Architect Marketing: 5 Building Blocks For Firm Growth
How to make marketing work for your architecture firm
No matter how good an architect you are, or how talented your team is, you need a strategic approach to marketing in order to succeed.
Recently, we asked Richard Marshall, Principal with Perkins+Will, about the importance of marketing for small firms, “The best organizations view marketing as just as important a skill set as design. If you don’t build a pipeline of work you have no work.”
At Archmark, our approach to marketing architecture firms focuses on creating a new business pipeline by building and strengthening your firm’s relationships with potential prospects by amplifying your reputation and extending your reach.
Whether clients discover you by word of mouth referral, through a Google search, or at a networking event, you need to understand how and why they buy from you, and put effective marketing touch points in place that position your firm as experts in your niche and help you stay top of mind during the buying process.
Read on to learn about five effective marketing building blocks that contribute to architecture firm growth.
At Archmark, we consider a well designed website to be the most critical component of an effective marketing approach. No matter how prospective clients learn about your firm, they will likely look for your website. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 84% of AEC buyers visit a firm’s website before deciding to hire them. Unfortunately, many of the architecture firm websites we’ve looked at (we’ve evaluated more than 400) leave a lot to be desired.
Making a great first impression
Like the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good impression, so you’ll what to make sure that your website is something worth visiting. What makes a great impression for your website visitors? Surprisingly, it’s not just about your portfolio images.
Answer your visitor’s questions
Don’t get us wrong, it’s important to showcase your best projects with quality images, however, prospective clients are visiting your site to qualify and validate that your firm can get them the results that they are seeking. When thinking about your site, think about the questions they are trying to answer:
What does your firm do best?
What makes your firm better or different than your competitors?
How do you work with clients, what’s your process?
You can easily brainstorm additional questions by thinking about the questions that prospective clients typically ask.
The better you are able to answer these questions through your website, the more convinced prospective clients will be that your firm is a good fit for their project.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It's the process of fine tuning your website so it’s found when someone searches Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines for information matching or relating to the content on your site.
Search engines uses software programs called "search bots" to collect and index information on the internet. These bots know how to distinguish a professional, well-made site from a poorly made site. Sites that are properly optimized for search engines are ranked higher in search results and therefore get more visits.
SEO Best Practices
There are a number of factors that make up an effective SEO strategy. The precise formula that search engines use to rank websites is closely guarded by the search engine companies. However, the following seven factors are often cited as best practices to follow:
Publish high-quality content, like blog articles and case studies.
Design your site adapt to different screen sizes, like mobile devices.
Secure your website with an SSL certificate.
Design your site and navigation so it’s easy for visitors to use.
Optimize your website to load as quickly as possible.
Make your site easy to index for search engine bots.
Get other authoritative sites to link to your site.
Compared to other strategies, like online advertising, SEO is a relatively easy and cost effective way to attract traffic to your website. However, the real benefits of SEO become evident when you add new content, like blog articles, to your site on a regular schedule.
Having a blog on your website is pretty much a must these day. It’s important to have a constant stream of new, relevant content for your audience (and search bots). Blogging has numerous other benefits:
It increases search engine traffic.
Blogging is like fishing, the more hooks you have in the water, the more likely you are to catch a fish. With each blog you add to your site, you are adding another page that can be indexed by search engines, therefore increasing your visibility in search engines and the potential traffic to your website.
It helps you build authority.
A blog is a great way to establish yourself or your firm as an expert in your industry. A blog is a great way to address your client’s burning questions or to share ‘insider’ information that helps them make buying decisions.
Firms can also use their blog to publish their unique ideas and insights about their profession. This approach gives you the opportunity to share your voice and vision, and to differentiate your firm from your competitors. This is a great way to build trust and credibility with website visitors.
It keeps your website ‘fresh.’
Google and other search engines continually monitor your site for new content. When you regularly add new, quality articles to you website, search engines give you more visibility. New articles can also increase the keywords that your website is indexed for.
Websites are found when users search online for answers to specific questions. If your blog articles answer questions that you are frequently asked by prospects, each article becomes an opportunity to attract other prospects who are searching for answers to those same questions.
It fuels your social media campaigns.
Having a steady stream of new blog articles will benefit your social media campaigns. Educational blog posts are referred to as ‘evergreen’ content, meaning that, unlike news announcements, the content remains relevant over a long period of time.
Evergreen articles can be shared over and over giving you long-term fuel for your social media profiles. Whenever we post a new blog article, we will schedule that article to appear on our social media profiles as often as once a month for up to a year. This ensures that as many people as possible will see our articles and click through to our website.
Blogging does not have to be stressful. Many clients never consider blogging because they are afraid it will take too much time or they simply don’t know what to write about. At Archmark, we approach blogging in a fun but systematic way, try the following:
Start by brainstorming a list of questions that are frequently asked by prospective clients or topics that you think will help them better understand what you do.
Do some keyword research using a tool like Ubersuggest, a free SEO and keyword research website. This helps you match popular search terms up with the topics you’ve brainstormed.
Once you have your topic, create an outline to organize the main points of your article. If you are answering client questions, think about how you would answer that question for an actual client. Get as detailed as possible to show your expertise.
With your outline in hand, now it’s simply down to filling in the gaps to complete your blog article.
