The advertising for architects had a poor reputation. The American Institute of Architects even condemned the architects who advertised themselves. Other organizations of architects also perceived it as not honorable. Although nobody actively blames it anymore, many architects still think that it is under the professional best standards.
But as marketing becomes frequent for architects and architecture firms, more and more architectural practices also embrace some forms of advertising. Its adversaries are less resolute, though. After all, this is not relevant, but it really works. Before getting to the results, let’s first try to define the notions.
What is the advertising for architects?
Simply put, advertising is the totality of ”the techniques and practices used to bring products, services, opinions, or causes to public notice for the purpose of persuading the public to respond in a certain way toward what is advertised.”At least, this is the definition from Britannica.
In our case, advertising for architects is a deliberate action to get attention to our architecture, services, and ideas to consolidate their company and personal brands and to attract more customers.
For many people, advertising is interrupting. That is, ads are popping out to get the public attention. Indeed, it interrupts the focus of exposed ones, to serve the ad’s message. It’s an intrusive action, almost rude. Therefore, it’s kind of inefficient. Nevertheless, from time to time, the advertisers manage to create quite enjoyable pieces of advertising.
But this doesn’t tell if it works for our profession. Again, I have to delay the answer.
First, let’s see what messages are transmitted, where, and how. Also, who is the public, and what are the objectives of certain campaigns? The marketing strategies of the advertisers decide all those factors.
The marketing strategies and the advertising for architects
All marketing strategies start by defining some goals. One can decide to consolidate the brand, to make it more recognizable. Others might want a reputable notoriety. The actions are different for each goal.
But to get more work, process-based marketing for architects is the best strategy. This means you try to help prospective clients smoothly get through all the phases of the investment. You help them to figure out the entire process. You start a relationship before there is a project.
Let them find you!
To approach such persons, you don’t need to approach them. Let them find you! Well, not you, but the valuable, unique, useful content that you’re creating.
For every purchase we make, we first pass through a research phase. The decision is emotional, but the research is real.
Building – this is a complicated business. The prospective customers have to have an idea, buy a piece of land, and define the future building’s parameters and feasibility. In order to start the investment process, they have to find out what the process is and find solutions for the challenges ahead, or at least to be sure they have solutions.
For all those issues, they are doing their job, the research.
Your job is to create content that helps them to find the solutions they need to make their decisions.
Content marketing for architects and architecture firms is the key to getting good, new, trustful clients
As they find the helpful, unique, original, and valuable content that architects create, the prospective customers start to trust these architects. They are good clients now. They cherish you and trust you.
Good content marketing is process-based and doesn’t involve advertising. On the Internet at least, the quality content gets you the traffic and conversions it deserves. The marketers call this a sale funnel. It’s a passive method that keeps working for you. But this is slow, it takes time. Can we accelerate? What if you could bring prospective clients and your content close more quickly?
To help them find that content, sometimes they need an extra push. This is what advertising for architects is best at.
How the prospective customers of the architects do their research
Everybody researches online. There is plenty of information out there. You can get top-notch quality information. Each day, more and more content goes online. But the content created in larger and larger quantities makes the best content hard to find. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.
The online (re)search consists of questions on search engines. Google can find the most relevant results for these queries. Actually, our prospective customers are looking for the information only we can provide.
Why don’t they look directly for architects? First, they have questions that are not architecture related. Most of them don’t relate to the building process, either. Often they are more concerned about the schedules, costs, processes, feasibility, and so on.
This is why I wrote about the mistakes that architects make promoting themselves, or why our websites have to get us new projects. These are the two reasons the marketing for architects fails. Our websites usually don’t have useful content for our prospective customers during the first phases of the investment process.
There’s nothing to do to correct the lack of useful content. The future clients need help, but we don’t seem to help. This indifference to their efforts forces them to get help and information from other sources.
Therefore, they contact an architect only after they decide that the investment project is feasible. Also, they set the building’s guidelines. They preconceived the concepts. They prejudiced themselves.
Sadly, their plans rarely fit with the architects’ vision. This is why architects and clients collaborate so poorly. Although the architects can be the keys are the catalysts of the project, clients see us only as technical undertakers.
Can advertising work for architects in the absence of content?
Advertising for architects can get results even when the marketing strategy excludes the creation of content. But with a cost.
If the prospective clients already decide they have a feasible project, the sums add up; the land has potential, and they will still need architectural design services. But they need an architecture firm only to translate their concepts into blueprints.
How does advertising work for these architecture firms, though?
The prospective clients look, in this case, for an executing architect. You know, the project is all set: numbers, guidelines, etc.
