Tags: digital marketing
Episode 343

Content Marketing for Design-Build Firms with David Pollard

Enoch SearsNov 11, 2020

Architect Dave Pollard started LivCo in 2012 to provide quality design to suburban homeowners, but with some twists to the traditional architectural services model.

Following on the heels of his graduate thesis work stating “to make architecture more accessible, it’s time we stop trying to re-design the building systems, and architects lead the charge in re-thinking the design systems.” This evolved into this design-build model which allows simplified deliverables and a fully integrated and accountable team to deliver “the project”.

LivCo has won numerous awards including fourteen Chicago Remodeling Excellence Awards, four regional remodeling excellence awards, Home of the Year Award, Contractor of the Year Award, five consecutive years Houzz Best in Service, Remodeling Big50, and in 2018, Dave was on ProRemodelers 40 under 40 list.

In today's episode, you'll discover how Dave uses simple weekly videos to expand his company's visibility and win new work.


Enoch Sears: Hello, and welcome back, Architect Nation. I’m Enoch Sears, and this is the show where you'll discover tips, strategies and secrets for structuring your architecture practice so that you can do your best work more often.

Today's guest is architect David Pollard who started his company LiveCo in 2012 with his partner to provide quality design to suburban homeowners but with some twist to the traditional architectural services model.

Following on the heels of his graduate thesis work where stated that “We needed to make architecture more accessible and stop trying to redesign the building systems, instead lead the charge in rethinking the design systems.” This evolved into his current design-build model which allows simplified deliverables and a fully-integrated and accountable team to deliver the project.

LiveCo has won numerous awards including 14 Chicago Remodeling Excellence Awards, 4 Regional Remodeling Excellence Awards, Home of the Year Award, Contractor of the Year Award, 5 consecutive years as Houzz Best in Service, Remodeling Big50 and, in 2018, Dave was on the Pro Remodelers 40 under 40 list.

I’m happy to have Dave on the show today, especially because I wanted you to get and hear from someone that has gone down, perhaps, an alternative path within architecture.

On this episode, you'll discover how Dave uses simple weekly videos to expand his company's visibility and win new work.

Dave, welcome to the Business of Architecture Podcast.

David Pollard: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Enoch, appreciate it.

Enoch Sears: Yup, absolutely. Now, one of the reasons that caused me to reach out to you, Dave, is that you’ve been doing some great video marketing, and I was seeing that pretty consistently on LinkedIn.

David Pollard: Yeah, thanks.

Enoch Sears: Yeah. Tell me about that. How has that been working for you? What made you get into that?

David Pollard: Yeah, great question. I think the way we really got into it was this little thing called the pandemic, which, really, I think what happened for our company was we kind of saw what was happening in the world on the other side of this – we’re either going to be like crazy busy or there’s potentially not going to be a whole lot of work. So I shifted all of my energy, as an architect but also as a business owner, to really focusing on marketing. We figured the phone wasn’t going to be ringing a whole lot so we would do everything that we could during that time to really just push our name out there.

It was a fun time because I think the world was a little bit crazy in March and you can do and test anything. So I started doing some crazy videos. We did a Zoom one–our company has 10 people, and we had 9 people on Zoom at one time so I took some screenshots, and then pieced it together and made it into the LiveCo Bunch, you know, like the Brady Bunch theme.

So it was a time where I felt like we have nothing to lose, where maybe we can just put stuff out there and have some fun with it, not necessarily be on a specific marketing brand other or specific marketing strategy like, “Hey this is what we’re going to have to do,” and just do it. Probably had a lot of time at home more than usual where I had the ability, with my new iPhone, to take some cool video.

That's really just how it started. Ss soon as an idea would pop into my head, I’d say, well, I’ll just make it. Why not? We’ll put it out there and see if anybody notices.

Yeah, I think it worked. I think we’ve got a lot of great feedback on it, and I think it speaks to our team, and our brand, and what we’re about for sure.

Enoch Sears: Very cool. What is your content production workflow?

David Pollard: Ooh, that’s kind of a mess. So one thing that I decided to do was keep everything on my phone. My computer and my hard drive is so full of everything else known to man business-related, and I felt like if I took all this video – I took 30 minutes of video – and put it on my computer, it’ll just be this big mess, plus my computer is not really geared up for that.

