How to get a competitive edge for your architecture practice (part 3)

COMPETITIVE EDGE FOR AN ARCHITECTURE BUSINESS – PART 3

In this final article in our series on gaining an edge for your architecture practice we take a look at ongoing marketing and how to effectively employ it in your practice to ensure you have an steady stream of new work coming through the door each year.

One of the problems architects face in building a sustainable business is marketing their services. Most architects would like to be on the tools, working on projects… but seeking briefs, writing proposals and winning the work are just as important skills for architects to master.

It’s additionally complex because traditional marketing activities which are designed to push consumers into a quick decision don’t work for architects. Deciding to design and construct a building is a long, slow and complex process, often involving lots of different people with different motives. You can’t cold call people on the off chance they might be about to build a house.

So for architects, marketing is more about raising and maintaining a profile, than direct selling. Here are a few features of a strong marketing approach for architects:

  • An effective web presence, including regular and consistent social media output

This is the first place many clients will look for information about you, and first impressions count. What does your site say about you? How easy is it for people to find out about you, your projects and get it touch? Think also about your social media presence; how are you represented on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? What have you got to say about topics that relate to your work – place making, working habits, trends in design… there are plenty of angles on architecture which you can use to share your knowledge and build a following.

  • An approachable, inviting communications style

Lots of architects’ websites and creds docs are beautifully designed, aesthetically brilliant… and utterly intimidating for customers. Remember who your audience is and remember that it’s not other architects. It’s the people who you want to short list you for their project. So tailor all your communications – written and visual – to them. Communicate to them in a way which doesn’t make them feel like they need a degree in architecture to talk you. Talk to them, not at them.

  • Spectacular photography and videography

It almost goes without saying, but the visuals of your work have to be impressive. Architectural companies are familiar with the need to take great shots of their finished work but don’t neglect video, particularly animations, drone shots and 360 degree shots. These can help give your communications the wow factor which can make a client pick up the phone to call you. Keep an eye on where AR and VR technology is heading; before long these will be the tools of choice for marketers of architectural services.

  • Credible testimonials

Positive, credible testimonials have a reassuring effect on potential buyers. They help customers imagine themselves in the shoes of previous clients. And often clients will mention things about your services which may seem self evident to you – your attitude, your knowledge base and so on – but which speak loudly to a potential customer. So collect, update and share. These are a critical part of your marketing campaign.

  • Clearly identifiable specialisations

There are a lot of architects out there. You’re going to be much easier to find if your specialty is clearly communicated throughout your communications. If you’re a school building specialist, make sure you’re credentials for this type of work is clearly signposted – and uses some search engine optimisation to help people looking for experts in your niche to find you.

  • Beautiful, crystal-clear proposals

The proposal you send to potential clients has to do lots of things. It has to sell your client on your vision for their project. It has to reassure them that you’re the right architect for the job. It has to clearly set out your process. It has to be thorough yet readable. So it’s worthwhile putting some time and effort into your proposals to make sure they are as compelling and convincing as possible. Consider using an online tool like Proposify to create beautiful proposal templates, track how and when people look at them and move them quickly through to the contracting stage.

  • Ongoing relationship building and networking

In lieu of a direct sales approach, ongoing networking is essential. If you have an industry specialisation, you need to be attending and speaking at industry events. If your locality is your specialisation, you need to be attending local events. Relationship building with people who bring about large architectural projects (developers, government staff, staff at major institutions) is crucial; you never know when they might need your services and you want to be front of mind. And after a project, stay in touch – you want to give them as many opportunities as possible to refer you.

  • Strong community links

Architects are experts in place and how people interact with spaces. Many jobs will come from being part of a local community, and knowing about how locals interact with the spaces they frequent everyday. And architects help shape the physical world that communities inhabit, so don’t cut yourself off from your local community. Get involved. Comment on local issues to do with public space. Run community events and hone your skills in community consultation (often a crucial element of large projects). It’s another good way of keeping your profile high among the group of people most likely to bring you work.

This article is an extract from our new eBook packed full of profitability tips for architecture practices – you can grab your copy here:

Here at Generate we work with a huge range of creative businesses – including architecture practices – each year, helping them with everything from managing their accounts, tax advice, business coaching, strategic planning … you name it, we’ve probably done it! If you’d like to have a chat about your business, why not drop us a line? We’d love to help.