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A Must Read: How To Market My Architecture Firm

Posted by John Aikin
on July 5, 2019

Much has changed in the world of architecture when it comes to bringing in new business, and much has changed in the world of marketing — especially in terms of the internet and all it offers. The trick for marketing your architectural services is to apply the tried and true fundamentals of marketing of yesterday — where they still apply —  while exploiting the new marketing tools and techniques of today. 

BUILDING YOUR ARCHITECTURE MARKETING PLAN

  • Top of Funnel - Creating great blogs and downloadable content
  • Middle of funnel - Hosting online webinars and making strong case studies
  • Bottom of funnel - Perfecting your assessments and defining a budget plan for your new projects


 

Getting Started

So where do we start? How do we know what kinds of content we should be putting together?

I'm using a brewery, as an example. Let's say you're an architect that has a niche or focus on brewery design.

Maybe you've done one or two of these projects over the last five years and they were profitable, the clients were super fun to work with and you got a lot of free beer out of the gig.

This led to a great relationship that ended up being a good referral down the road.

The best part was, the project wasn't stuck in a funding taboo with the government and taxes, leaving you wondering "Are we getting this money?"  

the story

So, let's say you are your client and you own a brewery.

Maybe you're in a large city and you've had a successful couple of years giving you a need to expand.

You're going to start doing some searches online.

You're going to search things like, "show me some brewery trends." And as you're doing that, you come across a blog from an architect that is already doing exactly what you're looking for.

This architect you found online is featuring the 10 Coolest Brewery Trends of 2019. So, you're thinking, "Wow, this is actually pretty sweet."

You start reading it and you're like, "Huh, this is not what I'd like, or, this is what I'd like and this is actually really cool," highlighting things you could apply to your own business as you read.

Now, you're really into it.

As you're going through the post, you see what we'd call a "call to action" (or CTA) on this blog post.

The CTA reads "Download Your 10 Step Checklist for your Next Brewery Development." At this point, you're like, "okay, I'm thinking about expanding our brewery, we're ready to learn more."

You click on that CTA and you get to a landing page where you fill out the form and in return you're sent this awesome document that has a checklist for "What you need to know about brewery design."

Immediately, that's valuable.

You find so much value that you go show your business partner and have conversations where you're thinking, "cool, let's really explore this."

So, time goes on and the brewery team gets back to making beers and planning their new restaurant.

Now a week or two later they get an email from you. The email is following up on the the download that they received and also offering them additional blogs that they might find relevant.

The blogs are titled "How to Choose a Color Palette for the Interior of Your Space." and "What Finishes and Features Do You Need to Know About Designing the Bathrooms for a Brewery?"

So, there's all these different cool blogs that they're reading and they're saying, "Man, I love what this company is putting out." "This is really cool stuff." 

Another week goes by and they get an email from your architecture firm that's in inviting them to a live online webinar.

You're going to have Q and A and you're going to go through "The Three Biggest Trends in Brewery Design." And they're like, "This is awesome. My partner and I are going to come.

"We're going to watch this. It's free. We can't wait. It's going to be awesome. I've got a list of questions already."

And so they come to the webinar, and they start to build that relationship with you and your team and they're excited about your ideas.

At the end of that webinar they get an invite to an assessment that's "Plan Your Budget for Your Brewery." So you, as a an owner in this niche market, you've just essentially completed a complete funnel.

A content funnel for an architecture and marketing plan. You've gone through all the steps of what we'd call top of funnel, middle of funnel and bottom of funnel.  

TOFU: Top of Funnel

So a top of funnel is, an awareness piece.

It's someone who is searching for information, having a question, or they're just looking at trends.

They're looking at cool stuff and they're just trying to find interesting things.

They have a problem and they're seeking the solution to that problem.

That is essentially what, this client did at the beginning. And what we did was, we captured that person's information by giving them a checklist, right?  

MOFU: Middle of Funnel

Then we nurtured them as time went on.

So they entered the consideration stage by getting more information. We built authority and we built trust with that client.

We help them understand that they're in the right place.

Since they are our exact buyer persona, we want to send them more information.

Not one time did we try and sell them anything or try and get them to buy something. Right? We're just giving them the opportunity to do more with us.

They are self servicing in this ecosystem of lead nurturing. We're just presenting them with relevant information.

Then they opted into a webinar and came to that webinar with questions.

