Floor Plan Works is an already established business, run and operated by geospatial engineer, Peter Burtonwood, that produces architectural quality floor plans for a handful of clients in Wellington. Using ARCHICAD, ‘the leading Building Information Modelling (BIM) software application’ – and hardware he has invested in – Peter renders 2D floor plans to a high level of accurate. While it’s not necessary nor warranted for his current regular work, Peter is able, using ARCHICAD, to render 3D computer models.
Previously, Peter had been a part owner and employee of a franchise business producing floor plans, which ceased trading sometime around 2008-2009. Peter founded his own business, Floor Plan Works in 2010, after spending a year or so away from the industry (but no doubt kept busy in his primary job as a fireman).
Currently, Peter works around 20 hours per week for Floor Plan Works, but would like to aim for 40 hours per week. Most of the demand currently comes from one or more real estate agents who he has built working relationships with, but Peter has identified other avenues for the business to explore in regards new, or increased, revenue streams, a wider network of contacts and a diversified client base.
Through his real estate contact(s), a standard 2D floor plan job – for a single building – is charged out at approx. $195. During mine and Peter’s first meeting, my impression was that he was happy with this amount, and felt it was sufficient for the business to be profitable.
We also spoke in regards the other businesses or consultants currently providing the same services as his business. He identified his most direct competition – someone who either does, or traditionally used to get, the same kind of 2D floor plan work as Peter. This competitor – Peter explained – used software and equipment of a lesser quality than Peter did, resulting in floor plans that – while still ultimately achieving their purpose – are both less accurate in measurement, and cruder in visual appeal.
Floor Plan Works draws its business from a handful of primary avenues which include, but aren’t limited to: home-owners who are renovating, concept drawings, house vendors, and home purchasers.
The Floor Plan Works Facebook page lists the following business mission:
“To provide the best quality 2D and 3D Floor Plans to commercial property managers”
Currently, the communications of the business are run from a Facebook page and a business email address. The business also has a professionally developed logo, which Peter and I both felt was a good fit for the business, as well as being of a high standard.
There is yet to be a website developed for Floor Plan Works though this is both understandable and, at this stage, for the best. There would need to be a significant outlay to ensure a site of suitable quality, functionality and usability – there isn’t a cheap or free site that would be suitable at this stage. It’s much better for the brand to use other established options than risk using a site that is technically limited or unable to represent the visual brand to a high degree.
As a professional brand developer and digital marketer, it isn’t often that an established New Zealand business, that is largely confined to their local surrounds and operating with 1 or 2 people, has much to contribute to the first marketing and branding plan. It’s usually later, once they’ve become familiar with the territory, that they can take of what’s been started and run with it on their own, if they choose. In Peter’s case, he had already thought some of the key choices through and, to my mind, had it exactly right – without it sounding too much like marketing narcissism, he and I agreed on almost every point.
To give my take on a broad assessment of the business – including its marketing potential, what possible challenges there may be to its success, and any pre-existing characteristics the business possesses that could be harnessed – I am relying on three main sources of information:
- information provided by Peter during our initial meeting
- a loose analysis of statistics and data from the past revenue of similar businesses, both overseas and domestic
- some informal, and anonymous, conversations with contacts in peripheral industries who have either sourced, or been part of, legitimate market research carried out in NZ at various times over the last few years (covering the main centres of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin)
My aim is to view this data primarily through a marketing and brand identity lens. Any comments, observations or conclusions that I may draw concerning the value or financial validity of the business are theoretical and broad, and not made as definitive assessments. I feel it’s important for me to paint with a broad brush, so I may avoid getting too caught up in details and feel free to give a fair overview of the marketing potential – as I currently see it.
Floor Plan Works has what I will call, significant growth potential. With the right plans in place, as well as the usual dogged dedication needed to make small businesses work, I could see Peter not only reaching his goal of 40 more hours work per week (80 hours total), but exceeding it (if desired).
Software as a point of difference
The software that Peter uses is a giant Best of Breed (or Best in Class) if ever there was one. Other software platforms, that could be counted as competition to ARCHICAD, don’t come near it in functionality, usability and quality of end-product. Its scalability is effectively endless too, which adds to its ‘legacy’ potential (providing unbroken, industry-leading service, that means users never need to change software to scale up or upgrade). They have a dedicated – though smallish – support team, and have a – mostly – decent, web presence. This includes a fantastic You Tube account, that’s filled with quality training video’s – many of which have been viewed over 3000-4000 times – and subscribers of around 40,000.
