Making Marketing Gold From Your Award Entries

Rachael Bernstone , 21 April 2020

Rachael Bernstone, journalist and comms consultant, offers some tips on how to increase your return-on-investment for awards entries.

Before coronavirus took hold, many practices entered their recently completed projects into awards programs, such as the Institute Chapter awards, HOUSES awards, IDEA awards and others.

These programs cost a significant amount of money to enter, especially when you factor in all the costs, such as photography, the time you spend preparing entries, your client’s time and cleaning costs, and, later, your time presenting and showing juries through your project. 

For some firms, entering awards may cost thousands of dollars per year, and usually constitute the biggest marketing expense, so it makes sense to leverage that investment, long after your submissions are lodged. 

It’s possible – with a few small tweaks – to repurpose your Awards entries to promote your practice: to attract the types of clients you seek, and projects you’d like to work on in future.

So how do you ensure that your awards investment isn’t wasted?

In the past, you might have entered Awards programs to win recognition from your peers, and/or to generate media coverage, but chances are you didn’t place much focus on addressing future clients. 

From this point forward then, you should reframe all of your outward-facing communications – whether Awards entries, general messaging or marketing and promotional material – to speak directly to your future clients. 

Don’t worry if you didn’t do that in your entries this year; it’s not too late to repurpose your messaging into client-focused marketing campaigns now. 

First though, you have to identify your ideal future client for each project – it may be school principals or empty nesters, for example. Next, work out the key message you want to convey to them: about the project, your practice and your process. 

Finally, choose the best delivery channels to reach that defined audience. The key here is to meet them where they are (rather than expecting that they will find you on your preferred platform, such as Instagram). 

Why is this important? If you use your Awards entries – and subsequent marketing materials – to speak only to jurors (who are mostly your architectural peers), you’re not expanding upon and informing the wider market about why architecture matters. 

Architects already know the value of good design, but in my experience they struggle to convey that message simply, beyond the profession. 

Essentially, your marketing materials should incorporate both big picture thinking (why good design matters) and specific targeted messaging about your practice and projects.

This will help to expand your influence and reach beyond the profession – and the awards programs – to speak directly to future clients.

In this day and age – and this is especially true in the coronavirus era – your awards entries need to work triple-duty: to boost your professional reputation; to attract media coverage for your practice; AND to bring in new clients, because new clients are the lifeblood of your practice.

That way, your significant awards investment – including considerable time and money – can be repurposed to help you attract more of the types of clients you’d like to work with in future.

Rachael Bernstone is an architecture journalist and founder of Sounds Like Design, a communications consultancy for architects. 

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