Inbound marketing and outbound marketing are important concepts in marketing for architects and architecture firms. This post is rather technical. Nevertheless, understanding how these different approaches work is a key factor in creating and executing any plan to get more clients and new projects.
Anyway, let’s compare these two, inbound and outbound marketing:
Definitions of inbound and outbound marketing
Inbound marketing focuses on attracting potential customers by providing valuable content and experiences that are relevant and helpful to them. It aims to pull customers towards a brand naturally.
This way, the flow of website visitors is mainly organic. Also, well guided, part of this traffic turns into customers. Content or inbound marketing is more effective if the related industry’s information is asymmetrical. It happens that architecture, constructions, and building development are such sectors.
Asymmetrical information describes the situation when most of the information is held by specialists, such as architects, engineers, and other professionals. All purchases are preceded by the research and documentation phase. For potential clients of architects and architecture firms, the opportunity to find quality, informative, and helpful content is of great importance.
Outbound marketing involves reaching out to potential customers directly through various traditional advertising and promotional methods. It aims to push messages out to a specific audience. Marketers don’t know who are the individuals or businesses that need the services they promote. So they are sending messages to everybody.
Usually, outbound marketing is used for broad audiences. Nevertheless, businesses of all kinds are also targeting key persons in the industry they are targeting. Architects and architecture firms try to connect with these kinds of potential clients, like developers, project managers, etc. They aim, this way, to get on the short list of architecture firms to be invited to bid for new projects.
Inbound versus outbound marketing strategy
The two types of marketing also have different strategies.
Inbound Marketing Strategy
Inbound marketing is based on creating compelling content such as blog posts, videos, social media updates, and SEO optimization. The strategy is to attract customers organically through search engines. Social media and other referrals are important to boost the main content.
Although this strategy attracts visitors and consumers organically, advertising can also be used. But in this case, it’s not about pushing the message but rather ranking better in searches.
Also named content marketing, this strategy is not as new as it might seem. Whereas the Internet is the best medium to conduct it, there are examples of marvelous content in the past.
After all, marketing is about helping people, not promoting businesses.
The inbound marketing strategy for architects and architecture firms is to target specific market segments, creating content that fits the audience:
- For each specific market niche, the content differs: residential, commercial, hospitality projects, etc
- For each specific type of client: individuals, small and medium businesses, corporate, etc., the content is correlated with the specifics of the projects.
- The content is created for all project phases, not only for the design phase.
- It is geographically targeted.
This strategy is effective for the target audiences. If your marketing campaign aims to get more commercial projects, you won’t get residential ones. To target more market segments, a specific strategy, market plan, and content have to be made.
Outbound Marketing Strategy
Outbound marketing relies on interruptive tactics like TV/radio ads, cold calling, direct mail, and email blasts.
The strategy is proactively reaching potential customers through mass advertising and targeted campaigns. Through constant and consistent exposure, outbound marketing actively grows one firm’s brand awareness.
On the other hand, establishing and nurturing relationships with key people in specific industries is extremely lucrative: commercial developers, project management companies, etc. This was the old-school technique that worked so well.
Trying to personally connect with key people able to include architecture firms in new projects is also interruptive. This is mostly a matter of personal selling skills. Nevertheless, it’s still outbound marketing.
Anyway, even the outbound strategy would better focus on market niches
Targeting relevant audiences in marketing
Both effectiveness and costs of any marketing campaign depend on the relevance of the audience.
There are two methods. One of them is to deliver this message “door-to-door.” The other one is to wait for those who are searching for your messages.
Most architects would like to design and constantly get new clients. That is what I want, and I know you do too.
The problem is that all potential clients are searching for an architect for only a very short period. But before that, they are actively searching for information regarding their future project. To deliver that information is what everybody calls content marketing. The fact they are searching for it and are attracted by it makes this marketing inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing audience
Inbound marketing focuses on attracting and engaging a specific audience that is actively seeking information or solutions related to the brand’s offerings. It aims to draw in potential customers who have already expressed interest or demonstrated a need.
As I already mentioned, the architecture is an asymmetrical information market. Our clients need quality information to make informed decisions. They are actively seeking the relevant content that architecture firms create.
Knowing that potential clients are out there looking for information, the marketing strategy is simply to create the best possible content.
Outbound marketing audience
Outbound marketing casts a wider net and targets a broader audience without specific criteria. It aims to reach as many people as possible and generate awareness, regardless of their interests or needs.
