What are the best-suited marketing strategies for architects? Is there a single best way to promote your services and get more clients? If yes, what is it? If not, are there more of them?
First, there is no single marketing strategy, but many. Although they all work to some extent, their effectiveness can vary.
Second, the methods are quite different. One can adopt an active marketing strategy or a passive one. The results are outbound or inbound marketing. In one case, promote constantly your services. But the other option is to let the clients find your content.
There are many marketing terms you might not be familiar with. It’s not important to learn them. It’s important to create your strategy. This strategy will be the base for your marketing plan o your architecture firm. This is the plan that you will create, execute, measure, and adapt.
Remember that marketing is not the same thing as advertising. Although you might use advertising, marketing is about helping people. It’s not about promoting yourself.
Marketing-for-architects.com aims to provide the mindset that architects need to grow effectively their architecture firms by helping the prospective customers.
Active marketing versus passive marketing
When you actively search for clients through relationships, networking, emails, advertising, or business partners, this is active marketing. You can find an example in this article, here.
But if you are building a system that funnels prospective clients to your office door, that is passive marketing.
Although I don’t agree with this article’s conclusions, you can find out what are the differences between those two marketing strategies.
The first one is time-consuming. It works only if you work. It is also more expensive if you decide to outsource it.
This strategy has some characteristics:
- It works only if you are working.
- You are interrupting people, just like advertising does.
- It costs more, in terms of time, human resources, and money.
- It is shallow.
The second marketing strategy works better for architects. But don’t deceive yourself! This one requires a lot of work too. So, there is no marketing without consistent efforts.
What all marketing strategies for architects should include:
1. Define the goals of your marketing strategy. Why are you doing architecture?
It is of utmost importance to define the goals of your efforts. What types of projects do you want to get? Adapt your marketing strategies accordingly. It is not the same if you want to specialize in residential, commercial, or hospitality architecture.
If you already have an important portfolio, it should differ from having little or no experience at all.
Also, it is important why you are doing what you are doing. I recommend you to watch this Simon Sinek’s Ted talk. Why are you doing architecture? Do you want to help people live better? Do you want people to live greener?
A noble mission will better motivate you, your team, your customers, and your followers. It is the difference between just designing houses and helping people live better lives in magnificent homes.
2. What is your market segment?
Many marketers talk about specialization, although I don’t agree with them. Architects have to remain universalists. I think this is the core of the profession. But this doesn’t mean marketing strategies for architects should not differentiate for each market segment.
For a prospective client, it’s irrelevant if you design not only houses but are also involved in large residential or commercial projects. Though, you should carefully communicate that one project will not take all your attention. However, some kinds of projects can be included in the same marketing strategy, especially when they might have the same type of clients. Just think about the portfolio developers. Some of them invest both in residential and commercial projects. But they might want to see a specialized architecture firm.
Industrial buildings are a market segment. But there are some sub-segments, like the food industries, right? Although some marketing campaigns can target a wide variety of industries, this market should be very targeted.
A wine producer is interested in wineries literature. The same is a brewery owner. They both might be interested in green technologies.
But if you want to get projects of a specific type, target each market niche.
The marketing strategies for architects have to adapt to specific niches.
Know your market
The market is the place where the offer meets the demand. Knowing your market means knowing both your competitors and the solvable demand.
Through prices, always the demand meets the offer. When the offer is limited, and the demand is high, the prices go up. When the offer is high and the demand is low, the prices go down. Also, the markets have cycles.
To get results with your marketing strategies, inform yourself on:
- Your competition (the offer)
- The solvable demand on the market
- The market trends
Know your position in the market
Don’t count on the fact you are an excellent architect! All your competitors are excellent architects too. Being good is normal.
If you are not good, work on this first!
So, how do you compare with your competitors? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you differentiate yourself from the crowd? How?
Also, what are your opportunities? What are your liabilities?
This is the honest look in the mirror. But a magnifying mirror. Why would anyone work with you? Why not with your competition?
The market’s demand
One of the Eurostat surveys shows that my country has some of the most overcrowded homes in the EU. People need new homes. But is there a demand for new housing?
Considering that my country has a low GDP per capita, the solvable demand is not too high, although people need better houses.
