On a Linkedin group, while a bunch of architects discussed marketing, a colleague told us to stop the wailings and the laments. We were doing everything wrong. After all, it was our fault for not getting the clients we thought we deserved.
First of all, I liked this Ivy League architect: He was extremely well-articulated, and his writing was a great example of conciseness, clarity, and elegance. Second, he was right. He was right up to a point. He taught us an old-school marketing tip for architects:
The Old School Marketing Tip – Join The Country Club
First of all, you have to join the local country club. Most likely, you will be accepted. Everybody who is somebody is in the country club: the businessmen, the entrepreneurs, the decision-makers. They are there. Usually, they are doing business together. They like to know who they are doing business with. In time, they will notice you, appreciate you, and they will be aware of your existence.
You will be the nice architect they know from the country club. Your wives are active in the parent-teacher association, and they play tennis together. You will meet your future clients in the gym, at the pool, or on the golf course. Some of your club acquaintances will introduce you to them. You will be there. You will get on the shortlists of all future projects.
What can I say? Great advice! I bet during the ’80s; this was THE way to do it by yourself. And during the ’90s. I am sure it still works. The idea is to know someone who knows someone. Or be someone—person to person.
“I know him. He’s with us”
Besides that, country clubs were always a good place to measure respectability. You are in, and you are ok. You are not ok, and you are out. For your acceptance, someone has to recommend you. Remember the mobster movies? “He’s with us,” or “He’s with me.”
At least in small towns, reputation is your most important capital. This was true for centuries. It still is. But we live in the Global Village. But person-to-person networking is a real business method: outbound marketing.
Of course, the businessman who intends to build a new commercial center might not search his pockets for your business card. He might simply google for a specialized architect. Besides that, you are at the country club all the time. Is this a good clue that you are a good architect?
I don’t say this old-school marketing tip for architects doesn’t work. But the acquaintances made in the club will know your reputation, not your architect’s reputation. The method was effective before the Internet. But we make most of our purchases online. We hire specialists online. We bet less on a recommendation from an unrelated business partner than real recommendations for previous work.
It is very good for one’s professional life to do networking. Knowing and interacting with people that share your profession or interests can bring new projects. But I wouldn’t rely on this only source of new gigs. Besides that, nobody likes a person who is constantly trying to sell his services or products.
The interactions within your profession should be cultivated because they bring you news and insights from the industry that interests you. It will help you be a better architect.
I once saw a list of registered architects in 1930 in my city. A lot of blue-blood individuals have names that I remember from the history classes. Many other names of grandfathers of architects I know today. I am sure they were regulars in other aristocratic saloons. Also, I am sure they were commissioned by their peers to design fancy palaces. I am also sure that the wealthy middle class was interested in getting their residencies designed by those elite architects. But we live in a society that has good social mobility.
The architecture democratized itself. All groups can access architectural design. Also, the styles are less relevant to social structure. The styles better express cultural position than social status.
Affiliation to a specific group doesn’t guarantee access to a steady demand for new projects. It might be more important an ideological affiliation these days.
But the real competition is in the field of services. Most successful architecture firms keep their clients with a wide range of services that start from the early stages to the finished buildings and maintenance support. Many of those companies spread their customer assistance because they decided to be client-oriented.
This syntagm, client-oriented, might sound like marketing bullshit. But it is not. It only feels empty when it is just a declaration. Nevertheless, some architects decided for real to help their clients to achieve their goals.
It is hard to make such statements when you’re sweating in a sauna with a potential client and be believed. It would look like a desperate architect keeps embarrassing himself selling in all peculiar places.
You’d better stick with contemporary, online marketing for architects!
Please share and tweet!
Please share this article on Facebook and Twitter! You’ll find two big buttons below! Thank you!