Architecturally Speaking - on networking and business development
It's 2020 and design has no shortage of talented designers, architects, and creatives. So as a Business Development Consultant for the A+D community, I often get asked: How do I stand out and grow my business?
Like nature, businesses also have seasons. Some seasons are drier than others. As we know, a major part of doing the work starts with getting it. The best part about the work once you have it, is then getting to innovate, develop and curate within it - which leaves little room for then developing more business.
With the new decade in full swing, hunting season has officially begun. To survive and thrive, one must not only meet new people and remember them, but also be memorable yourself. This is what I do best, business development; which is a vertical that often gets forgotten because of the more immediate needs of the creative work. The formula is in the follow up and it's leaning back to analog. Logically speaking, it's about working with who you like and trust.
If you’re like me, you might experience information fatigue: an overload of things to check, post and share. So let me help you get yourself out there, get known, better know yourself and what sets your work apart.
1. Name drop. But not in the typical Hollywood sense. Because what I mean is to name drop your own name, your own clients, your own business. I introduce myself by first and last name (I'll tell you why later), I'll repeat my name before I leave the conversation, and I’ll repeat what client I'm representing. Recalling past projects, mutual colleagues, and relevant headlines in the news will help you stand out amongst a crowd by not only being personable, but topical.
2. Know your audience. Witty banter aside, before going to an event, research the attendee list and make a list of the top 5-10 people you want to know personally. For example, I typically create a list in my phone that includes: a photo, a full name and a few notes to quickly reference before I approach someone at a party. This ensures I have something specific to genuinely compliment or comment on when sparking conversation with my intended audience. Notes can be anything - from non work-related topics such as charities they are involved in, or mutual friends you might have. *Don't just stay comfortable and gripe with other architects, visualize the room, and then lap it.
3. You are what you bring to the table. No one wants to be sold to or preached to. They don’t want to subscribe to your newsletter, and they aren’t interested in engaging with a “know-it-all;” even if you are an unassuming one. So offer value and interest. Be curious. Not only that, read the news, outside of architecture and design. Select 1 or 2 industry trends and new developments to comment on. More often, it's the personal aim that connects on that level first. Back to my introduction, saying my first and last name when introducing myself (architects love to visually associate), so I'll say my own name in a story, or a thing they can associate my last name with. If I have a pen, I'll write a note on my card. More often though, most of us aren't great with names, so it's an extra reminder.
4. Always secure the bag. I know this seems like a lot of pressure. But it’s not, I promise. There are a few different ways to achieve this. It’s easy to have a great conversation and/or introduce a client to a prospective partner; but you need a takeaway. Leave them with something memorable to follow-up with. If this person is not a direct new client or collaborator, offer something of value - even if you do it in a way where you’re making them feel valued. For example, there are many ways to ask for a referral or a tip on events they recommend, books they’re reading, etc. There is always information we can share and receive, and most importantly, connect on.
5. The formula is in the follow-up. Figuring out the time you email or take action for next steps is always tricky and depends on multiple factors. A big factor to consider: what the size of the event/party/conference was. If it was a smaller gathering and you had a meaningful conversation, then sooner (even next day) is okay. Address how your approach and interest could benefit. Don't sell, but provide helpful links and everything easy to access. Let them know that you'll check back in for a meeting and keep the conversation going - but actually set reminders and notes to keep in front of them in a month to keep up the momentum. Most importantly, don’t get in your head. Assume they aren't ignoring your email, because more often than not, they might just be suffering from information fatigue, and that is something we can all relate to.