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Setting a marketing goal for your architecture firm

marketing-goals-for-architecture-firmYour 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:

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.

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.

1.2 Establish an 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 taking 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 new colleagues easier, and you will form long-lasting relationships with the new employees.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

3.1.1 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.

3.1.2 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 in 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 knowledgeable 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 a marketing company will succeed in helping you.

3.2 Evaluate your internal expertise

The choice between hiring an agency or a full-time marketing specialist should be motivated by your architecture office’s expertise and marketing operations volume. If you are an owner of an architecture practice that has never worked in marketing, you might not be able to evaluate the work of a 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.

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.

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 risks 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.

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.

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. When you are not sure what your marketing goal is...

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:

  • 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.

​Every situation is unique, and 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.


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