Architecture Firms: The Truth About Developing Your Business

architecture business development

If you’re an architecture firm and you struggle to get a flow of new project enquiries coming in…you’re not alone. There are over 56,000 architects currently in the UK. In an industry set to grow roughly by 4.5% over the next five years. As a result, the already fiercely competitive architecture sector is only set to become more saturated. Especially as the number of architects continues to rise. For many architecture firms, business development and standing out from the crowd can be a challenge.

Image: There are 56,000 architects currently in the UK - architecture business development

In order to make yourself stand out against the competition and win over essential clients; you need to ensure you have a rock-solid architecture business development plan.

This doesn’t just mean having efficient processes that will ensure your work is being achieved well within deadline. But it also means having a robust marketing strategy in place. To ensure you’re the first name people see or think of when searching for potential architecture firms to partner with.

There’s no denying it, being a small to medium sized business right now is tough. With an overly digitised market to boot. This means competition is as fierce as it’s ever been. But it’s getting increasingly difficult for those just launching their business plans. Especially when it comes to being seen by the clients needed to keep their firms afloat.

But, with careful planning and a lot of upfront work, you can succeed. There’s no reason why your architecture firm can’t one day be a leader in the market.

Take the time now to familiarise yourself with some of the biggest pitfalls new and small architecture firms face with business development. Specifically when they try to scale their firms. And discover some of the most important factors to consider when you create a strategy for long-term success.

Email Chains Aren’t Enough to Build Relationships

If your marketing efforts focus solely around the occasional email to a few prospective clients from your email database. Then the chances of you getting an immediate project are pretty low.

In fact, the average open rate of emails in the architecture industry is just 24.78%. So I’d be impressed if you even get a response from your emails!

Image: Average email open rate for architecture industry is 24.78% - architecture business development

The average office worker receives an estimated 121 emails daily. So is it any surprise that most choose to ignore or simply delete them?

The modern world is busy. And marketing messages fly around faster than they ever have done before. Therefore, if you want to make yourself heard above the noise of email, you need to go above and beyond. You need to capture your prospect’s attention.

Not heard back from an email you sent a few days ago? Why not try picking up the telephone and having a real conversation with your connection instead?

Better yet, why not offer to take them out for lunch?

The architecture profession is one that’s built on good relationships. So, spend the time to build and nurture yours as best you can.

Consider scheduling meetings over lunch. Or take a trip to their office in person rather than just arranging a business call. Although it’s a lot of upfront work, anything you can do to go above and beyond will have a positive impact.

After all, these people could potentially part with a hefty sum of money if you impress them enough. So where’s the harm in spending an hour making small talk over a bite to eat?

A Bad Lead Isn’t Always a Bad Result

Even if it turns out that there’s no prospect of you and a potential client working together. Try and angle the conversation so that you can still offer some kind of service. Or find a way to turn a bad situation into an opportunity.

Image: Turn a bad situation into an opportunity

Can you refer a colleague who you think will better suit the work? Maybe you have some golden advice for them about what to expect when they work with prospective architecture firms?

As much as it may pain you to refer external parties to your leads, it’s important to provide value. As it is the only way to build a strong set of connections.

You never know, in return for your goodwill, they may refer you to one of their connections in the future. A prospective client who is better suited to you and is looking for a service which you specialise in.

On a separate note, reach out to those prospective clients that never pulled through and ask for constructive feedback.

Perhaps there was something critical missing from your project proposal? Maybe your prices were just too high in comparison to other firms? Whatever their feedback, it can be vital to help you to develop your business for the better.

Plus, if you can turn a bad lead into a lesson, at least you’ll receive something positive from the experience.

Your Connections Are There to Help

Image: Ask your connections to help

At the start, launching your architecture firm and turning it into something which allows you to take a regular, secure monthly income takes a lot of time and hard work.

Sometimes, you can put in all the hard work to promote yourself to clients. But unless you have a portfolio that demonstrates your expertise, you could struggle to take on new projects.

This is where your connections can give you a helping hand.

Promote your firm on professional platforms like LinkedIn. This is a great way to share your business venture with your network. Even better, if you can encourage them to share your posts, you will gain even more exposure.

Your network is full of wonderfully unique connections, some who could end up being your project partners one day. So, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help to get your name out there.

This applies to other circumstances too.

As we mentioned, the initial few months or years of your firm may be ad-hoc. You could find yourself without clients for a few months of the year. As such, this means you will need to seek out other opportunities to help pay the bills.

If you are in need of short-term business, then once again, look to your network and ask.

