This is the transcript from EntreArchitect Podcast Episode 221, Commoditization of the Architect and How to Fix It.
Mark R. LePage: 00:00
Do you know how to calculate the exact amount you need to charge your clients in order to earn 20% profit on that project? It’s simple to do. If you don’t know how, learn how by downloading our free course profit for small firm architects today at EntreArchitect.com/freecourse. Hello, my name is Mark R. LePage and you are listening to EntreArchitect podcast where I speak with inspiring, passionate people who share their knowledge and expertise all to help you build a better business so you can be a better architect. This is episode 221 and this week we’re talking about the Commoditization of the Architect and How to Fix it with Jeff Echols, of Revenue Path Group.
Mark R. LePage: 00:52
This episode of EntreArchitect podcast is supported by our platform sponsors ARCAT, the online resource, delivering quality building material information, CAD details, bim specifications, and so much more at ARCAT.com. Freshbooks, the cloud based accounting software that makes running your small firm easy, fast and secure. Spend less time on accounting and more time doing the work you love with Freshbooks.
Mark R. LePage: 00:52
Welcome back to EntreArchitect podcast.
Jeff Echols: 01:30
Thanks, Mark, great to be here. Appreciate the opportunity.
Mark R. LePage: 01:32
Yeah, it’s good to have you back here. Let me introduce you to those who may not know who you are. Jeff Echols is managing principal of AEC services over at Revenue Path Group (RPG). RPG is a company that integrates the latest applications in brain science, which is pretty cool with their proprietary persuasion, persuasion based messaging model and creative solutions to help organize a organizations, leverage their stories and drive superior results. So he’s talking to companies about the things that they do and the stories they can tell and leverage that and, and applying them. We’re going to get into this a little bit, applying the brain science behind all of that on how they can have more results. Jeff has a unique ability to a drill to the heart of an organization’s purpose and use that fire to forge messaging that not only wins more work, but guides to the entire organization in times of velocity and uncertainty.
Mark R. LePage: 02:31
Jeff’s unique experience, earned over more than two decades in the architecture industry, is a calming force that helps leaders understand how to win in today’s highly competitive arena by activating their prospects to make better and faster decisions, and Jeff has shared his humerus and lively speaking style – and you’ll see that here in our episode – in venues ranging from conference rooms to council chambers to regional and even national stages, and he’s even had the opportunity to speak in an IndyCar factory, which is awesome. I’d like to do that. He’s from Indianapolis. He’s also been here before, so you may recognize his name. He’s an active member in the EntreArchitect community. He was here at the podcast at EA 140: How to Use Your Story to Find the Work You Want. So go check that out. That’s all about building your story to market your firm at episode 140 EntreArchitect.com/episode140. Jeff is an architect. He’s a storyteller. He’s a facilitator at EntreArchitect academy, so thank you for that. And Jeff’s a friend, so I appreciate you being here Jeff.
Jeff Echols: 02:31
Always a pleasure.
Mark R. LePage: 03:44
Let’s start the way we always start. You already had your origin story back in Episode 140, but why don’t you sort of update us, remind people who you are, where you’re from, how you got to where you are, and a sort of update us on where you are today.
Jeff Echols: 03:59
Well, so origin story wise, I guess I was born a large boy child alone time ago. I told my son that’s how to start all of his speeches when he’s nervous. Like mark said, I grew up in architecture, I’ve got family members in the AEC world. I studied architecture in school, have a couple of degrees in architecture and, like the bio said, a couple of decades in the industry. So having that makes me sound old but about 22, 23 years working in firms and, I like to say, at no fault of my own. My career was always going to veer towards the marketing and management side of the business that is architecture. People would recognize some particular skill or aptitude there and pulled me over and eventually that led to positions like director of marketing, director of business development, things like that.
