona: That sounds wonderful.

Enoch: Okay, good. Well, thanks for joining us this week, Mona.

Mona: Great. Thank you.

Enoch: Okay.

Enoch Sears
I am a licensed California architect who loves researching and sharing about running a great architecture business. I founded Business of Architecture to help solo architects and small firms run a better business so they can have the peace of mind to focus on creating great architecture.
Enoch Sears

@businessofarch

Solo architect? Get the work you want. Marketing and business info for architects. Author of 'Social Media for Architects, FREE download: http://t.co/tQnt6ENDxv
Episode Architect Speaks Out and Not Reappointed To Oversight Committee http://t.co/UK6BxK30MB - 2 days ago

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4 Responses to 19 Marketing an Architecture Firm: Interview with Architect Mona Quinn

  1. Alex Gore September 16, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    The gift box idea is brilliant!

  2. Elrond Burrell August 30, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    Just listened to this now, wow awesome, can’t wait for the second part!! It is rare to hear of an architect really using marketing strategies in such an effective way! I love how Mona sends out so much information (and chocolate!) and manages expectations expertly so the when clients visit the time is spent effectively on the actual project rather than self justification as she mentions. Her approach is very similar to the online industries – looking at how she can offer more rather than what she can get from potential clients.
    PS I suspect you’ve sent a lot of traffic to Mona’s website, it seems to be down now!!!

  3. Oscar B. Morales August 28, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    Hello Enoch,
    can’t wait to hear second installment of Mona’s interview. I like a lot of what she is doing. It would be interesting in hearing as to how the work load is managed, is she a solo practitioner, or does she have a studio with some help, she mentioned flipping houses is she also an “architect developer”.

    • Enoch Sears August 28, 2013 at 10:34 am #

      Hey Oscar, great questions! She mentioned she has 4 part-time staff. As for flipping houses, I should have asked more about how that plays into the work load. Maybe I can get her to come on here and respond.

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