They even invited their business partner because they knew it's something they're actually experiencing and trying to understand.  

BOFU: Bottom of Funnel

The webinar presented a bottom of funnel or a "decision stage" opportunity, where they could do a budget planning workshop with them, or an assessment one-on-one. 

On this assessment they really get to know who I am and ask if they're exploring the right options.

This process was designed and presented to them in a way that they would feel comfortable making those decisions on their own.

So it's a self servicing model. This is the concept of inbound marketing, and it's how we're proposing your content should be developed in your architecture and marketing plan.  

 

HOW DO YOU DO MARKETING FOR AN ARCHITECTURE FIRM?

How do we market an architecture firm?  The first thing is to think about the ideal customers that we're bringing in.

 

Define your buyer persona

Who are our ideal clients? What projects are we hoping to work on?

We can first focus on one ideal customer, one ideal client that is going to be our target buyer persona.

When we're working with buyer personas, we want to outline everything that we can around their goals, pains, and challenges as it relates to what you can provide for them.

As well as where they go for information.

There's a lot of other information that we can provide, but those are the three most important things to gather when you're doing buyer persona research.

 

Make a list of questions

Once we have the buyer personas outlined, the next thing we want to do is make a list of every question that we know they would ask us in some kind of a sales process. 

Every single question that you can think of that your clients have asked you in the past, or that you're expecting them to ask, or that you know might be living in the back of their mind.

We want to go ahead and document those questions and write them down. Then we want to produce content around every single one of those questions.

Those questions are going to rely upon their goals, their pains and challenges, and where they go for information.

MAke great content

If we can produce content, especially in a video format, that answers those questions for them.

We've created the perfect content package to go out and get these new clients.  

3 MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR ARCHITECTURE FIRMS

Architecture is one of those professions that is still stuck in an old school mentality of how do you generate new business.

So many people think that new leads for architecture come from shaking hands out on the golf course and the country club but that’s just not the case.

1. Say NO to RFPS

If we can put ourselves into a situation where we're not just relying on good relationships that we've built over the last 50 years, handshakes we've made, or simply putting our company's name on a list and waiting for an RFP, we are going to be able to position our firm in ways that other companies are not doing.

This allows us to generate more leads and generate better business.

We're going to do that by understanding our buyer personas, which we just talked about, but also understanding that people have that specific problem that we fulfill and we're going to write content around that specific problem.

I’m specifically referring to architecture in a niche market.

It's easy to say we do hospital architecture or we do finance industry or something like that.

But, I'm speaking more about very niche kinds of architecture where you can actually build a relationship through digital marketing and allow people to find you. 

2. Focus on attracting the right audience with great niche content

You can grow that relationship over time through nurturing and procure that person as a lead, then into a customer or client.

For example, the brewery industry is booming. People want the coolest new ideas for breweries, renovating old buildings or turning something obscure into a brand new facility.

Why not specialize in a niche or build your company around a niche that no one else is really focusing on or even try building your company in a very small market.

We want to focus on that niche and produce content that people are going to want to read.

3. Create Content that answers your buyer's questions

If you are doing breweries, for example, showcasing the three biggest trends in brewery design today or highlight past customers that are doing fascinating things.

This is why the high end residential market for architects are producing really awesome marketing today.

This is why they're doing so well over and over again. It's not because of word of mouth and relying completely on that. It's because they're extending themselves online in ways that people haven't been able to see them before.

They are showcasing their work and highlighting it in ways that are not simply, "here is the Andersen residence", or "here is the Davis residence." It's really focusing on highlighting, "The Five Biggest Trends of 2020" and things like that.

Let's try to think about attracting the right kind of person through the right kind of content to your website, without trying to just do bottom of funnel CTAs.  

WHAT GOES INTO A MARKETING PLAN FOR ARCHITECTURE FIRMS

1. Goal setting
2. Metrics to monitor
3. Content plan for getting in front of the right people
4. Conversion path and lead nurturing funnel

The first thing you need to do, when you're creating your architecture marketing plan is, understand your goals.

We have to first do a goal setting exercise to know what success looks like.

How can you do architecture in marketing if you don't know what the finish line looks like? This is honestly, where most architecture firms today are failing. 

They don't even understand what the success metric looks like. How can you do marketing well if you don't know where you're supposed to go?

Setting your goal

So, we have to understand that there's goals involved in marketing and we're going to track those goals over time in order to identify if we're even on the right path.

