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:
If you were to click on the ad, you’d be taken to a page with a simple survey, like this:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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?'
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.
The pros of this strategy are that it is easy to implement and doesn’t cost much money or time.
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.
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.
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).