Talina Edwards is principal at Ballarat-based Talina Edwards Architecture where she specialises in sustainable residential architecture. Starting up a practice from scratch, Talina trialled newsletters as a way to expand networks and gain new clients. Some two and a half year’s later she’s sent over 2o emails to her growing email list, covering everything from “What does an architect do?” to “Green ways to heat your home this winter”.
Verity: How long does it take you to put together a newsletter?
Talina: I think when I first started doing them about two and half years ago, it would take maybe 2-3 hours for each one (as I really wanted to get them just right!), and I would send them monthly (and I really enjoyed spending the time on it).
However after a year or so, I decided to do them every second month – as the nature of our service takes so much longer than other industries. Architects provide a high value service that can take years to deliver (and to a small handful of clients), whereas other businesses rely on a high volume of smaller sales and need to reach a lot of people more regularly. After learning a bit about marketing, I felt a lot of the information out there (particularly with regards to frequency and content) was not necessarily as relevant to our industry, so I didn’t want people to be overloaded with emails which don’t end up being read. So I guess the way I deliver my newsletters (and blog posts) is similar to the way I deliver my services – less about volume, more about quality, less about our frantically-paced and short-attention-span digital world, more about slowing down and engaging, less about advertising, and more about building relationships with people and providing value.
Verity: What value do you get from the newsletter?
Talina: I love that it’s a chance to reflect on what I’ve achieved since the last mail-out and provide an update to my community.
It also means I have the all-important ‘mailing list’ or database of contacts which seems to be the number one marketing rule with digital business these days. Almost all of my potential clients come via my website and online presence – I regularly get people tell me they’ve been following me on social media or my blog for quite some time before they make contact – so they already do feel like they know me and can relate to me.
So my newsletter is just one part of my whole digital marketing strategy. I think you need to start with figuring out who your ideal client is first – my ideal client is one who shares my values (and values my services), and so thanks to the internet it has never been easier to reach out to and find like-minded people.
Verity: Does the newsletter get you more work?
Talina: I think it can be difficult to gauge this, however I find that after doing a Google search and finding me, many people do sign up for the newsletter (and get their free checklist in exchange for providing their email address), all before they contact me directly to enquire about architectural services. So I guess the theory behind the “monkeys-fist” is working! The “monkeys-fist” was the name of a particular nautical knot which was at the end of a rope, and although very small it was extremely useful as it was thrown out and helped connect to bigger ropes, to bring large ships into dock. This has become a marketing analogy for the idea of throwing out some small and helpful information (to your potential clients for free), to connect with them (by giving information in exchange for their email address), and then direct them where you’d like them (to your services). I’m sure you’d recognise this technique is everywhere these days. I think the reason this is so important for architects is that traditional architectural services are a big commitment, and you can’t ask someone to dive in and get married before you’ve even had a first date! So this process is like the dating and getting to know each other and build trust.
And for my other subscribers who are part of networks, it is just a reminder that I exist, so the next time their neighbour/sister-in-law/colleague mentions they’re thinking of building, hopefully they’ll say “I know an architect!”. The newsletter is never a big pushy sell, it’s just that gentle reminder that I’m here and this is what I do, and I’m passionate about it.
Verity: Do you think architects need newsletters?
Talina: They say the majority of new architectural clients are referrals – which is awesome when you’ve been in practice five plus years and have had plenty of happy clients who spread the word about you! But for me, I’d moved to a new town, I was trying to build my business and build my networks, and figure out how to attract new clients without having an extensive folio of work on my website – so this became a different approach to marketing for me. So I don’t think it’s a black and white answer! I think it depends on how much work you have on, and if you are getting the right clients and the right projects. And people are so overloaded with emails these days, I didn’t want to be another nuisance in people’s inboxes!
Verity: How do you think a newsletter could help shift to the right clients and right projects if these weren’t what you were getting for example?
Talina: In theory, if you can get your newsletter (as part of your overall marketing strategy) to reach more people, then your number of new enquiries will be higher, and the chance of getting the right clients/projects for you is higher. So ideally you can then turn away the projects you know are not the right fit, and focus on the ones that are, because you have enough prospects to choose from.
Verity: What software do you use for your newsletter and why?
Talina: I use and love Mailchimp – they give me a virtual high-five when I send the newsletter out! Oh, and it’s easy to use, and can be free or quite low-cost.
Verity: How do you measure ROI with the newsletter?
Talina: Mailchimp tracks “opens”, and if a new enquiry then comes in, I might recognise their email address. But other than that, I don’t pay too much attention to all the stats. I think you can get too bogged down with how many “likes” you get online!
Verity: What content do your readers enjoy most?
Talina: I guess that showing a bit of authenticity – I’m a real person that they can related to, and I care about what they care about. I also always try to share some links, relevant events/resources and guidance so that I’m offering some value – not just “me, me, me”! When I set it up, I thought about all my favourite email newsletters – and what I loved about them and why – and then wrote the newsletter that I would want to read if I was looking for an architect.
Thank you so much Talina for taking the time to share your experiences.