History Smiths
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Architect Taps into Local History, Builds Reputation, Attracts Customers

A friend and client of mine did something quite brilliant a little while ago – all his idea – and it’s a story worth sharing.

Mathew Cummings of Cummings Architects in Ipswich, Massachusetts, has worked on dozens of very old houses in Massachusetts, and what he has seen over the years has horrified him. Poor planning and design, original material destroyed for no reason and replaced with junk, lack of respect for historic properties — you name it, he’s seen it.

Mat has spent years cleaning up after other people’s work, and transforming old homes that were not treated well into showplaces that are well preserved and appropriately used.

On the one hand, you could say that Mat would be set for life fixing other people’s mistakes. But Mat happens to be passionate about history and preserving our precious and irreplaceable architectural resources. In fact, he serves on the board of the historical society and museum in Ipswich, Massachusetts (the town that happens to contain more houses built before 1725 than any other community in the United States!).

And so, Mat worked with one of his colleagues, James Whidden, a timber framer and interiors “woodwright,” to create an educational seminar called “Old House Restoration: How to Do it the Right Way.” He promoted this FREE seminar to historical societies, museums, historic house museums, and public libraries and guess what? People came out in droves to hear what they had to say and learn from the experts.

I attended quite a number of these talks to observe audience reaction. People were fascinated by Mat and Jim’s Powerpoint presentation (especially the historical overview of early architecture and the before-and-after segment), they came armed with questions, and they were sincerely grateful to Mat and Jim for sharing their expertise for free.

To promote each seminar, Mat distributed emails and Facebook blasts from his business and designed an event poster. Each host site distributed his information to their own network and contacted news media.

Mat and Jim presented about 20 seminars in all, and reached thousands of potential customers through combined outreach efforts – far beyond the number of people who actually attended.

By offering their free seminar, Mat and Jim secured their reputation as professionals who genuinely care about historic properties AND know what they're doing. By contacting the places where people who are interested in history hang out, they were able to tap into their target market in an appealing, “soft sell” way AND make the emotional connection that naturally happens when people who love old houses get together.

It was a brilliant strategy to reach new customers -- and it worked – and part of the brilliance was that the seminar came out of a place of genuine caring and service.

Smart architect!


2010 © Bonnie Hurd Smith

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