HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR ARCHITECTURE OFFICE
Architecture is a unique type of business. It combines art with functional aspects of engineering & design to serve all kinds of clients. A majority of architecture offices are small studios with the owner leading it. All of that makes the marketing of architecture companies a challenging task - there are millions of possibilities, but only a few bring viable results.
Many talented architects ask themselves questions:
How can I get more clients?
Should I actively promote my services?
Should I be engaging in digital marketing or maybe offline activities?
What about networking & events?
Do I need to integrate other activities with marketing efforts? Is architectural marketing worth it?
Well, this guide will help you answer all these questions and make sense of architecture marketing.
1. What is architectural marketing?
It denotes all the activities that promote an architecture office or support such actions. Marketing an architecture firm means connecting your services with customers through online media or traditional channels.
It goes far beyond just advertising. All the market research efforts, discovering your client needs, describing the service scope and the benefits they bring are marketing activities.
It is a bridge between your architecture practice and your potential clients (also called leads). It will help you reach them, but it will also change how you operate for the better, as you learn over time.
2. Should architects market their services?
By all means, yes. Intelligent marketing is an excellent way to present the expertise you are proud of to the broader audience. Architecture office marketing is, however, completely different from the stereotypical depictions of marketing and selling.
It has nothing to do with clichés of the telephone salesmen aggressively pitching a product or the more modern equivalent of it - flashy pages with extreme discounts and ticking clocks.
Modern marketing is quite the opposite, focusing on the strategic building of your online presence and positioning your architecture firm as an expert in your field.
It also comes without saying that all your marketing efforts should be highly professional, ethical and fitted for the purpose. There is no reason to assume that architectural offices should refrain from communicating with people and businesses interested in their work.
Openness and presence both online & offline, send positive signals. They foster a holistic approach to architectural services, considering things beyond the technical part of the work.
Discovering and improving commercial orientation and awareness of the long-term design implications are crucial for success. In fact, a survey on nearly a thousand architectural clients by RIBA found that some of the least satisfying aspects of architectural services were related to how architects manage their processes.
Understanding client needs, improving communication and offering value-adding services were among them. Marketing raises awareness of all of those aspects of work and is welcomed when done right.
3. Pros and cons of marketing architecture practice
We could name here over 50 pros and a fair bit of cons of marketing an architecture firm but decided to focus on the major ones.
Marketing gets architecture projects
Good marketing educates architect’s clients
Marketing takes time and costs money
Marketing results are often delayed in time
Marketing makes your services better
3.1 Marketing gets architecture projects
The most apparent reason for architects to engage in marketing is to find more clients or projects. It also enables architecture firms to find better-suited, more specialised work and make signing contracts more predictable.
3.2 Good marketing educates architect’s clients
Every hospital waiting room is full of posters comforting and alerting patients about the diseases treated there. It makes excellent sense - if they are there, it is likely their condition makes them anxious. Addressing it makes them feel better and appreciate the clinic’s expertise.
You do not always need to meet your clients in person, but letting them know what to expect and what you can deliver them as an architect makes it easier for both sides.
Plus, it helps you to keep the toxic clients away. Commit to educating your networks about the work and purpose of architecture, and you may never again encounter that “rogue client” offering you $50 for a design project because it’s “just a bunch of drawings”. Nurturing your audience also opens them for the new ideas.
3.3 Marketing makes your services better
To promote your architecture firm, you need to identify its strengths and what you can offer that others can’t. And that forces you to reflect on the scope of your services. Then on the customer’s view, which probably differs much from yours. Then you align your expectations with those of your clients.
But not entirely, because there are aspects of your business that you can’t compromise on, such as using only high-quality building materials. Such continuous improvement is a pleasant process and a powerful method to gain competitive advantage.
You will know you are on the right path when your client asks you about something, and you will already have a perfect arrangement in place.
3.4 Marketing takes time and costs money
From creating strategy through execution to responding to enquiries… It takes effort and is often not that straightforward - some channels and methods are much more efficient than others. Also, different architecture practices require varying levels of investment. It can be an obstacle, especially at the beginning or when you don’t have sufficient funds to invest in that.
Fortunately, you can replace monetary investment with your effort or amplify your marketing work with paid ads or by hiring an agency. Also, continuous and well-crafted marketing campaigns bring results and high ROI with time.
3.5 Marketing results are often delayed in time
It takes time to decide whether you want to buy something, especially something important or costly. Before purchasing a gym membership, I was given their fliers twice and attended a free presentation. Then I visited their website and read a bit about them. Then I saw their ad on Facebook. Then I saw them in Google search results for “gyms near me” when shopping around for a better option. Then another Facebook ad and I revisited their website.
Finally, I saw their logo on the building and a “first training free” banner. I bought it a week later after speaking with the owner. That’s 10 points of contact and several weeks for just a gym membership! And if they had no website, I probably wouldn’t be with them. And now imagine the architectural planning, which is a more critical purchase.
It usually takes from a few weeks to a few months to gain new clients. It can even take years to achieve your marketing systems’ optimal efficiency and deploy the right tools. It is because marketing is highly dependent on the real-life decisions. You might influence your audience, but you can never accurately predict all individual clients’ decisions.
On the plus side, you can sometimes encounter a person ready to purchase. They may even be looking precisely for architectural design services you offer. Targeting them with Google Ads may get you signing a project even within a few days. We are going to discuss that in detail a bit later. Let’s first focus on your goals, and then we will discuss the means to reach them.
4. Set a marketing goal for your architecture firm
Your marketing activities have to be aligned with the strategic plans you have for your architecture firm. They may require various levels of effort and investment from you and are integral to other aspects of managing your practice.
We distinguish here three primary architectural marketing goals:
4.1 When just starting and looking for the first project
You may have just obtained your architecture credentials or decided to open your company after working in the architecture field for some time. Now it’s time to connect with clients and get that first architectural project. But first, make sure to be seen as reliable.
4.1.1 Build credibility & brand awareness
Building construction needs planning, and that is not going to change anytime soon. The way people search for architectural services is, however, continually evolving. Google searches have replaced phone books or yellow pages.
Behance profiles and digital project galleries limited the use of printed portfolios. The high street signs with your practice name are now Google Maps location pins. Paradoxically, the lack of online presence makes businesses less credible than the absence of a walk-in office.
Your practice name or your surname is now how clients find you. When they type your name in Google, it is up to you whether they will see your portfolio or a random Youtube comment you left five years ago. Take control of how you and your firm appear online. Here is how.
4.1.2 Establish online presence
First, get a professional, branded website with a custom domain address to directly communicate with your clients.
Then, increase your local visibility with business profiles in all credible registrars. On top of that, choose 1-3 social media outlets that your potential clients use to stay in touch with them.
Even when you own an established architecture office, it is still worth to take control of your online appearance.
Companies that do not claim or control their digital presence may be reviewed online regardless of their knowledge.
Sometimes the only information about their business might be a single negative opinion that already turned away many prospective clients…
Although the essential online presence will not attract many clients on its own, it will considerably support your other promotional activities. Your prospective customers will feel more comfortable interacting with you. It will also save you time. They will visit your website and profiles instead of calling or emailing you.
4.1.3 Learn about your audience
Online presence is an invaluable opportunity to get to know your potential clients better and see their point of view. Being open minded and responsive to their queries will point you in the right direction and improve your operations over time.
4.2 When you are growing or changing your architecture office
Marketing is your great ally. It will both help you reposition your practice as well as expand it. At this stage, you must dive deeply into auditing your current business activities to find out the right areas of focus.
Only this way, you can develop strategies to facilitate lead generation for your architecture firm.
4.2.1 Invest in long-term, sustainable marketing growth
Unless you are an established practice with over 30 full-time employees, you will have to choose your focus areas. You will benefit from the concentration on just several marketing activities and specialisation in your architecture niche.
Broadening your market coverage is chiefly for the offices that already lead in their segment and have not much room for expansion in their lane.
Widening your marketing operations is also an excellent opportunity to plan, strategise and develop analytical frameworks. After initial informational overload, you will gradually uncover which activities bring the best results and set your company on the fast growth lane.
4.2.2 Further invest in your brand & recognition
Leverage your long-term presence on the market. If you had some interns working for you in the past or participated in several local architecture events, use it all to your advantage. Make sure to show your expertise with conference photos or employee statements on your website. That will make recruiting the new colleagues easier, and you will form long-lasting relationships with the new employees.
4.2.3 Get feedback to tackle business inefficiencies
When your architecture office employs 5, 10 or 15 colleagues, the work efficiency could be the difference between barely making it and making a killing. Marketing communications with your potential clients and also candidates should influence your business processes. Their opinions will act as a reality check for your workflow planning, informing about what is relevant and what is not.
4.2.4 Form relevant partnerships
Frequently, your architectural design is companied by a multitude of other services. Newly erected buildings often set a demand for the work of the builders, painters and plumbers. Also, interior designers, decorators and photographers may likely be contracted as well.
Furthermore, the refurbishments and conversions frequently create the need for furniture purchase and sometimes trigger more profound structural changes to the building. In turn, actions such as introducing smart home systems or demolishing a wall will attract your peers' work from the building industry.
Wouldn’t it be helpful to be recommended by some of them? Architects can get many valuable projects from peer introductions and referrals.
4.2.5 Bet on the multichannel synergy
By this moment you already have your business present on 2-3 major social network platforms that your customers use. You post regular updates and show your office, projects and conferences. Alternatively, you may only have those profiles populated for credibility, but not actively managed. That could be the case if you supply services exclusively to companies and communicate with them directly.
When being available to your audience across those communication platforms, it pays off to treat it as an alternative to receiving a phone call or email. Like face-to-face inquiries, you should answer their questions on time and promptly reply to their comments.
It may seem time-consuming, but when done correctly, it’s well worth it. A few minutes to answer a question about design may result in landing a new project or having somebody recommend your services to their friends.
Integrating multiple channels with your website makes advertising vastly more cost-effective. Making gentle appearances to the clients that interacted with you previously, also called remarketing or retargeting, is the most efficient way of paid advertising.
Those who stayed on your website are the elite few inclined to buy or recommend your services. They are even more likely to convert to clients than those who match your customer persona profile but haven’t interacted yet. It pays off to keep their attention and follow up with targeted ads. Such synergies are among the best opportunities emerging from growing your marketing operations.
4.2.5 Bet on the multichannel synergy
When you can invest more effort or money into marketing, you should think of marketing goals that bring astounding yet delayed results. As a company that already noted moderate success on the market, you can go beyond immediate survival and build the fundamentals for long-term growth with your current marketing efforts. That means attracting organic visits to your website with expert content.
It usually takes months to rank quality articles on the first page of Google and is not an easy task. However, if you can achieve that, you will likely get visits from people looking for your services. For instance, they may find your guide on planning a loft conversion to accommodate a home office and read it. Then, you don’t even need to be overly promotional. It’s enough to focus on providing them with high-quality information and gracefully mentioning that your architecture office specialises in that service.
Showcasing your expertise will result in a decent chance of winning new customers. What’s more, you will get ahead of the competition and keep them in the shadow of your authority. Why would your potential client turn to competitors when you already told them everything they wanted to know?
On top of that, it may also land you a PR opportunity. Your expert insights may be quoted by specialised magazines and get your architecture office featured in their issue or blog. That’s how a long term competitive advantage is built.
4.3 When you need ongoing marketing services
Marketing efforts pay off over time. Thus, it is natural for many architects to invest in promotion gradually and proportionally to the growth of their practice.
Some owners would spend their evenings on getting publicity, managing social profiles or preparing speeches for events.
Others would hire an agency periodically to spend a revenue surplus or boost the number of projects coming. Over time, all those groups come to the same conclusion.
Smart marketing brings great ROI and is worth continuous effort. Then, the pending question is whether to do it internally or outsource it.
4.3.1 The choice between hiring marketing staff or agency
Once you consider ongoing marketing operations, let’s analyse the path that led to this conclusion.
Marketing operations might have either brought you some clients or strengthened your online presence.