One of my rules was, well, I just want to have a large enough storage on my phone and use that constraint. Then, in order to do all the video editing, I said I'm only going to use apps that are available on my phone because, just like most designers, if I go and start using Adobe Premiere or some these really crazy robust programs, I’ll just go down a wormhole, and then I'll never actually produce anything.

So the workflow is, essentially, I try and take a lot of small video clips. I usually put them into a specific folder on my phone. I might come back to them later if I have an idea of where I'm going, put together a bunch of scenes from the field, and I’ll just kind of start sorting them.

Then, I’ll bring them into Adobe Rush, which is the app version on my phone, which is pretty powerful but not crazy. I can only do so many tracks. I can't get too nuts with it. Then, sometimes, I’ll also use Spark. Spark is super simple but very constrained, but it makes it really easy to just not go crazy and just make something simple. So I use those two.

I’ve even used iMovie to just, say, let's see what Apple’s going to come up with for us to put something out. Sometimes I’ll mix and match them. But I try not to spend more than a couple of hours, really, on making any content at this point and just try and keep it simple, otherwise I’ll produce one movie per year.

Enoch Sears: Yeah. When you say keep it simple, not spending much time – a couple of hours – is that a couple of hours per week, a couple of hours per day?

David Pollard: Probably a couple hours per week or a couple hours per video.

Enoch Sears: Got it.

David Pollard: We don’t necessarily do one every week but I usually have some ideas on my queue, like I think we need to do one that speaks more to our design process. So then, if I go into the office, maybe I'll take some quick clips of people working at their computers or talking about design. A lot of it is just probably thinking that I'm always doing marketing. So whenever I go to the office or to a job site and a moment kind of pops – to capture it in one way or another.

We did a really cool one where – it was the problem-solving one – where I went out to the job site. I put the camera up on my dashboard. I kind of talk to it–talk to the camera about, “Hey. The field called me with a problem. We’re a builder and we're an architect so we’re in close contact. If there's an issue that needs to be solved, they can call me or any of our design team, and we’ll go out and fix it.”

Then the carpenter – I talked it through with him. Then I'm filming him while he's thinking through it and talking, and none of it’s scripted. He’s like talking to his carpenters saying, “Oh, I think it’s going to work,” “Yeah, we solved it!” and it was–and then I ended up sending him that clip. He just kind of laughed. He was like, “I didn’t even know you’re filming.” I’m like, “I’m always filming.”

Enoch Sears: I think I saw that one. What a great example of content because it is like a reality T.V. show except it’s real.

David Pollard: Yeah. It’s way easier.

Enoch Sears: That’s one difference, right? The reality T.V. show and what you’re producing – what you’re producing is actually real.

David Pollard: Yeah, and I don’t have to write a script. You just kind of go out and film. I think what we do is interesting so we just get little clips here and there, for sure.

Enoch Sears: Very cool. So any other apps that you use for that process? You talked about Adobe Rush, you talked about Spark. I think it’s fascinating that you do it all on your phone just for simplicity because that’s one of the keys to getting good content out – not making it too complex and burdensome, otherwise it never gets done.

David Pollard: Yeah, 100%. That’s really it. I’ll use iMovie just so I can do Ken Burns effects sometimes–

Enoch Sears: Remind me, what’s a Ken Burns effect?

David Pollard: That’s when it pans across a photo.

Enoch Sears: Got it.

David Pollard: So I don’t know… Rush might do it or some other apps might do it. I mean, if you Google what’s the best app for editing photos on your phone, your head will explode. We use Adobe Creative Suite anyways as we already had those.

When I started using Rush, it actually didn't allow you to do slow motion, which is a pretty big deal breaker because it's amazing what you can do with just a little bit of speeding it up or slowing it down. Then they added that, and that changed everything. Spark, you can’t do that. So there are certain nuances to each little piece and, sometimes, I’ll mix them together or I’ll do it with Rush with music and then bring it in–or do it with Rush and then bring it into Spark for the end tagline and put the music over it. But, again, I’m trying to keep it simple.

Enoch Sears: Yeah, beautiful.

David Pollard: I’m an architect and a business owner, not a movie producer, so…

Enoch Sears: Yeah, exactly. So say you spend a couple of hours on one video, how long would the video be?

David Pollard: I typically try and keep them under one minute. Sometimes, if I’m telling a little bit more of a story, I’ll go as much as three minutes. But what’s really exciting about creating this content–I don’t think I set out to do this but once you start to make all these little video clips–and I make it just to put something out on social media or put it on YouTube and have some fun with it.

