The specific question related to how do you research the domestic market?
This was my brief reply –
Start with writing a brief business plan – identify your strengths and where the opportunities are and forecast your overheads for the first 12 months so you know how much you need to earn in fees.
Secondly work up the marketing plan – choose 3 distinct targets and define them in terms of industry sector, client type, geographic location and service.
Thirdly profile the typical clients in that sector and think about their ‘needs’. Use the marketing framework ‘AIDA’ to think through the process from the client-side – how would they find out about an architect, who might influence their decision.
In terms of the specific question
‘how does one research the domestic market’
Start with the client.
Profile your potential domestic clients:
- · Young family with children / baby on the way / single income / lives in village
- · Family with teenage children / need more bathrooms / family or games rooms / parent work from home
- · Affluent couple / 2 incomes / brand conscious / higher education / possible professions include lawyer, dentist, dr / lives in town
- · Retired couple / children left home / ‘baby boomer’ / good pension / lots of travel / interesting hobbies / lives in town but also has a weekend cottage
Then think through these questions:
- · How can you raise your profile with these potential client types?
- · Who might influence their decision about an architect?
- · How can you meet people like this?
- · Where do these people hang out?
- · What kind of architectural service would these clients value most?
- · What marketing material would these clients like to look at / be interested in reading (website, blog, brochure, cd rom, hard back book, photo album, newsletter etc)
This approach should lead to specific action plan:
- · Talk to local nursery about making your home safe for children
- · Introduce yourself to local estate agents who are selling properties with development potential
- · Ensure other local property consultants and construction professionals know about your service (planning consultants, QS, engineers, surveyors, contractors, specialist kitchen and bathroom designers)
- · Consider joining clubs and societies where these kind of people hang out
- · Research an area of your expertise (for example sustainable design / eco homes) and become a local expert – writing in the local paper, talking to local societies and clubs, volunteering for local charities, writing a blog …
In terms of evaluating the market potential and ‘testing the market’ – best to start before you leave your full-time job if possible and talk to as many people as possible. Agents and contractors will give you information about the state of the local property market. An ‘informational interview’ approach will often lead to good information and help you develop new relationships – don’t start by selling your service, explain that you are researching the market and would appreciate their time and advice. You can also assess the prosperity of your local market by talking to local retailers of ‘big ticket’ items like luxury cars, bikes, kitchens, furniture, designer fashion – are the shops and restaurants doing well or struggling? Joining a local chamber of commerce or BNI networking group will also put you in touch with other entrepreneurs and business owners.
Be prepared to work very hard – but try to focus so you don’t waste time being distracted on other things!
For architects in the UK, I offer a three stage consultation for about £1450 and /or monthly telephone coaching for about £150 a month for architects setting up in practice – let me know if you would like more information.