6 Business Development Strategies to Grow Your Architecture Firm
Strategic Tips to Keep Your Architecture Business Thriving
Six Important Architecture Firm Business Development Strategies
Are you taking on projects that really don’t fit your architecture firm? Do you tell yourself, “At least it will help pay the bills”?
If you’re looking to grow your architecture business, to take your firm to the next level, it’s time to revisit the type of clients and projects that will help you do that.
What do you do? Where do you start?
You want more clients — even better clients, more of those "perfect" projects, and possibly more staff to help handle new business. But you may not be quite sure how to get there. It can be overwhelming to juggle business development and marketing efforts along with managing your current clients' projects and daily business operations.
A few years ago, we were doing that same juggling act ourselves as we were trying to run and grow our agency at the same time. It was a daily challenge to keep all the balls in the air. Luckily, very few crashed to the ground, repairs were quick, and we learned.
Stop Juggling. Start Focusing.
Most of all, we knew we had to get out of the juggling routine and find a better way to manage operations and business development at the same time. We needed to fix project processes, rebuild client relationships, and reconnect with prospects.
We tried a few different approaches and tactics. It didn't take long to see what worked for our personalities and way of working, and what worked to give us the business results we wanted.
Over time, we narrowed our efforts down to these six creative development strategies that gave us immediate and lasting results. As we saw these strategies work for our business, we started to incorporate them into our clients' projects, with similarly positive results.
Keep reading to learn how you can use our strategy six-pack to keep your architecture business thriving!
1. Work Backwards From Your Dream Project
Do you know what the dream project for your architecture business looks like? If not, it's time to step back and assess.
If you can figure out what your firm's ideal projects are, you can also figure out what kind of people can help you get those projects. Then, research the environments where those people hang out.
Many great projects start with a personal connection, so work on building connections with the right people. Network in the areas where your dream client hangs out — in person and online.
Let your existing network know what projects you want. Work your network! Everyone you know is a potential client, connection point, or lead. Chances are good that someone you already know can lead you to your dream project. It's all about figuring out who those people are, and finding them.
ACTION STEP: Update your LinkedIn profile to make it clear what types of projects and clients you want for your firm. Bonus points for featuring a project that is a great example of your dream project. If you're not on LinkedIn yet, start now!
2. Raise Your Profile
Wouldn't it be great to be the architect people think of when they need someone with your specialty?
There are two proven ways to raise your profile — Speak or write about what you know and how you do what you do.
Speak at events
We know public speaking ranks at the top of the stress list for many people. Not that long ago, we felt exactly the same way. In fact, we started small, hosting workshop-style events for small groups so we could keep it conversational. Then we participated in panel discussions and presentations with local business and networking groups. Now we are frequently asked to speak to organizations large and small.
Seek out some opportunities to speak at local business networking events, service organizations, industry seminars. Get creative and keep looking for ways to get in front of new people. The topics you speak on don’t have to be directly related to architecture. One of our most successful speaking engagements was with a panel of working couples, sharing our stories and taking questions about working with a spouse.
If the idea of speaking still scares you, find a way to start small — volunteer to introduce the speakers at the next AIA event or host a panel discussion and Q&A session for a group of architecture students. You get the idea … even speaking at career day at your kid's school gives you a chance to gain experience!
Writing is almost the opposite of standing up in front of a crowd to speak. But writing can still be just as much of a challenge.
What publications or websites do you read and follow? Where do the decision makers among your prospective clients look for information? What kind of questions do they have about architecture? What do you wish they knew about the process? What other topics can you write about that can help them? Or write about trends and changes and your opinions — take a position that reflects your approach and architectural style.
Just like speaking, it's easy to start small by writing articles. We have found blogging gives our clients a chance to develop a writing style and get comfortable with sharing ideas and opinions.
Keep in mind that the content of your speech or presentation should be informative and helpful, not a sales pitch.
ACTION STEP: Come up with three titles/headlines for speeches or articles you'd like to prepare and present. Next identify three possible organizations/publications and reach out to pitch those ideas. (Tip - Local business magazines and newspapers, local chambers and service organizations are often happy to have an expert offer to provide content or speak on topics that connect to the community.)