But then, during the shutdown, I was reading articles on marketing where the best money spent was in YouTube advertising because people were in front of YouTube constantly and you can do it really specifically targeted. So I had this content that I made for Instagram, and I’m like, “That’s a great little YouTube clip.” Before I knew it, I got people texting me like, “Hey, I just saw you guys on YouTube.”

Enoch Sears: Amazing.

David Pollard: And it kind of worked. If they're under a minute on Instagram, then I don't have to run it on IGTV, I can just run it on the regular feed so that when people scroll through it–I feel like if I’m making it more than a minute, maybe they're a little long-winded, and I can probably cut some stuff out to get the message across.

But the most exciting thing about it is I realize now we have all these incredible YouTube content that, essentially, tells our story in little pieces. What we just did is a MailChimp email campaign. We're not big email barragers like AMI is. They’re crazy but very good. What we do is when someone signs up for a meeting with us or a video conference, we make that really easy that they can do it through the website, and we just tie in Calendly to schedule that into MailChimp.

So as soon as they sign on to that, they’ll get a welcome email from MailChimp that has one of those YouTube videos that I made–and I didn't make it for the purposes of that first email. I made it for the purposes of putting out a quick YouTube spot–ad spot on what we do and who we are, and now I already have the contents to put in that email.

Then, everyday after that, because usually we schedule meetings about a week out, there’s four more emails. I realized that I can just embed YouTube content in that that’s already made. I didn’t have to make anything for it because we already built out, essentially, our story. It ends with a fifth email that’s like “Now, for some fun stuff,” and it has that Brady Bunch video, the Paper House Project, and our coloring sheets. All the fun stuff that we generated during the pandemic.

So to circle around on that, the really important thing that I learned is that when you start building this content, it ends up not being throwaway. It's just incredibly powerful to have this library of content that tells your story that you can just use in so many different channels, which has been really cool.

Enoch Sears: What channels are you posting on right now?

David Pollard: So every day we do Instagram and we do Facebook, and we try and plan those out a week in advance. We used to do a lot on LinkedIn. I really liked LinkedIn because I think it actually connects pretty well with our target market of professionals and also I like anything that elevates our brand and our professionalism. With that, I liked LinkedIn as well because I feel like most stuff on there is people talking about great things they're doing and people not being upset about it. It’s a pretty good kind of pedestal to do that.

The reason we don’t do it as frequently is really because we use Later to do all of our scheduling for Instagram and Facebook, and LinkedIn doesn’t tie into it. So it's just another step that we don't necessarily do. Then we put content on YouTube.

And really, that’s pretty much it. We don't go too crazy on Pinterest or anything like that. We use Houzz but that’s not on a daily basis.

Enoch Sears: Got it. So I'm sure that some of my listeners, maybe residential architects, maybe people that work for non-residential firms, and they’re thinking, “Ugh, a couple of hours a week for a one-minute video. Why would I do that?” What actual ROI–what benefits have you seen from this push? Now, granted, you said you’ve only been doing it about–well, it's been since March. It’s been almost six months now, right?

David Pollard: No, I think it’s hard to define still, at this point, the specific ROI other than our leads have been triple. I think–

Enoch Sears: When you say your leads have been triple–due to what? Why is that, do you think? Any idea?

David Pollard: Yeah. It’s definitely because of specific marketing, and targeted marketing, and getting our name out there.

Enoch Sears: Got it.

David Pollard: I run a little side marketing group that we do monthly calls amongst a couple of other architects and a couple of other builders as well. I think architects feel marketing, in some ways, is, or at least smaller architects, is a little bit of a bad word like “sales” where it becomes like, “Well, I don't want to go around talking about how great I am,” which is kind of silly because we all love talking about how great we are, we just don’t like to–We feel like we don't do it explicitly but we always do.

So once I got over that barrier of “You know what? We’re really great, and I think we do something really cool that a lot of people might be excited about and want to use us”–Once you get past that and you’re excited about talking about it, it makes it a lot easier – if that helps explain that side of the story.

Enoch Sears: Yeah, awesome. It sounds like it’s working really well for you. I mean, tripling your leads, that’s an amazing statistic right there. What else have you done to market other than the video marketing that you’re doing? Anything else?

David Pollard: No, we don't really do–it's pretty much focused digitally. We did produce our guide book, which I think has been really, really valuable, and you can see that on our website.

