Insight was fortunate enough to book some time with Andrew for a chat about all things marketing with Box. This was a few days before we all went into Level 4 lockdown. Sorry for the delay in posting this up guys, it’s been an interesting time over the past few weeks to say the least! Enjoy, any and all feedback welcome! For those that don’t know, Box are a long time client and a modernist architectural firm mainly servicing Auckland, although they are expanding to Wellington and other parts of the North Island as well.
Start – 3:20: Challenges of being a marketing manager
3:20 – 5:10: Thoughts on Digital channels
5:10 – 6:00: Regular day for Andrew
6:00 – 7:52: Marketing as an investment
7:52 – 10:07: How can an agency help you the MOST?
10:07 – 12:30: Challenges of complacency from a previous role
12:30 – End: Covid-19 Impact (Before the lockdown came into place)
Edited: For clarity
Andrew: The biggest problem that I face on a day to day basis is that the sphere of marketing now is so wide that the manner in which people receive messages from firms is so broad. You’re seeing a video where you’re seeing messages being put in front of you every time you pick up your mobile phone. Every time you watch TV, every time you go on a streaming service, every time you go on YouTube, every time you pick up a magazine. It’s totally overwhelming. And it becomes all of this just noise that comes at you and it’s really hard for people to kind of really place value against a message. And we put so much effort into thinking hard around what’s gonna resonate with somebody and whether that resonance is on a functional level, a rational level or an emotional level, there’s gotta have a resonance in that message and we should really struggle to try and find the right avenues to get those words out and in front of people where they’ll take notice of them and then go on and act upon those messages or at least get to a point where they feel that message deserves some further research. So my challenge on a day to day basis is sort of number one, what is the message? Like, I don’t know, you know, it’s you know, what triggers this person to come and talk to Box versus this person over here you know. We’ve got people who come to us and talk to us about the cost. We’ve got people that come to us to talk about us about spec high-end architecture, you know, and those aren’t they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive conversations, but holy man, it makes it tricky. And, then I’ve got to work out well, okay. I’ve now got all of these sorts of tools in my tool chest which leave–
Kim: Like a hundred tools.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly. It’s literally 100 tools and which lever which tool do I deploy to get this particular message in front of people? And then I have to then make sure that message is consistent with what actually goes on within the firm, you know. You know, I can’t as a marketeer and as a person, as a human being go out and say to somebody, we’re gonna do it like this but then find out through, you know, six, 12 months, 18 months later that actually no, what I said at the start of the message isn’t being followed through at the end of the message. And that’s pretty tricky. It’s hard.
Kim: It’s hard to get I think, all the pieces, like as I said before we started our own marketing. We started doing our own marketing and I have so much more empathy for what you do now, my agency is six people compared to how many at Box?
Andrew: Well, what are we now? We’re 17 in the office about the same number out on site. So their actually building on site. You know, so we’re not a massive massive firm and I don’t think we ever really want to be a massive firm. But, you know, it’s a lot of different stuff coming at you.
Kim: I mean, to even get six people aligned is hard, I can’t even imagine what its like for you. It’s the paradox of choice, right? You have too many options and so it’s hard to choose any of those, it’s hard to choose.
Andrew: Yeah, it is. It is hard and you know, there’s been and there’s been such a big focus on digital anime, you know, obviously since it’s very personal to you guys. There is such a big focus on digital and everyone thinks that digital has been this huge salvation for marketers. And I think in the experiment we’re running currently, you know, with your blessing is really proving that maybe that’s not 100% the case. Digital is a channel within marketing which is insanely important, very very important, but is it where should we be putting 100% of our effort? I’m not really, I’m not comfortable with that just at the moment, you know. I feel that there’s a lot of validity and a lot of weight coming back into other methods of marketing, maybe more traditional styles of marketing, silly things, you know, how we choose our font, how we choose our colors. You know, we’re obviously a modernist architecture firm. We want to be seen as a modernist architect firm. So we had a long discussion this morning talking about changing the font that we use for some of their marketing, to make sure that people just get that gut feel of this is a modernist sort of firm that I’m dealing with. You know that it’s such a, it’s so many different pieces of the puzzle that you’ve gotta tie together. It becomes tricky.
Kim: That’s exactly what we were talking about. Font is a variable for you. You had a long discussion this morning. How long was the discussion?
Andrew: About an hour and a half
Kim: An hour and a half on font!
Kim: Like how much goes into a banner or an email or a series of emails, or whatever feature you’ll have in Home & Garden…
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. So that’s probably the biggest challenge I face on a day to day basis is just understanding where that messaging going and what it needs to be. You know, if I think about my normal day because I’m wearing two hats, I’m kind of doing the sales side and I’m doing the marketeering sort of messaging, sort of side of the firm. My average day is probably about 60%, dealing with clients trying to make sure that the message that they’ve received and that they understand is actually happening within the firm. Making sure that they are actually receiving the standard of service that they’re after. And then sort of the other 40% is you know, taking those learnings of actually talking to people, hearing what they’ve heard from our advertising and making sure that my advertising message is on point and it is actually getting across accurately. So it’s nice to have both sides of the role.
Kim: Do you, I spoke with Jody, my sales & marketing manager recently about this, and we find that by marketing, do you agree is marketing a qualitative investment in that that it is a thing that you need to invest in but it takes time to build. Would you agree with that?
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been with Box now for probably about 18 months. And in 18 months, I’ve been working on the singular challenge of ensuring that the messaging around Box is the fact that we’re an architectural design-build firm. We are not prefabricated homes anymore, we are not modular homes, we are this architectural end of the market. In 18 months, even yesterday, I still had people coming to me saying people are still receiving the messaging, that we’re a modular prefabricated builder. You know, I’ve been working on that project for 18 months.
