How a mid-sized architecture firm used digital marketing to break the boom and bust cycle
Our client, a 60-person architecture firm, had experienced rapid growth over the previous 18 months, almost doubling in size and undergoing a name change. Their marketing, though, still operated as if the firm was half the size and relying solely on referrals.
The company’s website lacked information about the firm’s approach to work and how it was different from other firms, as well as more basic information like the types of architecture the firm practiced. The website wasn’t optimized for search engines, so people looking to hire an architecture firm were not shown the firm’s website in search results. Worse, when the firm’s name changed, it wasn’t communicated well to current and prospective clients – many of whom assumed the firm no longer existed because no connections between the old name and the new name existed online. The firm’s outreach was almost exclusively print ads placed in consumer publications that were distributed free of charge, so what little data they had about the number of people reached could not be confirmed or tracked. The company had no social media presence and outdated information across the internet about its office locations.
The firm had no sales pipeline or marketing strategy to support the additional sales necessary to support the larger firm size. It was losing ground to competitor firms, who, while smaller, were able to educate prospective clients about their services and the return they would deliver on the clients’ investment.
The firm had recently added commercial architecture and mixed-use architecture to its services and spun landscape architecture off as a separate business line from its core residential architecture practice, but these changes had also not been communicated in any way to clients and prospective clients.
The firm couldn’t clearly articulate its services or value, so it was consistently overlooked for awards and lost projects to competitor firms—often simply because prospective clients didn’t know the firm existed and referral sources didn’t know about the expanded service offerings.
In the absence of a clear marketing strategy and templates for supporting materials, decisions about messaging, positioning, and visual style were left to individual architects on a per project basis. This made it difficult to build up an external understanding of the new brand or the service offerings and frequently led to internal disputes within the firm about the “right” way to market.
Our work began with meeting with the leaders of the firm and each business unit to understand their vision for the firm’s future and the goals they wanted to achieve. It turned out the points of view were not so different – they were just being communicated differently, which created a false conflict that stalled progress. By reframing the goals in a way everyone could understand and feel ownership for, we built the consensus necessary to move the firm’s marketing forward.
Once we had firm buy-in, we redeveloped the firm’s website so that it truly functioned as a marketing and sales tool. We added descriptions of the work and approach for each project, so that prospective clients could understand what it would be like to work with the firm and make a decision on more than just the project photo. We also created content that clearly explained the services the firm provided and their experience in each practice. We optimized the site for search engines so that people looking for the firm or its services would be able to find them easily – even if people were searching by the firm’s previous name.
Based on the visuals and content of the new website, we developed print and digital marketing materials. The firm also continued to advertise in print magazines, but they had a better understanding of what information to seek from the publisher, how to track ROI, and how to negotiate rates.
To quickly gain more awareness locally, we wrote and prepared the submissions for several local and regional awards. This resulted not only in the firm winning the awards submitted, but in no-cost press and social media mentions about the awards.
To help further establish the firm as subject matter experts in each architecture practice, we created and managed social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. This allowed the firm to reach different audiences in different stages of the buying cycle. We also ghost-wrote posts from firm leadership to build up the authority of each firm partner in a different discipline.
Within 18 months, the firm had over ten new multi-million dollar commissions from new markets, four prestigious project awards, and over 50 earned media placements.
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