The significant challenge at this stage is to decide what quality and price levels you can achieve internally and externally.
18.104.22.168 Employing marketing manager for an architecture office
You can hire an ambitious graduate to coordinate your marketing efforts on the “best effort put” basis. In other words, they would just experiment and learn while working for you. Their hourly wage won’t cost you a fortune, but they will need to spend weeks or months learning how architecture marketing works. Also, some technical solutions or channels might be unknown to them.
And that can mean that your practice will never adopt any sophisticated marketing methods. At the end of the day, what matters most is the cost-benefit ratio or the ROI. You wouldn’t mind paying more for marketing services provided they bring more contracts you can deliver. Conversely, you wouldn’t like to pay at all for the services that didn’t and couldn’t work.
22.214.171.124 Hiring marketing agency
The problem with marketing agencies is that they are generally good at marketing their services. That, however, does not mean they are going to succeed in promoting your services. What’s more, marketing is a very competitive field because (in theory), you would just need a computer with an internet connection to start such a business.
That led to a phenomenon called by the economists “the rise to the bottom”. Simply put, because of high competitiveness, dishonest or low-quality agencies overpromise and advertise aggressively. In turn, many legitimate marketing firms may succumb to such pressure and join the bandwagon offering wishful, unrealistic results not to be rejected by the clients early on.
Agencies that send bulk emails with grammatical errors and bold claims are a textbook example of predatory “marketing” firms. The claims of putting you on the 1st position on Google for a few bucks without knowing what your business does are fraudulent and untrue.
Because of that, you should vet the marketing agencies, focusing on those with the expertise in your field. Agencies will usually have an informational advantage over you when it comes to marketing. Those that also specialise in architectural marketing will, however, be knowledgable of what you might need.
The focus on understanding your current business perspective, goals and activities you are committed to should come first. The focus on your needs, and not using the “one fits all” approach indicates that such marketing company will succeed in helping you.
4.3.2 Evaluate your internal expertise
The choice between hiring an agency or full-time marketing specialist should be motivated by your architecture office’s expertise and marketing operations volume. If you are an owner of architecture practice that has never worked in marketing, you might not be able to evaluate the work of Social Media Manager or Marketing Coordinator. In turn, you would be reliant solely on their expertise and may lose control over that part of your business.
On the other hand, you might be already promoting your architecture practice on a specific marketing front. For instance, you might be the most esteemed conservation architect in the area, that is frequently quoted as an expert in the local news. Or you may host a podcast or a vlog, having a significant following.
In such cases, you have an insider’s view on those activities. You may still make them more efficient and grow your presence on different channels. In such cases, you may rather need to hire a video editor to save time or book a marketing consultation to plan your internal activities.
However, when you have no clue about specific marketing channels, don’t risk. You may either learn it if you enjoy such work or get a professional who will advise you on how to approach using that medium.
4.3.3 Plan long term professional relationships
A popular misconception about social media marketing is the belief that hiring a college or university student to do your social media is a great idea. Such a young person would naturally excel online, won’t charge much, and enjoy the work, right?
Well, not really. The problem is that the recreational use of social platforms is much different from the professional. Also, it pays off to establish formal connections with marketing professionals. Students may not be available to work during their exam period and would rarely continue their side gigs after graduation.
4.3.4 Consider service flexibility & hidden cost
As with many small and medium businesses, hiring new employees is not an easy decision. Surely, you would like to develop a mutually beneficial relationship, but quite often work agreements bind both parties with notice periods, paid sick leave and other mandatory requirements.
Hiring a managed service provider lets you avoid such risk because you are buying just the services. The HR part of the work stays on the marketing agency’s side, meaning you don’t have to worry about the sick leave or notice periods. Also, marketing agencies experience very high pressure for efficiency. When you hire them to do something, they will have the expertise at their disposal and their billed work will be quite efficient. They won’t engage in the guesswork on your dime.
4.3.5 Select specialised marketing experts
Architecture marketing requires combining knowledge in both architecture and marketing. If you have the possibility of hiring a company that specialises in both, that’s likely the best course of action. Although the expertise here has much more to do with marketing knowledge and experience, knowing how architects and their clients speak and what they expect is crucial.
Sometimes it may also damage your reputation if you partner with an agency that uses aggressive marketing well-suited for e.g. dietary supplement sales, but not for promoting your services.
4.3.6 Choose ethical providers
Architecture marketing requires combining knowledge in both architecture and marketing. If you have the possibility of hiring a company that specialises in both, that’s likely the best course of action. Although the expertise here has much more to do with marketing knowledge and experience, knowing how architects and their clients speak and what they expect is crucial.
Sometimes it may also damage your reputation if you partner with an agency that uses aggressive marketing well-suited, e.g. dietary supplement sales, but not for promoting your services.
4.4 When you are not sure what your marketing goal is...
Architecture Consulting & Advisory might be an excellent path for an accomplished academic or professional tired of hectic work at a global planning office.
A tech-savvy Architect may develop an app and operate as a software or infrastructure provider in the architecture technology landscape.
Architecture Office with traditions might look for new ways of approaching changing market without compromising the values that govern their practice.
An Architecture Partnership might want to split into two or more entities to better structure their operations and communicate with clients more effectively.
A retiring owner would like to prepare the company for operating without their direct supervision or plan for the transition of power.
You might first want to evaluate the options. It is not always clear what the best marketing strategy is. Sometimes you might be just looking for the best marketing impact a certain budget can buy you. Otherwise, you might be choosing between a set of mutually exclusive growth paths.
Many architecture firms seize opportunities different from the usual growth journeys of mainstream companies. Some architects change their initial direction. Here are some short case studies presenting goals other than the main three we described:
Every situation is unique, and GetSpace.digital will help you choose the best cooperation option to achieve your goals. You can book a free call to discuss your marketing plans with us and get recommendations.
You may also already have made your mind and know precisely what you need. In such case, feel free to choose a specific service. All digital marketing activities are described in the sixth chapter of this guide. You may, however, want first to learn a bit more about how digital marketing works from the next chapter.
5. Digital marketing for architects - how does it work?
You may have seen your competitors and their logos on some local architecture exhibitions, but that’s only the visible part of the iceberg when it comes to marketing.
Most of the activities and client decisions happen on the individual level and are influenced by digital marketing. In this chapter, we provide an overview of marketing concepts relevant to architects.
Learning them will help you better understand the ways to approach the clients.
5.1 Lead generation for architecture firms
The term customer lead is omnipresent in the world of marketing. It denotes your potential clients, quite often those that left their contact details with you. Many marketing agencies and sales outsourcing firms may offer you lead generation services. It’s a blanket term covering all the actions that lead to delivering you a spreadsheet with people’s contact details or populating a CRM system.
5.1.1 Do architects generate leads?
Technically speaking, they do. As an architect, you already had or will be gathering contact details to people interested in your services. Then you will stay in contact for the sake of future projects and may call or email them sometimes.
As the clients will rarely buy your services immediately, most enquiries or promotional efforts will bring you leads that may turn into paying clients. It obviously takes time and maybe some convincing to sell or schedule a project.
Qualifying leads and determining whether they are likely to use your services is crucial. However, it is not often that straightforward for the architects to make sense of this process. There are many techniques, ideas and solutions. Many companies also use software or outsource the process of customer acquisition.
5.1.2 Should I use the help of a lead generation firm or software?
And here is the plot twist - more often than not you should stay away from such firms and software. Architectural services are a relatively high-end type of service. They are not purchased by your prospective clients as quickly as a massage or a haircut, and because of that, the ways you approach your clients should be more sophisticated.
Lead generation services suit well the businesses in which you can identify your potential customers well, such as software companies. They may exactly know that their prospects are companies of a certain size and from specific industries.
As an architect whose clients are individuals, you wouldn’t have a broad pool of prospective leads that you can find on LinkedIn or originate from an acquired email database. If you tried targeting and pitching all of them this way, it would be a completely ineffective process and a nuisance to them.
It is a bit different if you work with other companies, such as developers or building firms. Directly reaching out to them is fine, but it would rarely be a matter of messaging 1000s of companies with the same message template. Instead, it is scouting a handful or maybe a few dozen the most suitable companies and establishing a personable relationship with them.
Typically, the companies that offer lead generation outsourcing might have problems qualifying prospective customers and assessing their match with your expertise. They may also have trouble understanding the scope of your services and may misinform your clients. That’s unless they are specialised precisely in the marketing and selling the architectural and design services.
5.2 Choosing the activities that bring results
The major problem with marketing is to grasp its basics and make sense of what services are offered on the market. On the one hand, you see smart technologies and tools backed by science, on the other hand, there is no shortage of aggressive salesmen with their “magical techniques”. How to make sense of it without losing a fortune or the good name of your architecture practice? Well, you have to match your goals with the characteristics of each marketing activity.
5.2.1 From dreamers to buyers: Top-of-funnel vs bottom-of-funnel marketing
Acquiring architecture services is a complex process for your clients, and varies between individuals and AEC industry firms. When you are selling to other companies like developers (B2B sales), the process would be more straightforward and based on formal proposals.
Such clients are educated buyers and have some understanding of the industry - they are commercially oriented. But that’s another topic that has more to do with writing architecture proposals to win projects.
Your individual clients follow entirely different processes that lead to making a purchase decision. Marketing folks call it customer journey.
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126.96.36.199 Architecture customer journey
Let’s try seeing it through the client’s lenses. They don’t wake up one night with the looming thought “I need the services of a residential architect that will charge between $7800-8200 for my house extension”. It is rather a sequential process in which their vision achieves higher resolution as they educate themselves about potential solutions and shop around. Typically, it would go like this:
Chris Grimley, Mimi Love. 2007. Color, Space and Style
Beverly, Massachusetts: Rockport Publishers, Inc.
Bear in mind that they may not necessarily steadily progress through that path. They may as well stop somewhere along the way or even abandon it altogether. Your potential client can realise they can’t afford it or there is a better alternative for it.
They may realise they would prefer to renovate their apartment without professional help. Sometimes they may even give up planned kitchen refurbishment and use that money to go for a fancy intercontinental trip instead. Now, you are waiting with your precious, unobtrusive advice ready to help them choose… When do you join them in the process? What’s the best moment to make an appearance?
188.8.131.52 Marketing funnel for architecture clients
Depending on how developed and mature your marketing activities are, you may decide to approach your leads at the earlier or later parts of their journey. If you walk along your potential client since the early stages of their purchasing process, you will not only be able to influence them, but also build their trust. Your approach should depend on the marketing capacity.
There are more people that consider renovating kitchens than those that actually do that. In other words, the further up into the funnel, the more leads there are, but they are less convinced. If you are able to nurture them when they are just thinking about it, without a direct reward for doing so, join them early on. It will give you advantage over competitors, but it also requires additional work.
In some markets there might however be no room for steering the so-called top of funnel activities. No one will read about choosing the best plumbing systems when their sink is flooding their kitchen. They will bet on quickly finding the firm that will fix it. Also, as an architect, you may work with premium clients that don’t have time to read guides or view hundreds of design samples. They would just want to choose between two or three during a meeting with you.
Although some big players dominate some search terms, architecture is a diverse market. A residential architect from California will likely not try to become a thought leader in the field of office space in cold regions like Alaska or rainy like London. There is a lot of space to join the journey of the local journey that search for some popular arrangements in your area of expertise.
Consider where your prospective clients are and whether you want to interact with them. You won’t be able to kidnap them or force your leads to walk your own path. You wouldn’t like to exaggerate things either, as it is easy to spot and will definitely harm your reputation. Focus on educating clients in an unbiased way.
184.108.40.206 Provide solutions to the customer queries
Be natural and helpful. Try answering customer questions and address their concerns. It is a bit of hit and miss process at the beginning, but over time you will learn what buyers expect. You will gain valuable information along the way, and it pays off to create feedback loops and foster friendly communication.
5.2.2 Be present or approach: inbound vs outbound architecture marketing
You may allow people to find you online, which is inbound marketing. Or you may actively approach those that you view as your potential customers, that’s outbound marketing. In both cases, you would like to make sure that your target audience is much more likely to buy your services than an average person.
