2011 Business Excellence Awards

Marketing here and beyond

In January 2011, Charles Cunniffe Architects in Aspen, Colo., rolled out a social media strategy. This included a blog, Facebook page and Twitter account. In addition, the company provides quarterly e-newsletters that share company and industry news, a company website and LinkedIn profile.

“The main reason for the rollout was [Search Engine Optimization] to expand our reach. We do projects all over the U.S. and the world, and we wanted to make sure we were reaching that,” says Rebecca Richardson, director of business development for the company.

Richardson handles all the marketing tools, and admits it is a lot of extra work on top of her regular duties, but she believes strongly in them. “I’m passionate about it so that helps,” she says. “Because we design nationally and internationally, a client might not necessarily see our ad in a regional magazine. So if you’re searching ‘architecture’ and ‘Aspen’ and you’re in Rio de Janeiro, we will show up higher on the list. We want to reach anyone and everyone.”

Scheduling is key

The company uses its blog to discuss different happenings in the industry, talk about current projects, post videos, and promote the many pro bono projects it works on. The blog is updated twice a week and is connected to the company’s Facebook page and Twitter account. “We try not to post too much so people aren’t overwhelmed. It’s a fine line especially for architecture because it’s a slower [industry] say compared to retail,” Richardson says.

Setting a biweekly schedule does put pressure to find content, but Richardson has a routine that relieves some of that pressure: She sits down and writes the posts for the following two weeks. “I get coffee, sit down and it flows,” she adds.”

New world, new tools

The company’s marketing strategy has changed dramatically in the five years Richardson has been with the company. “Primarily we did print advertising and websites five years ago,” she says. “You are limiting yourself now if you don’t do [some of the social media]. It keeps the momentum up with the potential client. There is a lot for them to see so they can feel confident they have hired the right company.”

In addition, Richardson doesn’t see the social media usage being used only by her younger clients. “Everyone has an iPad or laptop — it’s all clients across the board no matter the age,” she adds.

The marketing world is an ever-changing one with tools introduced daily, so it’s important Richardson understands which ones to invest her valuable time into. “You have to read and talk to the right people, and stay up to date. And then find out what works for you,” she says. “We are a luxury brand architecture firm so the bells and whistles that make sense for restaurants, don’t apply to us. We have to watch for what’s going to benefit us.”

Leading with community involvement

When Richard Laughlin, president, Laughlin Homes and Restoration in Fredericksburg, Texas, talks about his involvement in the community, a modest tone comes out of his voice and surrounds his words. It’s clear his intentions for being involved in his small town of 10,000 are truly to make the community better.

“We live in a small town and I am very much in favor of maintaining a quality of life,” he says. His family has roots in Fredericksburg, and he believes strongly in doing the right thing by giving back.

A few ways Laughlin is involved in his community range from being on the Historic Review Board, Gillespie County Fair and Festivals Association, chamber of commerce and more. For all of these involvements, Laughlin has been contributing for years, with no end in sight.

Many types of involvement

Laughlin has been on the Historic Review Board for eight years. Fredericksburg has a historic district on the national registry and the HRB’s goals are to review any changes planned for the district. It’s a volunteer, six-person council. “I’m involved because I want to make sure history is preserved,” Laughlin says.

The GCFFA dedicated this year’s fair in part to him for his past community involvement. “I was a director on that board for 16 years and continue to volunteer,” Laughlin says. “We are the oldest fair in Texas and it’s a part of preserving our culture. We are a tradition-based community.” The money raised by GCFFA goes to scholarships at the local high school, mostly for agriculture-related careers, he adds.

Laughlin’s involvement in the chamber of commerce includes helping with events that will raise money for the chamber, the economic impact it has on the community as well as the great networking opportunities it provides. At the time Residential Design + Build spoke with Laughlin, he was preparing for the next day’s chamber golf event.

“We raised $25,000 for the local chamber which is 10 times the amount raised last year,” he says. This is impressive especially considering this was raised when many news reports hint at a double-dip recession. In addition, the golf event was going to include double the capacity of golfers compared to last year with 144 players at this year’s event. “I worked with my subcontractors and clients. Hopefully it’s a big success,” he adds.

All these community involvements don’t surpass Laughlin’s experience with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. In February 2011, Laughlin and his carpenters participated in an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in his area to help out a soldier hurt during the Fort Hood shooting. “The Texas Association of Home Builders asked for volunteers, and I asked my guys and they were excited,” he says. “We worked all night into the next night. It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever been a part of.” Laughlin donated his and nine carpenters’ time and materials to the project.

Advice for others

During a time when so many builders are struggling to find jobs, RD+B asked Laughlin what keeps him motivated to continue to donate his time to so much community involvement. His answer was as simple as do the right thing. “We’ve been blessed with the amount of work we’ve had because we never focused on taking a job to make a lot of money. The focus is always on helping the community and doing the right thing,” he says.

Laughlin calls on other builders — and business owners in general — to get involved. “There are always people who say they aren’t ever asked to do anything. But you shouldn’t have to be asked,” he says. “You should pick up the reigns and help the community — set an example.”