Fewer Words, More Client Benefits
Once again, the treatment of project descriptions on your website will differ from what you include in a written Proposal or SOQ. The content, in both cases, needs to shift from being about the building or place, to about the client’s needs and the benefits your work provided.
Most project descriptions offer details about the project: square footage to give a sense of size, programmatic usage, materials, costs, etc. What we tend to forget is how the client benefitted from the design. In fact, we often don’t quite know how to summarize how a client benefitted.
In sales training there is a statement used to close a sale called the “benefit-needs statement.” I learned this in my teens when I sold camera equipment under a commissioned sales structure. The first thing I did when someone came into the store was ask what he or she wanted to use the camera for. The person might say “My daughter is getting married,” or “We’re going on vacation.” Once I knew that, I had half the formula.
I asked all kinds of questions to decide which camera I thought would be best. Did they want to have control, or were they interested in quick snap shots? Were they comfortable getting up close to take pictures at the wedding, or would a zoom lens be helpful at getting candid shots without having to “be in someone’s face?” I would look at the size of the person’s hands. I never recommended Olympus cameras to people with big hands. If the activity was rough and tumble, I’d likely recommend Nikon with its titanium body.
Once I’d shown a couple options, I could make the closing benefit-needs statement. The benefit is what they came in wanting: great wedding photos. The need is a system to use.
Benefit: “You’re going to be able to take great photographs of at your daughter’s wedding…”
Needs: “With this Nikon and the 28-80 zoom lens. The 28 mm wide-angle end of the lens will help you frame great group shots, while the 80 mm end of the lens will be wonderful for getting candid shots without having to get too close.”
Now let’s translate this into the architectural field.
Almost no architectural project descriptions follow this formula, but they should. If we get outside of our own thinking and question what benefits the client received from their new or renovated facilities, we will be on the right track to effectively using project descriptions to differentiate our firm.
Let’s look at a hotel example. A typical description would be something like:
Hotelitect Architects renovated a 4-story, 120-room hotel with restaurant, convenience store and indoor pool. The programming and conceptual design phase for the hotel was completed on schedule and the project met budget. In addition to room upgrades, the program called for technology in conference rooms, and support and administration spaces such as employee workrooms, offices, storage and restrooms were remodeled.
Ugh. Where are the benefits? This just reads like a written description of the program.
Written as a benefit-based description, it might sound something like this:
The Holiday Inn at Southern Florida Park won The 2012 International Hotel Group’s Best Renovation Project of the year.
- Occupancy jumped by 20%
- Full service restaurant and mini convenience store added 10% additional revenue potential
- LEED design reduced energy costs by 7% in the first year
- Visitor satisfaction survey scores improved from 6.7 to 8.9
The benefits listed above require circling back to an owner after the building has been in operation. It’s also possible to list benefits that are obvious the moment the doors open, for example, renderings used in promotional materials led to advanced conference bookings.
One final note on project descriptions: be as brief as possible on the web. People aren’t reading your portfolio section, they’re viewing it. So make your images large, professional and dominant on the page. Any writing should be simple bullet points, not dense paragraphs. You can get away with a little more text in Proposals and SOQs, but the best idea to keep in mind is creating information that is easy to scan quickly.
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The 4 P’s of Marketing for architects to differentiate their practices are important components of how you communicate your expertise to your potential clients. It takes some effort to reframe your project descriptions and resumes so that they stand out, but it’s worth the time and effort. Creating a Position Statement is hard work, but doing so will set the foundation for your direction and decision-making. Documenting and naming your Process, while complex to figure out, will go along way in helping you to communicate clearly how and why your firm is the right choice.