When you approach the task in a systematic way, and use a logical process, it becomes easier and easier with each article you create.
If you haven’t yet tried blogging, give it a chance. Commit to writing 6-12 articles over the next six months. Be sure to measure your website traffic over that time and pay attention to which pages on your site are attracting new visitors. If you do it right, blogging can easily attract tons of new traffic to your site.
In the AEC industry, buyers usually don’t buy on impulse. In fact, after visiting your website, it could be a year or longer before that visitor is ready to hire you. After a few months, most prospects will struggle to recall your firm’s name or website address, especially if they have visited a number of different architects.
Getting found by those prospects is just the first part of the puzzle. You’ll also want to capture visitors’ contact information so you can keep your firm top of mind through email reminders and newsletters.
We’ll talk about email in the next section, but how do you get someone’s contact information? If you are relying on your ‘contact us’ form, don’t hold your breath. Think about it, when was the last time you voluntarily used a contact us form to register for more emails in your inbox.
The truth is, no one is going to give you their email address unless they have a good reason to do so. That’s where Value Offers come in.
What’s a value offer?
A value offer can be a simple checklist or reference sheet or they can be detailed ebooks and white papers. The best value offer is whatever information you think your potential clients will want enough that they are willing to get on your mailing list.
It can take some experimenting and trial and error to find an effective value offer, but when you do find something that works, it can be a huge help in building up your email list with interested prospects.
We recommend starting with something simple. For example, create a pre-project prep list that visitors can download. This is a simple list that helps clients understand what items they will need to complete prior to starting work with you.
Another example of a value offer might be a free consultation call. We generally don’t recommend these calls for clients who are in the shopping around phase, however they can be effective for clients who are closer to getting started with their project.
Marketing qualified vs sales qualified leads
Value offers are an important part of what is known as the conversion process, i.e. converting casual website visitors to marketing qualified or sales qualified leads.
A marketing qualified lead is someone who has expressed interest in your firm. They become qualified when they are willing to take action to learn more about how you work or the service you offer, i.e. download your value offer.
A sales qualified lead is someone who takes further action to speak with you directly about your services, e.g. scheduling a consultation call.
Buyer typically move through four stages during the sales cycle. These include:
Becoming aware of your services
Taking an interest in your services
Making a decision about hiring your services
Taking action to hire your services.
If you do not have value offers on your website, it becomes much more difficult to move prospects through these stages. If they visit your website but there is no value offer, you have no opportunity to stay in touch with them and the chances of them returning are slim.
Once a prospect gives you their contact information in exchange for your value offer they typically are added to your email list. Email is a great tool to help you stay top of mind with prospects and can be very effective in helping to build further trust and credibility with them.
Surprisingly, very few small businesses put email to use effectively. In most cases, if they are using email at all, they are sending the same messages to all of their contacts, regardless if they are partners, prospects, market qualified leads, or sales qualified leads.
These days, with email management tools like MailChimp and ActiveCampaign it is very easy to segment your audiences and create unique and somewhat personalized message.
Sending the right email to the right prospect at the right time can make all the difference between them choosing your firm or deciding to go elsewhere. There are two types of campaigns that we recommend focusing on:
The first few days after a prospect downloads your value offer are the most critical in moving them to the next stage of consideration. Drip email campaigns can be highly effective in these early days.
A drip campaign is a sequence of emails that are delivered over a period of time, usually within a week or two. The idea behind drip campaigns is to stoke your visitors’ initial interest and curiosity to get them to commit to a special offer. For example, you might offer a feasibility review for their project. Using the drip campaign you would send a series of 3-6 emails over a few days to highlight the special offer and the benefits to them.
Even if they are not ready to move forward with a project, this initial interaction can help you position your firm as the right firm for them when they are ready.
Most everyone is familiar with email newsletters, but what make an effective newsletter campaign?
As we’ve said throughout this article, it’s important to keep your clients’ needs at the forefront. A great way to fill your monthly newsletter campaign is to use your blog articles as content. In fact, to make it more exclusive, you can launch your blog articles through your email newsletter prior to publishing them publicly, giving your email subscribers exclusive access to you content.
Email newsletters can also include your recent completed projects, new hires, office openings or other events you are hosting. Getting creative with your content each month will keep things fresh and interesting for readers and it will keep them coming back to see what’s new.
Effective email campaigns are at the heart of successful online marketing strategies. Take advantage of any opportunity to engage and remind your prospects about your company. The more value you can deliver, them more they will appreciate and look forward to your emails.
Mastering Digital Marketing for Architects
Let’s recap the five marketing building blocks architects need for growth. When used together, these provide a solid foundation for more effective marketing with more predictable and desirable results.
Building a strong marketing campaign is kind of like designing a building—you have to take time to create a plan and use the right tools to achieve success.
Thankfully, you don't have to take on marketing for architects alone! Just as people come to you for building designs, you can reach out to us for professional advice on how to expand your presence in the industry.
We'll focus on how to build up your business, so you can focus on leading your firm. It starts with a free 30-minute architecture marketing strategy review call to help you:
Get clarity on why your current digital marketing efforts aren't working
(re)Define your competitive advantage
Discover insights into your ideal clients that you never would have thought of on your own
Find out how we can help you. Schedule your strategy review call today to see how we can help your architecture firm go even further.