Jeff Echols: 04:58
So in the past seven, eight, maybe 10 years now, I’ve been talking about marketing for architects and have been talking about brand storytelling, business storytelling. Recently I had the opportunity to join the Revenue Path Group, RPG. And it was kind of a unique culmination because when I met Brian Gray, the CEO at Revenue Path Group, he was talking about the brain science aspect that Mark mentioned. And so basically the way I think about the way I look at it is that I’ve been talking about business or brand storytelling for a number of years and I would always talk about you’ve got to be telling your story in a way that resonates with people, with your ideal customer, your ideal client. And there’s a reason that story is resonating because of your brain. Your brain is hardwired to understand and connect with story. Well, Brian Gray and RPG Revenue Path Group, they’re basically talking about the same thing. We’d never met before, but they’re talking about the same thing except that they start at the other end of the spectrum. They were starting at the brain science and the neuroscience reason that the storytelling works, you know, this is, this is why story registers with your brain. So we were talking about the same things coming at it from opposite ends of the spectrum and then then we met at a nexus, some were in the middle. So it was a great opportunity for me to join that group and to lead the AEC efforts for RPG, alphabet soup there. But that’s really it. It’s an opportunity for me to take all the messaging I’ve been talking about, all the storytelling that I’ve been talking about, and take it to a whole new level, bring it out back out to the marketplace with the support team behind me and, and really focus on helping it. So it’s more than architects, engineers, construction firms, but really helping architects succeed, helping them tell their story in a way that helps them win more work. And that’s really the bottom line.
Mark R. LePage: 07:15
So before you moved to to RPG, you were an independent consultant essentially, right? You were working for other companies as a consultant. So how is your position in different now? What are you doing there? What’s your role there?
Jeff Echols: 07:40
This will be interesting to the EntreArchitect of a community, I think, because like a lot of the smaller architects in the audience that are wearing the 17 hats, you know, the proverbial 17 hats, that’s what I did. I was a, like you said, I was an independent consultant. I had some retainer clients and project based clients, et cetera. And you know, then I would have to do my bookkeeping. I don’t have to do my own marketing and all those things that, that go along with running your own business. And so when I was approached by RPG, the opportunity is basically I get to manage the AEC division and I’ve got this team around me and there are other divisions in the company. There are other areas that they focus on, financial services and others that are over my head, but the opportunity to RPG really gives me the ability to take off a lot of those hats, you know. So maybe now I only wear four hats on a day to day basis.
Jeff Echols: 08:44
A big focus is starting with delivering this message, talking about a commoditization of architects, talking about how storytelling and brain science can help architects win more work. And right now my focus is taking a presentation called “Commodity is as Commodity Does” out around the country. So that’s really sort of the start of my marketing strategy for RPG here going forward, looking for those types of opportunities. Also working with existing clients that we have around the country on the project work that we’re doing for them and basically making sure that everybody in our organization that’s dealing with AEC as what they need, you know, that, that I’m supporting them as they support me. So that’s the day to day, it’s really varied. It’s very much like when I was on my own, but the great big difference that I really appreciate is having the team around me so I can take, you know, 13 of the 17 hats off, or something like that, and really focus on my strengths.
Mark R. LePage: 09:57
Yeah. And you’ll have more time to focus on that message that you’re presenting. I think commoditization is one of those things that at every level of the profession, whether you’re a sole practitioner all the way up to the corporate firms, we’re feeling that; we’re feeling that commoditization of architecture and the services, we’re having a debate that we provide and it makes it very difficult to practice. Right? And on top of that, we’re creatives, you know, we have this other level of creativity that we also want to achieve as architects. And so we all feel that and I think we all struggle with that. So how do we solve that problem? I’m assuming that’s the talk that you’re giving. I haven’t heard you give that talk so I don’t know the content of it, but I think it’s a very important subject and I’d love to dive into that a little bit here today. How do we sort of counter that problem that we have? What’s causing it first of all, and then what do we do to fix it?
Jeff Echols: 11:00
I think it’s a huge problem, that’s the reason that the presentation was developed in the first place. It was all these conversations with architects around Indiana. I am starting there because I was working with AIA Indiana doing some membership development work and was having these conversations all around the state. And then, you know, when I’d get to a national event or regional events and having those same conversations where people were saying, “hey, we feel like we’re being commoditized”. Fees are being driven down, the selection process is involving more people. Ironically, it’s slowing down even though the pace of business to speeding up verses what we think. We’re losing projects that we never lost before. We’re being seen as being the same as everyone else. You know, our prospective clients think that we look the same and we sound the same and we act the same as everybody else.
Jeff Echols: 12:08
That’s the perception from the other side of the table. So, hearing those kinds of comments over and over and over again lead to presentations like this one “Commodity is Commodity Does”. And so the answer to “why is it happening” is: we’re doing it to ourselves. We have this idea that we’re not being valued. What? We’re actually the root cause of that, when you hear those comments from clients or prospective clients that everybody looks the same, sounds the same, acts the same. There’s a reason: every stereotype of course has some bit of truth to it. And so when you start hearing that, you’ve got to really think about that. Why is it that I look and sound and act the same as other people in our profession? And so what it really comes down to it on one level is what are we saying our clients are listening to.
