Why Do Architecture Firms Need a Marketing Strategy?

A marketing strategy can seem like an unnecessary layer of work – especially for business like architecture firms, who often have a library of photos and written content they use for RFPs. Do you really need one? The short answer is “yes.” Here’s why.

A Collection of Assets Is Not a Marketing Strategy

Large, medium, and frequently small architectural practices usually have some or all of the following:

  • A website
  • Single sheets of projects completed
  • A deck of slides

Each of these could be fine tactics, but don’t necessarily flow from a strategy. Instead, they flow more from a hope: show off the work, and if a prospect likes that work, then the firm will get hired, and if not, we’ll move on to the next firm. This particular practice is usually augmented with another tactic of “show lots of different building types,” because (1) technically the firm could do that type of work if hired and (2) we believe more is better, so we assume that prospective clients will also want to see the variety of every type of work we could possibly do. Lacking from these assets, though, is any guidance for a prospective client about why they would want to hire your firm or how you’re different from a competitor. Consequently, you end up relying on the prospective client to infer that information from photos and make the decision to hire you. There’s a better way to market your firm than “fingers crossed!” It starts with a marketing strategy.

Why Have a Strategy for Your Firm’s Marketing Efforts?

A marketing strategy starts with identifying how the firm is different, what special skills it has, what types of built environments it produces best and the kinds of clients that are best suited for the firm. This is vital, and the step that differentiates strategic marketing from “throw it at the wall and see if it sticks” marketing. This step also allows you to track whether your marketing is successful – how do you know if you’ve reached the right people if you haven’t decided who those people are?

Next, the information gathered and decisions made are used to craft the right messages, collect the right images, and identify the right presentation styles to support attracting that “best client” audience. These activities can seem overwhelming, but they are made much easier when the first step has been taken. For example, you no longer need to write copy that appeals to “everyone” – just the people you know you want to attract.

Over the last 15 years, changes have taken place that make it more necessary to have a marketing strategy in place. With architectural licensing standardization, it’s possible to work across a greater swath of the United States. Firms that might have been specialists locally or even within a larger metropolitan area now face competition from specialty firms from other parts of the country. Digital marketing also allows new markets to be targeted at a fraction of the cost and without the need to always open a satellite office, meaning your firm will need to defend against firms that have no physical ties to your local market. These significant changes mean well-strategized newcomers can move into markets that were previously not possible.

Moreover, the internet and mobile apps have changed how consumers shop for goods, business consumers have started to follow suit. They expect to be presented with all relevant information in a convenient and easy-to-digest way. To keep up, the way architecture firms market their services will have to change.

Do You Have a Marketing Strategy, or a Marketing Hope?

It’s imperative to have an effective marketing strategy that helps you attain your business goals in the face of an ever-evolving market landscape. If your fingers are sore from crossing them and hoping everything will work out, you owe it to yourself to take steps to create and implement a solid marketing plan that you can measure against. We can help.

Brian Jones