Andrew: It is a long burn. Everything is a long burn–
Kim: It’s a long burn. Do you sometimes find that when you are doing a sales proposal when you’re managing clients that honestly that investment because it’s a long burn, do you find that the task gets sidelined?
Andrew: Yeah, it, yeah, absolutely, it does. Yeah, and all of a sudden, you just get dragged into all this other stuff that’s going on in your life, and you’re like, hang on, I’m kind of losing vision of what I was actually meant to be doing this week. And then you get to the end of the week, and you’ve got your kinda key points that I’ve tried to check off and you haven’t even got through half of them. Yeah, and it’s just, this is really frustrating. So, and that’s where, you know, dealing with an agency or dealing and we do, Box is quite good at recognizing where we have an emptiness within the firm and we need to pull somebody else in to fill that. That’s we’re working with an agency or working with a contractor or a consultant is really powerful, like it works well for us.
Kim: How could, how to actually, obviously, I’ve got a vested interest because I run an agency. But in general, you know, you don’t have time you have a lot of decisions to make. How can an agency help you the most? Like, if you had the perfect agency relationship, what would that look like?
Andrew: Totally open, you know, pretty Frank. You know, I came to you a couple of months ago, and I think I said it, at the time was a bit nervous, because we were trying something new and turning some stuff off. And in my gut I’m thinking, all I’m doing is taking money out of Kim’s mouth at the moment. You know, that kind is a bit uncomfortable, but your instant reaction was, no, don’t take it out of my mouth for one month, take that for three months, because we can’t prove and that’s the sort of agency relationships we have to have. We have to have agency relationships where all of a sudden you sit on my side of the table, and you’ve hundred per cent recognize where I’m coming from, and you buy into it and say, yep, good, we’ll give it a go. You know, where maybe you’re saying something that we’re not saying, you know, don’t put yourself up on a pedestal just because we’re a consultant or an agent and think that you’re the ultimate goal, the ultimate answer to everything. Because that’s not how it is. It’s, you just want somebody who’s outside of the organization that you can bounce ideas off of, which haven’t been tempered by the fact that you’ve walked in the same front door every day. And that’s the person that we want within this firm anyway that works for us.
Kim: I mean, that thank you. And I mean, it totally works for us as well, because we have had, we worked with Box for years.
Andrew: A lot longer than me.
Kim: Literally years, so I mean, it would have been terrible of me to not understand the journey that you guys have gone through, you know, like, for yourself, as a marketing manager, the messages change multiple times, and the businesses change in different ways. So yeah, of course. Of course, we would have supported you with whatever your decision was. We’ve had, you know, we have enough time in the bank I think too, to have that type of relationship, which is really cool. Thank you for saying that.
Andrew: No, that’s just that’s the harsh reality of it you know. You need to be able to sort of poke and prod each other a little bit and then you know, one of the biggest failings in my overall career I’ve in my entire life has been I worked for somebody for 10 years on an incredibly personal project and we were both very, very vested into it, probably arguably, it’s hard for me to say I was more maybe emotionally invested, he was definitely financially more invested than me. But to me, we kinda levelled out. And I think over the period of that 10 years, we probably came to view each other a little bit, we got complacent with each other, you know, I probably wasn’t the best at the end of that relationship and he wasn’t the best either. And it’s probably because we had that complacency that things started to go south. Where if you’ve got a long time term relationship if you can have that sort of atmosphere of challenging each other and saying, I think you’re doing this wrong or maybe there’s a different option here, and it keeps it fresh and it stops you resting on your laurels, stops you getting complacent, just turning up every month for yet another update status meeting, you know, is there a different way to do this? Do we need to do a different report? Do you actually even give a rat’s about what I’m telling you? You know, you just got to have that conversation.
Kim: Yeah, absolutely. The challenges I think, really what defines if you have known, if you’re too complacent, and that’s what I found just in the normal running of the business, for our life. It’s too complacent, if no one challenges you, everyone thinks the same way, it’s actually long term, I think I don’t think it’s a good thing.
Andrew: Yeah, no, I don’t think so either. And even when Box is pretty hard because we are filled with people like myself who are kind of selling the dream, right, you know, could all sell you a bunch of roses. they might be dandelions, but you know, that’s, it should never be like that. But then I’ve got creative people in the firm, then we’ve got real cold hard, practical people in the firm, who physically pick up tools and physically do stuff. We’ve got accountants, we’ve got the quantity surveyors, such a broad variety of different types of people within the business. It makes it really quite challenging and so you never rest on your laurels ’cause there’s always someone having a different viewpoint and that’s really important.
Kim: Quickly, COVID-19. Any impact to the business yet?
Andrew: Yeah, we definitely have been impacted. We’ve had one client place their project just on temporary pause until we understand where we’re at. The business itself, we are structured such that we can work remotely and we’re expanding that structure. So more people can work remotely. Obviously, we’re very heavy on some of the graphics and some of the design packages. So literally physical size of computer makes a difference. So the architectural graduates find it difficult to be remote, people like myself not so much. Phones, our phone system, we’ve just recently changed our phone system and we’re pushing that implementation through as quickly as possible, so that we can step back and start working a little bit more distant. As far as service levels for our clients and on build sites, working every day, toolbox meetings every day, the guys around site talking about it saying, what can we do? Are we doing the right thing? Have we got any issues that we need to be aware of? At this stage, no noticeable impact but just beyond that one project has placed a slight pause. Yeah, we’ll see how it plays out over time. It’s very unusual times to be in business. It’s an unusual feeling the market– It’s weird, man. It’s just, it’s really weird. But I think yeah, we’ll do as much as we can and just be a human being through it all really.
Kim: Yeah, totally. All right, and there’s luck, thanks so much for your time today.
Andrew: Thank you, Kim. Always a pleasure.