This could be done by defining the buyer persona and making sure your marketing efforts reach them. You may either focus on one homogenous group or divide your audience into a handful of different sub-audiences interested in the various services you offer.
220.127.116.11 Pros & cons of inbound and outbound marketing
Inbound marketing has the advantage of self-classification and low variable cost. When you are found online, it is likely because someone searched for something related to architecture thus classifying themselves as interested in architecture or architectural services. Let’s consider the example of a walk-in property rental office.
Let’s use a case study of a property rental agency to investigate what factors influence the choice between inbound and outbound marketing. As the owner of it, having a choice between hiring a person to actively approach passers-by (outbound) and displaying your services at the office front on a screen (inbound), you would likely choose the second.
It is a more cost-efficient way of promotion. You may also easily update your offer monthly and it generally works as a self-service promotion requiring no extra effort, unlike distributing flyers. They are quite costly in comparison. In practice, however, it is rarely a binary choice.
What if you already printed leaflets and 2 of your 3 employees are unoccupied? What if there has just been a registration day at a nearby university and hundreds of students moving into the town will pass next to your store? Or maybe the cost of finding a new client this way is higher than others, but still reasonable and you will profit from it? Or on the contrary, what if your business is one of ten almost identical shops in a tourist area?
Case in point - Indian cuisine restaurants at Brick Lane in London. There are about 10 of them on the 50-meter part of the street. They have similar price ranges and to many tourists, they seem very similar. Often who will dine where is defined by which restaurant’s promoter will approach a tourist first. That’s a great example of the situation where it pays off to stand out or distinguish your company from the competition by reaching out to the customers.
18.104.22.168 Try both before focusing on one
However, it is not always easy to tell whether active or passive techniques are better suited for the case. Most of the time, it would be a mixture of both. Even when one of them may not be promising in commercial terms (i.e. ROI, the marginal cost of acquiring new clients), it may give you invaluable opportunity to learn who your customers are and what they think about your practice. You can discover how they react to your outreach attempts and learn how to be more convincing and natural when establishing relationships with potential clients.
5.2.3 Pay with effort or money: organic vs paid marketing
One of the common excuses of those that do not market their services is the myth of competitors that have multimillion budgets and will completely overshadow any efforts.
Well, there are likely firms bigger than yours, but that doesn’t mean that they will always overpower you. Yes, it is hard to break through and establish marketing routines, and yes, money helps with that.
It is, however, nothing like throwing money to the online platforms and magically receiving customers.
After all, your clients do not care about how your marketing infrastructure works, but what can you actually deliver for them as an architect.
You won’t reach enough of them without an effort put in marketing, but if they visit your website and it doesn’t seem credible - you are burning money on ads. Even as a small business you can still find your optimal place online and even become number one locally, in your very own niche.
22.214.171.124 Quick boost vs sustainable investment in marketing
Generally, ads are great to expand your reach. Whether you are promoting your services on Instagram or optimising website for SEO, your audience reach figures move relatively slowly from day to day. Unless you are lucky, you can’t count on your post going viral. It will likely reach just a fraction of your followers, sometimes even less than 10%.
Or it will be found by just a small percentage of searches in Google. You can boost that by paying for the top position or broader reach. The efficiency of that will often depend on the quality of your content, advertising or services. Most likely it will be a temporary boost, while expanding organic reach (by definition) will benefit you for longer.
126.96.36.199 Limits of opportunity
I remember advertising a classroom course on Facebook many years ago. It was a preparation for specific graduation exams taken by the students who were around 19 years old. My friend asked me why we couldn’t just dump as much money as possible and hire a bigger venue to accommodate all the clients? That’s simple - because of the increasing marginal cost of customer acquisition.
Don’t be scared of the economic jargon. That simply means that it usually costs more and more to acquire the next client. In that case, we were targeting first those potentially interested in that course - gone to classes specialised in particular subjects, already liked profiles of their desired departments in specific universities or followed authors of similar courses. They were a well-targeted audience with high rates of interest.
Similarly, you can promote your architecture & design services in Google, but there will only be so many people potentially interested. For every type of paid advertising, you will find a threshold beyond which it is not worth it.
In other words, broadening your advertising audience means increasing the average cost of client acquisition. At some point, it may cost you more to find a new client that they are willing to pay you. Targeting too broad audience also makes your ads less relevant or even annoying to the majority of viewers.
5.2.4 Quick or cheap, choose one: long term vs short-term horizon
As we established, there is a trade-off between getting to your clients fast or gradually growing engagement. There will likely be a significant demand for architectural design services in the future and this profession is not going to be automated away or overtaken by the AI any time soon. That makes marketing worthy of your consideration.
It pays off to invest time and money in both paid and organic reach efforts. The organic marketing tends to be cheaper over time when you look at metrics such as how much on average it costs you to acquire a new client. Paid ads are fantastic for seasonally boosting your sales.
You should also use them when you have budgets and capacities. They may be very cost-effective to run up to a certain level of spending. What’s more, they let you monitor purchasing trends. You will also likely improve the return on the investment in ads over time with methods such as A/B testing.
5.3 Location, location… Social media vs search vs placement
You have to choose the appropriate channels to connect with your clients. It’s quite easy when you know who your ideal client is and compare that persona to the channels' demographics.
Then, think of other aspects of those platforms. Architecture is very visual discipline and thus works well with the media that centre around visual content. We discuss it in detail in the social media section.
Also, consider when your potential clients hang out on those media. For instance, LinkedIn is a work-related medium - it facilitates business to business sales and job hunting. You can even directly contact your prospective clients there with InMails.
Expect them to be available during working hours, sometimes evenings, but rarely on bank holidays. On the contrary, Facebook is the channel to keep up with family and friends and join communities related to hobbies or local marketplaces. Be prepared for less formal communication there.
On top of that, do your best to be natural and to reasonably accommodate your audience. Choosing the wrong medium would be just like approaching someone relaxing at the swimming and pool sipping a fancy cocktail and telling them about the efficiency of your spreadsheet automation services.
5.4 Promote your architecture office in the right context
When advertising on social media, you should expect it will involve establishing relationships. Just like inviting your prospective customers for a relaxed chat once in a while or signing to a discussion group.
When you are targeting specific search queries in Google, you become an advisor. You answer their questions, educate, present your service scope if that’s what they are looking for.
When advertising on other websites or being promoted by influencers or running email mailbox ads, make sure to make it relevant and efficient. Avoid associating your company with shady websites or influencers. Some systems already embed such controls, not allowing for adding ads to controversial content, but some extra vetting effort wouldn’t hurt.
5.5 Ps of Architecture Marketing Mix
Online marketing is crucial for architectural firms. It’s usually cheaper, more measurable and faster than traditional activities. We list here eight key types of digital marketing for architects:
website development & design
social media management
online registers & marketplace presence
marketing strategy & planning
search engine optimisation
architectural content creation
Read further to decide which ones are worth considering and will benefit your architectural company the most. Note that we first focus on the essential marketing activities and then analyse those more sophisticated. Introducing them in that order would likely be optimal marketing plan for your practice.
It is the most popular framework for approaching the marketing strategy. It lists the product, price, place and promotion as the main categories of focus. In essence, it means a holistic approach to defining how you will market your architecture services.
Product in this case means the scope of the services you offer, how you combine them and what results they bring.
Price contains all the value information related to your services. How much your services cost to your clients, what is the cost of work of your colleagues and other expenses. Also, how they relate to each other - what is your profit margin, whether you grant discounts and how customers react to it.
Place defines the channels to reach customers - both digital and related to the physical location of your office or the area coverage of your services.
Promotion iterates the activities to get to your client. All the actions of advertising and communicating with clients you undertake. Even those indirect, such as PR and educating or nurturing potential customers.
The 4Ps are not the only marketing framework to use. We highly suggest approaching it with a level of flexibility. It matters much more to be able to come with actionable ideas for marketing than to perfectly conform to a certain framework. Also, the 4Ps of marketing mix are often extended to better match the changing marketing landscape.
The 7Ps for instance would also list people, process & physical evidence or people, packaging and positioning. Stay open minded and always relate the methodologies to the real world, where on the other side of your marketing efforts is always a real person.
6. All types of digital marketing activities for architecture
6.1 Start with the website for your office
Website is an extended business card and concierge for your practice that’s available 24/7. Many clients say that if something is not on the internet, it doesn’t exist.
That’s a trendy millennial euphemism. It means that a company lacking an online presence is perceived as suspicious, hiding something or not caring about their clients.
Yet, even if you prefer privacy, you and your firm are not invisible online. Your architecture office can be still found in public company registrars like Companies House in the UK or State Department sites in the USA, for instance.
Even when you dan’t have a website, you are still displayed in the Google search results. Because of that, it is a no-brainer to take control of what people will learn about your business. Here’s an overview of different roles the website plays for an architecture office.
6.1.1 Use website as an extension to your introduction
With a website, you no longer need to be a travelling salesman. No one wants lengthy introductions with eco-unfriendly printed folders and litanies of what services you provide and who your clients are.
Quite often, it is enough to mention your name or the practice name and architecture specialisation. If your listener at a trade fair or coffee meeting is interested, they can learn more at their convenience. They can comfortably view your portfolio and further contact details on your website.
They don’t have to rush and can give it a proper consideration at the comfort of their home. Perhaps together with their spouse or other family members involved in choosing the architect or interior planner.
It may be even more critical for architects that work on B2B basis. Sharing necessary architectural certifications and credentials to assure you comply with local architectural regulations is more comfortable online. And also more convenient - no one likes to make hasty decisions on the go. They prefer to have control over it and the website provides that.
6.1.2 Establish credibility
Having a website is now a standard. Even food trucks and handymen have their websites. Companies without websites are often perceived as suspicious. Many think they are unregistered businesses, avoid taxes, or just side gigs of students who do not intend to pursue the venture long term. Having a website gives you the ability to build your own narrative to show your experience and authority.
6.1.3 Get found online
Even when you run a small architecture studio, it pays off to be found online. Those few visits every year could turn into valuable opp
ortunities. They can keep the flame of interest for people that saw your physical office on the way back home. They may point the way to you for an eager architecture student that wants to work for you. You may even be found by a journalist planning to interview you.
On top of that, you can also be relatively easily found on Google Maps, especially if you are one of just a few architects of particular specialisation in your city or town. Or maybe you are the only professional with specialised in historic buildings’ renovation?
As a rule of thumb, you should first assure your company is found when searched by its name. Then you can actively influence how your audience will find you using search engine optimisation techniques described in chapter 6.6. They will make you visible for searches related to your services and industry, expanding your audience. And your website is the best space to draw them to.
6.1.4 Gather your potential clients on your website
Visiting your online site is the breakthrough in contact with any client. Coming from a social media platform to your website is a digital equivalent of visiting your studio after being impressed with your work at an exhibition.
Website is also an invaluable point of concentration for your readers. When they see you on Instagram or Facebook, they are anonymous to you, and you can’t spark their further interest. They would need to at least like or follow you. Even then, your visibility will be limited by the functionalities and algorithms of the intermediary platform.
A website gives you more opportunities and more control over how you interact with the visitors. You could ask them to subscribe to your newsletter if they liked your home decor ideas. They may download your guide to victorian house retrofit in exchange for their contact details.
You can go much further with that and follow your audience with customised ads after they leave your website. Did they read an article about home office design? Show them your best home office project when they visit a design portal later on. You can also make a delicate appearance on Facebook with an ad. Read more about that in the remarketing section of this guide.
Those actions will help you make the most of the attention your practice is getting online. However, if your aspirations are more moderate, there is still one curious reason to have a website.
6.1.5 Claim your architecture brand name online
There are over 20 architecture practices in London alone with Smith as the owner’s surname o or part of the office name. Imagine that’s your surname and you introduce yourself to a potential client you’ve just met.
