Architecture Firm Marketing: 5 Sure-Fire Ways to Get Clients Now

Architecture Firm Marketing

Architecture firm marketing can be overwhelming since it's different than marketing any other business. If you are looking for strategies to get more clients as quickly as possible, you've found the right place.

Now, first of all, let me make one thing clear – if you’re looking for a magic ‘architecture firm marketing’ bullet, I’m sorry to disappoint.

The best marketing is strategic and takes a long-term approach.

If a client is already shopping for an architect, I’m afraid you’re too late to the party.

Clients who are ready to ‘hire now’ are in comparison shopping mode.

If you don’t have a strong value proposition or differentiation, clients will evaluate you based on your fees.

This is not good for your health or long-term happiness.

This is why, when I’m asked to speak to audiences from around the world, I teach strategies for getting in front of potential architecture clients BEFORE they are looking to hire a firm.

It‘s hard to compete when you haven’t laid the proper groundwork ahead of time.

Architecture Firm Marketing Takes Time, Diligence, and Hard Work To Be Successful

That said, I know you came here looking for strategies to get clients now, so here are five of the best based on my experience.

1. Use a Lead Generation Service

The absolute quickest way to get new architecture clients is to sign up for a lead generation service.

A lead generation service is a company that specializes in running online ads to attract people who are searching for an architect in your local area.

For instance, let’s say you’re an architect based in my hometown of Visalia, California.

If you run a Google search for “Visalia architect” you might see an ad like this:

google search for architectural designers in visalia (example of Architecture Firm Marketing)

If you were to click on the ad, you’d be taken to a page with a simple survey, like this:

architects and building designers survey (example of Architecture Firm Marketing)

After a potential client has filled out the survey, the contact information of the potential client (the ‘lead’) is then sent to two or three local architects who have paid to use this service.

The architecture firms that receive the lead then need to follow up and compete to win the client.

Some companies that offer this type of service are Houzz.com, HomeAdvisor.com, and Thumbtack.com.

Be forewarned that, with these services, you may get a lot of low-quality leads. Read the Pros and Cons below for more about this.

Pros

The pro of using a lead generation service like this is that you can get project leads as quickly as the day you sign up!

If you’re desperate for work, this is a pretty cool deal – it beats going bankrupt or getting a job.

Cons

Here’s what you should seriously consider before you sign up for one of these services.

First, the leads you’ll get from these services are residential and light commercial, so if you’re looking for larger projects (institutional or corporate for example), don’t use this strategy.

Secondly, be prepared to expect a lot of unqualified leads.

These services don’t qualify candidates, and people will give misinformation (they might misstate their budget, for example).

Based on my experience and the experience of other architects I’ve worked with, you can expect a one in 10 hit rate from these types of services.

This means that if you pay $40 per lead, winning a project will cost you $400 (10 leads x $40/lead).

$400 might sound like a lot to win a project; however, if you’re billing several thousand or more in fees, it isn’t too hard to get a positive return on your investment.

This strategy definitely isn’t for everyone.

However, I know at least one architect who gets a large portion of his work from HomeAdvisor leads (he does Tenant Improvement and residential work only).

For this to work for you, you need to have a solid follow-up process in place and expect that nine out of 10 leads won’t be a fit.

2. Public Speaking

Yes, the only thing people fear more than public speaking is death itself.

This strategy isn’t for everyone, but if you want the most effective strategy for winning architecture clients now and to successfully marketing architecture firm, this one tops my list.

Here’s how it works:

Find an opportunity to speak about an area of your expertise to a group of your potential clients.

When you speak to a captive audience, you’re positioned as an in-demand expert.

Just be sure to focus on teaching or sharing something of value with your audience and not only promoting your firm.

When potential clients see your expertise, many will naturally want to work with you.

Speaking venues can be industry conferences and tradeshows, or you can organize and host a workshop.

For instance, if you’re a California architecture firm looking for K-12 school work, get a firm member to speak at the annual C.A.S.H. conference (California's Coalition for Adequate School Housing).

If you want to win more medical facility commissions, you might speak at the Healthcare Design Expo.

If you’re looking for residential clients, host a ‘remodel ideas’ workshop or speak at local networking groups like Rotary or Lions.

Don’t forget about online speaking opportunities like webinars, where you can reach a large audience but save on travel expense.

Pros

This strategy works fabulously well if your architecture firm is in a non-single family home market sector.

Speaking to a group of your potential clients changes the selling dynamic because it puts you in the position of authority and expert.

You leverage your time by getting your expert message in front of many potential clients at once.

In contrast, imagine how long it would take for you to make your presentation individually to each person in that audience.

By speaking to a group, you’re able to build a relationship with many people all at once!

You’ll find that meeting people face-to-face can result in many unexpected opportunities.