Jeff Echols: 13:17
They’re hearing, but what, what is it that we’re saying? Is it something, you know, going back to Episode 140: the story that you’re telling. Is that story resonating with the client? And I would argue that no, most of the time it’s not. Especially if they, you know, if you’re getting the look, sound and act the same, it’s not resonating with them. And one of the reasons is because we talk about ourselves. We spent a lot of time in school, all of us in this profession spent five, seven, eight years in school, in an environment full of architects. We grew up in that environment, we learned the lingo or the jargon, et cetera, and that’s how we learned to communicate. The problem is, the rest of the world doesn’t communicate in that way. And so one of the big mistakes that happens, and, this isn’t unique to architects, this is sort of a human nature thing, this human nature fighting human nature. If we have an About Us page on our website, we think that that page is actually supposed to be about us and it’s really not. You know, when a prospective client, let’s say if maybe some of the small firmer architectes in the audience don’t compete in the RFP and RFQ arena. But if you do, or even if it’s just an interview, a client is interviewing two or three or four architects and considering. When the client or selection committee asks, tell us about yourself, tell us about your work, something like that. They’re not really asking about you. They say they are, but they’re not. What they really want to know is what about what you solves their pains and problems. We spend so much time talking about, well, architects deserve more respect, we’re not being valued, we talk about licensure, we talk about the fact that an IT guy is called the data architect, and all those things are important. I mean there’s legalistic points to some of those and those are important things, but we spend a lot of our time talking about that, when we really ought to spend our time talking about how we’re solving the problems, how we’re solving the pains of the people that we want to hire us.
Jeff Echols: 15:49
When you start doing that, when you start focusing on them, when you start having the empathy to understand what the question really is, what their pains really are, and speaking directly to those, then you start to stand out because none of your competition is doing that. That’s a lot of it. That’s a lot of the reason for commoditization. I mean, yes, the world is moving faster. We could talk about things like so much of the buying decision, 70% of the buying decision that we don’t like to call it that in architecture, but the selection process, 70% of the selection process is made before they’ve even reached out to you. They’re doing the research on the internet, talking to people, doing their own research before you even get to have a conversation, before you even know that there’s a project out there that needs an architect.
Jeff Echols: 16:44
So, so much of that is done before they get to you. In this age where we think about the acceleration of business, and it is truly accelerating, the speed that technology is changing, the cost of technology is coming down, it doubles every few years. It is moving faster and faster, but many times the speed at which decisions are made, the speed at which your clients are making decisions, whether it’s a husband and wife that you’re designing a home for or a committee, the board of trustees at a church or a college or something like that, there are more and more people brought into the decision making process and it slows it down. So it’s a little bit ironic. You know, you’ve got this business speeding up, but then you’ve got decisionmaking slowing down and when you have more and more people in the decision making processes it’s more and more important that you stand out in that conversation. One of the things that we talk about is, somebody like Jeff Bezos, the head of Amazon. There’s this, this quote by Jeff Bezos that says, “Your margin is my opportunity”. That that’s a really interesting quote that I think really oughta terrify a lot of architects because when you think about it, commoditization means you’re not standing out. It means you’re all looking the same. It means that once nobody stands out and once nobody is different, then really the last decision is cost. Right?
Mark R. LePage: 18:41
Right. And that’s what we’re all complaining about, right? We’re all complaining that we’re not valued and we were not getting the fees that we really deserve. Right? And that’s a direct result of being commoditized.
Jeff Echols: 18:53
That’s exactly right. It’s all tied together. And my comment would be, and I know there are some that will disagree with this, but if the conversation about cost comes up early in the process, then you’re doomed. If that’s part of your normal process where cost comes up early, your fees, not maybe not construction costs or whatever, but if the discussion of your fees comes up early, then you have just walked through the commoditization door. And so when somebody like Bezos says, “your margin is my opportunity”, he’s looking at that idea that nobody stands out anymore. Everybody’s the same. So all you’ve gotta do is you can click this one or click this one. Will other people that looked at this click this one type thing? And don’t get me wrong, if you want to compete on price, that’s fine. It’s just one model, right? It’s just a different model, but if you are concerned with value and higher fees and things like that, then you have to stand out and so you know, to tie it back to Bezos here. Here’s a scenario to consider in the next couple of years. Let’s say a CEO will be sitting in her office and she’ll speak to the Alexa, the smart speaker thing in her office and she’ll say, “Alexa, I need a new headquarters building. Who should I call?”