But also about 90% of my compatriots own the houses they are living in. This helps them buy larger ones because they sell the old ones.
Your market research has to decide what the solvable demand is on the market for the specific services you provide. If the demand is low, can your marketing strategy get you the market share you crave for?
The (unique) benefits that architects have to offer as part of their marketing strategy
Consumers value a product or service if they get some benefits. The product or service is going to solve a problem they have.
What problems solve your services? What are the benefits of a client hiring your architecture firm?
After all, what makes you special?
This one can be tricky.
3. Who is your client? The marketing persona.
The clients of architects are very different. They might be the end users of your design, as future homeowners. They might be entrepreneurs or small and medium business owners. Some of them are corporate. Others are developers. Sometimes, your marketing has to target the decision-makers. In other situations, you are facing employees.
The business owners and the employees are differently involved in the project. Their risk appetites are also different. Their interests and concerns vary.
An employee is also concerned about the success of the project. But he or she doesn’t want to be responsible for the bad results. If some of the clients are interested in profit, others might see it only as more taxes.
The developer thinks in terms of ROI – return on investment. The business owner who builds an industrial facility is more interested in productivity.
The buyer persona
A lot of criticism surrounded the buyer persona concept. The most important argument is the little scientific base for it. Also, there is a possibility that no one fits into this fictional character’s description. But what is a persona?
Briefly, the buyer/customer persona is a robot portrait of the regular buyer. It includes not only the demographics but also his or her goals, values, and habits. It is a 1-2 page description. The idea of a persona is like a tribe concept.
A tribe is a group of followers. They share a set of values, goals, and aspirations. You and your brand are supposed to lead your tribes.
But the reality differs. Just think about Elon Musk, Tesla, and SpaceX! Many other people lead these tribes that are coagulated around. Elon is just inspiring them. One has to admit that it is incredible the traction they have!
The architects are also trying to make a better world. But we are not prophets, right? The architecture is beautiful because it is so diverse. We love both historical buildings and other architects’ architecture. With rare exceptions, we don’t want to demolish old cities for our creations. Of course, Plan Voisin is an exception.
Prospective clients for architects
I don’t know about you. But in my 25 years career, I had a wide variety of clients. They were between 25 and 65 years old. Some of them had a Ph.D., but others didn’t finish high school. They lived in rural areas, but also in big cities. They used to come from extremely different social strata. A few were millionaires, while others built their houses by themselves.
Maybe this says more about me than about them. But I think all these clients have something in common.
They decided to build something. They bought or inherited either a plot of land or an old house. All of them had to get a building permit. They needed a project. They hired constructors to build their houses. All of them either had the money or got a mortgage.
Advertising relevance of persona
As the clients might be very different. But a buyer persona is relevant when you are advertising.
I had a few clients that were IT professionals. It is extremely easy to teach them the difference between programming and architectural design. While in IT you can launch testing software, in architecture, you can’t. In the first case, you can correct the bugs later. But this is costly when you design a house. This simple explanation is very efficient with IT clients. It helps them visualize the design process and understand the depth of the decisions we have to make.
So if I ever have to advertise, I would target them and tailor my ads for them.
All clients have to cover all the phases of the investment process to build whatever they want to build. This is what they all have in common. Not all are savvy enough to know the process. But no matter how they do it, eventually, they all get on track. Efficient marketing strategies for architects do that. They help prospective clients to follow the right steps.
The customer’s objectives
More important than focusing on clients is understanding their goals.
An office building carries out different expectations for different persons. The developer wants a good return on investment. The tenants expect both productivity and brand image.
Of course, the office building has to meet all these criteria. It has to be a good investment. Also, it has to provide a great work environment. Brands should benefit from moving in. But who is building it?
Understanding customer’s decision process
A purchase is a process. In this process, the buyers start by knowing nothing about the product or the service. They end up trusting that buying solves their needs or problems. It is the solution.
Therefore, your marketing should aim to help prospective clients. This is how you win their trust.
4. The investment cycles
The persons who are building are going through investment cycles. The smaller ones have a single cycle. Others try to do it again.
