Happy Anniversary, Architect Marketing Institute. As we look back on the past decade, our team is inspired by all the architects and designers who we’ve had the pleasure of working with. Teaching strategies that help architects attract better projects, our programs fuel the fire of their successes. We cherish the gift of guiding every one of our clients to become the hero of their own story. Motivated by the growing community, each AMI member is given the tools to continually draft, design, and build the custom life they deserve.
So how did a CAD specialist from California pair up with a professional cricket player from New Zealand to create a powerhouse of marketing expertise for architects and designers? Reflecting on how it all began, Eric Bobrow shares AMI’s origin story with Content Queen Sienna Heath.
The first spark
As a successful reseller and trainer for ArchiCAD software, Eric mastered online marketing while developing add-on products and marketing tools for his architect clients. Strategic website development led to more effective lead generation and Eric built a framework for training architects. The launch of the “Internet Marketing for Architects” pilot program with 15 architects on February 28, 2012 was the starting point for this long, winding journey.
Responding to the need for proactive architects to get found by their ideal clients, Eric’s small team then created information-rich articles and videos for each of the firm’s websites. Every piece of content was custom created for each designer, showcasing their unique expertise. Due to the personalized style of the program, it wasn’t long before the pilot members' websites attracted lots of traffic. There was obviously a need and a niche market for architect marketing itself, and so this evolved quickly into a structured program with more than 100 firms implementing these strategies specific to the field.
Strategies for becoming a well-known architect
Moving forward, the growing community learned how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plays a major role in helping architects get found on Google. Eric helped the designers create clear messages built around their preferred specialty areas – residential, commercial, historical landmark renovation, etc. They worked on content, created images and included video interviews which helped build the architect’s authority.
As the architects became more ambitious, their confidence increased. As Eric inspired them to take their marketing to the next level, many of the members broke out of their comfort zones and began to explore opportunities for public relations. A press release strategy was introduced, pitching noteworthy projects and firm news to editors who could feature the architects in newspapers, magazines and web portals to get them found by their ideal clients/target audience.
Connecting with experts: Richard Petrie and Enoch Sears
As Eric shared this knowledge, his program evolved into a coaching environment with guest speakers. In 2013, Eric started to reach out to different authorities in marketing, particularly marketing for architects; one of these was Enoch Bartlett Sears AIA.
He says: “Enoch was working as an architect and had written an article: ‘Dear Architect, Why Your Website Sucks’. The basic point was if it's all about you (meaning the architect, how great you are and your portfolio) then you're missing the point. People need to know what's in it for them. What problems can you solve that they have? What opportunities can you help them to achieve?” [00:09:18]
That same year, Richard Petrie, a marketing expert from New Zealand and a top-level cricket player with insights on high performance sports psychology, had started working with architect Mona Quinn, and achieved fantastic results.
Over the next year, Eric, Richard, and Enoch joined forces and formed the Architect Marketing Institute.
Eric highlights Richard’s expertise: “Richard is amazing at understanding people's psychology on different levels. As an architect, how do you change your attitude from being a humble servant to being in charge of the process, knowing what you're worth and not giving away lots of time, designs, and advice?
“How do you guide that process so that you get paid what you're worth? And how do you communicate your value in a way that people go, ‘Wow, I really want to work with you because you're a specialist in this area and you bring some skills to the table that no one else talks about in that way’?” [00:11:19]
The brilliance of the LCC
Many of our members say that Richard's development of the Low Commitment Consultation (LCC) offer has changed their lives. Over the past 11 years, many of them have implemented this strategy so that they get paid for pre-design work they used to do for free. This early research that architects do is worth a significant fee because this is when the architect can help the client evaluate whether their project is feasible. The LCC process will diagnose the client’s needs and aspirations, pin down the program or brief, and coordinate this with the site, legal requirements and budget so that it can move forward.
As Richard says, with the LCC you already have a client. You already have a business relationship. You've already had the chance to get to know the client and see that (or if) you can both work together. It's an incremental step between the discussions and the full contract.
“Outline your terms and conditions upfront with every client,” he tells his inner circle of architects. “This eliminates the risk of misunderstandings and fee haggling and quickly puts everyone on the same page.”