Unless you have a reasonably visible website, they will likely confuse your practice with one of many others owned by other Smiths. Then, they will probably realise that only when it’s too awkward to withdraw.
Quite important is owning a simple and memorable domain address like smitharchitects.com. The sooner you create your website, the sooner you can claim your domain and prevent someone else from getting it.
An easy to remember website address means you will not have to tweak the name to find an unoccupied domain name.
The name of our marketing agency for architects is an example of just that. Architects work with physical space. And we help them get clients and establish their presence in digital space to promote their services. Hence we are getspace.digital which doubles as our company name and website URL.
6.1.6 Get more website visitors
There are three principal ways to attract more website visits. They require different levels of effort and spending.
You may put the effort in influencing the position on which search engine place you with relation to relevant search phrases. It has a tremendous impact but takes time and expertise. You can read about it in chapter 6.6.
Bit faster solution is buying ads that will direct online traffic to your website. It is straightforward - you pay, and you get visits. However, it can be challenging to make it work efficiently and avoid burning your budget for nothing. In chapter 6.4, we discuss how architects may use ads.
When you don’t want to take the risk or commit to effort disproportional to your knowledge or abilities, there is one more option. Starting your social media activity is an excellent next step after you have the website.
6.2 Build a social media presence for your architecture practice
Setting up social media profiles is much easier than building a website and very rewarding if you do it the right way. For many businesses such profiles can act as the main point of contact with customers. You are probably already running your private Instagram account. It is very natural for many architects and it helps with networking. There are however some things to consider to make the cost to benefit ratio more favourable.
6.2.1 Choose appropriate social media platforms
You wouldn’t like to see a coffin exhibition between cheerful Instagram photos. You are also not looking for investment bank reviews while scrolling Facebook on Sunday afternoon. Choosing an inappropriate social platform can make your communications unbearable for your potential audience even when your intentions are pure.
Instead of seeking for attention on every platform, you should first choose up to three of them.
Leverage each platform’s uniqueness to target your client personas - groups of people with demographic features that make them likely to become your clients.
This approach will allow you to establish a meaningful presence and focus on the most efficient channels first. Most likely, one of them will be Instagram unless you can’t showcase your work visually. Once you’ve chosen the right social media outlets, it’s time to create your profiles.
6.2.2 Populate your business profiles & be natural
Even the passive or reactive presence on social media is way better than nothing. But why to settle on the minimum? Almost all such platforms have their internal search engines, and that’s quite often where clients will look for your services. Populating your profile will make your architecture office gains visibility, and you may also receive some visits and enquiries there.
When populating your profile, provide as much information as possible. It will improve your visibility on those platforms as search algorithms usually favour complete profiles. You will also gain credibility once found.
Mention all the logistic details such as the opening hours, contact details, business address or service area. Regularly update all the profiles and announce changes such as temporary closure of the office.
Adjust your language to the medium, but retain factual details to clarify what your company does. Sometimes it may involve choosing the business sector from a list of only about 20 generic categories or choosing a price range from 1 to 3 dollar signs. In such cases, it’s best to take a look at a few competing profiles for reference. You may also read the descriptions provided by the platform to make more educated decisions.
6.2.3 Be responsive & respectful
Make sure you will be notified about the messages and comments. Set email notifications or even better push notifications on your mobile or desktop. Sadly, if you are not quick to respond, your potential customers may go to your competition.
What’s more, many social media platforms (e.g. Facebook) display statistics about how quick you answer your clients. Fortunately, you may often create automated responses to many inquiries to address them before entering the chat.
As all social platforms have different dynamics, you may expect a mixed bag of enquiries and messages. On LinkedIn, they may be very formal and on-point.
Facebook conversations will be more relaxed, and you may also encounter spammers more often. Instagram and Pinterest environments will encourage the exchange of visual content and interactions with creative professionals.
No matter which interacts with you, always keep it professional and relevant. You may never really know who is on the other side. Moreover, messages can exist forever and may be used as writen proof for what your company stated.
That calls for a non-conflict approach because your company won’t stay anonymous, while messaging people may message you incognito form a fake profile. On the positive note, the same client can message you years later and see your friendly response from the past.
6.2.4 Commit to regular posting or at least updating
If you have a social media profile, at a minimum, you owe your audience up-to-date information about your business status. There is nothing more frustrating than visiting a closed office that was supposed to be open or booking an online call that will be unattended.
It is, however, much better to keep your audience on social networks engaged continuously. You can share valuable content regularly. For Instagram it can mean daily, but for LinkedIn rather weekly. When you don’t have time or motivation to post regularly, commit to documenting your achievements. When you finish your project - share it on your profiles.
When you move to a new office, write about it and add a few photos. Same when you attend that prestigious conference or just hired an intern. Even if you post once per quarter, it will leave a trace of commitment. After a few years, your architecture office will be significantly more credible.
6.2.5 Link your social media with the website
People differ in their habits of how they interact online. Add social media handles to the website to let them choose where they want to follow you. Also, place the link to your website on each social media profile. You may also link to the pages with your services’ if there is a built-in option to showcase your products or services on that platform.
Moreover, you can link social media with your website with so called tags and pixels. They allow advertising on social media to those that visited your website. It is the same functionality that allows a sport snickers firm to display the ads of their new pair of running shoes on Facebook after you visited their website.
It is very effective, because those that already visited your website are much more likely to hire you than an average person that never interacted with you online before. You may want to read more about why you should commit to retargeting your website visitors with social media ads.
6.2.6 Observe and learn from analytics
When you put more time into the management of your social media profiles and start to see some engagement, track it. See how many views and likes your posts have. See which groups are most active when you share your insights with them.
Track on which days and at what time the engagement is highest. It might seem boring, but it makes a difference over time and there is a multitude of free marketing tools for that.
When you identify what works and what doesn’t, you can focus on the most efficient activities and grow your following faster. Use internal analytics tools on the platforms, such as Facebook Creator Studio (that also covers Instagram) or have an agency provide you with multichannel insights generated by an aggregator tool.
For website analytics use Google tools such as Google Analytics. It is also tremendously helpful to understand which channels generate visits to your website and the cost per visit if you use paid advertising.
6.3 Register your architecture office with relevant directories & marketplaces
Apart from text search engines and social media, your clients search for architectural services on dedicated business platforms. Starting with Google My Business, there are plenty of directories that may be used to find your practice. Many of them function locally, being available in certain countries.
Other serve only specific industries. Also, not all of them are worthy of your time. Presence in some of them might even harm you or cost you some money without giving any benefits.
Make sure to check every directory before registering to it. Even if you are being registered to such websites by a marketing agency as part of Google positioning, it may be potentially risky. Familiarise yourself with every considered directory.
See how they present other businesses - if they have a well-thought directory and sorting algorithms. Read their reviews and the fine print in their user agreement. You wouldn’t like to be found next to some cheesy ad banners or on a list of random businesses, between a car wash and nail salon, right?
You may also consider signing up to a platform being a marketplace for the architectural services. There are a number of such platforms and they vary greatly. Some of them may list a number of services attributed to various categories. Others might focus on creative services or those related to the building industry.
There are also some that just offer access to unstructured notice boards.
Depending on how they work and what traffic they bring they might either be a ghost town or a sort of intermediary or aggregator taking a cut from your fees in exchange for projects or leads. It is worth approaching them all with a fair bit of scepticism and verify their claims.
Even if you will find a platform with a majority of hourly rates from $100 to $1000, that’s not a guarantee you will get such a project, maybe those freelancers never acquired any project that way? We are planning to create a guide for using such platforms. You may subscribe to our mailing list to get informed when it’s released.
6.4 Boost results with paid advertising
Paying for ads gives you that edge of an expanded reach. The idea is promising - pay the platform for greater exposure, and they will smuggle a bit more of promotional content that they would normally accept. You will sell more, make some profit and repeat that… But why then don't you see all the companies advertising all the time, as much as possible?
6.4.1 You can buy ads, but not the results
Yes, ads give you more exposure, but it is not limitless and not effortless. In the short run, you would like to advertise if ads generate revenue or sales margins higher than the cost of running them. And that alone requires from you much more than just forking out the ad budget.
First, your ads will have to be efficient. That means attracting high rates of clicks from relevant audiences. After your potential customers click on your ads, you have to keep them engaged and meet their expectations with your offering.
It’s unlikely they will buy your services straight away. You will have to establish some contact with them and show your expertise in architecture. Also, the user experience has to be impeccable to make their journey down the sales funnel easy and pleasant. Otherwise, many customers may give up.
Even the most creative ads need to be followed by effective communication, customer service, competitive pricing, sufficient work capacity and many more things. Let’s now understand better how the ads work.
6.4.2 What’s the mechanism behind the ads?
Majority of social media & search engines generate a significant portion of their revenues from intermediating in advertising. That forces them to balance the amounts of ads and organic content continually. Their primary goal is obviously to profit, but they can’t make it without pleasing (or at least not annoying too much) the platform users.
If Google would suddenly serve you 90% ads and just 10% of non-sponsored content, how would it look? You would search for the case studies of successful architectural marketing only to find 90 ads of related services before the first page of organic results.
Sponsored links might often only partially match your search, showing you the case studies of architecture projects or other industry’s marketing campaigns. Such an experience would drive you to another search engine or encourage you to ignore ads.
All the platforms use top-performing algorithms developed by the best programmers and mathematicians to optimise this trade-off between user experience and ad revenue. As a result, most outlets use auction systems where each advertiser bids to get potential customers' attention.
Many platforms consider the quality and relevancy of the submitted ads, favouring ads that are perceived as engaging. They also offer multiple mechanisms for ad distribution and pricing. For instance, they may charge advertisers for the impressions or clicks. Consequently, they would show ads to audiences more likely to follow the link or watch a whole video.
Advertising systems are complex, but all social media construct them to balance the quality and quantity of ads. They have many controls to ensure that aggressive, deceiving, or irrelevant advertising will not happen for too long and won’t pay off. It is not only manually flagged by users but also screened by automated systems.
Such actions allow platforms to maintain high standards and protect their ad revenue in a longer timeframe. All of this emphasises the importance of creating impeccable ads but also choosing appropriate platforms to run them.
6.4.3 Choose the right medium to advertise your architecture office
Google dominates the browsing engine market, but the majority of social platforms try to occupy a well-defined (but still relatively populous) niche. They differentiate by offering varying functionalities that appeal to different groups and satisfy their distinct needs. That’s reflected in the advertising capabilities which differ in format, mechanics and cost.
You will find CEOs spending time on LinkedIn or Twitter during their working hours, but not on Facebook. Well, at least not officially. On LinkedIn, you can even personally reach them out with sponsored InMail at the time of their online presence.
People spend on average more time on Facebook than on Twitter. That likely makes the impression of a single ad cheaper on Facebook, but not necessarily more cost-effective, because Facebook probably won’t have as much work-related data as LinkedIn.
Also their users often scroll fast and are used to ignore ads. Then, there are different types and placement locations of the ads within the same platform. Placing a mini ad on the side of Linkedin could cost less than 1 cent per view, but only one person out of many thousands will click on it. And some of those clicks might be misclicks…
When looking for the right platform to advertise on, consider who your dream customers are, where and when they spend time online. Take into account the targeting possibilities and ad formats available. Most importantly, reflect on what you would like to achieve from your advertising campaign.
6.4.4 Choose your paid advertising goals
Every platform offers a number of different ad types and pricing approaches. Such options will often help you to align advertising with your short-term business goals. If you are looking to attract more likes or followers to your business profiles on social media, there are designated ad types for that.
Need more visitors to your website? Encouraging purchases of your products? All such objectives correspond with specific ad type. Just like the event promotion, getting subscriptions and boosting job listing reach.
When it comes to paying, you can often choose what constitutes your actual goal. Do you want to make people aware that your company changed name or contributed to a charity? Then your goal is maximising impressions of your ad. Or maybe you only care about the website visits? Then you want to pay per click to only be charged for what’s relevant to you. How to make sense of it?