- Their Facebook page is also well managed, with almost 250,000 page likes, and a handful of semi-private and public groups like ARCHICAD Users on Facebook, which boasts 14,000 members if its own.
- Their Twitter account as 16,000 followers – that’s to be expected as Twitter doesn’t suit this kind of brand as well.
- They have a LinkedIn business page, followed by a little over 6,000 people, which is pretty standard, though it’s in the name of the software developer GRAPHISOFT, as opposed to ARCHICAD.
- The official ARCHICAD Pinterest page is under performing as well with only 800+ followers.
- The only real social media surprise, was that the company’s official Instagram profile only has 1,600 followers. This is a weak spot in their digital marketing, as Instagram can work well for businesses whose brands, or products, have a strong visual component. Note: this under performance could potentially be due to Instagram’s demographic of predominantly women in the 18 to 29 age group (and a large number in the 14 – 17 grouping) rather than poor management on the part of the company.
- There is also a wealth of blog coverage as well as multiple, private and public forums that assist people with learning all facets of the software. Without having the chance to investigate it too deeply, there seems to be a strong network of communication globally linking the software company with architecture students via forums, blogs and websites.
- However you look at it, that’s some great social media stats for a piece of software targeted towards architects and surrounding industries. The fact that Peter is the only person – locally – using this software, to provide floor plans, is a huge point of difference, and one that can be leveraged in a variety of ways (More on this later, in my suggestions).
Quality of product
The aesthetic quality of end-product, coupled with its greater accuracy, as well as the software’s customisation capabilities, forms a significant point of difference with the competition. For me, this fact alone would provide plenty of scope to grow the brand, and ample momentum to position Floor Plan Works ahead of its competitors.
Potential for networking
Peter’s ability to further develop relationships with real estate agents, built upon the ones he’s already established, provides excellent scope to expand his revenue and engagement. Currently, Peter is getting a good amount of work from just one or two agents; even if 4 or 5 averagely busy agents were networked successfully, then his work load could increase by anywhere from 25 to 75%.
Surprising to some, word-of-mouth remains one of the most powerful forms of organic marketing and, one would assume, it could be an important factor in this area. Without having first-hand knowledge of how NZ real estate agents network within their own industry, even going by a measurable minimum (current research suggests that 15% of all employees within the least likely to network consultancy-styled industries, choose professionals for auxiliary roles based on recommendations by peers within their industry), Depending on a number of factors and variables, Peter could expect word-of-mouth to generate a low to medium amount of new leads.
- Peter has a natural flair for both the technical elements of his work (rendering quality floor plans and 3D modelling) and what is required to successfully grow his business through digital marketing, brand development and social media. While I wouldn’t recommend it at first, at least until a workable system is put in place, Peter would be more than capable of managing the ongoing needs of his digital marketing. (more on this in my suggestions)
- Peter understands what other avenues are available to diversify his client base and is capable of engaging and nurturing them. This area of focus tends to have a ‘shifting goalposts’ reality to it but as a general assessment, Peter has the ability and opportunity to achieve his goals.
- Peter is able to think innovatively and make the most of the resources around him. One of the hardest things to teach small business owners is how to think creatively when faced with challenges. Peter told me of his ideas concerning a number of factors – including the website – where he may try to utilise resources (such as students studying in the applicable fields) outside of himself.
Every brand or business comes with its fair share of barriers. The first challenge is to develop, or foster, a workable (usually system-based) way to accurately analyse the surrounding landscape for potential barriers, challenges or problems.
Once such a mechanism is set-up, and regularly used, most managers or owners find themselves becoming more and more skilled at identifying threats before they arrive. Foresight of this kind is invaluable to any business, but it’s usually critical for small and start-up businesses, especially those where one or two people fulfil several roles and positions.
Utilising a basic system of appraisal – like what is alluded to above, and incorporating the information from mine and Peter’s meeting – I’ve identified a handful of potential barriers to Floor Plan Works achieving the business goals that Peter’s set out:
Competitive networking and digital marketing
At least one of Peter’s floor plan competitors, who also has an existing relationship with local real estate agents, may try to network the same potential clients as Peter, which could provide certain challenges. This type of conflict is common among niche industries, and is frequently seen when residential areas (and to a lesser degree, cities) are heavily targeted by direct marketing and/or cold call selling by competing businesses.