In addition to getting clients now, it is also a good long-term strategy because it increases your firm’s brand recognition and reputation.

Cons

You have to speak in front of people, enough said.

Lining up a speaking engagement can take a bit of time, which may be a problem if you are hard-pressed to get clients now.

It can also cost extra money if travel is involved.

3. Get Published

Number three on my list to get clients now, right behind public speaking, is getting published in traditional media, like a local magazine, newspaper or an industry publication.

Getting published adds to your authority and aura of expertise.

You must be good if you’re in print, right?

New Zealand architect Mona Quinn got a flood of good quality leads for her architecture firm when she was written up in the local newspaper.

The key to getting potential clients to call her up was mentioning a free booklet in the article (otherwise known as the Monkey’s Fist strategy).

For the article strategy to work, the article must be in a publication that is read by your potential client group.

It won’t do you much good if your article isn’t seen by any potential clients.

To get published, focus on building relationships with journalists and editors, pitching articles, and issuing press releases, in that order.

Insider Tip

Here's an insider tip on getting published: make friends with the photographers that shoot architecture for your local newspaper (hint: hire them to shoot a project).

Baltimore Architect Peter Twohy, a member of our Architect Marketing Academy first brought this strategy to our attention.

Kennett Square, Pennsylvania architect Ed Rahme, tried out this strategy when he first heard about it and got published immediately.

Here's his result:

Architect Ed Rahme published (example of Architecture Firm Marketing)

Pros

Getting published is much more effective than taking out an ad. It is a lot more convincing when someone else sings your praises.

This strategy can be very low-cost, or even free.

You don’t have to wait for someone to write about you … you can offer to write an article around your area of expertise.

Your time is leveraged and you can reuse the article by sending it to current and past clients.

Cons

If you don’t have a good story or a good ‘hook,’ it is unlikely you’ll be published.

However, don’t let this stop you. Any firm can come up with a good hook with a little creativity.

You’ll need to be diligent because journalists and editors are often bombarded with requests.

If a journalist writes about your firm, they may misquote you or say something that isn’t entirely accurate.

Ask if you can proof the article before it goes to print.

As with any other marketing exercise, you need to find a way to stand out.

However, if you do, getting published is a fantastically effective way to market your architecture firm.

4. Reach Out To People Who Didn't Move Ahead in the Past

Architecture firm marketing should also include a plan to convert past leads. One of the best sources of getting clients now is going back to people who may have inquired about your services in the past and not moved ahead.

If you’ve been in business for a while, you probably have a long list of these contacts.

You did store their contact details in an organized place, right?

The best place to store contact information is in a Client Relationship Management tool like ArchReach, the CRM for Architects.

To follow up with your unconverted prospects, simply send them an email and ask them,

‘Are you still considering doing your _______ [fill in the blank] project?'

That’s it.

Don’t get wordy or try to explain too much.

Based on my experience, you’ll get a better response if you keep your email short and to the point.

The goal here is to open up a conversation that may lead to a new project.

Even if they aren’t ready to move ahead, they may refer you to someone who is.

Pros

The pros of this strategy are that it is easy to implement and doesn’t cost much money or time.

Cons

On the con side, you won’t be able to use this strategy if you are a new architecture firm or you haven’t been keeping track of your leads (shame on you!).

5. Reach Out To Your Network

This is the strategy that I see most architecture firm owners using when they need architecture clients fast.

To deploy this battle plan, call or visit your network contacts in person and ask them if they know anyone that is considering a project.

Yes, it is uncomfortable (unless you’re weird).

However, it is one of the quickest and sure-fire ways to fill up your architecture project pipeline quickly.

Pros

If you have a good network, you can pick up some good projects fast.

It doesn’t cost more than your time (and perhaps a bit of your dignity).

Even if a contact doesn’t have a project for you, it’s a good way to catch up with your network and see how you can help them.

Cons

You can’t use this strategy if you don’t have a network.

It can feel like you’re running around without much to show for it. Most people won’t have a project that is at the ready stage.

Where to Go From Here

You’ve just read my list of top ways to get more architecture clients fast.

Anyone of them can work you, but you must actually take action and do something to see results.

While these strategies will help you win some clients in the short term, the very best strategy in marketing an architecture firm  is to take a strategic long-term approach.

Having a strategic long-term approach will make the difference between always wondering where the next project will come from and having a waiting list of clients who have sought your firm out.

Architecture is a profession built on relationships, and these relationships are built over time.

If you’re ready to prevent this mad dash for clients in the future, attend my next free AIA-approved webinar on marketing for architects. Register here (and earn 1 LU).

Now you are off to a great start! Click the following for more strategic, long-term strategies for marketing an architecture firm and a blog post on building authority with clients as an architect.

