In this interview, we look at how Array Architects uses marketing automation to gain insight into the performance of its thought leadership efforts and to shape its business development strategies.
Array is the highest ranking healthcare-only architecture practice in Architectural Record’s 2013 “Top 300 Architecture Firms.” With a background in finance, Carl helps Array’s clients do well while they continue to do good.
In 2015-2016, I interviewed Carl Davis twice — the first time to learn more about how he transformed his firm from one that competes on fees in a downward spiral to one that competes on knowledge leveraging thought leadership. In this interview, I talked with him about the firm’s investments in marketing technology to drive insight back from their thought leadership marketing efforts and use that insight to shape what they’re doing as a firm. You can hear Carl speak in person at our upcoming event, Profiting From Thought Leadership 2017.
Q: You made the decision to invest in Hubspot to activate a flow of intelligence back from your external knowledge sharing efforts to your marketing and business development folks. Tell me why you chose to make this next investment?
When we started our journey a few years ago to become a knowledge-driven practice, I knew that I wanted some intelligence around our efforts. I’ve never felt the need to calculate an ROI because that’s not hugely important to me. That said, I wanted to capture some level of data around how successful our thought leadership strategy was, and more specifically what pieces of thought leadership and which types of sharing platforms are reaching our prospective clients.
But, I recognized that I couldn’t start with that piece. I had to start with the firm’s culture first. That’s why we started with Synthesis. I knew if I couldn’t get folks to share knowledge internally, there was no way they would expose themselves with external knowledge sharing. Once we got past the internal knowledge sharing, and were able to demonstrate success extending our efforts externally, I felt we were ready to invest in a solution like Hubspot to inform and influence behavior.
Q: Hubspot brings with it a variety of behavioral data about website visitors and prospective clients. How are you using that information to inform your business development efforts? Is the data changing your business development approach?
All that information is shared with our client relationship managers through our CRM, which is Salesforce. It provides those individuals with insight about how a client is interacting with our thought leadership, but it also acts as an inspiration to him or her. Before, they probably assumed that the client was not interacting with our thought leadership at all. Now, they can see the data first-hand and it gives them more confidence in their interactions.
The data we receive from Hubspot influences how we respond to project pursuit opportunities and how we pre-position the firm in advance of those opportunities. Also, our marketing team uses this data to demonstrate to our thought leaders the impact they are having on our business development efforts. As a result, our thought leaders are interacting with clients more frequently because they see the data; they see the interactions occurring, and they’re more confident their content is resonating with our clients. It gives them more gravitas than they had before — they’re saying to themselves, “The client’s perception of me and the firm is clearly different than I thought it was.”
Q: How are you using that data in your marketing efforts?
For our marketers, we’re using the data to inform our thought leadership strategy. If we know a project is coming up and it’s 6 months out, we’re actually looking at our experience, our thought leadership content, and our knowledge sharing relative to that project. We ask the question, “If I had to submit an RFP tomorrow, what thought leadership would I have in place that I can use to raise the firm’s profile both in client interactions and in a proposal response?”
If there are gaps in our thought leadership, they’ll seek out thought leaders that can fill the knowledge gap for the project. Then, they’ll target that particular client that’s going to build that project — we’ll capture the key decision-makers’ email information and deliver relevant, customized thought leadership to those people.
For us, that’s a completely different way of getting our firm’s profile in front of a client. Before, it was pick up the phone and try to get a meeting. Now, we’re capturing data that comes back from the client and sharing it with the person in charge of the opportunity to be smarter in our pursuit efforts. Are they spending more time with certain types of thought leadership, certain leaders’ profiles, certain past projects? We’re using that to inform our proposals. We never pre-positioned the firm in terms of our thought leadership before. A lot of times, if not all the time, the proposal will refer to thought leadership that was created well in advance.
Q: Has this intelligence flow changed your knowledge strategy at all?
Yes. The biggest thing we’re doing is identifying gaps relative to a project we’re pursuing. We identify the topics that will close that gap. Clearly, we’re also driven around where we think the markets are heading and where we see the best opportunities.
Also, it’s been an effective way to influence behavior. We can take data back to our thought leaders and show them the statistics on what traffic resulted from their efforts — the hospital we’ve been trying to get in front of for years — they’re visiting our knowledge community and reading our thought leadership. This has been really effective at reinforcing that thought leadership does work. We have some people that never produced a single piece of thought leadership before this initiative and now are significant contributors.
Q: What’s next on the technology roadmap? Have you or will you start using some of the other functionality of Hubspot — things like automated programs and dynamic calls-to-action to guide your clients’ buying journey?
We have begun to use CTAs for some of our gated content and it is working well. I don’t know that I see any significant technology changes for us in the next year or so. For us, the real differentiation is not the technology. We use technology to inform and execute. The thing that really made the difference was our content creation strategy. The data gave people confidence, but the technology won’t move the ball unless you can convince people that thought leadership is critical to the firm’s very viability.
The other component we’ve found is that the Hubspot/Salesforce integration is really seamless. It’s automatic; we don’t even think about it anymore. Capturing data around those interactions is inspiration to folks that normally would be pessimistic about whether thought leadership really works.
Q: What’s next on the knowledge roadmap for Array?
Right now, we’re just looking to execute the model. How long this will take us, I don’t know. How many years we can run on this model, I don’t know. I know our clients have an enhanced perception of Array because of the content we are bringing to the market and the usefulness of that content to their business.
There’s no secret about sitting down and writing a piece of valuable content that targets a pain point that your client really has. It’s a heck of a lot easier than trying to get a lunch meeting with someone you have been trying to connect with for months. You can leverage that material across lots of different clients.
We’re not big on the traditional business development model. We certainly understand we are in a relationship business, but we also understand that our clients expect us to be experts at healthcare design. Everything that we do centers around thought leadership strategy.