The outbound marketing strategy, namely person-to-person networking, is nevertheless effective when it is well done. In niche sectors, where the clientele poll is wide and where there are only a few professional clients, personal relationship is the key. But in this game, the aim is to grab the attention of only a few people.
The messages are targeted or not to specific individuals. But the architecture firms’ marketers don’t know if they are ready to start a new project. The largest part of their audience is not.
In a noisy world, the way our targeted audiences engage with our marketing messages is of great importance. The main difference is that inbound marketing delivers messages as answers to audiences’ inquiries. They have a problem, and they actively look for solutions. Our content is one of the solutions. Outbound marketing shoots messages at almost everybody. This can be annoying. On the other hand, potential clients might not google the exact question/problem we answered or offered solutions. Maybe, just maybe, a phone call or an email might do the magic.
Inbound marketing creates relationships and builds trust
Inbound marketing aims to build long-term relationships with customers by providing them with valuable and relevant content. It focuses on engaging with customers on their terms and nurturing them through the buyer’s journey.
Potential customers that are conducting research for their possible projects are educating themselves. Once they find a good source of information, they trust that source.
When we find a good source of information, we bookmark it, like it, share it, and follow that source. This is engagement.
The same the visitors to an architecture firm’s website; once they find relevant information, they keep visiting it. At some point in time, on my website, 80% of visitors were returning visitors. This was way before social media platforms.
Architecture website visitors that find informative content that helps them to define their future projects learn to trust the architect that creates the good content. These visitors engage sooner or later, calling, emailing, or being social media followers. When they become clients, they are trustful and open-minded.
Outbound marketing grabs the attention, interrupting people
Outbound marketing typically has less engagement since it involves interrupting people with messages they may or may not be interested in. The goal is to capture attention and generate immediate responses or actions.
When an outbound marketing audience engages with the message, they have a completely different behavior. A potential architect’s customer gets the marketing message and includes the architecture firm on a list of other firms that he or she is considering for the job. This is the response. It is a cold and rational response.
These potential clients are in the phase when they think they have to hire an architect or an architecture firm. They are during or just after the research that precedes the purchase. Sadly, they don’t get the information from an architect or an architecture firm but from other sources.
Costs Of Inbound And Outbound Marketing
Not a long time ago, the sales of any business were practically proportional to its marketing and advertising budget. The key strategy was to just cast more and more commercials. But those times were changed, luckily. This favored the larger corporations with large pockets, leaving almost no media available for everybody else.
Search engines and now social media platforms let consumers search, like, and share what they want, threatening old advertisers. At the same time, the large amount of media channels permits both organic reach and affordable advertising deals for all players. This allows small businesses like architecture firms and individuals to organically attract visitors, generate leads, and get new clients through quality content and search engine optimization (SEO).
The costs of content creation are quite low as, with little training, all professionals can create it as they are experts in their fields. The new clients, projects, and increased revenues pay off the marketing costs. Outbound marketing, on the other hand, consumes more money and time.
Inbound Marketing Costs
Inbound marketing often requires an initial investment in creating high-quality content and optimizing online presence. However, it can be more cost-effective in the long run as it generates organic traffic and attracts qualified leads.
The major cost is the time needed for constantly creating quality content. The optimization can also have its costs, either hiring SEO specialists or learning time.
To boost their organic reach, many businesses also spend on PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. But these costs can also be efficient as these ads are served to visitors who are actively searching for such content.
Once architects learn how to do content marketing, they usually learn to enjoy it. Also, they get the mindset necessary to adopt not only the strategy but also the business values that end up attracting new projects.
Outbound Marketing Costs
Outbound marketing can be expensive, especially with traditional advertising methods such as TV and radio ads, which require substantial budgets. It relies on paid media placements and often requires ongoing investments to maintain visibility. Nevertheless, architecture firms avoid expensive media such as TV ads.
Although online ads can be targeted, the audience is not actively looking for relevant content. Thus, the payments are often CPM (cost-per-mille or costs per thousand impressions). Both calibrations and measurements are rather difficult.
But the higher costs are in time consumed for person-to-person networking. Even if this activity can be successful, it depends on consistent efforts all the time to ensure a constant flow of new projects.
Measurement Of Inbound And Outbound Marketing Results
All marketing campaigns have to be measured, at least to determine if they are efficient or not. It’s almost impossible to know how many people see a magazine ad.
