How can anybody adopt and implement the 4 Ps of marketing for architects? What have in common the textbook marketing and architecture?
The Marketing Mix / The 4 Ps
Product, Price, Placement, and Promotion – these four are the marketing mix, the 4 Ps.
The marketing mix is a simplifying concept that reduces the marketer interactions during the selling processes to the four parameters. The term was coined this way because the 4 Ps can be manipulated two by two, affecting the others. Of course, there is no rule; a marketing plan can use all of these parameters. This is true even in our case. But considering the complexity of architecture, the leverages of these variables are quite special.
First of all, the first P, the Product, doesn’t even fit into the architecture business. After all, we don’t make and sell products!
To adapt the 4 Ps to architecture, we just have to shift the Product with Services. Still, we can consider a Product the result of our work.
The marketing mix is something architects should be aware of when they are building their marketing strategies.
Product – The 1st Of The 4 Ps Of Marketing For Architects
All products of the architects’ work have a triple value:
- A standardized value. That is, it can be measured in terms of durability, safety, energy efficiency, cost-effectiveness, etc. Design standards. We can agree that all projects should meet quality standards.
- Opportunity and feasibility value. This value depends both on the architects and on the clients.
- Symbolic value. Aesthetic, cultural, and functional value.
Also, we can agree that all projects have, at least to some degree, a positive and symbolic value. This is the value that is so hard to monetize. This is what makes the difference between drafting and design.
Architectural Products And Services
The blueprints and documentation we provide our clients are, in a broader way, products. That is, they have to meet at least the minimal standards. But we can suppose that all our competitors also meet the standards. So if you are doing a good job, well, everybody does the same. This is the normality.
The guidance and consulting we provide to our clients are services. But, as I already mentioned, the majority of architects still promote design-related services, not client-oriented services.
Although it is obvious that more and more prospective clients seek services that cover the whole cycle of investment, architecture firms fail to satisfy this demand. All over the world, the marketing savvy company carefully designs what it’s called the customer’s journey.
Architects’ Products And Services As Marketing Parameters
As the first of the 4 Ps of marketing for architects, the most obvious challenge is to reshape our services from design-oriented to client-oriented services. Also, the whole customer journey has to be addressed.
Not too many decades ago, the role of architects was way bigger than today. The architects were involved:
- Finding the proper land
- Design the building
- Estimating the costs
- Hiring builders
- Contracting and supplying building materials
- Building Quality Controlling
Some of those competencies were lost while construction became more complicated. Other professionals specialized. Although this is normal, the architects lost control of the process in its entirety.
I think the greatest chance for architecture companies is to take back this control. That is, all architects have to provide services related to the whole investment cycle.
The Symbolic Value Of Architecture
The symbolic value of architecture is that added value to the costs of the land, labor, and building materials. It consists partly of its aesthetic and cultural but also of its utilitarian or functional values. Let’s call it architectural value.
The price also depends on the value that the buyer assigns to a specific product or service and its scarcity.
From A Critique Of Judgement Of Taste
Bourdieu argues in his book, “Distinction,” that higher classes differentiate from others not only through their accumulation of financial, symbolic, and cultural capital but also through their taste. Architects are in high demand because they can design buildings with certain cultural and aesthetic values that feed the elite’s good taste. But architects can also refine that taste and create new likable architecture.
The emulation of the aspiring members of the lower classes gave boosted even more the high demand for architects. The bourgeoisie started to build houses in the style that the elites, while regular builders specialized in copying them.
But, the social ladder mobility increases. The elites are less and less homogeneous. The number of architects is high rocketing. The architecture is democratizing itself. There is no more a taste of the elites.
The liberal elites like certain styles of architecture. The conservatives, another. The intellectual elites, another. Although taste still has the function of differentiating groups, there is no obvious hierarchy of taste, as social stratification changes to social clusterization.
The Quality Of Architecture
Anyway, despite the social changes, architects tend to form their criteria, which are more and more different from that of the other groups. There is no architects’ association that can’t help to discuss the quality of architecture.
