Marketing for Architects

Marketing for Architects
Lucy works exclusively with for architects

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.