I don’t want to be rude but …
If my marketing lecturers were any good at marketing, then they’d never have become academics wearing bow ties. My point is that although you did not complete a marketing degree, NEVER feel intimidated by people like me who did.
After four years at university, I walked away with an A- in marketing.
Academic Theory – YES
Purchased the lecturer’s boring book – YES
Any idea how to sell – NONE whatsoever!!! (Generating leads or selling wasn’t even a distant smell on the academic curriculum).
If you asked any of my class how to get leads for an architecture firm through marketing, we would have stared blankly at you, then coughed a few times before heading to the bathroom, never to return.
And if you think a marketing agency is any better, then I have more bad news for you. Agencies tend to specialize in unmeasurable, ‘get our name out there’ branding and brand advertising style marketing, which means you have no idea if your marketing is actually helping you win more projects (more on this later).
QUESTION: How many ads on TV do you see for advertising agencies?
What do agencies know about their type of marketing that you don’t?
Branding may appear to work for Coke or Nike with their billion dollar budgets, but it won’t work for marketing an architecture firm, I promise.
So how does an ad agency generate their business?
By cold calling, networking and responding to proposal requests. Not advertising. Pretty funny, right?
If you feel underprepared in selling your services, then think again.
You are no less prepared than an ‘A’ student majoring in marketing or a creative director at an advertising agency.
All three of you have little chance of generating anything more than the odd referral or the chance finding of a client by networking.
This leaves you with a major problem.
If you want to GROW, or if you want to CHANGE the quality of projects you work on, then you are in trouble. Because you’re not even being invited to the party for your dream projects; they don’t even know you exist.
You’re stuck on the hamster wheel, doing the same unfulfilling projects for clients who have unrealistic expectations … That is, unless you know what I am about to share with you about successful marketing for architects.
Finally, some good news …
In the next five minutes you’ll learn more about marketing architectural services than I learned in four years at university studying marketing.
And certainly, a lot more than any marketing agency hack.
Okay, let’s go. First, we need to understand THREE basic principles:
- Marketing is nothing more than fishing.
- Sell the problems you solve, not the services you offer.
- Whoever educates the market owns the market.
If you can understand my fishing analogy, then you can understand marketing.
STEP 1. Select the fish
Clients are like fish; some fish are great eating, but many are not.
I like blue cod, beautiful flaky filets, but if I were to put a line in the water near my house, I would not catch one.
Likewise, if I drop my marketing message any old place, I would be unlikely to catch my ideal client either.
We need to be SPECIFIC, about WHO we want.
So your first step is to identify your best fish; if you want to catch cod, then there certain rules and procedures you’ll need to follow.
If you want to catch swordfish, then you need a completely different game plan.
Once you have defined your ideal — blue cod— client, everything gets reverse engineered.
What is a blue cod client to you?
You might target a blue cod as:
- A professional couple
- Have a $500k+ budget
- Appreciate and want great design
- Appreciate and want sustainable design
- Happy to refer you to their friends
What is a mud eel client to avoid?
- Won’t tell you their budget because they don’t trust you
- Have unrealistic expectations of what can be done
- Price-driven and getting three quotes from architects
- Don’t understand the difference between a draftsman and an architect
- Won’t refer you
Now that we know what a blue cod client looks like, we need to find out where these deliciously fat little creatures swim.
Step 2. Find the right fishing spot
Blue cod, mud eels and swordfish don’t swim in the same place or eat the same bait. You could have the best fishing gear in the world but if we drop the bait where there are no fish, then you are wasting your time.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Who are the influences to your blue cod client? Maybe we can fish through these people (have you heard of my Dirty 30 strategy?).
- Do these people live in any particular area? Maybe we can use signage in their neighborhood.
- What type of house do these ideal clients already live in? Maybe we can advertise in their neighborhood.
- Who else is already selling to or advising your blue cod clients? Maybe we can we can do joint marketing with these people.
- What publication do they subscribe to? Maybe we can advertise there, get free coverage on a project or even write for the publication.
- Are there any public domain records that identify your blue cod? Maybe public records can tell us their age, income or if they have recently purchased a house.
- Who is a speaker they would turn up to listen to? Maybe we can we can run an event with this speaker and you.
- What sort of trade shows do they attend? Maybe we can we can buy a table or a stand.
- Which associations or clubs do they belong to? Maybe we can we can write for or advertise through the association newsletter or even join the club.
You see, the key to catching the best fish is finding the right fishing spot.
A bad fisherman in the right location is better than the world’s best fisherman in an empty pond. By going where the best fish swim, you are ahead of every other competitor and so close to success – get excited!
Step 3. Understand how the fish thinks
‘Sell the problem you solve, not the solution you offer.’
Once we know WHO and WHERE our ideal fish swim, we need to identify the bait that attracts them. In this case, our best bait is problem-solving information.