I don’t know if the right path is to continue to create architecture for architects or to meet the taste of the competing groups. Most likely, there is no right path. Architects are, nevertheless, aligning with the greatest themes of our society: climate change, historical patrimony preservation, community-centered, social responsibility, and so on.
Although the hierarchies are transforming, the taste is diversifying, and the range of opportunities is growing too. The architects can adhere to and form their tribes. They can tailor their products to certain groups. This way, the perceived value of certain types of architecture will grow. The symbolic and cultural capital could have a better exchange rate for the financial capital.
And this leads us to the price.
Price – The 2nd Of The 4 Ps Of Marketing For Architects
On a macroeconomic scale, the prices form when the offer meets the demand. The price is used by marketers mostly to get a larger market share. When one Product has a lower price, more of this will be sold.
To “produce” architectural design, the architects have some considerable costs. They are relatively high, as the workforce is highly qualified, also having nice offices, rather expensive software, and computers, insurance costs, etc. Let’s not forget that taxes are not favorable to creatives. Indeed, all our work is added value. That is, many countries impose VAT. But this is another topic.
The Architecture Products And Services Prices As Marketing Parameters
There are two points of view regarding the prices. The first one is that of the client. The second one, it’s yours.
All products and services have a unique perceived value of a product or service. They are happy to pay a lower price than this value. They also pay higher values if they need that Product or service if this is the market level.
We are paying the gasoline a higher price than last year. We all think it’s too expensive. But we have no alternative.
If a client sees no value in an architectural project except that as a mandatory document to obtain a building permit, he will try to find out solutions to get rid of the expensive architect. For him, the blueprints are just paperwork. If a client is paying not for paperwork but for the opportunity to build his dream house or for the gains from the development project, he or she will gladly do it.
So for the client, for all the clients, all that matters is the perceived value compared with the market level. The marketing goal should be to raise the perceived value of our work.
From the architects’ point of view, it’s simple. We have costs and bills. Besides that, we know how important our work is for the success of the architecture. We perceive a high value in our efforts. This is why many architects are frustrated with being underpaid.
Placement – The 3rd Of The 4 Ps Of Marketing For Architects
Of the 4 Ps of marketing for architects, the 3rd, Placement, is the one that can make the single biggest difference.
This term was initially related to the place where the products are sold. It also is a matter of time. The best time to sell Christmas trees is the period just before Christmas. But, for the architects, a perfect placement should be the period prospective clients are informing themselves and researching to build in the future.
First of all, this is a time with no or little competition. The potential clients haven’t decided. They are just looking for the proper plot of land, for information on costs, requirements, and so on.
All the company’s services should include an area. It would be useful both for prospective clients and for Google when the search engine has to decide if your page should rank for a specific location.
Promotion – The 4th Of The 4 Ps Of Marketing For Architects
There is a common perception that marketing equals advertising. But this is false. Also, promotions don’t mean advertising or sales. Promotion is the presentation of the benefits that customers have from using the products and services offered by your business.
I think now it is more than obvious that all the 4 Ps of marketing for architects have to correlate. The services should reflect the best customer’s journey and the investment cycle. The promotion has to target the key points of the client’s preparation to start the investment project. Also, you better help such prospective clients while promoting the benefits of working with you.
Your services will be more valuable to your customers. They will either accept your higher prices or stop objecting to your offers.
The “product” will develop better. A trustful client, understanding both the benefits of your services and the importance of your design, will accept your suggestions much easier.
So, what is the marketing mix, and how does it work for architects?
The marketing mix is a great concept to visualize how architects have to promote themselves or their architectural practices. Any intervention to one of those 4 Ps has to correlate with all others.
Although there is no direct mention of clients, all your efforts have to center on them. I don’t mean you should do whatever they want. Our job is to help them build. They have to get quality architecture, considering their needs.
The marketing mix is significant for process-based marketing for architecture firms. This marketing approach helps you to shape your services to fit the marketing influxes of customers.
The 7 Ps of Marketing
More recent theories raise the number 4 to 7. They include people (staff), processes, and physical evidence. Well, one can find even more Ps: the public (community), the person (client), pleasure, and the planet. Let’s stick to the first 4. It’s way simpler.
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