6.4.5 Effective advertising is long term game
Advertising requires combining marketing knowledge with the insights gained through practice. No sociological model will describe the exact customer behaviour and because of that, it takes time to achieve optimal efficiency. The rules and best practices defined by the ad platforms and marketing guidelines are just the tip of the iceberg.
The less obvious part of the work is climbing up the learning curve for your business segment. Gaining an understanding of how to advertise architecture practice to your unique audience may take time.
Think about it as a tuning process - you have a number of marketing principles to follow, and you confront their applications with reality. Then you test some assumptions against others with so-called A/B tests. You may want to find, for instance, which statement is more convincing to your client.
Having delivered 5 similar projects or having been awarded a practice of the year by a local architecture institution. You can test it statistically to see the results and leverage only better converting ad copy. Every week you may get a 2% or 5% decrease in cost per click or your potential customers would return to your website a bit more often.
Then, over the course of months or years, and after many tweaks, your ads will become much more efficient.
6.4.6 Find advertising balance & get to know you customer
Now, let’s come back to the dilemma stated at the beginning of chapter 6.4. Why wouldn't you pour as much money as possible into advertising? Well, it would just be a waste of money above a certain saturation threshold.
Ads deliver your message, but they won’t magically sell your product. Even if you would be able to personally come and speak for 5 minutes with every resident in your neighbourhood, that would not suddenly triple the demand for architectural services in general, right? It takes time and effort to find that sweet spot for advertising spend and to realise what social media users are worth targeting with ads.
Ads are also great for gaining more unbiased information about your potential customers - confronting the world outside of our social bubbles. Even when you think that you are the best architect in your city for planning private medical practices, that might be because you make an excellent impression face to face and most of your clients are from your extended social circle.
When you reach customers who don’t know you, you can learn more about other things they care about, especially when working remotely and not making a face-to-face appearance.
6.5 Follow a marketing strategy
When you are planning to grow or change your architecture practice, marketing strategy is a must. You have to lay out how you will align your marketing efforts with business objectives.
Yes, it is mainly about getting more clients or better projects, but also about investing in the future of your business.
Exploring new markets, testing new methods and learning about your customers help stabilise your business and minimise risk.
6.5.1 Choose the planning horizon
Depending on our architecture practice size and how mature your marketing domain is, you may plan for just a few months ahead or even a couple of years. It rarely makes sense to plan for much longer than that, because it is hard to estimate how the market will evolve in next decade and what will change in the industry.
Usually, it’s optimal for small and medium practices to strategically plan the marketing for the next 12 months. That would typically include a more detailed plan for the next quarter and establishing task pipelines for the next few weeks.
6.5.2 Define your strategy considering assets & strengths
When thinking about strategy, consider how you can leverage your strengths as well as what you would like to achieve and what you are willing to put in as the practice owner. Maybe your planning office is well-established, and the significant part of your strategy would be showcasing the happy clients and the projects you delivered for them?
Or perhaps your unique advantage is how fast you can complete your project and want to emphasise that aspect of your offering?
6.5.3 Expect delayed results
One of the pains of marketing is that the gratification is always delayed. Especially, when it comes to services of high value like architectural planning. You should keep it in mind when planning your marketing strategy. Despite that, try making the most of the process and benefits stretching over various business areas.
In general, you might be able to sell the fastest with Google, using ads that target customers already looking for services like yours. The longest is to build the brand or community and attract clients with inbound marketing. It is also the most sustainable.
6.5.4 Quantify results & create feedback loops
To make sure you make the most of your marketing efforts, expand your knowledge (or partner with a specialised agency) and gather feedback. Various platforms present different opportunities for that, but there is always a way to learn effectively.
Even you’ve lost an individual project, analyse your proposal and gently ask for feedback. Marketing tools & analytics platforms such as Google Search Console or Google Analytics also bring invaluable feedback. They will allow you to analyze your website visits.
You might learn quite a lot by investigating how long the visitors stay on individual pages, how they navigate them or which way they discovered your website.
6.5.5 Create marketing checklists
You can remember all the marketing tasks you have to do, especially if it takes you just a few hours per week. But what happens if you are ill or start experiencing a creative plateau? Having well-thought-of checklists can go a long way. It is easier to stick to them and go through a to-do list than reinventing the wheel every time.
If you do something regularly, create a checklist or a knowledge base with procedures. It will set standards for promoting a new blog post or how you interact with your prospective clients as they move down your sales funnel. It will also save you time.
6.5.6 Commit to marketing your architecture office to get the results
It takes not only the time but also regular work. When you repeat your efforts, be that posting engaging articles or advertising, you are gaining awareness. A specific person that could be your client might see you 10 times and not take any action, but the eleventh interaction might be successful as your architecture practice already seems familiar.
Also, in the complex environment of data sharing regulations and interacting online, it is often not easy to attribute results to the cause. Those that saw your ads or your posts might use multiple devices in many different locations and then they may recommend you to their friend who never saw your business online.
6.6 Position your architecture practice in Google
Google is how people search nowadays. Making your company easy to find in the search results for relevant searched phrases is crucial.
Apart from paid Google ads (and also Bing ads), you can rank your website organically through the process called search engine optimisation or SEO.
In practice, it means addressing hundreds of factors that determine your odds of appearing at the top of the website lists for relevant searches. You can read more about how SEO works, but in a nutshell, it is a combination of:
creating high-quality content, friendly to both Google users and Google technologies
establishing the peer-reviewed authority of your website
making user experience flawless
describing your pages well in the search results
many more factors such as domain used or keyword density.
How your website performs against the criteria (which are not precisely disclosed by Google) is evaluated by their algorithms that scan websites and validated by users. For instance, how long people stay on your website is a signal about your content’s quality impacting your ranking over time.
6.6.1 Build a competitive advantage with SEO
It is not an easy process, and it takes time, but the rewards are tremendous and long-lasting. Just imagine how helpful it would be if one in four people looking for services like yours would end up visiting your website at no extra cost!
188.8.131.52 Ranking is “winner takes all” game
Ranking your website in Google is also almost an “all or nothing” game on the keyword level. It means that if you are first in the search results, you get the largest piece of the pie, often 20-30% of all the visits. If you are on the third page, probably only competitors or industry analysts will be patient enough to get that far and visit your website.
184.108.40.206 Choose search keywords to target
Search queries vary in competitiveness and popularity. It merely comes down to demand and supply. People express demand for information and companies, bloggers and authors supply content. As you may expect, commercial topics will attract more publications.
The hobby-related topics that are hard to monetise will not get as much coverage. When to confront it with how many people search specific phrases every month, it is possible to assess whether a particular keyword combination is worth ranking.
Some search terms are extremely competitive and thus exceptionally difficult to rank. For instance, “video editing software” is one of those, because the competition between the creators of such software is worldwide and takes place almost exclusively online. Another example is “insurance quote” because it indicates the willingness to buy.
Quickly Architecture offices have quite a fortunate position and still a lot of possibilities. Even when you are one of the hundreds of local architecture offices, you still stand a chance to dominate some search results.
Unless your practice employs over a dozen architects, it might be challenging or not worthy to be the number one for the most popular search terms.
You can, however, focus on those keywords that directly relate to your specialisation. You may also target those searches that happen early into the customer journey. Ranking number one for some less popular search terms can attract clients to even small architecture practices.
Maybe you can create the best list of ideas for a loft conversion refurbishment that could become your customer magnet?
When choosing keywords to target, you should focus on their relevance. It’s better to get 5 website visits from people with particular project requirements that only a handful of competitors can deliver, rather than having 50 visitors looking for unspecific residential architecture services.
Although rankings change, after initially establishing your position in a certain niche, you will likely retain a similar standing for months. If you pair a high position with efforts to manage your sales funnel, it may bring you a steady inflow of clients for months or years.
Indeed, there will probably be new competitors entering the market, but you might already have been much ahead of them and continue moving forward before they even start. Also, architectural services are still a promising ground for SEO initiatives.
Just think how often you looked for some industry information and it was quite tricky to find the answers quickly.
6.6.2 Aim locally or globally
Another important aspect of Google positioning is that you can focus on targeting only local clients or finding them globally if you deliver projects remotely. Sometimes, you might offer one type of service locally and other online. Then you should combine both strategies. All that has an impact on how your SEO efforts are going to look like.
Local orientation will include placing you on the map, specifying service area and generally emphasising where your practice is located. When working internationally, you have to be mindful about the geographical coverage, language and local regulation.
Some companies may even decide to develop multiple language versions for their website or create separate local versions for each country. That’s especially the case when they have independent practices across different countries or subpages for other cities.
6.6.3 SEO is complex and continually changing
Google employees do not disclose the exact parameters or precise logic behind the algorithms and factors that determine how websites are ordered in the search results. It is, in a way, a guessing game, but not a random one. It is informed by a very high number of good practices.
Some of them are highlighted in statements and guidelines published by Google. Others are discovered by marketing firms and professionals through experiments or simply emerge from marketing know-how.
Every few months, Google’s algorithms change following the idea of continuous improvement. Their machine learning systems are increasingly better in processing text and identifying the intentions behind searches and relevancy of the available answers. Because of that, what worked a few years or even a few months ago, might no longer work.
There has been no shortage of tricks and manipulations, especially in the early history of SEO. Many greedy marketing wizards did unimaginable things such as repeating a keyword hundreds of times with the white font on the white background just to trick search engines.
It is now a thing of the past. It is next to impossible to deceive the thousands of top programmers from Google with the company’s over two decades of experience and get away with it. Especially that some cases and disputes are also reviewed manually.
6.6.4 Be natural and don’t break rules
The only strategy winning long-term is to put effort into genuine work, including content and different SEO aspects. There is no magic pill, but architecture offices still have great opportunities to rank for many queries. As Google wants to assure the best and most relevant content is displayed for every search, align your goal with theirs and you will be rewarded with high and relevant traffic to your website.
6.6.5 Hire a specialist
Yes, you can do it yourself. But it will take a lot more time and effort. You would likely be better off putting it into an architectural project or gaining experience working for an architecture company. Choosing a company that understands SEO and the business of architecture and matches your quality standards is the best option.
It will help you rank faster and will protect you from sudden ranking drops, which are common among those who used ingenuine (or so-called black-hat) SEO techniques, such as submitting your domain address to low-quality directories or unnaturally and excessively repeating the keywords.
6.7 Share your architecture expertise with quality content
The primary way of expansion of your website and SEO efforts is to create more high-quality content. It also goes way beyond that, because you might need it for publications on other websites or press releases and to convey your marketing message in more effective ways.
6.7.1 Focus on a niche or your strengths
When writing a blog for SEO, it is not enough to produce high volumes of content and publish them regularly. It is more important to provide content that is relevant, insightful and suited for your audience. It is often better to focus on niche areas that directly relate to your scope of services. You should be objective in your writing, but you may still showcase your strengths.
6.7.2 Educate & nurture non-architects, but don’t brag
Try always to provide the readers of your text with knowledge or value. Make it a balanced composition of information, data, examples and opinions. Be precise and easy to understand. Use the language that expands the horizons of your clients.
Avoid meaningless words. Every office considers their work best and the most excellent investment of all. Never simply compliment yourself. Instead, outline your awards or summarise your past projects with tangible claims. Refer to a study that found that hiring a qualified architect like you brings a 23% better utilisation of the rooftop area.
Or you may bring up that your projects increased the theatre room capacity from 80 to 96 customers under covid-related gathering restrictions. That would be an indisputable fact - your clients can count them!
6.7.3 Be professional yet natural
Speak as you would with someone that has limited knowledge of your work and variate your language. If you expect a particular blog post to be the first set of information about a specific topic, your reader will consume, use simple language and explain terms and ideas. If your recipient is going to be an industry expert, you may go more in-depth.
In doing that, try assuming the customer’s point of view, focusing on what matters for them, but not giving up on your insights and perspective. For instance, you may tactfully emphasise that a customer on a budget would be better off with less flamboyant, but rather high-quality furniture that will last and match changing decor trends.
