• Rebeca Sena

8 signs your marketing strategy attracts difficult architecture or interior design clients

Updated: Apr 1

and how to find better ones

Third time this week you are getting a call at 11 PM about just a quick design change (that takes a full day). You can't believe that such a nice person could be so hard to work with! How did that happen that all of sudden you are feeling trapped and unhappy with this client? How to prevent it and actively shape the relationship with your client?

Clients determine the quality of your architecture & interior design projects

A difficult relationship with a client is the main cause of frustration among creative professionals, especially architects and interior designers.

You may immerse yourself in a timely creative process, research and draft making just to see the most suitable solutions to your client's demands being rejected. Or met with silence.

Or unrealistic expectations. When the relationship does not flow smoothly, the project could easily become toxic.

It all starts with how architects & interior designers get their work

Unless you are an architect or designer that optimally uses marketing to acquire clients with the right social media presence and SEO strategy, you probably attract a mixed bag of customers.

Some might come from your social circles, other via referrals. Simply put, they might not have chosen you because they love your style, or the best to solve their problem, but because you were the first that came to their mind.

And you will be vulnerable to all misconceptions about how a creative professional works.

Understanding why the relationship with certain clients might be problematic

You can never be fully sure how the cooperation with your clients will evolve, but there are certain warning signs. If you are working with business clients they will view you as a business partner or contractor.

When you work with individual clients, that’s a completely different tale. You will often deal with people not knowledgeable about your work and that based their perception of your profession on stereotypes.

Most of the times, they will deal with you in their free time, sometimes in more relaxed circumstances. Ideally, you would like to have some influence over who your clients are and only admit the good ones.

But if you are struggling to have a continuous stream of projects, you might need to deal with the clients that already signed up with you. How to do that?

Short term solutions when dealing with difficult architecture & interior design clients

When working with clients, your role and responsibility are to take care of not only delivering the solutions but also to make the entire cooperation process robust and adequate.

If you are already contracted for the project with a problematic client, own the process. Define your rules, stand by them and address arising problems early on. Here are 8 signs your marketing strategy- or the complete lack of it - is attracting difficult customers:


The Cheapskate

Typical red flag:

“Come on, 5000 quid for a bunch of drawings? I could ask the daughter of my cousin who draws on her high school classes…”


Customers that are only interested in the lowest price they can get. They do not understand and do not value the work of the professional.


Price should always be presented in relation to the value that the service delivers. Try to be specific. Emphasise that the cost of your work is just a small fraction of the property value and will let your client enjoy it for years, i.e. 10 000 GBP project doesn’t sound so bad if you tell them that it means just around 40 GBP per month over next 20 years to enjoy their dream house.

Or that they are going to save thousands on the cost of refurbishing and so on.

Use the arguments they will understand and speak the language of value creation. Avoid arguing about how long and how hard it was to get your credentials – you won’t convince them to appreciate creative work overnight. They will, however, appreciate the end result.


Respond now

Typical red flag:

“Hey, I know we were to appoint next week, but I will have a break at 1 PM today, can you come to me with those materials?”


Clients who do not respect schedules and demand immediate responses and absolute availability.


Yes, it is very disrespectful. But unfortunately, many individual clients behave this way when there are no rigid timelines and plans. To avoid it, set regular progress or Q&A meetings every month or every week.

Establish boundaries. Make it clear what your working hours are and how you manage communications. Tell that you reply within 2 working days and when you are unavailable because you are attending that conference abroad. Provide access to your calendar with the option of booking meetings if necessary.


The Lagger

Typical red flag:

“Sorry, I am responding after two weeks, been quite busy…”


Customers who take weeks to respond, slowing down your work and stretching in time


Clearly explain to them the importance of their input and plan upfront. Gracefully find out about the best way to cooperate with them. Maybe you should only speak with their assistant? Or maybe they are frequent travellers and don’t respond to your calls because of being aboard, on the intercontinental flight?