They need the architects to design the exact number of square feet or meters or to start with a sketch they made during the weekend. Although their preconceived concepts rarely are visible, they are not accepting changes too easily.
I remember a discussion with such a client about his vacation house. He had some sketches. He liked better my design but disregarded his ideas. Therefore, he asked me to explain why I did not start from his drawings.
His friend recommended me. This friend consumed my content online. He trusted me. He was open to ideas and suggestions. A good client.
But the other escaped my charming marketing. He contacted me based on his friend’s recommendation (advertising).
What to promote?
In this case, advertising has to do a few things for architects.
- Branding. This makes the architecture company easily recognizable
- The accomplishments: portfolio, awards, etc.
- Promote fashionable features (Mediterranean style) or sustainable design (I don’t imply sustainability is just a fashion, but fashionable)
- The firm’s capabilities: staff, technologies, capital, experience. I really hate this word, capability, though.
- Price? Architects don’t like to think about lowering their prices. Who does? But the price is one of the major factors of the marketing mix.
- Cause the company stands for sustainability, affordable housing, etc
Still, marketing provides solutions
This is where creativity helps. It’s all about positioning and differentiating. The advertising has to get some unique qualities of the architects and spread the word.
Advertising can still help you. Your client’s persona can help track them by location, age, gender, education, and interest. Your ads have to be entertaining too and easily consumed.
But the costs will be considerable. You will shoot in the dark, despite the extremely well market segmentation. (Check Marketing strategies for architects for concepts such as persona and market segmentation)
But you still have other solutions:
The project management or construction companies
But there is another scenario. During these preliminary phases, your future customers met, collaborated, and contracted with either project management or a construction company.
In this case, you will be better off doing old-school networking. Sure, some advertising can also help for better branding, notoriety, or to promote what these third parties consider necessary qualities.
Project managers want reliability, flexibility, and insurance…. got it? They don’t need creative architects; they want safe ones. Their job is to keep everything together, control the costs, and be on time. They rarely aim at great architecture, but standard, decent buildings.
Many well-established architecture firms act like that. They specialized in some sort of architecture. That is, they fit in the project management grand schemes. Therefore, they advertise their reliability, similar portfolios, insurance, staff numbers, and so on.
These architecture firms can do other stuff to get new work. Email marketing can be effective in this case. They need some contact lists with the executives of these companies. Even old-fashioned cold calls can be efficient.
A good social media strategy can also help. Maybe you should buy and read Gary Vaynerchuk’s book: Jab Jab Jab Right Hook. He tells how he befriends some important CEO on Twitter. Small talk. Then he notices the CEO is a sports fan, and he offers some tickets.
Again, this is a form of networking, but on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok.
Advertising and content, project-based marketing for architects
The new mindset is to help people to build. The architects and their customers have a common interest. They both want to create good architecture. That is, buildings of good quality and strength, functional, healthy and secure, bright, comfortable, energy and cost-efficient, and last but not least, of aesthetic value. Right?
Well, future clients need some help. The architects can help them. For this, they need trust, good cooperation, guidance for the clients, and a more important role for the architects.
A process-based marketing strategy allows the architects to offer quality content that helps the clients through the investment phases.
This strategy simply makes a connection between them much earlier. Before the project starts. The architects prove themselves the reliable source of information. This information, well structured, helps future clients. They learn not only how to manage their project, but to trust the information and its source, the architects.
This is how collaborating architects and clients get the success they want. The client is no more prejudiced but open-minded.
The Content of the Process-based Marketing
It’s not the place to discuss how this valuable content is created. But it has to have a nonvolatile address where it should be accessed all the time. Websites, YouTube channels, but not Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc
These addresses can be found. An old Facebook post is hard to find after a while. It’s not searchable.
To be found with Google searches is vital. Also, is important to be optimized for search engines.
This kind of good, helpful content will rank and get traffic. Google wants to return the most relevant and helpful results to people. It’s a customer satisfaction matter.
A good search result helps the users. Instead, they will continue to use their search engine. It’s a win-win situation.
The customers’ (re)search
The prize of the (re)search is the content provided by the architects. This is the goal.
But the customers rarely know what they are looking for. If they knew, it would be quite simple. They would search for an architect in their area, specializing in whatever they want to build. Some of them do this. They are documented and informed. This kind of search is to set up a list of firms to invite them to bid for the work.
But most of the time, they try to find other kinds of solutions. It’s not unusual to look for building materials. Or for photovoltaic systems. It’s not predictable what their search is for.
Actually, during this (re)search, they are refining their questions. They are going deeper and deeper. They get closer and closer to the relevant questions.