So the first thing to do, is to decide what is the revenue goal at the end of this year? (this time next year) If you don't know what it should be, just think about what you did last year and say, "okay, did great, I want to do the same thing, or do we need to increase it a little bit?"

Give yourself 10% increase to start. Nothing great. Nothing huge, but it's a good starting point. If this is your very first time, you're just starting out, pick a number.

The next thing you need to do, is back that number out and understand how many clients do we need to get to hit.

That goal seems a little bit difficult, but if we can find out what the average project fee is, we understand your company. "Our average project fee is x", then we know exactly to hit this goal "I need y number of projects in order to hit this goal at x average."

Okay, you now know exactly how many clients you need to be bringing in at what average fee in order to hit this average revenue at the end of the year.

And that's more than what most architecture clients or current architecture firms are currently doing now in order to get their clients.

So, I want you to think through that number and start there.

I tend to lean a little bit further and go towards marketing qualified leads.

If you know that someone is scheduling a consultation or doing an assessment with you, you know that that is probably a marketing qualified lead.

They've effectively been marketed to. 

And now you're embarking on a sales conversation. I know architects don't like to think about sales as how they get their clients, but it is business, and that is the language of business.

We have to understand that sales is how we're going to make this happen We need to know that, you know, "if I, if I get 10 marketing qualified leads this month, does that mean I can turn one of those into, into a sale, into a new client, into a new project?"

Next, think bout how many conversations do I need to have in order to land a customer. You can put all this together in a spreadsheet and start to track your progress as time goes on.

Okay, make sense so far?  

Look at the data

Now you want to focus on the metrics that matter the most and start to put together a dashboard. For example, let's say you're typically bringing in about 10 new leads every single month.

And those leads could come from a conversation, from Facebook,  from Linkedin, your website, or whatever it may be.

Let's say that you notice that; of those 10 you close, maybe one every month turns into some kind of a project.

Those are the metrics that we want to be monitoring.

Lastly, we want to make sure that we're, we're monitoring those numbers over time so that we can see whether or not we're hitting our benchmarks.  

Content Marketing  

Now, we spoke in a previous video about buyer personas. We talked about the right kind of people who are going to become our niche clients.

What we have to also think about how to produce the right kind of content for that person.

We want to get in front of their, their pain, their challenges and make sure we do is have a content plan in place to fulfill all those needs.

If we have that content, we can then use that for organic results, which is the basics of SEO.

Make your website convert more leads The next thing you want to do is make sure you have a conversion path in place on your website.

This is an opportunity to capture information from somebody the first time they enter your website.

Think of all the people that hit your website. You don't have a clue who they are and they may never find you again because they're not in a buying position for the next six to 12 months.

If we don't have that conversion path in place, we actually don't have the ability to capture the people that are coming to the site.

We want to be giving these people something of value in return for their contact information and then be able to nurture them as time goes on.  

Engage and convert with your current contacts

Next, have what's called a reengagement campaign.

You already have a list of people that you know you can reach out to to start getting in front of, um, in order to put them into your funnel, to put them into your lead nurturing system.

It's very important that we capitalize on the information you have because it's so much easier to nurture existing contacts than it is to bring in brand new contacts that we then have to nurture as well.

Even if you've just had one conversation with them in the past, or they've just opened a few emails, or maybe it's been two years, we need to do a reengagement campaign.

These are often the most overlooked opportunities that architecture firms don't realize that they should be capitalizing on.

Always have a backlog of contacts that you can reach out to that you can send information to from time to time to reengage them, warm them up.

A great opportunity for this would be a webinar campaign.

Think about putting together a webinar around the "Three Biggest Mistakes You're Making with Xyz" or "What Trends are Happening Right Now" in your specific niche.

So what I want you to do is just start thinking through those strategies, those reengagement campaigns, have a few emails lined up to get people into the campaign.

Then you will be at a good spot to get some people to come to the Webinar. Make sure you have an opportunity for them to engage beyond the Webinar. We don't want to just have it be a one and done.

We need to have them sign up for something.

Think about these things and really use them to your advantage when you're creating your architecture marketing plan. 

 

HOW TO GENERATE LEADS FOR ARCHITECTS

1. First, look for leads in your existing contacts
2. Word of mouth and referrals
3. Inbound, Organic SEO
4. LinkedIn and InMail
5. Speaking at Conferences

Make the most of your existing contacts

To get all that started, we have to understand how we generate new leads.