All investments have cycles with mostly the same phases. Each project is a process, and you are the person who knows the process.
Not all customers are aware of these phases. So they need an architect’s help.
One of the best ways is to create a Project-Based Marketing Strategy for Your Architecture Firms.
This is one of the marketing strategies for architects that is the most effective. You are basically creating content to provide information about the entire process.
When future clients think about building something, they have many unknowns. They cover the whole investment cycle, each phase. Whatever their questions are, chances are they will find the piece of content you created especially for them.
After all, you know everything about them. You know they think to build. You know they are researching. Your marketing plan anticipated what their questions are.
The project-based marketing strategy you created and developed into a marketing plan includes the content that is the best possible answer to their questions.
5. The marketing mix as part of marketing strategies for architects
I already wrote about the 4 P’s of marketing, aka the marketing mix. This mix is the core of the marketing strategies, as it comprises the four levers the marketers have to target customers:
I. Product or services
The architects’ marketing strategies have to harmonize the services they provide. The marketing should promote proper services. Therefore, the services have to be tailored to solve the customer’s problems.
The price leverage is not about being the cheapest architect in your area. The price can help the functionalities of the marketing strategy your firm adopts.
I used for almost two decades a set of price packages. The major benefit is that the clients always ask what the differences are between the 3 price options. This is a great opportunity to describe my services. The 3 price packages help them understand what services are available, what are the differences, and what best suits them.
Smart, right? Think about all the price packages they offered you online. Everything comes with 3-4 options, sometimes with a free or trial as the first package.
This is a promotion.
It’s hard to offer free services if you are an architect. Is it?
Actually, all your content is a promotion, a sample of what you do. Do you write an article? It’s a piece of free advice unless you are not just bragging about yourself.
But you can also write free how-to guides. Sometimes you can ask for a little reward, such as an email address.
Although I don’t think email marketing campaigns are really effective, creating a base of contacts is not that bad. But if you are creative enough, you can make use of that, at least to get a follow-up.
Promotions can also help prospective customers to notice you. They have to know you are in the market; you provide valuable content such as excellent architectural design.
They coined the marketing mix in the era of bricks-and-mortar businesses. The place was about having your products and services at the right place, at the right time.
The Internet diluted the place. It gives us the power to be all over the place, all over the time. But targeting a specific region or city might be more efficient.
6. Content marketing for architects
Content marketing is the marketing of this era. The celeb Gary Vaynerchuck said that all businesses are now in the media business. You are in media/legal, sales/media, construction/media, and architecture/media industries. You are not creating and publishing content, so you don’t exist!
There is no limit to what content you can create! The sole conditions are that your content should be useful, valuable, and original. It should help people. Or you can post kittens videos.
No, the videos with kittens can’t help very much your marketing strategy!
I will write more, much more, about content marketing for architects.
7. Communication channels
The marketing strategies you are developing serve marketing campaigns based on your future marketing plans. The campaigns tell your target audience your message. They are communications.
Communications have a communicator, a message, a medium, a communication channel, and an audience. We talked enough about your audience (your target market), your message, and your audience.
First, it does not limit your marketing campaign to only one medium or only one channel. The same message can take various forms and can be distributed through various channels.
Second, when you are choosing your communication strategy, you should consider the exposure time. Some channels are for evergreen content. Some are better for quick awareness campaigns, or to grow a base of fans.
Your architecture firm’s website
This is the first and more secure channel. You can publish blog posts, market or industry analyses, market and industry research, infographics, case studies, guides, you name it. You also can publish podcasts, or videos, although they are better streamed on YouTube or other such platforms.
One main advantage is that your marketing campaign is closely related to your branding.
But, when you are building your website, please avoid the most current mistakes that architects do.
Social media channels
Social media is great for engagement. But is rather hard to make your followers quit the platform for your website. All social media platforms try to keep their users on the platform. They help you rank better when you publish engaging content.
Also, social media platforms are fast content oriented. A post on Facebook can get viral for a while. But then is lost in the never-ending flux of new content.
On YouTube, on the other hand, videos can age well. They can more easily rank better.