Also, avoid strong criticism, especially if you are not planning to expand on that topic. What is clear to be a faux pas for an architect might be a client's dream that needs the right direction to evolve into something extraordinary.
6.7.4 Be present on industry portals & forums
If you frequently work with specialised services and products providers, it might be worth joining various thematic forums. You may establish valuable and lasting partnerships with producers or creators of bespoke furniture or firms that install custom made objects like jacuzzi tubs or standing office desks.
Also, you can find there architectural photographers in your area. Even if you wouldn’t get extra referrals or commissions there (some countries forbid such activities), you may learn about emerging industry trends and include them in your work.
6.7.5 Spend time on online PR
Contribute to online articles released by architecture & business journals. It may drive traffic to your website, build backlinks that will boost your SEO, and it will significantly increase your credibility. You can present your publications on your website, mentioning that your expertise was used in articles published by the likes of Archdaily or Forbes.
6.7.6 Decide if you like writing or consider outsourcing
Not everybody likes writing. Even if you do, it is not easy to be an efficient content creator and understand the SEO principles. Some architecture authors might have those unique abilities and like to write, but they mainly work as architecture & design magazine editors. Architects rarely do it as a hobby because they are already one of the most overworked professionals.
When you use a marketing agency specialising in architecture, they will know what content already performed well for other architects. They can estimate the results and benchmark them against other practices.
6.8 Build a community or following
It’s great to be in direct contact with your audience and share your insights and offers with them. Sometimes it may make you think about creating a community, like a Facebook group or even dedicated platform.
6.8.1 When is it worth it?
It is always worth building your audience around carefully selected communication channels. However, for the best results, you have to communicate with them regularly. That can vary drastically.
If you work with business communities or developers, you may communicate quarterly. Plus you should additionally reach out when there is an opportunity to work on a project or when the competition starts. However, it’s different when your architecture projects are short and serve individuals.
You can then promote them with leisure-time content that people would gladly read in their free time to i.e. decorate their interiors and communicate more often. Then, it makes sense to create a dedicated subchannel for that. The next question is whether your audience should engage in discussions between themselves.
6.8.2 Do you need a community or one-way communication?
That mainly depends on whether you want to remain the only authority in that domain. There might be, however, an extra value for the users to be derived from peer-to-peer communication.
A Linkedin group for building industry professionals is an excellent example of a group where a bilateral exchange of information works well. It’s because the architects, building contractors, and construction project managers all have something to say about AEC. They may specialise in the scope of their work, but none of them is the only authority in the building industry as a whole.
On the other hand, a plastic surgeon would rather not create a Facebook group to not risk having their brand associated with potential discussions about cheaper (and dangerous) body alteration methods. Also, there are topical areas that might make your customers shy to belong to.
If you specialise in low-cost home revamps, you either would consider one-way communication or at least not name a Facebook group that exact way. “Clever home transformations” would likely be a better name to market it, avoiding the emphasis on the money-saving part.
6.8.3 Send email newsletters
Email newsletters are a great option to start with. You have a full control and direct access to your customers. Also, the software for editing them and sending is relatively cheap, and the free subscriptions would be more than enough to cover your initial pool of subscribers. It is technically easy to sign people up with a pop-up newsletter message on your website.
When launching an email list, always remember to comply with data protection and processing regulation. Make sure you only send your emails to those that willingly joined your mailing list and let them unsubscribe with one click if they want to (but ask them why afterwards).
6.8.4 Host webinars
If you can gather a number of prospective clients and provide useful information to them, webinars might be a noteworthy addition to your marketing efforts. Choose the topics that relate to your niche.
For instance, if you work with developers, consider speaking about regulatory changes, alternative building materials or solutions that save money. Be creative and find something that presents a value to them.
When targeting your webinar to individuals, appeal more to their interest. No matter who your audience is, the key is to use this communication form to the fullest. You should also optimise all the stages preceding and following the webinar.
Understand your audience’s needs before the webinar, accommodate their questions and offer them something special during or after it.
Also, take the best care of the logistics, using reminders and making it technically easy to join the webinar. It’s also common to prepare a unique service type, limited time discount or additional materials packed with knowledge exclusively for participants.
6.8.5 Create social media groups
When you decide to foster bilateral communication on your very own social media group, do it properly. That means you should be vetting those that join the group to not allow fake accounts and spammers.
You can do that with pre-screening questions or manual approval. Despite that, you should still moderate that forum. You do not necessarily have to approve every post manually, but you have to respond to notifications alerting you of spam and indecent content. You should also consider screening the group regularly to remove low quality of overly promotional content.
Besides that, prepare a concise list of rules for your group and make sure it is lively. Apart from sharing your content, you can start discussions. Consider publishing or gathering resources and making lists and foster cooperation between the members. Especially when it is not competitive with yours.
6.8.6 Create a portal or log-in zone
If you provide educational services or courses such as DIY, you may consider creating a forum on your website. It may give you more elasticity and also enrich your content inventory. The downside is that it takes a significant investment of time and resources to convince people to register. That’s especially the case when resources are abundant on other platforms with an already large user base.
7. Traditional, non-digital marketing of architecture offices
The traditional means of advertising are still used to promote architectural practices., but in vastly different ways they used to be.
Their role drastically changed, especially in terms of marketing spend distribution. They are no longer the most efficient way of reaching clients, and when used, they are a supportive action rather than a group of major advertising channels.
We distinguish here between 5 major types of traditional marketing available for architects:
Visual display advertising
7.1 Pros & cons of non-digital promotion
You probably use the internet and computers every day. If you can compare today’s advertising with the state of things 10 or 20 years ago, offline advertising is now mainly for big companies. It is also considered secondary. Not only because of its lower importance, but also because we now even non-digital projects require a computer. Even sending a letter, posting a written announcement or creating a poster, nowadays start in a text editor or graphical program...
If you landed here just because you were planning to promote your architecture office offline, you should first read more about marketing goals in chapter 4. Although offline marketing can be beneficial, it’s definitely not low-hanging fruit. There is plenty of more profitable ways of promoting your office to try before it. Now, let’s see reflect on major advantages and shortcomings of non-digital marketing.
7.1.1 Reaching those that don’t use internet
There is a sizeable group of people that do not use the internet. And it’s not only the elderly but also those that periodically limit their offline availability. Think of driving, vacations away or being were mobile internet doesn’t work. Also, there are more and more people who block their advertising exposure with tools such as ad blockers or feed eradicators.
A poster inside the aeroplane or a screen at a football match during a break might have your undivided attention for several minutes. For some, it might even be more genuine and personal - especially when a person handing a leaflet can instantly answer your questions.
7.1.2 Adding new communication channel too suport others
Large companies, at some point, reach the saturation threshold in digital advertising. When the ads are already seen by every, even remotely, interested person, it’s time to tap into other channels. Advertise on TV, inside public transportation or feature celebrity endorsement on billboards, but… There is only a handful of architecture practices large enough to see it that way.
For most of them - all the small and medium practices, offline advertising will be rather an experiment. Think of placing a sign 100 meters from your office or printing neat collateral for your business partners. Calling those 50 people that spoke with you on trade fair would be another example. It will just strengthen your other activities because it’s quite costly and challenging to evaluate.
7.1.3 High cost and complexity
Unfortunately, traditional marketing is relatively costly. It requires more labour and physical resources that are not reusable (printing, paint, etc.). There are no clever algorithms for automatically hanging the posters or apps to speak on conference instead of you. Robocalls do exist, but they are the most hated thing and often are illegal.
Also, many labour-intensive activities have to be outsourced - not many businesses own industrial-grade printers. Traditional printed advertising and TV commercials have to overgo a very rigorous process. They have to be of certain length and format, quality and compatibility… That’s a lot of work if you plan to use them only once and the prices just start at $100s, while you can run online ads for even $5.
7.1.4 Limited control & advertising intelligence
Probably the most severe disadvantage they present is limited ability to track, measure and attribute results. Quite often, the targeting is limited by the location and not very precise. Many traditional advertising methods impose very high starting thresholds for such pleasure because you can’t print an ad only in the quarter of magazine issues. Also, they are not that flexible - you won’t be able to modify the content after submitting it for release.
7.2 Offline media marketing
Reaching customers through pre-internet media is not a popular activity for the architecture offices nowadays.
The main concern with it is the high cost threshold to start with, especially in terms of labour. For the majority of architectural practices it would be a new thing to do. Preparing a copy and selecting the right outlet to go with may take extra effort which would still be a bit of a guessing game.
7.2.1 Classified ads in newspapers
Advertising in local newspapers might be a good strategy to target those who read them and do not frequently use the internet. For owners of architecture offices serving individual clients locally, this can expand their reach. Surely, a phone number should be supplied to such an ad on top of the website address. Sometimes it is also a viable way of finding or selling properties which can spark some ideas such as renovation or staging.
7.2.2 Magazine advertisement
Being featured in an architectural or even style magazine might be a decent opportunity for PR and some exposure to potential clients. Quite often magazines also have websites and publish the same article both online and offline. It is however relatively hard to acquire new clients this way, but adding a snapshot of your published article to the website can convey the authority.
7.2.3 Radio broadcasts and ads
Radio stations generally have too broad user bases to make it a useful channel for architecture advertising. The only thing you can expect is that many will be listening while driving or working physically. It’s probably not the best medium unless you can get a unique opportunity like being interviewed or hosting a special broadcast dedicated to architecture.
7.2.4 TV ads
TV ads are generally expensive and require costly optimisation. Shooting a good quality video that conveys a powerful message and shows the uniqueness of your office is not easy. You would probably need to have a mid-size office or even several in various cities for this to make sense.
If you decide to use it, remember to calculate an average cost per view and to check viewers demographics. Some TV stations would base their cost on the viewership estimates delivered by analytics companies like Nielsen or Kantar. You may also try placing your commercials on home decoration programmes. It is, however, very hard to monetise such publicity without having a nation-wide presence.
7.3 Work-intensive marketing
The borders between marketing and sales may be blurry when promoting your architecture office. This section breaks down the most common ways of in-person promotion and sales.
If you are planning to engage in cold calling individuals, please don’t. It is inefficient, and the chance you will spontaneously reach a person that has just bought a new house is next to zero. Besides, how would you showcase your portfolio over the phone?
It only makes sense to call already interested individual clients or a handful of selected business clients. Usually, it’s an addition to email contact or a way to quickly confirm a meeting that starts shortly. Marketing research often emphasises that phone conversation is a preferred way of communication for the Baby Boomers. On the other hand, many Millennials find unannounced calls disturbing.
7.3.2 Face to face sales
The lead qualification process predetermines the efficiency of a sales meeting. If a customer walks into your office, they are likely interested in your services. If you schedule an online call without much regard for the invitee’s intentions, it might be unattended or end quickly.
However, if you can determine the prospect’s interest throughout your marketing & sales process, it becomes a crucial stage. You may help the customer to make their mind about your firm and the quality of your work. Needless to say, the value of that one-hour meeting is then exorbitant as it determines whether you will get the project and what will be its scope.
Successfully leading a meeting with an architectural client is a broad topic, but it pays off to be prepared with a general agenda and several options to offer. The ability to present the value your project would deliver to the client can make a difference.
7.3.3 Fairs & events
Although often quite expensive, they are still a thing, because you get access to a preselected audience. That’s especially fruitful when you rely on business partnerships or sell innovative services in an emerging niche. It often doubles as an excellent way to attract interns when a local university participates in the event.
When attending an event, it pays off to carefully study the list of participants to anticipate how to distinguish your practice. Relying on visual presentation, presenting high-quality simulations, or even a miniature model are all the right ways to approach it. After all, being there physically, you can touch objects and look at them from different perspectives.
7.3.4 Public speaking
Depending on your mid-term goals, you may get involved with the local communities and get invited to give a speech. This way, you can attract college graduates to join your practice or establish authority with local residents. Some authors or consultants go even further, participating in events like TED conferences.
No matter where you speak, make sure to tailor your speech to your audience and make it easy for them to find you online. Cease only the public speaking opportunities that connect to the field of your expertise. You don’t have to attend every conference but should rather evaluate every event independently o see if it’s worth it.
