Architectural products marketing in 2021 will be shaped by trends and developments out of their control. Here’s how architectural products firms can take advantage of marketing opportunities and overcome challenges.
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals is a standard created by Google to “improve user experience” on websites. The standard focuses primarily on technical aspects of your website and how they contribute to the overall site experience. For example, does your site load quickly? Can it be easily understood by assistive devices? The standard will be formally implemented by Google in May 2021, at which point sites will start to be penalized with decreased visibility if they don’t meet the standard. In advance of the May implementation, Google has made tools available to see how pages on your site would fare if currently held to the Core Web Vitals standard.
Almost all architectural products websites depend to some degree on organic traffic, so Core Web Vitals is something to take seriously. The first step is to run an audit of your pages (because Core Web Vitals are evaluated per web page, not per website) and then create a plan for getting the work done by May. Current estimates are that only 10% of sites on the internet currently meet the Core Web Vitals standards, so if you have a lot of work to do, you’re not alone.
The good news about Core Web Vitals is that not everyone will do it by May, and some architecture products firms won’t do it at all. This means that making sure your site meets the Core Web Vitals standard will give you a visibility edge over your competitors.
Structured data markup (sometimes called “schema”) is an initiative started by the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) years ago to standardize the way information is conveyed from websites to search engines. Years went by and websites weren’t exactly jumping on a bandwagon to do more work for search engines, so the search engines decided to “encourage” compliance by giving search engine priority and additional features to sites that use structured data markup.
With structured data markup, code is added to each page of your website that tells search engines (a) information that is already on your website (what your company is, what services or products you offer, where you’re located) and (b) information about how your website relates to other information on the web (your company’s LinkedIn page and other social media accounts, Wikipedia pages for your company and related companies, maps for your office locations). This information is presented in the same way to every search engine, so in theory, how your business is ranked and displayed on the web should be the same no matter what search engine someone uses.
To make sure the structured data is itself consistent, everyone has to follow an established hierarchy of what data is collected and how it’s collected. This can be found at Schema.org. The hierarchy is designed for an audience of search engines, not people, and the possibilities for data entry can seem overwhelming. Each choice has to comply with Google’s terms of service and the instructions can be confusing. However, if you don’t invest in structured data markup, you will likely see your visibility across all search engines – not just Google – start to decline. At the same time, competitors who invest in structured data markup will see an increase in visibility and additional search engine features that they can take advantage of. Unlike Core Web Vitals, structured data markup doesn’t require any changes to how your site looks. It’s still important to work with a knowledgeable partner on your structured data markup, because unless you can read code, you won’t be able to check what they did on your site.
Reimagining Trade Shows and Sales Calls
Many architectural products firms rely heavily on in-person trade shows, sales calls, demonstrations, and lunch-and-learns for new business. The pandemic made that difficult if not impossible to do in 2020, and while vaccines are being rolled out, it would be unwise to assume you’ll have the same in-person opportunities in 2021 that you did in 2019.
The good news is that there are many creative ways to continue to sell even if you can’t meet in person. Targeted lead gen campaigns can help you get in front of the right architects and developers for your products, and product videos and webinars can close some of the gap of in-person demonstrations. Case studies will also become more important as prospective buyers want to review your offerings on their schedule – which might be at 11 pm when you’re not available to offer additional information on installations and applications. Many trade shows and professional organizations have opted for virtual or hybrid (both in-person and virtual) events, which create opportunities for presentations and sponsorships. Digital marketing is often less expensive than the travel and time costs of in-person trade shows and appointments and has the added advantage of being trackable so you can identify the tactics that yield the best return on your marketing investment.
The Social Media Holy Trinity for Architectural Products: LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest
There are currently over 100 social media platforms in existence. Your firm doesn’t need to be on all of them, and probably doesn’t even need to be on most of them. For architectural products firms, the best social media platforms for business development tend to be LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. Focus on those channels by developing written content and images that showcase what you have to offer and your industry knowledge. Hi-res images are important for Instagram and Pinterest, which are platforms that are particularly popular with architects. LinkedIn content should provide readers with value and not just be a sales pitch. Recently LinkedIn users have complained that content is starting to read like Facebook content and not be as valuable for business (images of self-help quotes, posts about what someone ate for lunch or where they went on vacation), so make sure you’re not contributing to the problem. Employees should have up-to-date LinkedIn profiles and know how to share content to help grow awareness of your company.
The Exhaustion Factor
You may be exhausted. Your prospective clients are definitely exhausted. The biggest mistake you can make right now is trying to communicate like that isn’t the case – and one of the biggest differentiators you can create for your firm is being mindful of everyone’s exhaustion.
Don’t make it a video call if it doesn’t have to be. “Zoom” has become a noun and a verb. Whether you use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or even Google Meet, video calls are useful when:
- you have a lot of people on a call
- you need to review something visual as a group
- you’re speaking with someone who has a hard time maintaining focus or who communicates primarily through facial expressions and physical gestures
Video calls put pressure on people to have the correct lighting, an appropriate setting, and to be camera-ready. They also rule out the option for someone to be on the call when they’re not at their desk or laptop. Most importantly, for most people video calls are more depleting than phone calls. This means they are a bigger ask of a prospective client. If you’re asking for a video call, be certain that the potential ROI is worth it.
Respect business hours and business days. The boundaries between work and home have become blurred. Prospective clients may send emails at all hours and call you hours before and hours after you normally would have “left the office,” and you can decide whether and when to respond. What you can’t do, though, is mirror their behavior when initiating contact. Emailing a prospect at 10pm on a Saturday to see if they’ve looked at your proposal sends the message that you don’t respect time boundaries and you don’t think about others. If you’re working on emails during off-hours, use delayed send to make sure emails they didn’t ask for aren’t sent outside business hours.
Communicate clearly. Everyone is having a hard time keeping track of information, so follow up any verbal communications with an email or a document that prospective clients can refer back to.
These small things can have a big impact on how prospective clients feel about potentially working with you.
Marketing in 2021 can seem daunting, or you can see it for what it is: full of opportunities that will take some work but will pay off in both the short-term and long-term.