Welcome to Marketing-forArchitects.com!
Everybody has a different understanding of what marketing for architects is. It’s no wonder all attempts to market architectural services are like a walk in the dark.
The confusion deepens. There are too strong connections with advertising and a misunderstanding of branding. Search engine optimization myths and inefficient use of social media add more chaos to our attempts to market our companies.
Our architectural education inflicts unrealistic expectations. We either think there is no need for strategic marketing, or that some strange professional can do some sort of magic.
Marketing-for-architects.com helps worldwide architects who are trying to market themselves and their architecture companies.
After 20 years of lessons, learning, architectural design, and marketing for an architecture firm, now it’s time to share all these experiences with my dear colleagues, the worldwide architects.
Marketing is important not only as a strategy for growing your architecture firm but also to enhance the prestige of the architects.
Thus, through marketing, both our customers and the public can enjoy better architecture.
No marketing tricks work for architects
You invested in a new website, a few years ago.
But, except for a domain name on your business card, there is not much use for it. No new clients. No inquiries for new projects. Or just a few. Too few.
You joined a club, a commerce chamber, or another organization that was supposed to bring new contacts and new opportunities. Except for some new acquaintances, nothing new.
You set up Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, and posted enthusiastically. For a while. The result?
Not even the small amounts spent on social media promotions did have results.
The promises of that guy with a marketing or SEO company don’t sound very good, as well. Obviously, he doesn’t know anything about architecture.
Many ”marketing professionals” keep preaching old and useless marketing methods. I am not talking about email marketing for architects, but old-school techniques, such as networking with other professionals, or even cold calls. The effect is a lack of results. Many architects think that marketing purely doesn’t work for architecture firms. But this is not true. It works. Actually, it worked all the time, as you can see in this 100 years-old example.
Forget about marketing. What about the architects?
First of all, forget about marketing for now. Forget about marketing tips, marketing strategies, and marketing plans. For a while. Let’s focus on architects, and architecture companies, and, to some extent, let’s think about who your clients are.
You are a good architect.
You know it. Most likely, a few clients also know it. Your skills please them.
You are on a righteous path. Still, you don’t have the projects you deserve. You cherish your relationship with some customers that keep recommending you.
But that’s it.
Many other architects are good architects. Being good is normal, and it’s not enough.
What architects are doing is irreplaceable. Just think about it! Nothing, but nothing, can be built without the design we provide. While everybody needs houses, office buildings, schools, shops, hospitals, factories, commercial buildings, restaurants, and coffee shops, none of those can be built without the guys like you and me.
Significantly, between 5%-10% of the world’s GDP is produced only after some architects designed the buildings for everybody else, people and organizations, who wanted to invest. Do you see the big picture?
Put yourself in your client’s shoes
Now, I need you to pay attention.
Imagine you have to invest a considerable amount to build something.
In fact, it doesn’t matter if it is a house that you are going to pay for it during the next two or three decades or a bigger building that costs a few million.
What will concern you?
Even if you are an architect knowing a lot about designing and building, what would be your first concern? How good are the renderings? The CAD/BIM software you would be using to design? If the architects have an ”award-winning company”, or if they are LEED-certified?
I bet you would care most about the money you are going to invest. Or lose. Or gain.
If you are going to build a home for your family or develop new constructions, all your attention will focus on the investment process. What are you going to build? Where? How much will it cost you? And how long will take to get a building permit to complete the work? How will you finance it? What will be your return on investment? How can you optimize the costs? Where will you find a piece of land? How much will it cost? Would it be suitable for your investment? Will a particular location be proper for the development? What are the city codes? Is there a market willing to buy or lease whatever you are going to build?
Anyway, these questions are predictable. I know some stuff about architecture, buildings, and investments. So I designed a lot and advised investors.
I am not going to ask you if I am right. I know I am. You also know I am right.
But you wouldn’t believe the questions regular people ask themselves. However, you will be surprised by how easily you could answer and guide them through the process.
It is all about investment. Not about design. Not in the first phases of the project.
Around your offices, there are hundreds and thousands of potential clients. Except for them, there are even more who don’t even know that building might be a solution for them. They will gladly be your clients. But they don’t know you. They also don’t know how much you can help them. If they did, they would be looking for you. But they are not looking for you, they are not looking for an architect.
This is the problem. Nobody is looking for you. I learned this the hard way. Online, “looking for” translates to “search”. They are not searching for an architect. Not me, not you. They are searching for information.
What information are they searching for? I just said it. They have concerns. Read it ”problems”. They are interested in solutions. We both know you are the solution.
If they’re not looking for you, you will have to find them. This is marketing. This is what marketing for architects is: how are you shaping your message to answer your future client’s concerns?
The process-based marketing for architects will not only get you more and better clients. But will help you to shape your services to help them securely pass through the investment cycle.
All future clients focus on the investment process
It is understandable. They are taking risks. All investments are calculated risks. They can overcome some of those risks. But not everybody can. Architects’ advice can solve many of these challenges.
Almost all marketing that architects do ignores this simple fact. You simply can not yell at prospective clients about what you think is important. For them, it’s not. Not yet. You have to address their concerns, not yours. This is the way you can get the clients you really want.
Don’t take my word for this. Do your own research!
I am not expecting you to trust me, but you can do your own experiment. Invite one or two former clients for a coffee.
Ask them politely to answer a few questions. What were their concerns when they decided to start the project you were involved in it? Ask them if, how, and when you provided the proper answers.
Most likely, they had questions you could quickly answer, but they didn’t ask you. They either didn’t know you could help, or they didn’t want to bother you.
