Why is building customers’ trust a cornerstone component of marketing for architects?
First of all, it’s self-evident that we like to buy from trusted sources. We want to make good choices. Psychologists say we make all of our decisions emotionally. The research we do it’s a rational effort to justify the emotional choice.
But I think that when we research, this is not a biased approach, although we keep justifying our initial choice. Let me explain.
We decide to build a house. We need a house. This is the emotional choice. But when we start the research, this is genuine. We carefully choose a plot of land, learn about zoning codes, etc. The point of this article is that we must find from an architect all these things. If all that information is correct and helpful, we will trust the architect.
Eventually, all prospective clients will learn at some point that they will need an architect. But there is a big difference if they will hire that architect just for the design or because they trust him for the excellent help during all other phases.
The feelings of trust and distrust are, nevertheless, emotions. Another key is that more and more customers research online before buying. If this phase leads to a helpful source, an architect’s website, the magic starts. The prospective clients turn into great clients.
53% Of Customers Do Online Research
About 50% of buying decisions are made after online research, a study says. Most likely, the others are already well-informed about the products, the services, or the providers. But other sources indicate that this percentage is way higher. See this article on Forbes.
You have to consider the fact that the last article is four years old. The Covid pandemic accelerated online commerce, as the percentages of people conduct their online research, even when they are buying in brick-and-mortar stores.
Building customers’ trust
“It is found that perceived usefulness, perceived security, perceived privacy, perceived good reputation, and willingness to customize are the important antecedents to online initial trust.“
Initial Trust and Online Buyer Behaviour
Yu-Hui Chen, Norwich Business School
So the customers’ trust depends on what they perceive as:
Our clients are involved in a multi-phase costly, complicated, and risky investment process. They have to make cumulative decisions on location, land, zoning conformity, feasibility parameters, costs, design, building, real estate market, and so on. They need good, useful, accurate information, help, and guidance in this process. Indeed, they need help.
This refers to online shopping. But, considering the chain of decisions that we listed above, all architects’ clients exposed themselves to considerable risks. On a stock market, one can diversify, reducing all risks to the national economic performance. The developers can’t diversify. The clients who just want to build their own house can’t afford mistakes. Even in the best market, they can buy land where they can’t build what they want or they can’t build anything. This is exactly the help and guidance that they need. They need security for the unknown journey. Once again, they need help.
Many experts urge architects to collect the email addresses of their website visitors. As this can help you build an email database, I think newsletters are not a good choice for architects. If the visitors subscribe to your site, this is good. They will, most likely, read your new posts. But writing a newsletter is a total waste of your limited resources.
From immemorial times, reputation was the single best asset of all economic agents. Modern marketers tend to equalize it with branding. But as any brand is supposed to start from reputation, they are not synonyms. Some old marketing techniques were based on efforts to build and maintain a good reputation. But even back then, it wasn’t the only way.
5. Willingness to customize
The architects would have a little problem demonstrating this one. Our profession is all about customization.
How useful is the content that architects create online
As I mentioned in this article, architects are awful marketers. Their websites fail to attract new customers. The nice architectural pictures don’t say how the architects help their clients. Sure, it might be a nice building, but was it a smooth investment process? Did the clients achieve their goals?
Although design is our profession, is our design helpful? How?
We know that design solves problems. But is this obvious for the prospective client too?
Design Added Value
All marketing and selling books tell you to emphasize the customer’s benefits if they buy your products or services. After all, this is why we buy, in theory, everything we buy. Right?
The best benefit of architectural design is the added value of the building. Indeed, a good design adds some extra value to the value of the land, the building materials, and the labor. Or it should be.
But history is full of cases when royals, aristocrats, or companies were bankrupted after they financed great architecture. Historians think that one of the reasons for the French Revolution was the queen’s overspending on her project, the Trianon Palace.
The nice pictures from many architects’ websites don’t help prospective clients to overcome their worries about their budgets. But they can help if we integrate them with case studies or blog posts that tell how the budget is estimated and how this service helps the clients.
Being helpful is building customers’ trust
Building customers’ trust is the key to all marketing, not only for the architects. As Seth Godin writes in his bestselling book, “This is Marketing,” Marketing is about helping people. If you are spending your resources on selling more architectural services, you are just wasting your time and efforts.
Many architects tell me it’s stupid to help everybody. Why would you lose your time helping someone who is not paying? But they are wrong!
The answer is quite simple. You have to show that you want to help. And you are doing this because you are an architect. You want a well-built environment. Besides that, your website visitors return your favor. Some of them will share your posts, and others might write nice reviews. Others will tell their friends about the helpful architect. Some of them will hire you or ask for paid consultations.
To help or not to help
But imagine you have a prospective client in your office. But he has no idea what it’s needed to build whatever he wants. He just bought an improper plot of land. This client knows nothing about construction, your services, budgets, zoning, or codes, nothing at all. You have to spend hours convincing him of how complicated all these are and what you can and can’t do for him. After that, he thinks you might want to take advantage of his situation.
Now imagine another prospective client coming. She has already read many of your posts, and she is informed about buying the land, zoning, and your services. She just wants your professional opinion about the investment project she wants to start. Of course, she trusts you.
Who do you think will be your client?
Therefore, who do you want to be your client? The suspicious guy or the informed lady?
Creating great, informative, original, and helpful content optimized for search engines will attract potential clients to your website. This is inbound marketing. The result is you and your architecture firm will have a constant flow of clients and new projects. After all, this is the reason why architects and architecture firms should adopt marketing strategies. This is why marketing exists.
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