Embracing the principles of content marketing with AC Architects

About AC Architects

Allan Corfield Architects is a Chartered Architecture practice based in Scotland, working throughout the UK in all areas of architecture.

Since 2010 ACA has specialised in supporting Self Build clients build their dream home. Their aim is to work closely with their clients, guiding them through the Self Build process – creating value for money, energy efficient, and beautiful homes.

ACA also aim to provide Self Builders with the inspiration, support, and education they require to build your cost effective, energy efficient, dream home.

2014 saw ACA shortlisted by BuildIt Magazine as ‘Self Build Architects of the Year’, as well as for ‘Best Eco House of the Year’.

This is how they started their content marketing journey…

Unemployed to Business Owner

Allan Corfield

Allan Corfield – Director, AC Architects

In 2009 Allan was made redundant. Another talented architect out of work as a result of the property crisis. He took on a part-time job, but his passion for architecture drove him to launch ‘AC Architects’.

Allan took a traditional approach to his initial marketing efforts. The goal was to establish the business and partner with other companies so he could work on some larger scale projects. He created a basic website, ran press campaigns, and attended networking events to generate business.

Content Marketing – what’s that?

By 2013, the property market was finally showing signs of recovery. The market was coming back strong, but the market had changed. New trends were emerging, none more so than desire to build your own home. This interest was fuelled by a surge of new TV programme about housing building. Grand Designs was quickly followed by similar shows that tapped into a growing self-building movement.

Allan’s content marketing journey began in June 2014, when he met Chris at a networking event. Allan had never heard of content marketing before. It was a new concept to him. But he will tell you himself that the last 18 months have been monumental. The business has grown dramatically, and content marketing has played a significant role in that success.

“I didn’t know anything about content marketing until I met Chris and went to his workshops. To be brutally honest I was buying into Chris, getting to know him, and going along to the first masterclass that enabled me to fully understand what content marketing was and why I should be doing content marketing.

It was the first time I became aware of Marcus Sheridan and how content marketing turned his struggling pool business around that I really got the concept. It gave me total belief and I knew that content marketing was the way forward to propel my business. If I knew about this back in 2009 then my business could be in a totally different place than where it is now.”

– Allan Corfield, Director at AC Architects

How has content marketing helped AC Architects?

Content marketing has helped AC Architects grow their business and reputation. But content marketing has done more that that – it’s changed the way Allan thinks about doing business. Before, Allan, like most business owners, was in sales mode most of the time. What he didn’t realise is that customers aren’t in buying mode all the time, so the sales message won’t work.

One of the key fundamentals in content marketing is to think like your customers. Let me ask you this, do you like being sold to all the time? If you’re like most people, the answer will be a resounding no. So why should your customers be any different? Your customers don’t want to be sold to 24-7 but they do want your help, advice and expertise.

Part of content marketing is building trust with your customers. To align with this new way of thinking, Allan had to invest in a new website for AC Architects. Allan’s first website wasn’t suitable for his customers. It didn’t connect with people who had a desire to build their dream house.  The original website was full of technical jargon and was aimed at fellow Architects not his customers.

He also needed a website where he could publish his content. If you regularly read our blogs you’ll know we favour a WordPress website for blogging. This was the first step for AC Architects in turning their business into a content machine.

How has content marketing changed AC Architects culture?

Simply put, content marketing changed Allan’s thinking and in turn transformed his company’s culture. He stopped chasing sales and cut out the traditional, sales focussed marketing model. His team understand and follow the ethos of content marketing because they know it works.

He understood that content marketing is about building a relationship with his customers. It’s about educating, teaching and thinking like your customers. Research has shown that 70% of the buying decision is made online before your customers contact you. It makes sense to have your content in order, which also has the added benefit of pre-qualifying your customers. Simply put – everything they need to know to make an informed decision is presented to them.

Allan stepped away from his Architect mindset put himself in his customer’s shoes. He practised the ‘you ask, we answer’ philosophy and started answering his customers questions. Something that other Architect businesses had never done. Allan quickly moved from being a content marketing rookie to become a leader in the Architecture community.

He understands that to get customers, you have to think like your customers.

Implementing content marketing doesn’t have to be another hurdle

Nathan McConway

Nathan McConway – Content Co-ordinator

One of the most common things we hear when we talk to business owners about creating content is that they don’t have the time. Our advice is don’t let time become an excuse. Try to schedule some time to write something, just get started and see where it takes you.

In Allan’s case, he didn’t feel he could commit to writing copy regularly. He decided to employ someone to do this for him. Through ‘Adopt an Intern’, Allan hired Nathan, an English graduate, to start drafting copy before he launched his new website. Nathan and Allan had 5 months to come up with content ideas and start drafting copy before the new website was launched.

Nathan has a talent for writing, but he was also new to content marketing. He had to start from scratch and learn the fundamentals. He couldn’t practice what we preach, unless he fully understood what content marketing was and why we were writing content. The good thing is that Nathan has no experience when it comes to building houses. He can, in plain English and without jargon, create content that is for everyone.

How do you generate ideas for content?

One question we are often asked is how do you come up with ideas for content? When does your content journey end?

Let’s address the first question. We advise our clients to do a brainstorming session to come up with ideas. Or, start off by answering your customers questions and put these into separate blog articles. If one customer asks, then the other customers probably have the same question. It makes sense to answer it on your website and it also helps to build trust with your customers.

