Using Competitions As a Marketing Tool
"...For someone who is young and who has no experience,
the only way to get big projects is through competitions."
There are hundreds of design and construction competitions sponsored by various trade magazines, professional organizations and industry groups. Maybe you have never entered a competition or it's been years since you have. Consider including competitions in the overall marketing strategy for your company. If you're short on client projects, or even if you have ample workflow, entering a competition is a low-cost way to promote your name, explore new ideas, and motivate you to try new project types.
Competitions can inspire and offer an opportunity to be more imaginative. Your current projects may have very tight budgets, or your creativity may be stifled by the requirements of your client. A competition can be a design exercise - or a charrette - for you and your employees. Think back to those "open-ended" projects you had in college - no funding restraints, loose client requirements, and a little time to dream.
Once you enter the competition, the design can be included in your portfolio to highlight your capability in that particular niche. Does your body of work have a high concentration of office projects, but you would like to work more in hospitality? A competition sponsored by a hospitality design magazine can allow you to sharpen and show your skills in that market segment.
Utilize competitions as cost-effective marketing tools. They typically have no or relatively low-cost entry fees, and are an excellent way to get your work in published. In most cases, even runners-up get their name listed as an honorable mention. Once published, reprints and press releases can be sent to clients and potential business partners.
Plan ahead to include competitions as part of your annual marketing efforts. Create a calendar of upcoming calls for entry, including registration dates, binder requirements, and submission deadlines.
Bernard Tschumi, quoted at the beginning of this article, won the 2001 competition and commission for the New Acropolis Museum in Athens Greece. Tschumi estimates that he wins one out of four competitions he enters. Learn a few of his strategies in the Architect magazine article "Playing to Win" (October 2007).
By Karen A. Davis
Image by Vladimir Surkov
Karen A. Davis has over 20 years experience in the architecture, construction and facilities management fields. She is founder and president of Building Industry Resources (http://www.buildingsource.net), a company that provides business development and technical support services, and managing partner with KARMIS, LLC, a construction and facilities consulting firm. Ms. Davis is also a college instructor and author.