Enoch Sears: So you have your guide book, walk us through this.

David Pollard: Yeah. So we made our guidebook, which we actually started at the beginning of the year. We got a box of about a hundred of these at like the beginning of March when everything was shut down.

It’s kind of a bummer because I had these beautiful new magazine-quality brochures – but “brochure” is kind of a lame word, so we call it our “guide book” – which really is a leave-behind that walks clients through our process. We couldn’t have any meetings at the time because everything was shut down so I had a whole box of them.

So we created a digital version so that people could pan through it on our website. I also created a video that we put out on our social channels of flipping through it in in a fast-forwarded motion. It turned out really cool and we got a little bit of buzz around it.

Then we said, “Hey, if you want one, just let us know, and we’ll drop one in your mailbox.” We got some good energy with that. We still do that. If people want us to mail one to them or drop it off, we’re happy to do that.

For the most part, it's our leave-behind that lets people, after our meeting, go through and learn a little bit more about us. We put a lot of project content in it, photos, testimonials from clients, and then we put our three-step process in it. We love showing photos with our clients in it and our happy families – kind of the love where you live aspect. We talk about our team. We have some fun activities. So here, on the first page, there’s a – I don’t know how well you guys can see that – but it’s our game time, you know, you connect the dots between the before and afters.

Enoch Sears: Nice.

David Pollard: Then we have a workbook in the back as well, which allows people to kind of do a questionnaire to dig into their minds a little bit more. We have a worksheet for timing. So we try and make it a guidebook to talk about us, walk through our process but also help them a little bit, just give a little bit more to it. So that’s something that we did.

That's probably our only print that we've done. We haven't done any mailers or anything of that nature.

I've been doing some podcasts, which is something, right?

Enoch Sears: Yeah, that's right. Here we are. Here we are. So that’s working pretty well for you. Well, what’s next in the marketing front? Or do you think you’re going to maintain this and it’s working pretty well, why rock the boat?

David Pollard: That’s a great question. I think I want to keep doing what we’re doing digitally. My big effort before the end of the year is to tighten it up.

So what happened in March, I just kind of went on a rampage and just started doing all these stuff, right? So now it’s all fragmented, and it’s all over the place. Even if you go to our website–I'm not a web designer. We had a professional build it. But when the shutdown happened, I added a bunch of buttons and links and a bunch of things to it so that people could access different content but it wasn't really designed, so that needs to be tightened up.

I think the other big thing is now that we do have all these great content that I'm really excited about, again, keeping it living and tying it into the rest of digital presence so that the really cool before and after videos that we make and put on our Instagram channel, I want people to be able to see those on our website, right? Start to bring all that content in and just round everything out is really my next goal. Then once I get that, maybe we’ll figure out something else crazy to do.

Enoch Sears: Amazing. What do you find that clients are saying about the videos, the content or the guidebook? Getting any feedback?

David Pollard: Probably the number one thing that I hear from prospects and clients is, “I absolutely love your Instagram feed.”

Enoch Sears: Yeah, got it.

David Pollard: I get that probably most often. Then we get a lot of good feedback from the fun YouTube videos that people see or people will see it pop up while their kids are watching YouTube, and they’re excited about it.

Enoch Sears: Where can people follow your Instagram channel?

David Pollard: Liv Companies is our company name, so our Instagram handle is @liv_companies.

Enoch Sears: Great. Well, that’s a great place to sign off today, Dave. Thanks for being on the show and talking to us about the wonderful content marketing that you’re doing and the video marketing.

David Pollard: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Enoch Sears: That’s a wrap. If you enjoyed today’s show, please head over to iTunes and leave us a review. I read every single one. Also, I’d love to get your feedback on this particular episode or the show in general as well as your recommendations. You can reach us by emailing podcast@businessofarchitecture.com

This podcast is brought to you by Business of Architecture, a leading architect business consultancy. Access our free training on how to structure your architecture firm for more freedom, fulfillment and financial success by going to https://smartpracticemethod.com.

The views expressed on the show by my guests do not represent those of the host, and I make no representation, promise, guarantee, warranty, pledge, contract, bond or commitment, except to help you conquer the world. Carpe diem.

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Enoch Bartlett Sears is the founder of the Architect Business Institute, Business of Architecture and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He helps architects become category leaders in their market. Enoch hosts the #1 rated interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show where prominent guests like M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Thom Mayne share tips and strategies for success in architecture.


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