Search for "Westchester Architect" and chances are you'll find Mark LePage, co-owner of FiveCat Studio in Pleasantville, New York, near the top of the results. He started his business in 1999 in his basement, with his wife and business partner Annmarie McCarthy, no projects, and no money.
Growing the business through referrals from friends, he did some restaurant work, additions to people's homes, and evolved FiveCat into its current form, with 6 employees and growing. They are exclusively residential architects now, doing additions and renovations and vacation homes at the high end. Mark had set a goal for the firm of $1 million a year in revenue, and he's approaching that mark this year--ahead of schedule.
When he started his firm, LePage created the firm's website as their place to market themselves. "Architects are notoriously slow, so we were ahead of the curve having a website in general," said Mark, who noted that they originally got very high rankings in search engines for having a site. "Typically my client is the woman of the house, and Internet is a very important tool for her to find information."
Mark started his fisrt blog, Living Well in Westchester, in 2006 with the intent to help educate his client base, figuring the more they know, the better clients they'll be. It makes Mark more real to people, especially because the site is written in a personal voice. The key value is that clients who come in feel they know him and feel comfortable, and this helps his sales cycle. Mark reports that "most, if not all potential clients refer to the Living Well blog, and most if not all perceive me as an expert in sustainable architecture because of my new green blog. (He's also become LEED accredited so that people can understand FiveCat are experts in sustainable architecture.)
Mark also has a third blog, EntrepreneurArchitect.com where he writes on his passion for the business of architecture. "Most architects tend to see themselves as artists – this is how I try to help everyone run business better and make more money." It also helps him document things he can find later.
But isn't all this writing helping his competitors?
"I look at it two ways – the more educated clients are, we as an industry will all make more money. The more I work and the more I share, the more successful I become. I don't feel we have competition because we're positioned a completely different way – we're seeing architecture as a customer service exercise and an experiential event."
When asked if he recommends that others blog, he cautions: "Make sure you have the time to blog. It takes time, dedication and quality posts. If you don't provide quality, people will stop reading it." Mark spends 10-12 hours a week, and considers this separate from his standard marketing efforts. He often blogs at night, after hours.
Has blogging helped your business? Please comment and share your experiences.