On Facebook, you know exactly how many impressions an ad has and how many clicks, likes, or shares these exposures generate. The Ad Manager tells you exactly how much each of these actions costs.
An advertising campaign can be started with several images or posts. In just a few hours, a marketer finds out which one of them performs better.
These measurements are possible for all social media platforms. Besides that, the audience can be segmented accurately. Remember that most of us share much information about ourselves: location, age, gender, education, jobs, family ties, and even political and religious options. Many Facebook marketers know exactly how to choose the very right audience.
Google is also trying to rank for every query the best possible content: informative, in-depth, authoritative, etc. With Google Analytics, one can determine what page saw a specific visitor, what was his or her referral, what was the path through your website, and how much time he or she stayed on a specific page. If that visitor was referred by an ad, you also know how much that visitor costs you.
Inbound and outbound marketing results are measured differently. Let’s see how different.
Measuring Inbound Marketing Results
Inbound marketing allows for more precise tracking and measurement of results. Metrics such as website traffic, conversion rates, time on site, and lead generation can be easily measured and analyzed.
But rewarding is that you start to get calls, inquiries, and emails. If you are the one who also created the content, you can easily know what blog post triggered the potential client to contact you.
Measuring Outbound Marketing Results
Outbound marketing can be more challenging to measure accurately since it often involves reaching a large audience with diverse interests. Metrics like response rates, conversion rates, and ROI can be more difficult to attribute solely to outbound efforts.
Both inbound and outbound marketing approaches have their merits and can be effective depending on the business goals and target audience. Many successful marketing strategies often combine elements from both inbound and outbound marketing to create a comprehensive and well-rounded approach.
Depending on what your marketing goals are, some outbound campaigns are nevertheless quite easy to measure.
I’ve already mentioned Facebook. This platform performs better not for selling architecture services but for consolidating your brand and establishing a base of fans. Of course, some of them can become clients later.
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
Inbound marketing and outbound marketing are two different approaches to marketing that businesses use to reach their target audience. Let’s compare them:
Both inbound and outbound marketing approaches have their merits and can be effective depending on the business goals and target audience. Many successful marketing strategies often combine elements from both inbound and outbound marketing to create a comprehensive and well-rounded approach.
Inbound marketing for architects and outbound marketing for architects
Comparing inbound marketing and outbound marketing specifically for architects, let’s explore their characteristics and benefits:
Inbound Marketing for Architects
- Content creation
- Website optimization
- Thought Leadership
- Lead Generation
- Social Media Engagement
- Relationship Building
Inbound marketing for architects involves creating valuable and informative content related to architecture, design trends, project showcases, and industry insights. This content can be in the form of blog posts, articles, videos, and social media updates. Guides, case studies, and original market reports can also attract new and returning visitors.
All aspects, from the project feasibility to costs, codes, technologies, land acquisition, and building permits, are of great interest to all those who want to build in the future.
Potential architecture firms’ clients think about their future projects as sets of problems they have to solve. It’s counterintuitive. Why on Earth would anybody consider as a problem the fact they want to build their own house or to develop other kinds of constructions?
Depending on how savvy they are, they are concerned about many aspects of their endeavor: land acquisition, zoning, codes, building permit, contractors, building materials, design, etc., etc, etc. So they are searching (online) for relevant information to solve all the problems they can see. How and what they search for is not that easy to know.
First of all, there is a language barrier. We, the architects, have professional jargon. So do the engineers and all other professionals in our industry. But our potential customers are not looking for a „residential architect.” Most likely, their concern is something like this: „What can I build on a plot of land in …?” or like this: „How can I get a building permit for a house in…?”
The content that architecture firms create has to be answers to these questions, not about „residential architecture.” Quality content on „residential architecture” or ”residential design” can bring some visitors to a website or a blog post but, most likely, no potential clients.
Potential clients search for something else, for information on how to solve their problems that happen to be that they want to build a house. Most likely, they are just considering this option as an alternative to buying a house.
This is why the content and the architecture firms’ websites have to be optimized for search.
Architects can optimize their websites for search engines (SEO) to attract organic traffic from people actively seeking architectural services. This involves using relevant keywords, optimizing website structure, and ensuring user-friendly navigation.
All traffic based on search engine referrals is a continuous flow of prospective clients. If the answers to their queries are great, valuable, and helpful pieces of content, an important part of them will be your architecture firm’s clients.
