Marketing for Architects

Marketing for Architects
Lucy works exclusively with for architects

Monday, 17 December 2012

Don't forget to tell your neighbours and family about your business

Do your parents actually know what you do?  Have you reminded your next-door-neighbour know what kind of architecture you practice?  Have you told your cousin with who your dream client would be?  You will probably be seeing a lot of friends and family over the next few weeks - so this is another chance to communicate your marketing message.

This is not the place for the 'hard' sell - and you may naturally prefer to be self-deprecating, pessimistic or 'honest' with you nearest and dearest.  But in my experience, focus and consistency in the key to effective marketing.  By articulating to everyone, what you want, you also reinforce the message in your own mind and increase your motivation and self-confidence.    

I have also found that by any doubt is easily transmitted not only to the listener but to yourself.  As with clients, family and friends prefer chatting to someone who is positive about themselves and not whingeing about themselves.  Think about thus now and practice a soft version of your elevator pitch suitable for friends and family.

So in the nicest possible way - I recommend giving an upbeat message about your business to as many people as possible and let your friends and family know what your dream job would be.  

You may be surprised - they may be able to help.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Why you need to go to all the parties you can

The run up to Christmas and New Year is a time of parties.  All architects should take advantage of these parties to network with existing and old clients, other construction industry professionals who may influence the selection of architects and make new contacts.  It's also an opportunity to refine your marketing message - make sure people are upto date with who you are and what kind of buildings you want to design.

So here are some reminders before you leave work early to go to a Christmas drink's party or 'bonenkai' (Japanese end of year drink's party):

  1. Look the part - architecture is about people as much as buildings - and you personally embody the image of your brand - do you like like an architect?  At the recent Architect of the Year Event, I was struck by how the majority of architects had turned into anonymous business people.
  2. Carry a stack of business cards and hand them out - everyone forgets names
  3. Rehearse your elevator pitch - this is your quick introduction which effectively communicates your marketing message.  For more guide-lines on what to say in your elevator pitch look at my website
  4. Be positive and upbeat about your work - everyone prefers to do business with successful people
  5. Enjoy yourself - clients choose to work with people they like and who are fun to do business with
  6. Don't enjoy yourself too much (and don't tweet when you've had a few too many glasses of champagne)

Monday, 10 December 2012

Targeted marketing

Is your marketing message what your clients want to hear?  Are you telling them things they want to know? Or are you just pushing information about yourselves?  Is your website a catalogue of buildings? Is your marketing activity targeted - or is it a scatter-gun effect? 

First you need to 'segment' your market - group potential clients who have shared interests or values: this might be by industry sector (retail, office, residential), or by client type (private-domestic, commercial developer, public sector) or geographical location (local to your office, regional UK, international).  Then 'profile' that group - identify who they are and research the issues they share.

My clients are architects - so I make sure that all my marketing material includes a sexy image of a building:

This usually grabs their attention. It does not have to be a building, and it is not always appropriate to be promoting a particular architect, but images work well for my target clients.  For my Christmas cards, I have commissioned a range of colourful kitsch Christmas images:

As I write my Christmas message in my cards, I am now thinking through what issues are most affecting architects at the moment - and what service might they need in the New Year?  I am taking the RIBA Business Benchmarking report as my starting point, and know that 60% of architects practices do not have a business plan.  So my marketing message will be about planning for future success, and perhaps reminding people about the courses I run in central London.  I always feel the start of the year is a good time to review business and adjust objectives for the coming 12 months.

Please contact me if you would like more information.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The power of social networking

Architects are beginning to wake up to the power of 'social networking' - LinkedIn, twitter, facebook, tumblr, pinterest, flickr, google +  ... 

Here are a few guidelines for making the most of the opportunities on-line to raise your practice's profile.

1       Be clear about your objectives
  • why are you talking on twitter?  
  • why are you posting updates on facebook?
  • what is your message? 
  • who is it for?
2      Use the appropriate 'social media'
  • who are your followers and where are they on-line? 
  • with whom are you hoping to connect?
  • which social media are your potential clients following?
  • is it the press you are hoping to develop a relationship with? 
3       Keep it short and snappy
  • blogs and updates should be 'tasters' - inspiring the reader to want to know more about you
  • tone should appropriate (beware of whingeing)
  • beware of posting updates late at night, after drinking or when you are upset
4       Be consistent
  • your image on the internet should be a true reflection of your 'brand values'
  • decide whether you are posting as yourself or your practice - don't mix them up
  • keep to the point 
  • have fun and experiment to find out what works for you


    • I recommend setting aside a short time each day or week to maintain your on-line presence - 30 minutes at lunch-time, or Friday afternoons for example - try to remain focused so you don't end up frittering time away
    • Creating company pages on LinkedIn and facebook does not take long - and can increase traffic to your own website - try to update them a least once a month
    • Understand that LinkedIn works best for business-to-business relationships - great for connecting with other construction professionals and if you work in the commercial sectors.  Look for shared interest groups like hotels or MIPIM.
    • Facebook can be most powerful if you work in the private sector for domestic clients - however respect your clients' privacy and get permission before talking about their homes on the internet or posting photographs
    • Twitter can be very effective for developing relationship with the press - Anna Winston of BD on-line said recently that twitter was the best way to make contact with her
    • Understand that everything you post becomes part of the public domain - if you join in a discussion in the AJ LinkedIn group for example, your comments may be edited and published in the print edition

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Learning from the masters

Which architects are the masters of marketing?