Mark R. LePage: 20:28
Yeah. That’s not far from the truth and not not too far from the future.
Jeff Echols: 20:33
Right? I mean that is the future. Yeah, that is, that is going to happen. Not everybody’s going to go through that process, but it is going to happen. And so if you’re somebody that designs corporate headquarters and there’s a CEO out there somewhere that’s asking that question, is your name going to come up? Is Alexa to suggest that that CEO call you that? That’s why the idea of commoditization should just terrify you the, the idea of the speed of technology and the changing and technology should terrify you. You have got to stand out and that means that you’ve got to tell your story and you’ve got to tell it in a way that resonates with the brain
Mark R. LePage: 21:23
Essentially you start that by focusing on your website, right? For small firms that.
Jeff Echols: 21:37
Yes, definitely. We talked about that 70% of the research is done before they get to you. It’ll be worse in the future. They’re saying by 2020 it will be where 80% is done. So yes, your website’s important, your social media is important, all those things are important. But you’ve also got to think about what you’re saying when you meet someone, you know when someone asks, “hey, who are, who are you?” Do you say I’m an architect or, or is there another story that you’re telling this, this related to their pains, their to their problems?
Mark R. LePage: 21:37
So really it starts with your story. It starts with your messaging for the website now.
Jeff Echols: 22:12
Absolutely getting the story right is, is the first step.
Mark R. LePage: 22:21
Let’s take a quick break to say thank you to our platform sponsors here at EntreArchitect. We could not do this without them. So thank you, ARCAT and Freshbooks. Are you ready for a summer trip to New York city? Well, our ARCAT is headed to New York to the Big Apple for the AIA Conference on Architecture this June, just a few weeks away. If you’re headed there, if you’re going to the conference on architecture, come visit the Big Red A at booth 707. Tell them that you are an EntreArchitect listener and that you wanted to say hello booth 707 on June 21st and June 22nd at the Javits Center at the AIA Conference in Architecture. They will be there every morning serving coffee. I am, they’re there. They’re serving coffee every morning, so where else would you want to go? Just go to ARCAT and throughout the day they will be having their been expert robert wagan explaining their new Revit plugin. Robert’s going to be there explaining all about it, so check them out, stop by booth 707 anytime throughout the conference to learn how ARCAT.com could save you time and money finding all the product information for your projects and yes, it’s all completely free. Remember, just look for the Big Red A. Look across the expo floor and you will see it. Trust me, you won’t miss it. Check out the Big Red A and to learn more about ARCAT and how they can help you be more effective, more efficient as a small firm architect, visit them right now entreearchitect.com/arcat.
Mark R. LePage: 24:19
Freshbooks makes it simple to send invoices, post your expenses automatically, track your time for your whole team by project and get organized with reports. Communication and notifications and getting started with Freshbooks is ridiculously easy. Most people send their first invoice seconds after starting their free trial. I did exactly that. The same goes for tracking time, managing expenses, collaborating with contractors and viewing financial reports. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s a life changing, and if you need help at any time, they’re free. Award winning customer service is just a phone call or an email away, and if you ever have second thought, don’t worry: on top of your free trial for EntreArchitect listeners, you get a free 30 day money back guarantee so you don’t ever have to worry about choosing Freshbooks. You can give it a try for 30 days. Just visit EntreArchitect.com/Freshbooks and then let them know that we sent you by sharing EntreArchitect in the “how did you hear about us” section? That’s EntreArchitect.com/Freshbooks. Check them out to access your free unlimited 30 day trial, ARCAT and Freshbooks. Please visit our platform sponsors today and thank them for supporting you, the EntreArchitect community.
Mark R. LePage: 25:29
Do you have some some suggestions on how to construct your story? Are there specific steps that we should be going through? I know in episode 140 talked about that a lot, but maybe we can repeat some of that. If stories is the thing that’s going to save us, if story is the thing that’s going to keep us from being commoditized, both individually and as a profession, then it’s critical we have to do this.