Though, many architecture websites are doing everything else but that. Almost all of their websites are just portfolios with almost no relevance to prospective clients. This is why architects believe it’s impossible to get clients through websites. But they are wrong.
Generally, all websites have to be made for their visitors. Architecture firms’ websites make no exception. An awarded construction featured in a portfolio says nothing about what it’s important for a client. The fact that the firm gets an award might point to the fact that it is an expensive construction. People tend to think that praised architecture is nothing but overpriced.
A website that attracts visitors that can be turned into customers has to send different messages. How do architects solve the client’s problems? How architectural design makes a project feasible? These are not exactly the questions that a targeted audience would ask.
Architecture firms’ websites are optimized for potential clients’ queries.
Again, it’s about the language, plain language versus professional language. Who do you think searches for information on ”hospitality”? The last time I was on vacation, I booked a hotel room. I did not search for a „hospitality resort” but for a hotel. Healthcare or hospitals? House or one-family residential unit? Block of flats or multi-family mid-rise residential?
Sure, the website must accommodate visitors with our profession’s language. Eventually.
Actually, on booking websites, accommodation is another word for a hotel room because it also includes alternatives, such as apart-hotel rooms in houses, houses, or apartments. But someone who wants to build is looking for information on either hotels’ construction or apartment buildings’ construction.
A large hospitality corporation might search for hospitality architecture firms. They are specialized and familiarized with our jargon. But I think they are more interested in hotels. When they are looking for inspiration, they center their searches on this word, hotel.
One big architecture company lists as expertise ” financial services,” „consumer goods,” and „professional services.” It’s about „workplaces,” aka offices. Well, architects design either office buildings or office spaces. Although HR departments of professional services, consumer goods, or financial services might see the offices as workplaces, they still are office buildings.
Inbound marketing enables architects to establish themselves as thought leaders by sharing their expertise through informative content. This helps build credibility and trust among potential clients. Customers open their minds to architects they trust. They are more likely to accept new ideas, suggestions, and advice. Such clients become supporters not only of their architects and architecture firms but of architecture. They accept and enjoy challenges and new architecture. Being the trusted expert makes the design process much easier and more enjoyable.
As market and industry experts, the architects can showcase how clients can benefit from quality architectural services and great design. Also, by educating the market, an architect can establish market standards that make their architecture firm a leading example. Being the expert is a clear competitive advantage.
There are three things that potential clients like:
- to solve their problems
- to see the path of their endeavor (guidance)
- architects concerned by their well being
The potential clients who have a project (not long-time dreams) and find the architect or architecture firm that meets these criteria will, eventually, become a client. Of course, there might be other barriers. Some of those clients might think that their project is too small or unimportant for you.
The content created for an architecture firm’s website doesn’t have to sell anything: no projects, no architectural services, no consultations. Of course, potential clients have to know that they can ask for a consultation meeting or a design contract.
But the content itself shouldn’t promote the commercial act but should keep offer, and offer, and offer, and offer. Clients can’t design instead of us. They have, one way, or another, to hire an architect. If visitors do not have a viable project, they can still act as followers and referrals.
When an architecture firm’s website has to generate leads
By offering valuable content, architects can capture leads through forms, subscriptions, or gated content. These leads can be nurtured through email campaigns and targeted follow-ups, eventually converting them into clients. At least, that is what some think is the proper follow-up.
But as we all know, it’s all about timing. The key factor is that with a proper call-to-action, the prospective clients involve the architect in the earlier phases of a project before they even have a project.
Social Media Engagement
Architects can leverage social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Houzz, or Linkedin to share their work, engage with their target audience, and build a community around their brand.
All content created for the architecture firm’s website can be easily repurposed for social media platforms. A blog post can also be a Youtube video, an infographic on Facebook, or a carousel on Instagram.
Especially the content that doesn’t drive the viewers out of the platform is sharable and has better organic chances to get viral.
Although I don’t think that social media popularity should be a goal of marketing campaigns, it can’t hurt. But the time needed to create content for these platforms can be better used for the creation of your architecture firms’ websites.
Websites’ content is there to stay. Social media posts vanish in only a few hours. Nevertheless, they might have a role in brand awareness and even in getting new clients.
Inbound marketing allows architects to foster relationships with potential clients by providing useful resources, responding to inquiries, and engaging in meaningful conversations.