Note: To clarify, these types of ‘conflicts’, generally speaking, don’t manifest as a ‘conflict’ between opposing or competing business entities. Most commonly, the main problem (or ‘conflict’) is that potential customers become ‘turned off’ from anyone offering a similar service or product. Some studies have shown that after periods of excessive saturation (admittedly mostly from aggressive sales practises like direct marketing), large portions of affected consumers, especially certain demographics, are far more likely to have a negative view of the types of services, products or companies included in the canvassing.
Negative industry perception
Architects could be considered the nearest sister-industry to what Floor Plan Works, in the sense that they often produce floor plans for new house builds (and major renovations?). Peter pointed out that they often charge significantly more than him, which should work in his favour, but that it could be possible to negatively affect the way architecture firms view Floor Plan Works. While probably not a major concern in the wider scheme of things, this is something that Peter will need to navigate with some care and foresight, something that he is well able to do.
As far as I know, bearing in mind that there may be avenues I have missed, I don’t see any other obvious conflicts with other businesses or industries. Of course, if Peter diversifies his services to include new products, this may need to be looked at again.
Lack of professional support
My main concern in this regard, is a potential lack of ongoing support in the key areas of digital (including social media) marketing, and content management. Due to a range of limitations that commonly effect how small businesses operate and make decisions, the full potential of new and fostered growth can be restricted or cut-off mid-process. I’m unsure if this is an issue that’s been addressed for Floor Plan Works yet, so I include it as an opportunity for consideration.
To also offer the other side of the equation, there are many small business owners, managers and employees who successfully operate fantastic initiatives and campaigns with minimal budgets and little to no expertise. The common denominator in almost all such cases though, is a large time investment at the beginning, often including a steep learning curve and much trial and error.
Lack of time and skilled workers
I include these only as peripheral concerns, just so they’re in the picture for future planning. The only possible issue I can imagine happening currently from these is if a client needs urgent work done during the days Peter is on shift as a firefighter. That being said, this is no doubt an issue that Peter’s already addressed. I would also imagine that urgent jobs – that need to be completed within a few days – are probably unlikely in this field.
After assessing the information provided by Peter – and that gathered by my own research (helped greatly by a few unnamed sources) – I would consider Floor Plan Works to be a small business with significant growth potential.
Outlined above, I assess the key advantages of Floor Plan Works to be:
- The quality of software Peter uses makes it a point of difference with competitors
- The quality of Peter’s product makes it stand out above competitors
- The potential for further networking
- Peter’s own capabilities
And the potential barriers to be:
- Potential networking and digital marketing of his competitors
- A potential negative industry perception from architects
- A potential lack of professional support
- A potential lack of time and skilled staff
When first approached by Peter, he expressed an interest in seeing what digital marketing could do to help him achieve his business goals for Floor Plan Works, and had already developed some ideas around this (floor plans guy, student project website etc.).
Due to the nature of the business, the relevant surrounding industries, what the business goals are, and the business’ existing advantages (including those currently untapped) and potential barriers, I would recommend a ‘boutique’ digital marketing plan that includes the following features:
- A cohesive, multi-platform social media approach with an overall ‘campaign’ idea or theme *for example, this could be the development of marketing content around the ‘floor plans guy’ mascot idea
- The setting-up of a LinkedIn ‘Showcase’ page
- The development of an email list and email marketing system *like Mailchimp or an Excel template
- The development of video content that is engaging and informative *there is the potential to make 3D ‘movies’ with the existing ARCHICAD software
- The development of a ‘Floor Plans Guy’ character to act as brand mascot *Peter already uses the email address firstname.lastname@example.org
- Some investigation into getting a high-quality website done *Could potentially be a student project to keep costs down
- Some investigation into what other industry ‘groups’ there are who might be interested in being ‘linked’ with Floor Plan Works. *This could provide some extra resources for networking, video crafting, sales leads
Suggestions for Social Media
In my opinion – guided by the nature of the industry and current marketing stats and data – the social media platforms that best compliment Floor Plan Works brand are as follows:
LinkedIn Business Page
LinkedIn ‘Showcase’ Page
Content Creation and Management for Facebook
Facebook is still the most visited social media platform, with 79% of global adult internet users visiting at least once per day, adding up to 113 billion active daily users. There is strong data to support the statement that, “of all the major platforms, Facebook users more frequently engage with long-form content, as well as short-form news items”. (Pew Research reports as much as 82% of Facebook’s social traffic is directed toward content of a longer form, including links to blog posts, articles and news stories.)