So as an architect today, how do you go about generating brand new leads?

I mentioned in a previous section that you can utilize your existing lead database by enrolling your contacts in a re-engagement campaign. That’s a great place to start. 

Word of Mouth

Other than that, let's say net new leads, brand new contacts that we need to reach out and start to fulfill or start to fill our own marketing funnel with.

The first one is obvious.  It's word of mouth. It's a referral network. It's who you know and that somebody that knows somebody. 

This is the old school way of architecture marketing. People used to go and rely so much on shaking hands on the golf course to get a deal done.

So you'd spend an exorbitant amount of money on country club memberships every year, which are completely unnecessary today.

But, it is still a very viable way to do business. It's still a very possible way of knowing a guy who knows a guy who knows a girl that is the leader of an association. "They need a new building, right?"

So word of mouth is still referenced. But, marketing is still very, very important and you don't want to lose that.  

Inbound Marketing

The next is what we've been talking about so far, inbound marketing, the world of organic search results.

QUESTION?
How do we make sure that we, when people are looking for something online that we can fulfill them? 

ANSWER:
You have lots of content on your website that is answering problems and fulfilling the goals that people have as they're seeking out a solution.

Earlier, we gave a pretty detailed example of a brewery, an architect who focuses on breweries, and a person who owns a brewery, running through their funnel in an organic situation.

That stuff happens all the time in other industries, outside of architecture.  We want to bring that into the world of architecture and let people know that you are viable.

The funnel will be built through organic search results. 

Marketing on Linked

In LinkedIn is a very good option for generating new leads. Oftentimes, we've connected with a lot of people already.

Now, 2019 through 2020, you should spend the majority of your time posting to Linkedin.

There, you’ll find the most bang for your buck.

Whether you have a large network on LinkedIn or you're growing your network, you should be sharing all those blogs that you post on your website.

Let's say your brewery design trends or the things that you need to know to stay away from when you're developing your next design.

Those should be shared on your Linkedin profile so that people find them and they're going to gravitate to them as they're scrolling through the feed.

They go to see your post showing up time and time again, which is going to help them understand more about what they should be doing in their own world. 

Next, we'll shift the focus onto InMail

If you're going to actually spend money and try and do some kind of ads or advertising, please don't go and sponsor a kids tee-ball team or pay for that banner in the basketball goal for the local high school. That's not a good plan.

There's no way to track that revenue or see if it's actually delivering you any results.

And odds are it's not.  It's a good thing to do if you want to be a good person. But, if you're actually trying to look at lead generation from your ad spend inMail is a very, very smart way to go.  What is inMail?

InMail is sending messages to people that meet specific criteria.

So, you can make a list of job titles, industries, cities, gender and all these different things that fit the criteria of an ideal buyer persona and send them a personalized message.

The message could be around an upcoming Webinar that you have or around a checklist that you want to offer.

Maybe you're giving away assessments for budget planning and for their next project. You can send them a personalized message that goes to their inbox and that would be InMail.

Speaking at Conferences

Public Speaking The next one, which ties everything back, is speaking at conferences.

This is a huge lead generation opportunity. People want to work with thought leaders in the space.

People want to know who those thought leaders are.  If you can get an opportunity to speak at conferences, present your own trends, and share what you understand, you're stepping out in front of the competitors and being the leader in this space.

We've been using breweries as an example for this series, let's say there's a craft brewery, conference in San Antonio, Texas.

It's the largest gathering of craft brewers from across the country, perhaps even the world.

What a great opportunity, if you are working on 'design trends for breweries in 2020', to present your findings on what's happening and what you're noticing in that world as a designer.

These are the things that I would do if I was an architect looking to generate leads. I would tie everything back to your website.

Make sure, even though you're relying on the organic part for inbound, that your website still serves a purpose as a lead generation opportunity.

Send some people to your website when you're speaking, and some to your website when you're having conversations and then make sure you're linking back to it in your social media advertising.