The best part is that the potential clients initiate this relationship. All that an architecture firm has to do is to include a clear call-to-action in their valuable, unique, and helpful content.
A marketing strategy that aims to help prospective clients to build also create the base for them to trust and lean on you.
Outbound Marketing for Architects
- Networking and events
- Direct mail and email campaigns
- Print advertising
- Cold calls and telemarketing
- Collaborations and partnerships
- Traditional media channels
- Social media
Networking and Events
Outbound marketing for architects involves attending industry events, conferences, and networking opportunities to establish connections with potential clients, contractors, and other professionals. Although architecture firms usually collaborate for larger projects, industry events can’t provide a constant flow of clients.
Networking is a time-consuming strategy. It also depends on the consistency of the personal contacts. Besides that, you also need a lot of charm.
Direct Mail and Email Campaigns
Architects can use targeted direct mail or email campaigns to reach out to specific prospects, showcasing their portfolio, expertise, and services.
While targeted emails can bring new jobs, a more personal contact might be better. The rate of email openings dropped dramatically during the last decades.
The main issue with emails is their timing. What are the chances of sending the right email to the right person at the right time?
Traditional outbound marketing tactics include placing advertisements in industry publications or local newspapers to create brand awareness and reach a broader audience.
Effective print advertising is costly. A better strategy is to get featured in print media as an industry expert. But this is achievable through content creation, not advertising.
Cold Calling and Telemarketing
Outbound marketing may involve reaching out to potential clients through cold calling or telemarketing to introduce architectural services and generate leads. Even some architecture firms play with some sort of cold calls. Nevertheless, it is more effective to call the executives of key potential clients and try to get on their shortlists. For some niches, this is quite effective.
Collaborations and Partnerships
Architects can proactively seek collaborations with complementary businesses, such as interior designers or construction companies, to expand their reach and tap into shared networks.
For design & build contracts, this can be a lucrative strategy. Usually, the projects and recommendations flow mainly from the architecture firms to other partners, not vice-versa.
Traditional Media Channels
Outbound marketing can include utilizing TV or radio ads, billboards, and other traditional media channels to create brand awareness and reach a wider audience.
Nevertheless, architecture firms don’t advertise in this manner as it is not only forbidden by professional codes but also costly.
Social media platforms can be used to drag brand awareness, followers, and even clients. Although some marketers consider posting on social media as content creation, it doesn’t qualify as content, in my opinion.
If architects post pictures of their buildings and site visits and share architecture stuff on their firm’s social page, this hardly qualifies as content marketing. These posts can be engaging; they can collect likes, shares, and followers. Selfies in front of a new building can be quite popular. People like better images with people than buildings pictures.
Neither updates on new contracts, new team members, and so on are not quite content. Proper marketing content is content that aims to help potential customers to build, educate and guide people, and so on.
As I already wrote, advertising on social media is easy, cheap, and effective if the goals are set. The ads that aim to expand the followers or likes are quite successful. If unknown persons like one picture, they can be invited to follow your architecture firm’s page or join a group. A large base of followers can be targeted with ads that sell your architectural services.
Also, social media can be used to engage with key people. Social media helps people to connect. If people are finding spouses on these platforms, why can’t architect find clients?
So engaging with developers, project managers, and executive staff of various companies on social media is not forbidden. It doesn’t differ from door-to-door selling. I don’t think it’s a proper approach for architects, but who am I to judge?
Comparing inbound marketing and outbound marketing for architects
Inbound marketing focuses on providing valuable content and attracting potential clients who are actively searching for architectural services. It emphasizes thought leadership, relationship building, and organic lead generation.
Inbound marketing offers cost-effective long-term benefits.
Outbound marketing involves reaching out to a broader audience through various traditional and proactive methods to generate brand awareness and leads. It relies on networking, direct outreach, and mass advertising and requires significant investment and ongoing expenses.
Both strategies can be used in combination to create a comprehensive marketing approach that leverages the strengths of both inbound and outbound tactics. They can bring architects and potential clients together. One strategy lets potential clients come to the architects and architecture firms. The other grabs the attention of individuals and business key people to the services that we provide, waiting for these persons and organizations to start a project.
Inbound marketing creates content that can continuously attract clients and new projects. Outbound marketing consists of a continuous campaign. Both methods involve commitment, consistency, and resources – time and money. But both strategies are quicklier than word-of-mouth recommendations. Nevertheless, nothing happens overnight.
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