Jeff Echols: 25:55
Right? So, so where do we start? Right. So, so you could look at tools like Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and different storytelling structures that are out there that I wouldn’t even say are developed. They’re just understood. Somebody looked at a storytelling at the storytelling process over history, back to the oral history of man and went, “oh, this is how almost every story is constructed”. Looking at story structure like that is really important, but I would even go back and start with understanding how these things resonate in people’s brains. And again, this is, this is sort of the nexus of what I’ve been talking about and in what RPG has been doing for some time now, understanding that even though our brains are incredibly complex and incredibly powerful and very interesting, obviously we really make decisions on a very basic and very simple level.
Jeff Echols: 27:08
And so think about the way that your perspective client interprets information. Let’s say it that way, right? So there’s a couple of scenarios. Someone calls you and says, “hey, I need someone to build a new home, design, a new home custom home” and a lot of people will start talking about what we’ve done. We’ve done 33 of these and work in these areas and our price range from this to that. They’ll start giving information like how long the processes and things like that. And then eventually the last question s, “what are you looking for in a home?” You know, what is it, why did you decide? A lot of times it goes in that direction. You’ve got all this high level thinking right upfront. Or think about if you’re working in an architecture firm and a product rep comes in, I don’t know why I like to pick on Firestone Building Products. Hopefully they’re not a sponsor, but the Firestone roofing guy comes in, wants to do a lunch and learn and he sits down and you’re already annoyed because you’re busy, right? And you don’t have that much time and he’s going to give you the lunch and learn pitch. And he starts talking about their brand new eight million dollar white reflective TOP, a certain weight and et cetera, et cetera. And your, your brain shuts off faster than you know, than he can blink.
Jeff Echols: 28:45
The example is that we’re giving all this is high level information, high processed information right out of the gate, and that, that kind of information is processed in the neocortex, that largest part of your brain that takes the most energy, the most calories to support and to keep it functioning. And so our brain doesn’t want it, literally doesn’t want to deal with that. It doesn’t want to do deal with it because at a very, at the very base level, we’ve all heard about the fight or flight level. So our brain gets information and decides, is this a threat to me, is this something that threatens, threatens my existence? Yes or no? And if it’s no, then then maybe it asks another question is, is this something that’s interesting to me on a very basic level, is this something that I should consider?
Jeff Echols: 29:40
Is this something that interests me? And if it’s too complex, the answer is no because it doesn’t have anything to do with me. Surviving doesn’t have anything to do with me thriving. So no, that eight mil white reflective TPO roof does not interest me. It does not have anything to do with me surviving unless I’ve got a project that’s something that I can use right now. And so almost every time we approach these conversations from the top down, from high processing a difficult information, and then eventually try to get down to the very basic why. Simon Sinek,Start With Why that’s a great example. We start up high and try to move down to why. Simon Sinek said, “start with why”. And that’s exactly right. That’s exactly the right model.
Jeff Echols: 30:35
You’ve got to start with the basic. You’ve got to start with the ideas that appeal to your clients at the very basic level. The things that, like I’ve said it, I think three or four times now, that speak to your clients, pains and problems. When you can speak at that level, they’re paying attention. That snaps the brain to attention and go, “oh, this is something I need to pay attention to”. And then you can work on moving the conversation higher. You can move it to those more complex things. But it’s a process. You start basic, you start low, literally speaking. And if you look at a diagram of the brain, but you start low and then you move high as, as the information becomes more and more and more complex.
Mark R. LePage: 31:29
I think that the idea of calories, you mentioned how your brain, if it’s a complicated process or something that’s very high level, your brain is using more calories. And that’s a very interesting way of looking at it. I’ve heard that before and I think that when I heard that, I’m like, “oh, that makes total sense”. That the more calories that your brain is burning, the less likely they’re going to take the next step. So if you focus on trying to communicate your story at the most basic level, at the emotional level, right, the person that you’re talking to or reading what you’ve written will burn less calories and there’ll be more interested in proceeding to the next level because it takes less effort. And so by crafting a story around the emotions and the things that appeal to your client rather than what you can provide in terms of features and bells and whistles that you have, you’re going to attract that person, you’re going to become more attractive and you’re going to be able to be looked at, you’re going to be able to get to the point where you will be able to differentiate yourself from all the others by getting through this process.