Online and offline mass media
Mass media has a constant audience. Being published or mentioned in the mainstream mass media helps build credibility. TV stations, radios, newsletters, and magazines are hand-picking their subjects and guests. This builds credibility and notoriety.
Specialized and academic media
If you design hospitals, authoring in health care industry websites can and will make you an expert. If you design wineries, the industry’s publications and websites can help you target exactly the audience you are looking for. The winemakers are visiting and reading articles in such places.
Of course, it is hard to publish in such publications, especially in healthcare ones. The articles are peer-reviewed, or at least you need high credentials. But the benefits will
Books, guides, or magazines, and what about e-books?
As I mentioned already, books were a good way to promote yourself as an architect for centuries. Books can help you not only to promote your message but also to help with your credibility. Therefore, you should also consider these mediums too.
The Internet is, again, helpful. E-books are easily accessible to everyone interested. They can be stocked on one personal computer and be visited and revisited. It also can send the reader back to your website.
Emails. Email marketing campaigns
I don’t think email marketing is proper for architects. Done right, it can be effective though. But it is an intense resource consumer. Your audience is smaller than blogging. Also, the moment you send an email might not be quite the moment when your followers really need it.
But there is nothing cast in stone!
8. Branding of your architecture firm
The architects don’t suck that much at branding. Many of us have suggestive logos, brand colors, and watermarks on the pictures with our architecture.
The branding helps your customers easily remember you or your architecture firm. Whenever they are served one of the valuable and helpful pieces of content you created, the prospective customers can easily link your brand with the value they got.
It happens more often than you think to get a great paper, or a guide, and no clue about the author.
I am not talking about highway huge billboards with a photoshopped picture of yourself near the text: „BEST ARCHITECT IN 5 COUNTIES!”. This was forbidden for a long time. You still can advertise this way, but it would be ineffective. And bad taste.
For architects, to advertise is to promote your content to your desired audience.
It’s no shame to have sponsored results for Google queries. Ranking on Google is hard and takes time. But the platform allows you to sponsor your website. If and only if the sponsored page satisfies the user’s query, it will be featured on the results page.
Paid campaigns are rather easy to run. Both on Google and on social media, you can target specific geographical areas, ages, gender, etc. You don’t have to break the bank either. Even ridiculous amounts of money can get you a constant flux of new customers.
10. Measure your results!
Whatever campaign you start, you should measure its results during the entire process. If you are creating content marketing for your architecture firm, measure the results! The content you create can be modified and improved.
If you are actively promoting your content through advertising, you should also measure the results. You are now able to stop, refine, and modify your campaigns.
It’s of little importance how you promote your firm. What’s important is that you measure the results of your efforts. Nobody can guarantee that it’s working or not. Sometimes, it only takes some minor adjustments or total changes in the mindset of your marketing strategy.
How to build marketing strategies for your architecture firm
Reading this post, you think that some of the stuff I enumerated is just basic stuff.
What is my market? Office buildings! Or residential buildings! What is the big deal?
Well, it’s not. But.
Now move a step further. Who builds them? Why? What do you think makes them start a project? How are they deciding to start?
What are the economics behind each project? What are the process steps, and what are the pitfalls? Can you anticipate their concerns?
How are you going to foresee the questions they ask during their research phases? What type of answers do you think they are looking for?
Do you think you need help creating your first marketing strategy for your architectural practice?
There is no shame in asking for help. Besides that, I am an architect. I hardly get any time to spare for other projects than architecture.
I didn’t build Marketing-for-architects.com to sell you my services. My aim is to help architects to understand what marketing is and how it can work to their benefit.
There are many marketing agencies out there. Some of them specialized in marketing for architects. But knowing all this, it will be easier to communicate with them.
The marketing plan based on the proper marketing strategies for architects
The marketing strategies for architects are the base for the marketing plans. How coherent will be your action plan? It is you to say that.
The marketing plan is, simply put, the action plan for your future communication. What are the customers’ problems you know you should provide solutions to? What exact content are you going to create? Where are you going to publish it?
The marketing plans created on marketing strategies help the architects to know what they have to do, when, and how they can measure the effectiveness of the marketing campaign.
Please share and tweet!
Please share this article on Facebook and Twitter! You’ll find two big buttons below! Thank you!