 

It's Still All About Building Relationships

business cards, marketing strategies, prospective clients, business development, case studies, marketing effort, architectural services, architecture marketing, design firm, online marketing, building relationships, step by step, lead generation, marketing tools, marketing for architects, small businesses, public speaking, social media, existing clients, potential clientsIn asking yourself "how to market my architecture firm," it's important to think about what once was, and how some (though not all) concepts are still relevant today. Architecture may no longer be the clubby business it once was, built largely on word-of-mouth, but some things never change. Even with all the wholesale technological change the wider world of marketing has seen, it still gets down to the same thing: building relationships between your firm and clients. 

In the end you'll be doing the same thing architects have done forever — connecting with people who have real needs and meeting their needs with what you have to offer. To do this you still have to ask yourself the basic questions of who you are and what you do.

And you still need to beat the bushes, just in a different way.

First, Clarify Your Position

business cards, marketing strategies, prospective clients, business development, case studies, marketing effort, architectural services, architecture marketing, design firm, online marketing, building relationships, step by step, lead generation, marketing tools, marketing for architects, small businesses, public speaking, social media, existing clients, potential clientsNo matter what marketing tools or techniques you ultimately apply to developing your architectural business, you still need to clarify who you are and what you do. If your firm name has “architects” or “architectural” you're off to a good start with telling people who your are. 

As to what you do, be careful not to undersell yourself. As architects you plan, do interior, urban, or landscape design, etc. Or maybe you "do" certain types of facilities. But, there's so much more to it. 

Architects build the future - a future they alone envision. Architects see usable space where others see nothing. Architects see in three dimensions when the rest of the world sees flat.

Architects often end up helping clients clarify their own business goals. This requires analyzing, investigating, guiding, presenting alternatives, anticipating and solving problems, etc. 

Getting to where you can provide these answers requires a deep and intelligent probing so you can get to the heart of the project. That’s the sort of thing you need to capture in your position statement. 

Convert to Inbound Marketing

inbound marketing for an architecture firm business cards, marketing strategies, prospective clients, business development, case studies, marketing effort, architectural services, architecture marketing, design firm, online marketing, building relationships, step by step, lead generation, marketing tools, marketing for architects, small businesses, public speaking, social media, existing clients, potential clientsMuch of what passes for marketing these days is not all that different from the ways encyclopedias used to be sold door-to-door. You're essentially trying to get potential customers to stop focusing on what they're focusing on and turn their attention to you. Enter something called "inbound marketing".

Instead of getting in your customer’s face with what you offer, you first need to consider things from the online user's perspective, especially what:

  • Sort of thing they are looking for
  • Questions they need answers for
  • Problems they are trying to solve

Armed with answers to these kinds of questions you can start tackling the major steps of inbound marketing online. Essentially you'll need to:

  1. Attract--identifying "personas" for your ideal target clients, creating content with each of them in mind that answers their likely questions, educational content that speaks to them that satisfies their curiosity; using appropriate keywords and optimizing your pages for search rankings.
  2. Convert--capturing contact information to convert web visitors to leads; offering something in return like an eBook, whitepaper, or tip sheet; learning to use calls-to-action, landing pages, forms, quizzes, and databases to maximum effect.
  3. Close--making the connection between what your potential client needs and what you have to offer.

Done well, your web visitors — perhaps now converted to clients — spread the good word about you and the services you provide. Smart calls-to-action offer visitors a way to solve their problems through your services. Able social media use aids in customer service while building customer loyalty. Great content helps existing clients achieve their business goals while introducing new concepts (and services) for their consideration.

Don't Market Your Services, Present Information

You knew there had to be a secret to all of this, some kernel of truth you could take away. Well here it is: Instead of marketing your architectural services, market information about architectural services. This marketing approach engages potential clients without intimidating them. It helps them identify experts, while you pre-sell your prospects.

And you've developed a relationships before ever picking up the phone.

The Tried And True...

market an architecture firm business cards, marketing strategies, prospective clients, business development, case studies, marketing effort, architectural services, architecture marketing, design firm, online marketing, building relationships, step by step, lead generation, marketing tools, marketing for architects, small businesses, public speaking, social media, existing clients, potential clientsYou know the traditional methods of getting your name out there:

  • Join trade associations
  • Speak at seminars
  • Attend trade shows
  • Participate in industry conferences
  • Write articles for trade publications
  • Put out a newsletter
  • Do pro bono work
  • etc.

But should all that go away? The answer is probably not. If it's working for you, it's a good thing to stick with it. However, do know that an overwhelming majority of your potential clients are searching for things online, and they need to find you, evaluate you, and ultimately - trust you.

 

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