Mark R. LePage: 32:43
Because if you don’t hit them at the low level first, and put up this big barrier of high calorie intake content, they’ll never get past that high calorie intake content. They’ll click next and they’ll go to the next website or have the next conversatIon with the next person. And so I love that idea of thinking about the messaging and brainpower in terms of calories, actual energy burned to consume what you’re creating.
Jeff Echols: 33:15
Right? Right. And that, you know, that at least a couple of couple of examples. I guess it’s, again, we don’t like to, in architecture, we don’t typically like to talk about sales and buying decisions where we’re somehow we’re somehow adverse to having those decisions, but, but people buy generally on emotIon. People buy based on emotional decisions and again, that’s that low brain, low calorie decision. So here’s an example. if you know our brain is very good at making very quick decisions and we do that every day. Every day we make hundreds, maybe thousands of decisions very, very quickly. And if we really sat down and thought about it, “we’d say, that’s fantastic”, that kind of function, that kind of decision making ability. The next thing we would do is analyze all those decisions and go, “man, I make all these decisions really quickly and most of them are really bad decisions, but they’ve hit me at this basic level and I made a snap decision”. So think about the idea I did with this. I did this with my son a couple of weeks ago. I said, if I gave you a check for $1,000,000 right now, or I gave you a penny that I would double every day for a month, which would you pick? He’s 15 years old. So he says, I want the million dollars. I shouldn’t have sold him short for being 15, most adults would say the same thing. A million dollars snap, right? That million dollars appeals to my needs right here, right now. I can make that decision. Burned very few calories. Take that check to the bank. Sorry. It’s kind of bounce. But um, but you know, that million dollars helps me right now. But a penny doubled every day, you know, that’s just that little copper thing that I found laying on the street. Right? But it’s the wrong decision. It’s a very quick decisions, easy to make, but it’s the wrong decision because that penny is a penny today. And tomorrow’s two, the next day four. It’s in the next day it’s eight. And after 10 days that penny doubled every day is over $5. And after 20 days, that penny’s over $5,000, and I usually use the example of a 30 day month because at the end of a 30 day month, that penny doubled every day is nearly $5.4 million. If I use the example of a 31 day a month, it’s almost $11 million. Right? So that’s an example of how I could ask that question to 100 people and about nInety nine and a half of them are going to say, I’ll take the million dollars. It’s not to say we’re making good decisions, we’re making quick decisions, we’re making an emotional decision.
Mark R. LePage: 36:28
Yeah. and it goes back to that calorie burning that, that the million dollars is really easy to calculate. And exactly. And it takes very little calories to say, “okay, a million dollars in my account equals good, right?” You know, penny doubled, then doubled, then doubled than doubled. Then doubled is going to require a calculator or a very smart brain and it will take tremendous amount of calories to burn to calculate all those, to get to the point where is that penny doubling going to be worth more than the million dollars? Right? Yeah. So if we, if we bring this full circle back to an architect’s marketing or architects storytelling, how do we apply that? What do we have to do in terms of that penny in that million dollars?
Jeff Echols: 37:18
We started earlier to talk about your about me page and everybody thinks that about me page is actually about me. Well, it’s not, you know. Most people’s, most architects’ websites that you go to, there’s lots of great pictures, photographs of great work that they’ve done, great portfolio, and then there’s a lot of information. My brain gets to that page and you mentioned this earlier, there’s a lot of information there and if it takes too many calories for me to process that, I’m gone. I’m clicking onto the next. So think about the pages on your website. If we’re talking about websites, think about the pages that someone’s going to go to. It’s going to be your, your homepage, probably if they’ve googled you or someone said, “hey, look up, you know, Five Cat studio” or whatever they’re looking up. It’s going to be the homepage. So what information is on the homepage? Is it something that is specifically relevant to the pains and problems that your ideal customer, your ideal client has? If there’s not something that appeals, that tells me right now I’m on your page. If there’s not a statement that essentially says, this person gets me, this architect gets me, then am I going to dig any deeper? Probably not. Maybe I’m eating a Snickers and have got a few more calories to burn. So maybe I’ll click on your about us page or about me page and that’s where I’m going to find that you’ve been in business for 23 years and you got degrees in this and you’ve done this many homes and all this, all this stuff about you.