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10comments
Randy Chorvack - July 24, 2019

I agree when you say that the best marketing is strategic and takes a long time. A strategy is important for anything you want to be done well. Careful planning not only helps you but it helps your business.

Reply
    Sienna Mae Heath - July 24, 2019

    Well said, Randy!

    Reply
Siska Vergauwe - March 27, 2019

Hey Enoch,

I’m Siska, content writer at ArchiSnapper.

I just want to say thank you so much for this article. I found your content very useful and straightforward.

Will definitely keep you in mind for future articles as we have been working on some marketing articles recently.

Thanks again!

Reply
    Sienna Mae Heath - March 27, 2019

    Hey Siska, thanks for stopping by! I’m a content writer here at AMI and would enjoy reading your marketing articles as well. Checked out ArchiSnapper – we love to see how architects can increase their productivity and land ideal projects.

    Reply
Kathy - January 3, 2018

Eric –

Thanks for the reply. I have been getting quite a few Porch inquires lately but each are quite pricey. The price I need to pay them for an architect inquiry with no guarantee is $34. I am hesitant to respond. I have a hard time believing that any of these leads will materialize. To me, it feels like a blind dating service. These perspective clients can’t see my work or even have any idea of my service or fee structure until I pay the Porch fee. I am thinking that if anyone is interested in hiring me, they would want to see my portfolio first.

I am looking into HomeAdvisor. Is HomeAdvisor similar to Porch?

Thanks,
Kathy

Reply
    ami-admin - January 8, 2018

    Kathy – It’s hard to say whether Porch or Home Advisor will be a useful lead source for you. It depends on several factors: the quality of the leads (are they looking for a handyman or would they actually need an architect) and their expectations (do they have any concept of a architect’s design fees and process), as well as your ability (and interest) in winning their confidence and ultimately their business.

    However, the fee of $34 may or not be any issue at all. Let’s say that you make $1,000 profit on a small remodel project. I’m guessing it normally is much higher, however for the sake of argument, let’s use this lowball number. If you got 10 inquiries and paid $34 each, and won one of these projects, you’d be spending $340 to make $1000 profit. When you look at it this way, then $34 may be actually a low cost, assuming there is some gold mixed in with the gravel.

    Of course, you also have to take into account the time it takes to sift through the low-quality inquiries. If you have an efficient method to educate and qualify leads (using a Monkey’s Fist and some automated or boilerplate emails and/or a well-structured call qualification script) and only have to put in personal time talking to the people who legitimately could benefit (and pay for) your services, then it all just MIGHT work out.

    These are all considerations whenever we evaluate any marketing efforts or lead source – how much will it eventually cost to win a client (in this hypothetical example, $340), how much is the job worth to you (in this case $1,000), and how much effort will it take (compared to other ways of acquiring clients).

    I hope this is helpful.

    Reply
Kathy - January 2, 2018

What about using Porch as a marketing idea? Is this source useful or is it a scam? Are they a legitimate source for potential clients to find architects? I work out of my home so I don’t have a storefront.

Thanks

Reply
    ami-admin - January 2, 2018

    Hi Kathy – I checked out Porch.com and it looks like a legitimate site, however it appears to be focused on finding contractors to do home improvements. Their home page asks “what do you need?” and suggests options like “handyman, plumber, install a sink”. So it’s not likely that there will be many people using that portal who need an architect.

    Many residential architects have found Houzz.com to be a useful portal, since they specifically include architects as a section of their site. Some have found advertising on their portal to be helpful, others have said it’s a waste of money. Ultimately, it always comes down to the combination of audience (who visits a website) and the visibility of your listing (how easy or prominent your position is) AND what you show, communicate and offer (is it just “give us a call when you want to talk to an architect” or are you offering free educational information like a Monkey’s Fist that establishes you as a thought leader and helpful expert).

    I hope this is helpful…
    – Eric Bobrow, Co-Founder, Architect Marketing Institute

    Reply
Aric Gitomer - January 16, 2017

Hi Enoch,
Good article, just a minor correction, Houzz is not a lead generation site as you describe. For Houzz you pay up front for a year of exposure as a sponsor. They present your images and promote your site. Clients reach out directly to the professional and there are no additional charges. For me I have had some success with Houzz but not as much as they have promised. On the other hand I am new to Homeadvisor and as of now I’m 3 for 3 and quite happy with their model. I chose “lead select” allowing me to pick and choose the leads that look good to me.
Ric

Reply
    ami-admin - January 17, 2017

    Hey Ric, thanks for dropping by.

    I’m very familiar with the offerings Houzz has, including the ‘sponsored’ placement. I’m actually referring to something different, which is actual lead generation. They may not offer it in all areas, or what I saw may be part of a pilot program.

    I’m glad to hear that Homeadvisor is working well for you, that’s a great hit rate (3/3)!

    Enoch

    Reply
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