Ana Monteagudo architect at ALEM arquitectura tells us about the importance of digital transformation in the architectural sector.
- Why did you decide to go digital?
In our sector of architecture and construction services, when you start a company from scratch, you either have contacts who will place orders from the beginning or you have to have online visibility. It is mandatory so that when someone needs your services, they find you through Google searches, that is, we already created the company knowing that we needed to be visible online and the digital transformation is really a process that starts, but never ends. You always have to keep updating because technology changes, or a new social network comes along that you have to be on and, for example, Google needs the content to be updated, to be alive, even the aesthetics of the pages themselves change, or how people interact with them. That's why we start the process from the very beginning of the company and we know that it is something that can never be finished.
- What content do you think is most successful on your website and blog?
The content that is really most successful is the one that really answers the specific questions of our customers, that is, when someone is getting information about hiring a service, they have questions such as, for example, what are the necessary steps, what is the budget, what is the best heating system, etc. So we try, through these real questions that our potential customers ask, to solve them through an article in the blog, and in the end it is what is called the "Long Tail", the long term that you position yourself very easily with a question like that. For example, what is the best heating system, how does underfloor heating work, what is a passive house, what is a passive house? Instead of just positioning yourself by "passive house", you position yourself by the question that the user would ask.
So, we actually write the content ourselves and it's technical content, but we try to write it as clearly and concisely as possible so that our potential customers understand it. That's why they are able to reach us when they are in that search process and we get them to contact us and encourage them to ask us for a quote because we are solving their initial doubts.
- How often do you publish content and how do you organise it?
We do it a bit naturally, it's not established and we don't have a calendar. There are many people who make a calendar and have scheduled the day to publish. We try to publish more or less an average of two articles a month, but as it is really something we do outside our working hours, it is according to the possibilities we have. For example, we are here on a Saturday morning and it occurs to us that it would be interesting to publish about this. We have a list of interesting things to talk about. And in that list, there are things that maybe one day you feel like talking about more, or another day it's more of a trend, such as energy saving in housing. So, as we know that it is a trending topic and we have it reserved there, we try to publish more about it.
Most of the ideas to publish are given to us by our clients. In the meetings themselves, maybe they don't know what the windows of a house might look like or they don't understand what the stairs look like, it happens to us a lot. So we do a blog article when we have several questions that are repeated to resolve those doubts, because when a client asks us again we can refer them to that page of the blog, there are images, drawings and diagrams, so that they can understand. It is also useful for that, to solve that initial search that a client may be asking for when they are at home looking for ideas for their possible new project.
- What has been the benefit and impact of going digital?
Actually, writing content and creating content on websites or social media has a very slow return. We have been doing this since we started almost 3 years ago and from the beginning we started publishing content. You don't see the return, to be honest, until after three or six months or so.
From the beginning there were some articles that responded well and that people found useful. Then Google ranks it on the first page, but it doesn't always happen, it depends on how you write it and you always find ways to improve it. But the benefit, even if it's long term, is always there, and for us it's getting more visibility in Google search and with that getting more requests for quotes and more potential clients.
In addition to gaining customers, we also get contacts with new suppliers and partner companies because in the end everyone is looking for the person who is there, on the Internet and in social networks. That is why it is always beneficial for us and everything we put into it will pay off.
- What steps do you plan to take to continue transforming digitally?
Right now we would like to digitalise customer management with CRM software and also to integrate invoicing, for example, to account for the projects we have in progress, or the pending tasks so that each member of the team knows what they have to do, as well as collections and payments or sending emails, which we do digitally at the moment. That is, with digital tools, but not automated. So we are still making invoices in Excel that in the end you have to fill in all the fields each time and these tasks take up a lot of time, so this is a next step that we would like to be able to take. Optimising the internal processes of customer management, mass mailings, for example, or knowing how many readings have mass mailings, and so on. These are things that we have yet to implement in the company. The truth is that I encourage all companies, whatever their sector, to take the opportunity to go digital, improve their online presence and all processes, as it is always a time saver and you can spend that time doing your job better.
- Any advice for other SMEs?
In the end, the advice to any SME in any sector is that the more they can do to digitise, the better. If they are able to digitise their invoicing, accounting and customer management processes, great, because they are going to have a very organised company. If they are able to be visible online through content creation, because anyone can publish content. Sometimes it seems like you say "no, I'm in this sector and people are not going to be interested", you always have an audience because there is an audience that demands your services. Then try to solve the doubts that they have when they arrive, or what doubts they have before calling you and maybe they say: "I don't know if I need an architect", for example, then you make a content that says when you need an architect, you have to try to think about what doubts your clients have, so much to contract you, during the process or after having facilitated the service to be more visible and to be useful. If that content is useful, Google will favour you. And in the end, being there, both in the search engine and on Google and Google Maps, is very favourable. Nowadays everyone searches on Google, if it's not to see the services, it's to see prices or opinions for sure. I recommend everyone to do everything possible to go digital and be as visible as possible, because that is the future.