Jeff Echols: 39:08
And it’s not about you, it’s about me. Human nature says that again, fight or flight, you know, is this a threat to me? Is it not? Human nature says that I am only interested in self preservation on this very basic level. Going back to the calories. If it burns too many calories, I may run out of food and die here on the sahara or wherever it is that I’ve come from. So that about me page has to appeal to me, your ideal client, on a very basic level. So think about who your ideal client is, what their pains are. And I mean, I mean very, very basic pains. Think about what their problems are and make your, about me page about that. That that’s one of the bIg mistakes is people, architects, architecture firms spend too much time talking about themselves and not about their client and not listening frankly, but, but not talking about their clients. So like that person you run into at the Christmas party, the cocktail party, whatever, that doesn’t want to do anything but talk about themselves. You know, this has happened to you in the last month somewhere. You ran into someone, they talked about themselves, nothing else. And your brain literally shut down and said, how do I get out of this and onto the next conversation. That’s what happens in your brain.
Mark R. LePage: 40:40
Yeah. Yeah. And that, that will happen on your website or in that conversation that you’re having with a potential client that if you don’t have your story, figure it out and your story needs to, like Jeff said, not be about you. It’s about them. So your story needs to tell a story about how you are going to be able to solve their problems at a very, very low level. Like second and third grade level. Right? I mean, this is like a really low level. It needs to be super simple and so that’s the takeaway for this episode. Go back to your website, actually craft your story so you know what your story is. How are you going to be able to solve the problems that your target market has? Then how do you in a microsecond communicate that to a potential that comes to your website?
Mark R. LePage: 41:35
How do you do that in one sentence? How do you solve the problem of your client? Because that’s going to keep them on your site and they’re going to want to look for the next step and the next step is going to be the click the about me page or whatever you want to call It. You know your story or whatever you want to call it. That next step is where your story can reside on your website and that story should tell a story about how your client is going to succeed and benefit and have this wonderful life because of their interaction with you.
Jeff Echols: 42:07
If you want a humorous example of this, if you’re a Far Side fan, you know, Gary Larson did a two panel Far Side. It’s called “What we Say to Dogs”. It’s this guy talking to his dog and he says, “okay, Ginger, I’ve had it, you stay out of the garbage or else”, you know, something like that. And then the next panel is, is what the dog hears. The dog hears it as, “blahblahblahblah, Ginger, blahblahblahblah, Ginger,” the dog didn’t hear anything but its own name, right? Not that we want to be comparing our clients to dogs, but that’s really the way communication works. So you’ve got to remember that. I’ll give you a hint. When you talk about your clients’ biggest problems or biggest pains, it’s not “I want a new custom home”, right? That’s not what their pain is. There’s some, there’s some other reason. You’ve gotta dig deeper than that. A great practice you can go through is to just keep asking why? Why do they want a new house? Or maybe it’s a new house because they want a bigger kitchen. Oh, why do they want a bigger kitchen? Well, because they like to cook. Why do they like to cook? Because they have a big family. Well, why do they have a big family? Because they are loving and they want to have all this nurturing experience and they like to have people come over. Just keep asking why and why and why and keep taking deeper and deeper and deeper. And that’s the story you want to get to. You want to get to that emotional level of why do they want the bigger house? Because it’s going to make them have a more loving home.
Mark R. LePage: 43:59
They’re going to have a healthier home, they’re going to have a happier home. They’re going to have happier, healthier kids. They’re going to have better relationships with the other people that they invited into their homes. Those are the kinds of things that you want to talk about. Those are the kinds of things that they want to hear from you and will differentiate you from others.
Mark R. Lepage: 44:17
We need to wrap up because we’re running a little bit long here, but the thing that I think is really important here is, is to take it back to the commoditization of our industry. I think it’s your responsibility to do this because we need to succeed. That’s why we built EntreArchitect because if we don’t succeed as businesses and as architects, our profession is going away. There’s others that are waiting to take it from us and so we need to.
Mark R. LePage: 44:44
Every single one of us, you listening right now, it’s your responsibility to go back to your website and to build your story and at the end to not allow this commoditization to happen. The AIA is not going to fix this for us. Marketing is not going to fix this for us on television commercials. What’s going to fix this is that you and I and Jeff and your friends all go back to their stories and their studios and their websites and their marketing materials and they and they rework it so it differentiates us so we’re no longer a commodity, but we’re actually providing a valuable resource to the world.