Two main ingredients that create success for our clients
Zooming out from the specifics of marketing strategies, there are two big-picture factors that make a huge difference in the success of our clients: 1) our coaching group, and 2) our guided implementation, so much so that they say, “Wow, this has changed my life and my business.”
Eric explains, “In our coaching sessions, any questions that come up along the way can be answered. And we have interesting discussions about challenges, ideas and theories. We also share the wins, progress and achievements that our members have along the way. It’s inspiring. Members come away with more momentum, more excitement, more strength to push through when things don't work so simply.” [00:16:34]
Many architect groups are filled with competitors who don't want to share sales and marketing ideas freely. Rather than feel overwhelmed by local competition, design professionals from around the world release that feeling of isolation for a sense of community in groups led by Richard and Eric. These architects gain much-needed clarity, and, when they make progress, their peers are cheering them on and understand the challenges they face.
In the AMI community, members also have access to a guided marketing system that makes it easy for them to implement our strategies. There’s a structure to follow through the training, a step-by-step which eases any overwhelm. It’s created with the understanding that, for many architects, marketing is outside their comfort zone. Coaching gives members the confidence, energy, and enthusiasm to be able to keep going.
Our clients enjoy the journey
Over 11 years we've gone from a small internet marketing group to a comprehensive program that motivates architects to attract better projects through confident networking, structured sales processes, website development, newsletter writing, and other strategies that get them standing out from the crowd.
Our primary offers are the SIX+MAPS program and the Mastermind program where we help clients get better projects. Based on Richard’s Sunshine Island story, the Sunshine Island Express (SIX) offers the starting steps to attracting and winning better projects by focusing on a high value client (by delivering a high value result to a high value client) and by positioning yourself so that you are #1 in a category of one. The program helps you create the basic building blocks of your marketing.
Then, the Mastermind program goes more in-depth with advanced strategies and through one-on-one help with Richard. As a Mastermind member, you get to work in a team of ambitious, proactive architects regularly to maximize results. Building on Eric’s early PR offers, now our Mastermind members do long-form interviews with AMI’s content team to really hone in on their target audience and illustrate stories around their specific niche in monthly newsletters and blog posts.
Among several loyal Masterminders, architects Roderick Anderson and Peter Twohy have been in our program from almost the beginning. Roderick has gone from doing projects he liked to doing projects that he really loves such as custom sustainable luxury homes in Costa Rica where he guides clients in designing “safety sanctuaries.” Having won multiple awards and become sought-after internationally, he attributes much of his success to implementing AMI strategies. As for Peter, he used to shrug and say he just designs porches…but now he is known for residential renovation and new construction projects as one of the top 5 architects in Maryland. Peter says: “I worried that marketing was just selling. I learned from AMI, marketing means educating. Now, clients respond to my confidence. We communicate better than ever. It’s an amazing transformation.”
Eric reflects: “If somebody came along and said, ‘I need to redo my porch,’ Peter would work up the drawings. And now he jokingly says, ‘now I only do Porsches.’” [00:23:07]
All of our members mature in their own ways. But overall, the fees they're charging are double, triple, sometimes even more because they've learned how to communicate their value. Most importantly, their projects are better and more fulfilling.
Marking the moment of 11 years and looking ahead
Toward the end of his interview with content editor Sienna Heath, Eric says, “It’s been wonderfully gratifying to see. I'm really proud that we're raising the bar for so many architects around the world. Because I think architects have an amazing profession and [they are] good people.”
He continues, “I think we’re creating something that's very special and unique in terms of architecture, helping the small firm, primarily the architects who aren't trained in marketing and sales have more self-respect, be more effective at communicating their value and get paid better for what they do.
“We're helping a wonderful group of people―architects, building designers, and interior designers―have a better life because you need to be able to communicate your value. You need to be able to find the right clients. You need to be able to get paid well for what you do because what you do is so special. Ultimately, helping you is our mission. I'm glad our team is focused on a noble cause.” [00:28:46]
Watch Eric and Sienna celebrate Architect Marketing Institute’s 10th Birthday here.