“Our content has enabled us to become the experts and educators in our sector. We are providing our customers will all the information they need before they contact us. No other Architect company that I know of were doing this 18 months ago and the majority still aren’t. This is probably because they are trying to sell and aren’t thinking like their customers.”

– Allan Corfield, Director at AC Architects

Allan’s goal with his content strategy is to become the Wikipedia of his industry by teaching, listening and using the ‘we ask, you answer’ philosophy, as well as Marcus Sheridan’s Big 5 approach to writing content.

Related content

He also knows that his content journey will never end. Content marketing is ongoing and never ends unless your business does.

New website, content and goal setting

AC Architects Website

AC Architects new website enjoyed a hugely successful launch, with traffic levels soaring above all expectations. Allan could see that changing the website to become customer focussed, and having lots of useful content was going to pay back over time.

But it wasn’t all about the new website and writing content. One of Allan’s personal goals was to become part of ‘Home Building and Renovating’ magazine. The magazine is well-known and respected within the architecture community. Allan hoped that his content would position him as a thought leader with the magazine.

The good news is that the content worked and Allan is now writing an editorial piece on extensions for the magazine. This is, in part, because he positioned AC Architects as a leading authority and educator in his sector through the powerful content that he’s published. Good work gets noticed and this is certainly true in this case. Allan has been offered various speaking opportunities through the magazine which is another bonus and really good for his business and his personal brand.

You can’t rush content marketing

We help a lot of businesses conquer their marketing challenges. And one of the consistent issues is that they don’t want to wait for results. They want it now, not next week. They certainly don’t want to wait a year.

Content marketing isn’t a quick fix or magic wand to suddenly transform your business. You need to give content marketing at least 18 months before you start to see results. For AC Architects, it wasn’t about generating leads, it was about becoming an authority in their space. Allan wanted his website to be the main driver for developing new business, which is exactly what has happened.

Results

So how has Allan’s website, content writing and all-in approach to content marketing changed his fortunes?

While exhibiting at home shows, Allan and the team regularly meet customers who have visited their website and, as a result wanted to work with them. They are getting referrals from customers as far away as Sussex and Devon to build houses.

The team have had many customers praise their website and it’s become a lead generating machine – all driven by their original content.

Allan uses social media to distribute his content. And it’s paid off. He met one of his clients on Facebook. A client that just happened to have a budget of £800,000.  Allan understands the value of posting his content on his social platforms. But he also knows simply posting isn’t enough. He interacts directly with his audiences on Facebook and Twitter. He starts conversations and builds relationships.

“It’s clear to me that without content we wouldn’t be the business we are today. Content has positioned us to be the best we can be. It’s grown and generated revenue in my business that I don’t think would of been possible without it.”

– Allan Corfield, Director at AC Architects

Google analytics and SEO

Nathan monitors the success of his blog articles by reviewing the traffic via Google Analytics a month after the post has been published. Part of Nathan’s job is to track content and see what is working and what isn’t, so they can build this into their content marketing strategy.

The good news is that their content is generating more organic searches in Google, which is what you really want. This means that AC Architects are being discovered as a direct result of a Google search. Nathan has noticed that many of his articles are climbing up the rankings in Google because of their content.

There is no doubt that writing strong articles will help improve your organic search in Google. The more useful, focussed content you can write, the more chance you have of being found, which could result in another customer.

What’s next for AC Architects?

Allan knows that his content journey will never be over. As his business evolves and develops he will have to keep generating quality content.

They’ve started to get guest bloggers, including Engineers or Designers to answer specific customer questions with the aim of covering the complete self build process. Allan has got the content marketing mindset and vision clear in his head. He’s always thinking of his customers and exploring new ways to help them. Recently a massive company in their sector reshared one of these guest articles to its customers. This helped Allan’s content reach an even wider audience.

They’ve recently created a lead generating ebook that customers receive in exchange for their email address. This helps them share their message, while at the same time growing their email list. Nathan repurposed many of the blog articles he’s written to create an ebook that has everything their customers need to know about building their own house.

The ebook will also pre-qualify customers and will become a key resource for Allan. In short, it delivers unambiguous content that spells out what AC Architects do and how much they charge – a perfect solution to the problem of dealing with people who were never going to become customers anyway.

The next move is to develop video content as an extension to their blogging activity. The ideal opportunity to pilot this, is when Allan presents at the Home Building show. Nathan will put his videography skills to the test and record some of Allan’s talks and he’ll also interview fellow exhibitors.  We can’t wait to watch Allan and Nathan star on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Conclusion

AC Architects has grown beyond Allan’s expectations and now employs a team of 9.

We can’t wait to see how the next 18 months unfold for AC Architects, as they continue to create new and exciting content that delivers value to the business.

But perhaps the best way to end this case study is for Allan to have the last word:

“If you’re still sitting on the fence with content marketing, jump off it and get started. The biggest challenge is just doing stuff rather than talking about it, get on with it! If you can get your first bit of content written then that’s a start. The result we’ve seen in just 8-9 months have been well worth the effort, but you won’t see any results until you start trying. We’re excited about how things are developing and it’ll be interesting to see where we are 6 months from now with the addition of the ebook and video.”

– Allan Corfield, Director at AC Architects