Jeff Echols: 45:22
That’s exactly right. It is a responsibility and and it and, no, AIA, hey’re not going to fix it. We’ve got to focus on thinking about and talking about our clients rather than being protectionist rather than spending so much time on other things. If we’re not talking about the value of architects, no one is, and if you’re not demonstrating that value in a way that shows your potential client what your value is, solving their pains and their problems, then then it’s hopeless. You’re not going to win anybody over saying, “I had seven years of school and two degrees and health safety and welfare”, right? It’s not gonna work.
Mark R. LePage: 46:21
Right, the design awards, they’re not the value, and even the pretty pictures are not the value. It’s what our skills and our talents and our education allows us to do to transforms their lives. That’s what we need to get to. Jeff, thanks. Thanks for sharing that. Before we wrap up, I want to ask you the one final final question that I ask everybody, and I didn’t warn you about this so you don’t have anything prepared for this, but what’s one thing that a small firm architects can do today to build a better business for tomorrow?
Jeff Echols: 46:55
The one thing a small firm architect can do today is understand exactly who their ideal client is and dig deep, like you said, dig deep into that client’s, that ideal client’s, biggest pains and biggest problems and figure out how you solve those. Figuring out how you talk about solving those for those clients. It’s not about you, it’s about them. That’s the best thing you can do.
Mark R. LePage: 47:26
Revenue Path Group is that RevenuePathGroup.com, if everybody wants to go check out what they’re doing there and learn more about the brain chemistry and and storytelling RevenuePathGroup.com is the website. Jeff is active on Twitter at @Jeff_Echols. Anywhere else that you want to share?
Jeff Echols: 48:00
You can connect with me on LinkedIn. I like to have conversations there as well. If you go to go to a Instagram, we’re going to see a lot of baseball and color guard thing. That’s all part of the story, right? It is part of the story.
Mark R. LePage: 48:13
Exactly right. So why don’t you reach out to Jeff and thank him for being here today. Jeff, I appreciate you for being here and for sharing your knowledge not only here on this podcast, but you’re an active contributing member of the EntreArchitect community from end to end and I appreciate your support. I appreciate your friendship and I appreciate you for being here.
Jeff Echols: 48:32
I appreciate you too, Mark. Thanks for the opportunity. Thanks everybody out there.
Mark R. LePage: 48:43
I hope you liked that episode. I hope you do because I want you to share it. I want you to share this episode with a friend. Go tweet it out. Go put it on facebook. Go send an email, go tap somebody on the shoulder and say, hey, EntreArchitect has a great episode with Jeff Echols this week. Episode 221. That’s the link EntreArchitect.com/episode221. You know you can share any link by doing that EntreArchitect.com/episode and whatever the number is, pop it in there and then send it off to your friends. This one is EntreArchitect.com/episode221 with Jeff Echols, Commoditization of the Architect and How to Fix It. So send this one out right now. EntreArchitect.com/episode221. Archispeak and Inside the Firm, listen to Archispeak and Inside the Firm if you like EntreArchitect podcasts, you are gonna, love Archispeak, and Inside the Firm, these guys are my friends.
Mark R. LePage: 49:48
These guys do fantastic work on their podcast, super high quality, super valuable content. If it is something that you want to do, go to your podcast providers with you’re on itunes or whether you’re on stitcher or whether you’re on your overcast app, wherever you have this stuff subscribed. First of all, punch the subscribe button for EntreArchitect right now, so you get every episode of EntreArchitect first. Then search up Archispeak and Inside the Firm and punch the subscribe buttons for them to and listen to their episodes every week. They do a great job. They’re talking about behind the scenes. Archispeak is sort of big picture issues and inside the firm you talk about the down and dirty of building an architecture firm from the ground up to great podcasts. Go check them out, Archispeak and Inside the Firm.
Mark R. LePage: 50:48
And our free profit course. Have you downloaded this thing yet? What are you waiting for it? This is going to show you step by step how to be profitable, how to build a thriving profitable architecture business from the ground up. Go check it out. EntreArchitects.com/freecourse, EntreArchitect.com/freecourse. Go download it right now. That’s the last thing you need to remember. EntreArchitect.com/freecourse. It’s free and it’s going to show you how to make money. What else do you want? EntreArchitect.com/freecourse. My name is Mark R. LePage and I am an entrepreneur architect and I encourage you to build a better business so you can be a better architect. Love, learn, share what you know. Thanks for listening. Have a great week.
***End of Transcript***