There is a myth that architects are “lone wolves”, but networking is crucial. You may not only develop professional relationships with the producers of furniture or fixtures that appear in your project, but also with your competitors. Yes, with your rivals.
Sometimes one of you might be fully occupied with projects. Then recommending the office that you know will deliver a high-quality project will help your prospective client. Not to mention the reciprocity of your peers or even a referral fee.
Also, in some rare cases you can collaborate on a bigger project that you wouldn’t be able to deliver alone. You may even pool technical resources to launch a pro bono initiative helping the local community.
On top of the relationships formed at conferences, you can reach out to other professionals online. You may find them searching for certain architecture specialities in Google or on LinkedIn. You can connect with them or send an InMail. Some offices may also be open about their online marketing and PR, encouraging collaboration on content creation.
7.4 Large-format visuals
They are relatively rare, given that the vast majority of architecture offices are in big cities where buildings are adequately marked. Majority of the studios would only need a signboard.
7.4.1 Billboards, murals & posters
Billboards are omnipresent. They are yet another way of tapping into people’s attention. This type of targeting based on location is often not precise and used for products with a wide customer base. However, in rare cases, it may be used cleverly.
Some companies may advertise luxurious products in financial districts, and property agents may use billboards locally. You can only justify such expense if you can spot the right location like a newly built housing development.
Posters may be strategically placed at an event or at the architecture department before a guest speech. Neither posters nor billboards will make you popular overnight like the (in)famous fictional lawyer. They could just be a nice addition.
7.4.2 Signage & storefront banners
Placed in front of your office, they may be treated as an extra space to show basic scope of your services. You can also personalise them to use the branding of your architecture studio.
7.5 Marketing Collateral for an architecture office
When you meet clients personally or they visit your office, it is a nice gesture to share some printed materials with them and have some branded items. You need them anyway, and they can double as yet another point of contact with your brand.
7.5.1 Business cards
One of such items would be a business card. Although it is not as important nowadays as in the past, it is still preferred by many clients, especially if they keep them in their wallet or rolodex.
When it comes to business cards, quite often more important than just giving them is making sure they fulfil their role of passing the contact details. A piece of paper is nowadays easily forgotten or lost. Because of that, using a QR code that loads all the contact details to the phone could be not only efficient but also a great way to stand out. Another way of initiating a lasting and bilateral contact is instantly connecting on social media, especially LinkedIn, considered by many an extended replacement for a business card.
7.5.2 Leaflets, brochures & catalogues
Make them short and meaningful. Have your contact details included and also feature a QR code with your website link or at least an email address. Don’t go overboard with 100 pages, unless it’s a specialised design catalogue for a significant industrial investment.
7.5.3 Branded merchandising, gifts & gadgets
Choose only things that will be used by you or your clients. Pens, aesthetic & durable document folders, even memory sticks are all great items to place the logo or name on. If you use food products, make sure they are high quality and check their expiration date. After all, the name of your company makes them taste better just to you. When you want to be creative, remain tasteful. Bet on cool, trendy products like craft sodas or useful items like a measuring tape.
7.6 Referral marketing
Referrals are one of the best ways to develop your practice, but they are rather the result of the quality of your services than a direct effort. Nevertheless, you should acknowledge the contribution of those that promote your services and can reward them with something of value. At the end of the day, they are saving you a lot of money on marketing, right?
7.6.1 Word of mouth & referrals
It pays off to overdeliver and go that extra mile. Sometimes projects might be less lucrative than expected or might take longer. Even if you won’t profit much more than just the cost of your colleagues’ project hours, it still brings you some potential referrals. Simplifying things a bit, if in the last couple of years your practice had 30 clients, each paying an average of $30 000 and 6 came from referrals, that's $180k revenue. It shouldn’t be ignored.
You may incentivise your promotors in creative ways, focusing on making it casual and easy. Ask your client if they have their friends moving to the same area and offer a discount for them. Tell that if you would find a project nearby, you could drop by and help them choose some designer table and chairs for when their terrace is built…
You could be more official with monetary rewards when building business relations with other building industry firms, and such practices are not considered illegal or unethical in your jurisdiction.
7.6.2 Collaborations and cross-selling
When choosing a firm with which you will cross-promote services, remember to select a business from your league. That means a company with similar pricing and project capacity or headcount. Learn about their services and focus on making it easier and synergic for clients. Consider the sequence in which your services come to position yourself beneficially.
For instance, being considered for the project early on, you can influence it more. You can make valuable suggestions that will help your subsequent work rather than working with questionably adapted spaces.
Even if such collaboration would not bring you direct financial gains or new projects, it may save you time. Or maybe it will just make it easier and more pleasant, plus you will learn more about how your services connect with those of others in the industry.
7.6.3 Celebrity, famous person & influencer endorsements
Here, we don’t mean a TV ad or Youtube campaign with an actor walking to your office or claiming you are the number one. It is rather about a thoughtful placement of the successful project you delivered to a well-known person (if they agree for it).
It is not a very common opportunity, but you may come across a big name if you work in Holywood or fancy parts of London or New York. A flamboyant personality might often need a unique architecture or design project, which in turn is a project worth portraying. You may then use it on your website or in the catalogue.
Also, some bloggers and Youtubers are solely dedicated to showing the extraordinary interior. If you can convince them to feature your work, you can earn a lot of publicity. However, bear in mind that they will likely charge you proportionally to their viewership or following.
8. Architecture marketing synergy with other activities
Marketing is a way of reaching customers, but other aspects of the business make it more effective, adding substance to your claims and building a professional image.
You can view it as a process of expanding your experience, portfolio, knowledge, and gradual integration of those assets into your marketing and entrepreneurial efforts.
8.1 Business credibility & positive impression are the foundation
After capturing your client’s attention with an insightful post about kitchen decor styles, they might be interested in learning more about your architecture practice.
That’s already half of the success, but there is still a lot ahead of you.
To be considered for the project, you need to convey authority, not merely entertain or educate them. At a minimum, you will need a decent portfolio and a very welcoming customer service.
Ideally, your company should engage in holistic developing of the brand.
You should be gaining clients’ trust with efficient business processes & high ethical standard.
That will result in positive business reviews and media coverage and will help you win more complex projects.
8.2.1 Why architects need to create a portfolio?
Architecture is creative and visual. Using portfolio allows for more accurate presentation of your work, especially to non-architects. When assembling a portfolio, make sure to determine every aspect of it, from the format to scope of work that will be included.
The portfolio presented to the clients should show your best projects and visuals related to their interest. On the other hand, the portfolio submitted as part of your architecture job application process should showcase the evolution of your skills. No matter what type of portfolio you are assembling, keep its length reasonable.
8.2.2 Highlight project details and your responsibilities
Ensure the relevant details about each project, such as the client’s requirements and technical challenges you overcame are highlighted. Be honest about the scope of your participation in the project development and highlight its importance.
8.2.3 Properly describe all portfolio elements
Your portfolio should speak for itself clearly and concisely. Usually, a brief description of the concept with related challenges and solutions is enough. Make sure the text is as esthatical as the visual elements. Choose the fonts wisely: stick to one or two easily readable and make the text large enough to read comfortably. Be modest in choosing your colour palette.
8.2.4 Pair portfolio with your resumé
When you need to provide more technical context, include resumé together with your portfolio. It will allow the developer or business client to associate your creative work with your professional profile. They will remember your work history or project track record and will instantly know how to contact you.
8.2.5 Regularly update your portfolio
Your portfolio should be evolving as you develop as an architect. Review and edit its contents plus the text and layout from time to time, and include every new project you find relevant to showcase your talent better. Keep the number of pages reasonable.
Your architecture or design practice competes with your rivals for the attention of your potential clients. You put a lot of effort to maintain the highest quality standards of your marketing message. How can you assure that your audience will remember that the fancy design they saw at the exhibition was yours? Will they contact you to discuss their project or will they just forget or find another architecture office that offers that?
I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right.
P. T Barnum
8.3.1 Branding helps clients to remember your architecture practice
Branding makes the attribution of your content and presence to your brand easier. Let’s see how it works in practice. Jane is a New-York based residential architect. She has a modernly decorated living room and a short presentation at a Smart City Expo. What people will remember after her appearance there could differ, depending on her branding efforts:
That tall brunette lady with fancy sliding wall project - 4 unspecific pieces of information that can’t be used to find her
Jane from New York that does compact apartment projects - 3 facts that might allow finding her practice online if willing to spend some time searching
Jane’s Micro spaces - one, two-word company name that contains information about the owner’s name and the type of architectural specialisation
With a creative and tastefully designed logo visualising the concept of sliding walls, she can convey the same message to people that saw her presentation or spoken to her at the expo with just a tiny logo graphic. And from there on, that audience would associate an article or brochure with that office only by looking at a logo or even recognising the colour and font patterns.
8.3.2 Personal brands are popular in architecture
Most of your fellow architects start either alone or with one or two partners. In the beginning, their brand equals themselves. Personal branding has the advantage at the start because your clients and potential customers can simply associate your services with you. That’s one piece of information replacing two.
If you plan to grow your architecture firm, it may be challenging to pivot from there. When your clients are used to your name in the logo, they may insist on providing all the services. At the same time, you may want to share your expertise with your more junior employees and delegate tasks. The solution for that is usually developing high-quality procedures, task checklists and standards for your architecture or design practice.
8.4 Reviews & customer statements
Customer reviews have a profound impact on how your office is perceived. They add credibility as they represent the client’s point of view. They also help potential customers make the right choice as they can relate themselves to people with similar traits or needs.
Although the architectural services are not easily comparable or scalable, it is worth asking customers for the reviews and making the process simple. Some companies even offer a chance to win a shopping voucher for leaving a review, but it is rather unsuitable for architecture services.
Negative reviews can have a profound adverse impact on eve well-established offices. Imagine an architecture studio operating for three decades and relying mainly on the referrals, completely ignoring their online presence. They may gradually become aware that they have fewer inquiries coming, and their prospective clients surprisingly often withdraw just right before signing projects. The reason behind it may be just one or two frustrated reviews!
Such online overage can overshadow hard work and hundreds of satisfied clients. Solid offline reputation proven by numerous word-of-mouth referrals might not have the same clout as a single negative review on page one of Google.
It’s because happy customers rarely take the initiative of finding the business in appropriate online directories and review it. They might even think the owner wouldn’t like that. At the same time, angry customers do it quite often, especially the most problematic architecture clients.
Two negative reviews undermining professional standing of the business that satisfied 99.5% of their clients is indeed a horror story. Provide the best quality service and kindly ask for reviews and facilitate it to make sure it won’t be your part.
8.5 Customer service quality
It is something most architects are not taught at university. Although it may sound degrading to many architects working on complex projects, the importance of the customer service shouldn’t be underestimated.
Individual customers often do not have that much interest in technical details, but care about the ease of using your services. The business clients, however, are often dissatisfied with the service they get from architects. The management of architectural projects has a profound impact on the success of their operations. It pays off to take care of all aspects of customer service.
8.5.1 Be aligned with customer’s expectations
As you know better than your customer, what it takes to plan an architecture project, ensure they also understand it. Address their doubts and explain what type of work specific stages of the project require from you.
Present all the project steps without going too much into the details so you can win their acceptance. Being upfront with your clients fosters fruitful cooperation and ensure they understand that the architecture projects require time to deliver lasting results.
8.5.2 Deliver architectural project on time
Never be late with what you agreed to deliver. Plan some progress meetings ahead and let the client share their view, but make sure the projects always get completed without major deviations from the plan.
Surely, in some cases there might be pivots from the initial outline, but take precautions to remain in control. For instance, you can go through all the steps of development or refurbishment project to spot potential difficulties. It can be about your client planning to move in at a certain timeframe. Or maybe about the builders being contracted for specific weeks. Having such knowledge will make you ready to pivot when necessary.
