Part 20 of 20
The primary reason for public relations is to identify you to your potential client as someone they could rely on to design their next project. Word-of-mouth is an excellent source of advertising, but it can be slow. Your best method of securing new business is identifying yourself in the mind of potential clients as the individual they want to design their next project.
Most building designers are so busy designing buildings that they never bother with press releases. However, if your market is the general public for homes, apartments, and light commercial businesses, the fact that you have been retained to design a new project of that type is newsworthy. It doesn’t warrant a column in Time Magazine, but it does justify a carefully worded ten lines to the local paper. When the preliminary is complete and approved, your perspective (providing the reproduction is clear) should be taken to the media personally, along with another ten lines of copy. If the project turns out exceptionally well, invest in having a professional photographer shoot a few pictures and supply them to the media. Often, the owner, the general contractor, or others who collaborated on the project will split the cost with you.
If your market is for the more substantial work, you should do what every other businessperson does, join and participate in some local civic organizations. Participation does not suggest merely turning up for a meeting now and then. Instead, get onto a committee, make a speech, coordinate an event, or run for office. With every action, keep in mind that you are a professional and that everyone you come into contact with is a potential client or referral.
You Need Publicity
How do you create an image as an exceptionally qualified designer? By turning out outstanding design and getting as many people to see your projects as possible. Don’t fool yourself with, “Business is great. I don’t need any publicity.” You maybe be busy now, but what about next week or next year? Images and reputations are slow to build. The best time for publicity is while you’re working.
Joint Venture Options
When it comes to offering more services than you can provide, have you ever considered a joint venture? Are you especially adept at one phase of the design profession yet spectacularly unsuccessful at some other aspect? Most of us are. For instance: Are you a good production manager but struggle to develop new business? Are you an excellent draftsman but struggle with design? Are you a great designer who can’t get the drawings finished on time? If you have a weak spot, perhaps you need to partner with another designer or firm with different abilities.
Specializing and Niching Down
Are you a specialist in one particular type of projects, such as townhomes, mobile home parks, or community development? Would you like to expand that practice? Perhaps you should consider making your services available to other designers on a joint venture. As a specialist, you help in creating the basic concept. You would also assist in production and scheduling. At the same time, the other office (who presumably developed the initial contact) does the significant share of the drafting and coordinating, or vice versa, if you have a project of your own that you could not possibly complete in time and might otherwise lose, you can joint venture with another designer to do the technical work following your design.
In both of these concepts, you have access to professional help to complete the projects without the burden of running everything yourself, mainly if you belong to an industry association, such as the American Institute of Building Design. The office overhead of two competing firms can be nearly reduced by half by joining forces. It will be much easier to have your partner supervise the office while you are out unless that’s where your strengths lie.
As with any aspect of a business, document in writing all partnerships and joint ventures, and both should justify the use of competent legal advice. Never overlook the chance to increase your capability through alliances and joint venture arrangements.