The Undecided

Typical red flag:

“Well, that project was great and exactly as I wanted it… until I saw Susan’s bathroom. And Caroline’s… And also Nicky had that special area…”


Customers who change their minds at every project stage and ask for many significant changes after previous approval. They bring countless different references that simply don't make sense.


Conduct an in-depth discovery consultation before kicking off the project to learn about their style. Act as a guide, but don’t let them drift away. Constrain the choice, by narrowing it down to just a few options. Don’t be afraid to make respectful suggestions, especially if they are unsure.


The Slick person

Typical red flag:

“Come on, contract, submitting documents to local authority… Who needs that?”


Customers that avoid discussing their actual budget, important information such as regulatory compliance or documentation of their property. It might be the result of their fraudulent intent, but could as well be related to a (too) relaxed personality trait.


Inform about all the formalities upfront with a concise emphasis on why they are required. Limit the involvement of your client in bureaucracy to the minimum, but be firm. When possible, consolidate such requests, taking care of all of them in one meeting. Also, keep your communication well structured and do not be afraid to number your questions to be sure that none will get missed.


The Want-it-now person

Typical red flag:

“So… I actually need the project by Friday, because I already hired the contractors and they are set to start working on Monday.”


Clients who want results delivered in deadlines that are impossible to be met


Ask them politely if they have already planned some events related to the project, i.e. booked builders to work or ordered any furniture.

If so, enquire further about the timelines to manage expectations and arrange changes if necessary.

If such a statement is based on the client’s unfounded assumptions about how the development of a project works, it is necessary to make clear to them respectfully how long each stage will take. Avoid making promises you know you will not be able to keep.


So many dreams, so little space (or budget)

Typical red flag:

“…with pool, smokehouse, pizza oven, gazebo… and a fountain… Would there be space for a basketball court or a playground for kids?”


Customers who want the extremely lavish project delivered at unachievably low cost, or at impossibly small space.


Manage customer’s expectations by emphasising that overcrowded space will not be as enjoyable as the well-thought arrangement with the right spatial organisation.

Visualise possible solutions and bring up alternatives. Downsizing a playground to a tasteful swing can make a viable compromise. Also emphasising that in this climate you can use your pool for only two months can potentially save your client from disappointment.


The complete mismatch

Typical red flag:

“I have already 2 houses which is more than I need, but as your uncle, I can ask you to do some drafts for that fireside corner. Just like a nice chair and some coffee table…”


Customers that don’t match your profile at all, but you accept them out of lack of better customers.


Simply increase the number of prospective clients to be able to choose only those that require meaningful work which is aligned with your expertise.

Long term solution – finding better architecture or interior design client leads

In such a competitive market, Interior designers and architects alike find it really hard to have enough project enquiries to be able to afford to be picky.

Many small practices struggle while some other snowball into big firms or get lucrative international projects.

If you can get more prospective clients that actually are a good fit, that is the tipping point. You start to feel more comfortable with what you are doing and grow your expertise. You no longer have to feel abused by toxic clients or unsatisfied with projects.

Step one to finding your ideal clients – finding your client persona

First of all, you need to be clear about who that ideal customer is; without this, it is likely that the content of your work will become very general and end up attracting all kinds of customers.

In theory, attracting many customers is the biggest goal of any company. However, without strategically positioning in the market, your company will gradually deteriorate.

Trends, practices and technology in interior design and architecture change over time. Every few years, there are new fads and ways of executing things.

Bigger companies might offer a wider array of services, but that is the result of developing expertise and positioning on the market.

By defining your client persona in your marketing strategy, you will be able to find potential customers interested not just in the delivery of the service or price. They will hire you because they identify with your brand, value your work and believe that your firm is the best choice to solve their problem.

We all know that it is very difficult to say no to a project/client when we dedicate so much to the success of marketing efforts. However, architectural and interior projects are long and exhausting.

Small problems can become an endless nightmare over time. Therefore, it is important to be very clear about who you are and how to attract your ideal clients, so that you can use all your creative energy in projects in which both you and your client are proud.

We hope this content has been helpful to you. If you need help, get in touch!

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