8.5.3 Collect feedback
Not every client is open with their comments and critique. It is a very useful practice to ask them for the technical feedback as you go, to meet their expectations. Also, comments after finishing the project are very welcome as they inform future service improvements. Otherwise you are destined to repeat the same mistakes.
If you are a sole trader, you can simply call your clients and have a personal conversation with them. It is good to catch up with them a while after the project is delivered to encourage honest critique. Such discussions may open your eyes and over time make you understand which services are in the highest demand.
8.6 Marketing & business processes in architecture
Business processes have a profound impact on your architecture office. Without efficient mechanisms even the best projects might not get the opportunity to be delivered.
Contrary to common beliefs, even when you are just starting to run an architecture office and don’t employ anyone, you should be conscious of processes that guide your actions. They reflect on the total quality of your work and may become an important marketing asset to leverage. They also enable you to deliver projects faster and to focus on what you are best at.
8.7 Ethics in architectural marketing
The ethical aspects of promoting your architecture office stretch beyond the matters directly related to work. It is not only about paying on time (employees and suppliers alike), but also about the fairness and transparency in all the aspects of marketing.
8.7.1 Ethical advertising
When promoting your business, be respectful and transparent. Follow the laws of the country where you are based and where your clients reside. Abstain from offering services you have no legally required credentials to deliver. Also, don’t promise things you can’t deliver.
Make the scope and pricing of your services transparent. Publish it or disclose upon client’s inquiry. Help your client choose the appropriate service scope, even if that means forgoing the income from projects that the client insists on but you know they won’t work. Also, make sure everything is clear and understood.
Lastly, your marketing efforts should be respectful and not intrusive. You should offer an easy way to opt out and never use blind, unrevised automation. That also relates how you handle client data.
8.7.2 Marketing data processing & demographic targeting
You have to comply with the regulatory requirements about data processing and handling. On top of that, many platforms have their own guidelines and rules that define what actions may get your ads withdrawn and your business account flagged or banned.
Some of the many things you have to consider is how you collect, store and use customer information obtained from your website visits. You also have to be mindful when targeting your ads at people. You may never discriminate them on the basis of any protected characteristics. Also, make sure to be respectful and use adequate language.
It is a good practice (additionally enforced by some platforms) to be natural and not pushy. For example, LinkedIn suggests not calling targeted users on their features directly. Instead of telling a client in a semi-automated message that you know, they are a building engineer, so they need services you deliver, you could phrase it in a less intrusive way.
You may mention that many engineers in the residential building industry value flexible cooperation models your planning office provides. Also, in some cases, you may reach a person whose data was not appropriately mapped or forgot to update their profile. Keeping it natural will help you avoid embarrassing mistakes.
High ethical standards will help establish long-lasting relationship and will protect you from hefty penalties and negative PR.
9. Architectural marketing: B2B vs B2C
The marketing scope and the channels used vary considerably, depending on the type of practice. Although there are many criteria to divide the architecture into specialisations, the most relevant for marketing is whether you serve businesses or individuals.
You may also further divide B2B and B2C architectural services based on the specialisation area and subsequently on the typical project parameters. Each architecture field will host a number of practices competing within their subsegments. They will vary based on a price range (i.e. budget, standard and luxurious), project duration or technical complexity.
Your marketing efforts are defined by who your clients are. There is a big difference between promoting architectural services to business clients and individuals.
9.1 Promoting architecture firm to individual clients
Individuals usually need help with residential properties. They are not homogeneous as a whole, but you may be able to approximate their distribution of demographic features developing several client personas. Their demand for specific services is defined mainly by the area where they live or want to move, disposable income and family circumstances.
They will interact with your practice in their free time and discuss the project details outside their working hours. For them, it’s an extracurricular activity they undertake because they care about their habitat.
When promoting your services to them, you will likely have to appear to many potential clients before finding those interested. That places emphasis on using scalable channels of communications like social media, mailing list and ads. You will only be able to afford personal contact after they show interest in your services.
9.2 B2B architectural marketing
B2B projects in architecture may take longer and be more complicated than those delivered to individuals. At the same time, your clients may be large institutions or other building industry firms working alongside you. That means you will have more contact with them and stresses the importance of maintaining the relationship. It also puts your qualifications and portfolio at the spotlight, especially if you compete with your peers to win the project.
Email marketing is the primary tool when it comes to B2B marketing in architecture. According to one of the top marketing software companies, HubSpot, 93% of marketers use e-mail to contact their leads. B2B clients are also commercially oriented. Make sure to appeal to their interests when communicating. Mention qualitative, precise parameters like the value, cost, time, and resources related to the project.
10. The efficiency and limitations of architectural marketing
Being equipped with fundamental marketing knowledge for architects, you are probably thinking about how it looks like in practice. To make it easier, we outlined all the critical matters related to the performance of architecture marketing. It should help you to set realistic expectations for planning marketing for your architecture firm.
10.1 The game of educated guessing
Unlike mathematics, marketing always comes with an element of uncertainty. People are unpredictable by nature, and no science can flawlessly model their behaviour. All dominant players on the digital advertising market know it and try to do just that, using top-notch systems to distribute content & ads. As a result, promoting your architecture office subjects you to two fundamental sources of uncertainty: people & algorithms. Ok, that sounds profound, but what are the conclusions for my small architecture studio?
The main takeaway is to brace yourself for some variability in marketing effectiveness by treating it as a long-term game and imposing quantitative regime.
Firstly, you may never tell for sure how your audience will receive your marketing message. From viral posts making companies famous overnight to unintended faux pas, our promotional activities’ reception is never fully predictable.
Secondly, systems that deliver marketing messages (e.g. Google indexing or Facebook ads algorithms) are secretive. The platforms list best practices and comment on certain features, but they never share the exact mechanisms. After all, that is their main competitive advantage.
That leaves marketing experts disillusioned: it is a game of educated guessing. You should apply most-up-to-date knowledge of marketing theory, best advertising practices and customer intelligence, but it doesn’t guarantee predictable results.
You also have to strengthen it with continuous incremental improvements informed by statistically valid feedback. This way, you can achieve more predictable results and lower cost per acquisition of a new architecture project over time.
10.2 How long marketing should take to get clients?
In short - expect weeks or months to see the first projects coming, but years to achieve the full marketing potential. Marketing efforts can attract website or social media visitors as soon as you release ads or post articles. Then, you are bound by the lead conversion time. Depending on the prospective client’s intentions and your actions, the customer’s journey may follow one of the three routes:
The person may buy your services promptly
You can get the project after some time and convincing
The customer may lose interest or stay idle.
There are a human factor and an element of randomness in the sales process. If you have signed plenty of projects, you may precisely estimate that for instance, 2.3% of all website visits result in signing a contract. The time from the first contact to starting to work with clients depends on many factors - readiness to purchase, project value, delivery timeframe, just to name a few. You can never know what the next ad or post impression will bring, but you can approach it methodically and make marketing work for your benefit.
10.3 Is the success guaranteed?
It’s not guaranteed, but it’s expected. You can never predict the exact outcome of your marketing efforts. Advertising within a set timeframe may be very profitable, moderately efficient or even make you lose a bit of money. After some time dedicated to improving your promotional endeavours and perhaps getting professional help, it should work well. You will eventually find the optimal scope and spend for your marketing activities.
An interesting way of visualising it is viewing it as a random game in which the odds are on your side. After all, if to aggregate all companies’ marketing efforts, they bring meaningful returns on invested capital. Suppose you spend $50 on advertising.
That may give you just a few or several dozens of website or social profile visits. They may produce no effect whatsoever. On the other end of the spectrum, the first click might land you a lucrative project. It could be a person that has just had their mansion purchased and will hire you to work on it.
You can’t predict what will the next click bring, but the statistical law of large numbers works to your benefit. Over time, your advertising cost per project will come down and the average customer acquisition cost will stabilise. You will be able to draw predictions such as that the next year should bring you a $200-250k in revenues if you invest $20-30k in marketing. How?
10.4 How are the results measured?
The marketing results can be measured more and more precisely as you expand your promotional efforts:
Initially, you may see how often customers view your posts or ads (number of impressions) and how often they click on them (CTR - click-through rate).
You will then measure how often they inquire after viewing or clicking on your ad, organic post or search results listing.
Finally, you will attribute revenue or profit margins to ad or post impressions and visits so you can calculate how much they were worth to you.
You may relate it to the other marketing costs like agency fees, employee salaries and software subscription expenses. Then, it’s just a matter of periodically revising your marketing budget breakdown and changing its allocation across different channels and activities.
10.5 Can I stop marketing at some point?
Yes, you may stop at any point or even never promote your architecture firm. Some businesses intensify their marketing efforts for a period of time to then completely cease them.
If that regards paid advertising, they won’t continue to get more sponsored movement on their website or social profiles. If it regards their SEO efforts, they will likely benefit from inertia and enjoy increased organic traffic for months. That may however come to an abrupt end if some competitors outrank them in the meantime or if Google's algorithms will get an update unfavourable to your website.
Also, if your marketing efforts bring results, why to stop? Even, if you get more projects than you can handle, you can raise your price or expand operations. If you no longer have time to put effort into marketing, you may always hire an agency that will do it for you.
A better way of approaching it is dividing your marketing efforts into long-term investments and ongoing demand generation. That way, you are committed to the proven strategies that bring a relatively steady and predictable income stream. At the same time, you remain open for new opportunities that give you competitve edge and fuel future growth or prepare for the periods of drought.
10.6 Can an architect do marketing alone?
Surely they can, but it takes time and knowledge. If you are considering it, it highly depends on whether you have the know how and like to do it. It will also consume your time which you could be spending on working on an architectural project or studying arch-software. Not knowing which marketing activities will be best suited for your practice, you may simply waste time. You can spend quite a lot of time on activities that bring negligible effects or may even adversely affect your future marketing standing.
10.7 How to choose a marketing agency for architecture practice?
Architecture marketing is not easy. If you decide to hire professionals, choose an agency specialised in marketing of architectural services. Make sure they are able to match the quality of your services and adhere to high standards.
A warning sign would be the lack of transparency (i.e. enquiries without a surname of the agency representatives), grammatical errors, cheesy arguments or false claims such as a promise of making you a number 1 in Google in just a week.
Genuine marketing brings rewarding projects and long-lasting effects for your architecture office. There is also an array of other benefits: getting work regularly, building sustainable position, receiving client feedback and market intelligence that help improving your business efficiency.
If you would honour us with the consideration for this role, we will happily analyse your situation for free in an initial exploratory call you can book straight away above!
10.8 What is architecture marketing success?
Marketing success is simply meeting your business goals at a reasonable cost. After the initial investment in preparing your marketing infrastructure and assets like amazing architecture office website, you are successful if your marketing brings sufficient revenues. They can be measured with ROI (return on investment), but also other marketing metrics that relate your expenditures to profit margins.
Be patient when starting your marketing journey. The returns on marketing spend and effort come with a delay and in different forms. Better recognition, higher trust & average project value or even client feedback are just a few of the benefits marketing brings. Give it some time to enjoy its full potential.
11. Marketing ideas for architects to do instantly
Okay, that’s enough gorging yourself in theory. Let’s get into practice and what you can do here and now to improve your architecture office. Firstly, subscribe to our mailing list to not lose your enthusiasm over time. We will give you food for thought, and you will be notified about all the useful articles and videos. Then, try the following quick actions to start with.
Here are some quick to implement ideas that will help your architecture office:
Leverage after-sales process
Call or email your past clients to thank them and ask how your project has gone. Tell them that a photo is more than welcomed and that you really enjoyed working with them. Don’t directly ask them for recommendations!
Add a nice signature to your professional email
Include all the details plus your specialisation area, but be concise. When it’s ready, show it to someone who doesn’t know your office well or just assume that role. Ask if the signature alone is enough to contact the person in at least 2 ways and if it clearly outlines what you can do (maybe you use ambiguous acronyms or jargon names?).
Analyse your sales funnel for improvement
Analyse all points of contact with your last 5 customers that did not decide to cooperate with you. Answer in all honesty what discouraged them and politely ask them for feedback.