In terms of marketing, Norman Foster is a master.  Sir Norman has never been shy of self promoting and publicising himself and his work through books, exhibitions and other PR activities. 
When I lectured the Part 3 professional practice course at the Bartlett in July, I needed a case study to illustrate the different elements that make up a typical business plan.The majority of young architects have never seen a business plan, indeed more than 60% of UK architectural practices don't have a business plan.   For confidentiality reasons, I obviously could not use any of my clients' business plans so I started to imagine what would Norman Foster's business plan might look like ...

What might Norman Foster's marketing plan have looked like for 2012? 

In terms of marketing objectives, Norman Foster and Partners clearly aims not to be a niche player or specialise in one industry.  The website targets 20 industry sectors:
  1. Bridge
  2. Communication
  3. Conference Hall
  4. Culture
  5. Exhibition
  6. Government
  7. Headquarters
  8. Health
  9. Education
  10. Housing
  11. Industrial
  12. Leisure
  13. Sport
  14. Office
  15. Mixed Use
  16. Master planning
  17. Research and Development
  18. Product Design
  19. Retail
  20. Transport

In terms of service segmentation, Norman Foster and Partners offers a full range of services 'from the scale of an airport to the detail of a door handle' and to operate in 145 countries across 5 continents.

Researching the marketing activities and media coverage of Norman Foster and Partners, revealed a fascinating mix of actions which have promoted the practice and raised Sir Norman's profile even higher in the public realm in 2012.
  1. Thames estuary airport design
  2. Competitions
  3. Awards
  4. RIBA Norman Foster travelling scholarship
  5. Charity – Computer Aid International
  6. Honorary Doctorate University of Madrid
  7. MIPIM
  8. Exhibitions
  9. Publications

The Thames Estuary has been an amazing piece of marketing and PR - the speculative investment of designing a new airport has led to a high profile public debate and extensive coverage in the press and interaction with highest level of government and private sector opinion leaders.

The RIBA Travelling Scholarship is about raising  Norman Foster's individual standing within the profession and the practice being able to have access to the most talented students.

The charitable projects generate positive perceptions about the practice and also extend the awareness of the practice into new markets.  The fact that the charity works with computers underlines the technology base of the practice's work.

What is impressive is the coherence of the marketing actions - they all share and add to the brand values of Norman Foster and Partners.

How can you learn from this master?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Exporting British design talent

British brands have huge international following - like Burberry, Mulberry ... British designers are cool - think Alexander McQueen, Zaha Hadid, Terence Conran, James Dyson, Jonathan Ive ...

Here is an opportunity for British architects to export their design skills internationally.

You don't have to be a enormous practice like Norman Foster or from metropolitan London - at the RIBA Guerrilla Tactics conference last week, Helen Ibbotson from Hope Valley in Derbyshire explained how her small practice has won significant work in China. You can see the range of projects on her (bilingual) website 

And Liz Vaising from the UKTI Creative Services (East of England region) advocated architects to check out  because there are grants available to visit new markets in Europe for as little as £99.  Brasil, Russia, India and China are the biggest markets - where you choose to go will depend on your specialisms, contacts ad preferences.  I think travelling with a group from your region is probably more effective than with trips sponsored by the RIBA.

The statistics speak for themselves: there will be more construction globally in emerging markets in developing countries than in the UK - and if your practice us looking to grow - you should not hesitate to consider international expansion.

Shin Marounouchi Tokyo

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

"I believe no one is ever 'un-cheered' by a Christmas card"
When it comes to direct marketing, I think the humble Christmas card is the very powerful.  In the nicest possible way, you can remind former clients and contacts that you exist.  You can update them about your news, gently inform them about what kind of architectural projects you like to do and let them know any important news such as change of address, new directors, or awards won ...

November is when you need to start planning your campaign - many printers offer 'early bird' rates - and it takes time to collate all the names and addresses.  For architects, it's also an opportunity to demonstrate your design talents.  If the card is beautiful enough, the recipient will keep it on display and other people will ask to have a look at it.
  • In an age of increasing digital media, I recommend printing real cards on beautiful paper.  
  • In a recessionary economy, I recommend sending double the amount of cards.  
  • In November, I recommend getting ready to post your cards in early December.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Marketing for Architects

Many architects dismiss marketing.  They think it is just PR.

Many architects don't like PR.  They think it's all about 'schmoozing' the press.

Many architects are wrong.  Marketing is communicating with your clients - existing and potential.  It's telling them how you can respond to their needs and what makes you different from the competition.

Many architects would earn more money if they took marketing seriously.