You know, to find solutions, the most important task is to ask the right questions. That is, they are searching for good questions.
Google returns the answers to the questions they ask. Although it was cool if one asks about timber frame costs, to redirect him to a list of architects, it doesn’t happen. The computers do what you ask them to do, not what you want them to do.
People do what they think it’s good for them, not what really is.
Remember when you had some nasty symptoms? You googled them, but what you really had to do was go to the doctor. Actually, this is the domain where Google really tries its best. They send you to verify medical websites or tell you to call for an ambulance.
The results of the customers’ (re)search
As I wrote it above, the search engines return the results that best fit the queries. They are for the best user experience and satisfaction.
Google doesn’t want you to scroll down to the 10th results page. They want you to be satisfied with the first 10-20 links they are listing for you.
Actually, when you don’t find what you want on the first pages, you refine your search. When a longer search still doesn’t get you what you want, the chances are you will think it doesn’t exist at all! That’s how good the search engines are!
But to get listed among the top 10 results is a hard task. Most likely, it will take you months and months if your post is well-optimized for the search engine.
But, as we already agree, it’s hard to make the best content, but also optimized for the (re)search. 99% of the time, they ask the wrong questions!
So, although the content you create is exactly what would help them best, chances are that they have trouble getting it.
But you have the sponsored results. When the customers query “photovoltaic systems for new homes”, there is a real chance they don’t have a house yet. They intend to build one.
If you have a piece of content that answers their questions, you can sponsor it. If Google sees that your content satisfies its users, it will serve it more and charge you less for each click.
This is the advertising that best works for architects and it’s also cheap. A single click costs between 1 and 5 dollars. A few hundred bucks can bring you the new customer you need.
The beauty of this advertising is that the users are actually looking for information. You are not interrupting them. You are not bothering them with your advertising.
Other Search Engines
Bing has the same tool, although the amount of Bing searches is way less than Google’s. Another very interesting search engine is Pinterest.
Pinterest is an image search engine. You can share a lot of stuff over there and also sponsor it. Many businesses sell on Pinterest and they sell well!
Advertising On Social Media Platforms
Facebook and Instagram are the social platforms where you can run advertising campaigns. Actually, a Facebook campaign can be extended over Instagram with only one click. Meta has great targeting tools. You can easily set the areas, age, gender, education levels, interests, and many, many more.
The advertising on these platforms is interrupting. Your ads are shown on the people’s pages. You will pay for how many times they are shown to your audience. But you can optimize the campaign for clicks, likes, and so on.
What architects have to remember is that all social media websites don’t like too much to redirect users out of their platforms. You get the best results when you promote your Facebook or Instagram pages. You can get followers, likes, and shares. Therefore, they are great at consolidating the branding of your architecture firm.
Other Kinds Of Advertising For Architects
Nothing says you can’t lease a highway billboard. It might work. But it isn’t cost-effective. You will get exposure, but little interaction. Online, they usually take action very quickly.
Publishing sponsored articles on mass media websites can also be efficient. It limits your exposure to only one day or so. But if the article is of great interest, readers can share it on their social media platforms. Also, other people can write about your article if it’s that good. But this also happens when you are publishing on your own website. In other words, this is nothing but content marketing.
Measure the results of the advertising campaigns!
Nobody runs an advertising campaign without measuring its results! It’s impossible to tell in advance what works and what doesn’t. There are many indicators of the results. The first one is the price.
Google and Facebook offer you real-time statistics. You find out as it happens how many exposures you have, and how many actions the users take. You know how much a click, like, or share costs you. You can run different ads at the same time. Compare their statistics! Make adjustments!
Also, it’s important not only the relevance of the ads but also the reaction to your landing page. You are in total control.
The lack of measurements and control easily turns into excessive costs and no results.
Back in the time, the results were only a matter of budgets. The sales were proportional to the advertising spending. With only 1-2-3 tv stations, they exposed the audiences anyway. Even the annoying commercials used to bring results. When the ROI was bad, they simply changed the advertising company.
The small the amount of money you spend, the more careful you have to be to actually be efficient.
Advertising Versus Content Marketing For Architects
I think it’s obvious! My money is on consistent content marketing, and the advertising should only support it and grow the brands of architects and architecture firms.
The best content online gets shares and links. People like to talk about good content all the time. The good content is there to stay and work for your architecture firm day and night. The advertising campaigns are limited in time. They work, but they need very careful preparation. Content marketing is easier. First, you are creating content about what you know and what you are good at. Second, if it really helps prospective customers, it is going to send you new clients.
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