3. Craft Your Portfolio to Match Your Goals
We can admit it, this was a tough one for us. Over the course of our careers, we've had many great clients and projects, it was really difficult to pick and choose. We asked ourselves a simple question: "Which project would we jump at the chance to do again?"
The idea is to create a portfolio that features work that will attract similar types of work. Whether your favorite project was high-end retail or a university student center, lead off with the best of your best to draw the attention of prospective clients who fit your niche and can bring more of those kinds of projects to you. You don't have to show off everything you've ever done. Be selective and err on the side of less is more.
ACTION STEP: Take a critical look at your current portfolio and remove any projects that don't reflect the type of work you want to attract. Feature the best projects by adding more detail. (Always use professional photography. Always.)
4. Nurture Your Brand Ambassadors
A brand ambassador is that person who can talk about what you do and who you are and tell others why you are the architect they want.
Brand ambassadors can be the key to help you unlock a world of more profitable word-of-mouth referrals.
It can be an enthusiastic employee, a happy client, or the general contractor who loved working with you on the last great project. The more they understand about your architecture firm and your approach, the better they can explain it to others.
When it comes to nurturing brand ambassadors with your staff, keep communication open within your firm. Make sure your team members have the confidence to talk accurately about your firm's vision, philosophy, and projects at any networking opportunity. Ideally, each person at your firm can serve as a brand ambassador and help attract potential clients and useful connections closer to you.
ACTION STEP: Clarity is the key! Make sure everyone on your team can answer the question "What do you do?" with an engaging and interesting response that goes beyond "I'm an architect." If it's too complicated to explain what you do or how your firm works, then it's time to rethink the conversation. Do some brainstorming with your team to come up with creative ways to talk about the kind of work you do.
5. Make Branding Your Unfair Advantage
Your architectural firm isn't just a firm - it’s a brand.
And your brand is more than a logo, it's also found in how you work, your specialized expertise, the way you approach a project, your design philosophy, even your business culture and how you interact with clients and each other.
Your brand should be unique to your architecture firm and clearly set apart from the competition.
Everything the world sees about your firm should reflect this brand — from the visual (logo, business cards, website, portfolio, signage) to the experience clients have working with you — should be engaging reminders of your brand.
ACTION STEP: Get consistent with your use of branding. Architecture is visual and experiential, especially in the eyes of your clients. Make sure your visual identity is clear and consistent. Add email signatures with your logo. Update all your social and networking profiles to use the same logo and business description, and have everyone on your team do the same. Consider how you can incorporate a specific style of project images that ties to your brand.
6. Have a Follow Up Plan and Stick to It!
Persistence and Patience are the dynamic duo of business development.
One of the most important strategies for success in marketing is the follow-up. Yet it's one that most people will admit they don't do well.
Once you've exchanged business cards with a few new contacts, follow up with an email and connect on LinkedIn. If you use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, add their info to the appropriate group — warm prospect, influencer, collaborator, referral, etc. Stay up to date with regular, helpful emails to keep those contacts fresh.
You can also create an opt-in email news list using a service such as MailChimp. Ask your contacts if they want to be part of the mailing list, and use it to keep them engaged. That makes it easier to automate follow up emails on a timely basis. Emails can feature updates about your latest projects, your design philosophies, trends, and behind-the-scenes looks at the firm.
Sometimes nothing beats the old-fashioned phone call or even meeting for a coffee or drink to catch up. Don't overlook the value of having face time with the best prospects!
Help Your Architecture Business Reach Full Potential
These are just a handful of business development strategies that can help your architecture firm make its mark, no matter what stage you are at today.
Don't worry about doing it all! Start with the ideas that you can most easily adapt and put to use.
Marketing your architecture firm shouldn't be overwhelming — you don't have to do it alone. Get your team involved and look to outside consultants for a fresh perspective, focus, and up-to-date knowledge. Find a marketing partner who can work with you on strategy, fuel your business development, and take help get things off your to-do list.
Archmark can help you build up your business, so you can focus on leading your firm.
Archmark works with architects to help them build a strong brand foundation for business growth, establish authority to take a leadership position in their market, and create awareness to attract qualified leads and better clients.
We 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.