Please do this! Ask them! This would be your first marketing research. I bet it will amaze you to learn what services they value most.
Show them the benefits of your services!
The products and services are meant to solve customers’ problems.
These are the benefits your architecture company provides for your clients.
For most people, building something is a big problem. Before they started, they tried to get information on these problems. Yes, they see all this as a problem, a problem they have to solve. They do this before they start to look for an architect.
Only after they have the answers they are going to search for a LEED, award-winning architectural company. That is only if they are not looking directly for a constructor or a project management company.
Marketing for architects’ goal: Identify the clients
The first task for your marketing endeavor is to identify your potential clients. They come in three flavors:
- Some clients already have experience. They already built something.
- Clients who are just considering building.
- The third ones are not even fantasizing about. They might have some plans to buy a house or lease some office spaces. You get the idea.
However, all three categories do more or less the same: research. Their searches might be very different. While the ones in the first group try to avoid the mistakes they identified through experience, the second ones make efforts to imagine what will be hard. Though, the ones that are unaware are looking for alternatives to what they perceive as real estate market gaps.
But there is some good news. Despite their differences in experience and knowledge, they are online.
We live in the 21st century. Whenever somebody has a problem or is facing a challenge, the answers are there. One just has to search for available information. We are doing this all the time, even if we are buying a car, looking for health issues, or a restaurant. But they are not looking for you.
Return relevant content to their querries
Nobody is looking for you. Your future client is looking for information. You know what he is looking for. He tries hard to find solutions for the questions you also would ask yourself if you were in their shoes. They are concerned about the success of their future investments. They didn’t decide to invest, though.
I was reading somewhere that people don’t even know they need an architect. Actually, who cares if they did or didn’t?
Content marketing is about helping prospective clients
Responding to people’s concerns regarding their future projects is called content marketing. It is quite simple. You identify your prospective clients’ uncertainties and you address them. Content marketing for architects is effective because their potential projects preoccupy our clients way long before they become projects.
Of great importance for us is:
- In order to pay an architect for designing something, future clients have to know a lot of stuff.
- They have to get that information before they have a project, and before they decide to start.
- All of them start their research online.
- However, the architects are the most qualified to help them.
But wise architects create content that helps prospective clients to deal with the unknown. All this is true for future homeowners, for small and medium businesses that want to build for themselves commercial, industrial, and office buildings, or even develop some residential units. They all want to know what the process is, how long it will take, or if they properly estimate the budget.
If the content that architects create is really helpful for prospective clients, they will simply trust these architects. Content marketing is building trust, and this is the single most important step before all purchases. Even in the case of architecture.
What they rarely tell us in architecture schools is that it’s not the architects, the ones that build, but our clients.
My favorite example is the Coliseum, in Rome, Italy. This is a modern name. Back in time, when gladiators still fought and bled, it was called The Flavian Arena. The Flavians were the two emperors, father and son, who commissioned the works for it. I don’t know who the architect was that designed it.
The scope of our work is not to gain glory, but to help people build what all other people will pay for directly. 250 years ago, a great mind guessed that the wealth of the nations was growing due to the self-interest of their individuals. Glory will follow.
The architects are the facilitators of this mechanism. People need buildings. Other people risk providing these buildings. The architects are simply helping the second group to provide for the rest of us.
Marketing for architects is about understanding our role in the system. It is about understanding economics. It is about understanding the decision-making mechanisms, but also about both risk management and ethics.
Often architects state on their websites how they will change the world through design because we learn that in architecture schools. But I don’t think it’s true. We are building theaters because authors write drama and comedy, actors play, and people want to watch all these amazing stories. The architects helped. But audiences gathered on the slope of a Greek hill for a long time before an architect thought to design it.
We just went through the Covid pandemic. Most of our kids attended online classes, a great challenge. Although we know how to design schools, we were of little help for almost two years. But education is not about schools.
The ideas that work and the people taking the risks to make them work are the engines. We can help them. We can help them be successful and add more value through design.
The marketing for architects should start with a humble reconsideration of our mission. That is, the change doesn’t come from the design, but from the willingness to act. The design is the tool. But the real service that we provide is to help people build.
Why don’t general marketing theories work for architecture firms?
Maybe you’ve heard about the 4Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Many architects think it doesn’t work.
If you imagine a machine with four switches that you could rotate, good marketing behavior would fine-tune all of them. The “product”, whatsoever, is both a unique service and an authentic product. Although you can’t see, touch, weigh, or smell, in the end, the product becomes tangible.
How can this work?
But helping prospective clients to cope with the complex process of building can really work. Actually, it’s not that they can’t do this on their own. Eventually, they can figure it out. What really makes a difference is that helping them also is building trust in our services. That is, the clients will be more open-minded. They will understand at the same time how good design adds value to the future building. Because that’s all about architectural design, how to add value to buildings. How to make architecture, not just constructions.
Architecture added value
Ideally, a building is more than the sum of the price of the land, the building materials, the price of the labor, the fees, and the taxes. Or, at least, it should be.
There is nothing more important for the investors than getting a building way more valuable than the sum of its parts. But for each project, they have specific concerns, looking for answers to specific questions. This is the special point that architects should anticipate and prepare answers to it.
Have you ever wondered why 90% of online searches are on Google? It is because Google returns valuable results for each query. When you can’t find what you want, you refine your search. You don’t change the platform despite not getting the result.
With your goals in mind, once you identify your potential consumers, it’s easy to help them build. This is your common aim.
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