Whether you run a newly founded architecture practice or an established firm, you are definitely on the chase for more and better clients. However, attracting the right customers is usually hard and it requires a general strategy that is in line with the qualities of your firm and the profile of your potential clients.
Even though marketing for architecture firms is different from other businesses, several strategic moves explained below, can aid you through this process. Gaining new valuable clients, while maintaining consistent relationships with your current ones, is the golden mean for the architecture business.
Knowing the major markets for architecture practices
The range of clients you aspire to attract can vary, as can the scale of projects you want to work on. Nevertheless, researching the market and knowing the profile of your most probable prospective client is important. According to US Census Bureau, during 2020, the largest market for the architects' industry in the US - around 45.7% of total industry revenue - is comprised of private organizations that can be any business, from private hospitals and healthcare customers to universities.
The industry revenue of governmental bodies (federal, state, or local government entities) is estimated at around 25.3%. While individuals and household consumers make up 7.6%, other construction, architectural, and engineering firms, including nonprofit organizations account for a total of 21.4% industry revenue.
Analyze and understand your client’s business
Most clients (from the business realm) believe that architects do not listen, and this needs to be addressed. The client has a series of limitations and considerations, such as available time or capital. Understanding the client's needs and how your design translates to real returns is key. This can also help you challenge the brief, optimize costs, be flexible, minimize risks, and educate your client on the values of your design.
Defend your vision and build trust
Having successful relationships with your customers is not based on finding the right type of work from the right type of client, it is more about providing the right kind of service. Clients value the creativity and vision of architects, that is why they hire you.
However, you need to defend your vision (from the conceptual phase to completion) and be able to communicate it to everyone in the team, to radiate trust and demonstrate how it is an added value to the overall project, without losing sight of it.
Invest in client-architect dialogue
Listening, understanding, communicating. Request to engage with your client, and reinforce the importance of dialogue. Develop the briefing process steadily, interpret the client’s needs, and help them understand what can be achieved with the given resources and limitations. Explore several options and create an environment of mutual creativity, so that your clients feel part of the project's success.
Improve technical skills
It is true that the knowledge of what is considered "technical skills" can be gained through experience. But even you are a young enterprise, invest in increasing your skills and competencies. Clients would rather hire a single practice that can deliver the project from concept to completion and beyond. Therefore, you need to adopt techniques to treat cost, time, and other constraints, as well as improve the efficiency of project delivery and the overall buildability of your design.
Understanding your marketing requirements
Marketing is focused on creating new clients while retaining your current ones. According to RIBA's 2013-2014 benchmark report, up to 5% of architecture practices’ turnover is spent on marketing. Since knowing how to work your way around marketing plans is not only a task, but also a profession, there are plenty of ways to develop your strategies.
To be realistic, you need to create at least a one-year plan, which includes a set of reasonable objectives and move closer to your goals. Display your message in the form of a story of your most significant strengths. You can do this by informally communicating with your clients and fellows, and make them feel excited about what your architecture firm offers.
Another way to deliver your message is through your website. According to Hinge Research, about 84% of all architecture, engineering, and construction firm clients visit your website before considering calling your firm. Having an easy, informative, and professional-looking website that reassures your clients that you understand their needs, is key especially for young practices.
Increasing your online presence via social media platforms is also significant. While the classic referral strategy, works best for established firms, who already have many partners, previous clients, consultants, peers, etc.