Saying ‘I am an architect’ does not differentiate you from a thousand others in your area, so that is not great bait.
Sure, you might get inquiries, but many of those will be inedible mud eels that have unrealistic expectations and can’t work out why you are more expensive than a draftsman buddy of theirs who has already quoted a low fee.
Everyone who has a big goal, like building a beautifully designed, sustainable house or a commercially attractive industrial building, has a series of known problems and obstacles to overcome to reach their destination.
If we offer to solve any of the many known obstacles, then our fish will swim towards our bait.
‘What are the three most commonly asked questions by my ideal clients are already asking?’
Here are three examples of possible problem-solving bait:
- ‘How much will my sustainably designed home cost me?’
- ‘What is the process for converting industrial sheds into office units?’
- ‘Who are the experts I’ll need advice from before I can build my dream home in Orange County?’
Step 4. Create The Bait
So now we know the fish we want to catch.
We know their questions or problems; now we need to create the bait.
This is easy because we simply convert the questions into titles and answer the question.
- FREE REPORT ‘How much will my sustainably designed home cost me? Top architect reveals how to work out your ballpark number.’
- FREE REPORT ‘What is the process for converting industrial sheds into office units? Top architect shares the 12 step-by-step process you must take to avoid overpaying.’
- FREE REPORT ‘Who are the building experts I’ll need to hire to build my modern sustainable home on the south coast? Free directory of all the local experts you will need in one handy booklet.’
These problem-solving informational reports don’t need to be anything more than a few pages. Often, a one-page flowchart, mind map or checklists are more popular than a longer, more detailed document. The criteria here is that it solves the problem (at least at a high level) fast, positions you in a favorable light and makes the fish hunger for more.
Step 5. Add The Hook
We could send our great problem-solving information out into the world to admire, but that would be like dropping the bait into the water. The fish would eat and swim away and you’d still be hungry.
We need to catch them; we need a hook. Our ‘hook’ is called a ‘call to action.’ This is where we offer to give the fish the information they crave in return for their name and contact details.
Did you read that last sentence? DON’T just give them the information; they have to request it, and ‘we will send via email, video link or by post.’
Does this process work?
Sure it does, read on and you’ll see what I mean.
We now need a hook. This is easy: You simply offer your problem-solving information in return for their name and contact details.
There should be a strong, clear, direct call to action. Tell the person exactly what you want him or her to do. Do you want her to pick up the phone and call? Should he go to a website? Come in to a business? When? What will happen when he does?
Here's a good call to action, for example:
‘Simply email us and type “free report” in the subject line; in the email, also include your name and postal address as well as when you want your project completed by. You will receive your report within 7 days. Then, if you still have questions, schedule a free 15-minute Ask the Expert phone session with Richard Petrie. Details about this will be included with the report.’
Step 6. Attach A Line
Okay, so your perfect fish bites the bait, gets hooked and now you need to reel it in. Just because this fish has taken a big bite of your bait doesn’t mean it is going to jump into your boat. That would be no fun! So you need to follow up.
Your follow up sequence is your fishing line, a series of small and connected communications repeating an offer of a slightly larger bite.
Your follow up may consist of a friendly phone call, letter or a couple of emails.
Here is a pro tip: If you follow up three times, then you will get double the appointments you’d get if you only followed up once.
Step 7. Measure the Fish
The final and crucial step is to track your results. You may be fishing for three different types of fish, or you may be fishing for the same blue cod in three different locations. It’s good to test different fishing spots, but you need to track which bait, which location, which hook and which line perform the best. You are a pro, aren’t you?
Each variable needs to be tracked so you know what is working and what is not. Obvious, right? Of course.
Step 8. Breeding the Best Fish
Okay, so this is not technically ‘fishing’; if you have a few ideal blue cod, then it makes sense to find some more of them in the easiest way possible. If there is one creature that knows where the blue cod swim, then surely it is none other than a blue cod as well.
Set up a referral system to ‘breed’ your blue cod. This is even easier than fishing for them. Just ask the blue cod you know, ‘Who else is like you and talking to you about doing a similar project? Can you introduce us to each other?’
And that my friend, is how you systematize marketing an architecture firm.
These eight simple steps are more bankable for getting pragmatic results than anything I learned for my university marketing degree.
If you just promote yourself as an ‘architect,’ then you are one in a crowd; you might get inquiries, but many of those will be inedible mud eels who have price as their #1 criterion.
If you promote yourself as a specialist through problem-solving information in the way I just explained, then you will be the ONLY one in your area.
By ‘selling the problems you solve, not the service you offer,’ you will become unique and attract 10x more leads than any of your competitors who are just using traditional approaches.
Whoever educates the market owns the market.
An unending supply of perfect blue cod is only a few educational steps away.
As Einstein said, ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’