Content creation and management for Twitter
Twitter first reached peak usage in 2015, hitting 23% of total internet users. The platform now boasts an active membership of 24% of all internet users, and while it is anecdotally associated with younger users, it also attracts a significant business audience:
- 87% of B2B marketers use Twitter to distribute content
- Nearly 13% of all B2B social media leads come from Twitter
- B2B marketers who use Twitter generate twice as many leads as those who don’t
- B2B marketers rate Twitter as the second most effective social media platform
- Twitter users are three times as likely as Facebook users to follow a brand or business.
- 42% of Twitter users learn about products and services on the platform.
The best-practice aim for Twitter is to post a mixture of original content, curated content, and updates or check-ins. In this regard, Twitter is the only platform where such diversity is rewarded. Also, posts on Twitter that include one or two hashtags perform up to 40% better than those with none.
Content creation and management for LinkedIn
LinkedIn boasts a healthy base membership, with their regular visitors making up 25% of total internet users. It is also the only social media platform where usage rates are higher among the 30 to 49-year-old demographic than among 18 to 29-year-olds. LinkedIn is the platform preferred by professionals, with 32% of employed adults being active members. It is considered by many to be the best platform for B2B marketing.
Introducing… the LinkedIn ‘Showcase’ page
A LinkedIn Showcase page draws attention to a niche product or provides a platform for advocacy, and builds relationships with a specific business audience. Showcase pages are often used when businesses want to reach a particular buyer personality, but they work equally well for campaigns and projects that seek to educate, raise awareness, or change the perspective of a particular group.
A Showcase page would be an excellent way to draw attention to the niche service that Floor Plan Works provides.
It would involve some set-up, and then could mostly be used much like a Facebook or LinkedIn page for posting though woulf have the advantage of being targeted towards just the floor plans rendering service.
Content creation and management for Pinterest
While Pinterest was previously seen as one of the ‘throw away’ platforms (like Snapchat), more recently, it has developed its strengths as a visual platform to become a legitimate advertising solution for businesses.
While not appropriate for all businesses, the visual quality of the platform lends itself to brands and products that have a strong visual aspect. It gives users the ability to make an unlimited amount of ‘boards’, filled with images (called ‘pins’), that are acquired from searching or browsing within the platform and are usually named with a certain ‘theme’ (like ‘renovation ideas’ or ‘wedding dresses’ etc.). This has turned into an innovative option for businesses who are wanting to advertise their products, or raise brand awareness, and offers a point of difference to the traditional advertising available on Facebook, Twitter or Google.
I have prepared a ‘Floor Plan Works Mood board’ as an example of the kind of floor plan images currently popular on Pinterest. View it here https://nz.pinterest.com/bombastzine/floor-plan-works-moodboard/
Content creation and management for Google+
Google+ is an essential element of every business’ online identity. Previously misunderstood, the platform is easy to use and is growing in popularity. It contributes significantly to how a business is seen and found online. Google+ posts are engaged with in a similar way to Facebook.
Content creation and management for Instagram
Instagram is another platform built on strong visual elements. Now widely used by businesses – in both advertising and Instagram ‘Shop’ – it has grown into a stable and user-friendly platform.
Like with Pinterest, Instagram provides Floor Plan Works with another platform that’s focused on visual engagement.
Pricing for basic package
|Per month||One-off cost||My price|
|Digital Marketing Plan||$500||$0|
|Development of ‘theme’ for social media marketing *incl. client meetings||$150||$75|
|Development of original content for marketing and SM posts||$400||$200|
|Development and use of email marketing list *not including cost of Mailchimp||$100||$100||$100 total|
|Development of video content||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Setting-up Showcase page||$100||$50|
|Scheduling posts for social media incl. adding images||$200||$100|
|Totals (excl. GST)||$700||$850||$525|
|Total first month||$1550||$525|
|Total 2nd month||$700||$400|
The above pricings are all excluding GST and are meant as a guide. The full price costings are my estimate for a ‘boutique’ marketing package from an agency at the low end of marketing pricing. In most cases, the costings could be as much as double – which is why, in my opinion, many small to medium businesses are avoiding the larger agencies. My listed costs have been discounted – at my discretion – for Floor Plan Works only.
I have just priced the parts of a potential plan that I feel are a baseline.
I have no issue whatsoever if Peter wants to implement any of the ideas or suggestions in this document without enlisting my services. I have prepared this report because I wanted to and would like to see Floor Plan Works reach the goals that Peter has set.