Marketing is the life-blood of a business. 

Good marketing equates to more sales.  Without sales, a business dies.

There are broadly three types of marketing that architects (and other professionals) employ; 1) No marketing resulting in business failure, 2) Crap marketing resulting in the architect working in a business like it is a chain around their neck dealing with crap clients and fighting against reduced fees, and 3) great marketing where the architect has pre-designed the outcome and is working with selected clients willing to pay the architects desired fee.

Architects (and others) suck at marketing basically because they are not taught it.  Marketing is a tangible and teachable thing and while there may be naturally gifted people with great marketing genes, most of us have to learn it if we are going to do well in business.

Business owners and directors need to change from working in the business as a technician, to working on the business as a strategist, which includes the habit of continuous learning about business winning practices such as marketing.  Learning could be simply be reading books.  There are so many good marketing books and there are so many different ways to learn.  The outcome with this education is for practice leaders to basically understand and start to implement good marketing principles.

Steve Plummer of Symmetry Marketing on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland wants architects to improve their marketing, and says,

To get ahead of the competition, you don’t have to be a world class marketer or copywriter, you just need to be better at it than others in your niche.  Even if you hire an outside marketer, you can use these fundamentals to hold them to account and you’ll also understand more of what they are talking about.

When architects decide to open a practice, if they are not self-educating about marketing, they often just copy what other architects are doing.  This can be like the blind leading the blind because the other architects likely have little marketing education also.  Even if the copied architects are doing good marketing, the copying of what they are doing is not setting up the new practice to be unique.  It is the deliberately created uniqueness of a practice that needs to be the thing that attracts the type of clients that that practice decided to have from the start.  This type of client attraction also involves saying “No” to clients that don’t fit into the practices ideal client profile.

The important concept with this is; attracting a particular type of client, as opposed to chasing random prospects.  Working hard to engage these random prospects often leads to reduced fees and unhappy relationships.  The best business relationship is one where the client has been attracted to the business specific but unique way of working and comes without coercion and willing to pay the fee because they think that that business is the only one for them.

Determining the uniqueness of a business requires the business owner to think hard and long about the exact specifics of what they want to stand for, what sort of service and product they want to market, and what sort of client they wish to serve (trying to win all types of clients is a big mistake).  Market research also needs to be done to determine what these ideal clients are thinking and searching for.

All this then needs to be put into a USP (unique selling proposition) to be displayed in all marketing.  Instead of telling a prospective client that your practice is client centric and meets clients needs on time and on budget (like every other architect is saying and what is expected anyway) use the USP.  You want your ideal client seeing your marketing and being instantly attracted to it because it seems it has been written for them.

And the proper copywriting presentation of content is essential.  This involves use of headlines, sub-heads, bullet-points, language and more.  Out of these, headlines are arguably the most critical.  A headline needs to grab the attention of prospective clients and without it they just walk on by.  A business name is not a headline.  Steve Plummer agrees and says,

“No one wakes up thinking about searching for your business.  They wake up thinking about a solution to their problem.  A headline needs to reflect your solution because when people search, they search for an answer to a problem.  A business name is not a solution.”

Marketing in all its different forms also needs to be tested.  To do this, you need to have actions that you want prospective clients to take (called Direct Response Marketing), like downloading an educational e-book in exchange for a name and an email address.  Once you have testing mechanisms in place, you can use results to improve marketing content and results.

Marketing is a huge field which is why several professions are dedicated to different aspects of it.  Nevertheless, business owners and directors who make a continuous habit of marketing study will be better able to steer their practice to having better clients and better outcomes.  Even if outside marketing professionals are engaged, the educated practitioner will be better able to direct them, better able to judge their results, and will understand more of what they say and do.  These educated practitioners don’t suck at marketing.

Article by Greg Blain, ArchiAssist

Greg Blain is an Australian Architect, having started his career in 1978 as a first year architectural student in Brisbane, QLD. Greg registered as an Architect in 1989 and licensed as a commercial Builder in 2000.

Greg has concentrated his decades of experience to now focus on helping Architects and Designers achieve better results with documentation and other Practice matters, through his company ArchiAssist Pty Ltd.