One way to do so would be to write a post on LinkedIn. Talk about how you are open to work or in the market for new opportunities. Alternatively, you could call some of your allies or ex-work colleagues to ask about potential opportunities.

No matter how hesitant you may feel about doing this. Remember that there is no shame to ask for help from your network. That’s what they are there for!

You never know, they could point you in the direction of a few architectural firms who need temporary help. Therefore, potentially giving you the opportunity to contract for them.

For these firms themselves, contracting is far more appealing than hiring you as an employee. As the firm won’t have to pay the excess benefits, such as sick pay, pension, or holiday allowances. So it might surprise you how common this is.

Contracting also gives you the opportunity to build up your professional network even further. As well as get some more professional client experience under your belt. Both of which can help hugely to build up your portfolio of work.

You Need a Long-Term Strategy to Grow your Business

Image: You need a long-term marketing strategy to grow your architecture business

As great as your short-term contracts are to boost the bank balance between clients. It’s not an effective solution for the long-term.

We all know that it’s not sustainable from a finance point-of-view to jump between jobs. And it’s probably not the kind of career path you intended. Especially when you first decided to launch your own architecture firm.

Therefore, you need to have a long-term strategy in place to ensure your firm can pay you a living wage each month. Without the need to seek out external work opportunities.

Therefore, you need to have a long-term strategy in place to ensure your firm can pay you a living wage each month. Without the need to seek out external work opportunities.

A long-term strategy is what’s going to take your firm from being one that seeks out new clients every few months, to one which has a long list of potential clients queueing up outside your front door.

It’s what helps you to really build a name for yourself as an authority within the industry. And get recognised as a specialist within your niche. With prospective clients thinking of you as the first firm when they have a relevant project land on their lap.

Most importantly, it’s the strategy that’s going to ensure that:

  • You are the best at what you do
  • Provide the highest quality of work for your clients
  • You can pick and choose from projects which excite and appeal to you

And That Means Growing Your List of Potential Clients

Image: Grow your client list - architecture business development

The most important part of growing your business into an established firm is creating a marketing strategy. But not just any marketing strategy. One that will continually draw leads to your website. Which needs to work seamlessly with your architecture firm’s business development plan.

Your marketing strategy may encompass many different channels. All dependent on your time, resources, and budget.

But two of the most important long-term strategies to consider are content marketing and SEO.

There’s no denying it. The online marketplace is saturated.

No longer is it possible to get yourself ranking high enough on search engines simply by creating a sleek-looking website that’s peppered with keywords.

If you want to get your firm seen by prospective clients. Then you need to put in a lot of time, research and effort. Create a bank of content that’s high-quality and relevant to your prospects needs and interests. And, you must ensure it is properly optimised in order to rank high on search engines.

Of course, content marketing is not an easy avenue to tackle. Especially if you’re a small business with limited team members. You need to be willing to put in a lot of time and perseverance, with no expectation of quick results.

Your content needs to show prospective clients how you can help solve their problems. Whether through good advice or valuable information.

And you need to have a lot to convince them that you are an authority on the matter. It’s the only way you can convert them from being people who land on your site to paying clients.

But with enough time and hard work, your strategy should help you start to climb those rankings. Therefore, it will also help you to increase the number of prospective clients coming to your site.

Just remember that once you have those leads coming to your site, you need to nurture them. Otherwise, they will not convert. So always give room for them to submit contact information. For example, provide a place for them to sign-up to your newsletter. Or offer a free call to advise on their project, or some other idea that ensures they pass over a form of contact. After all, you need to make sure you have a way to start a conversation with them.

It’s Essential That You Make Use of All the Free Online
Marketing Channels

Image: Use all of the free online marketing channels

On top of your content marketing and SEO strategy, channel your messages on as many free marketing channels as possible. This way, you’ll be able to share consistent brand messages with a wider demographic of people. Thus, you will help to give your brand more visibility online.

When I say free marketing, I mean using channels such as:

  • Social media platforms: to post updates about your firm and promote your content
  • Free (or low cost) email marketing platforms: to create professional templates for campaigns
  • Directories: post your website on as many free and relevant virtual directories as possible

You could even consider launching into the world of digital PR. This is another great way to make your architecture firm more visible.

As the name suggests, digital PR involves networking with journalists, bloggers and publicists online. And you share content with them in the hopes that they will create a feature from it.

As a free marketing channel, digital PR can be highly effective. In return for a written article on your area of expertise, you can win a huge amount of exposure for your brand. While you gain invaluable backlinks that can help to bolster your SEO rankings.

Despite making the marketplace hugely saturated, you can see how the digital revolution has opened up a whole range of free marketing opportunities for brands. Incorporate these as part of your long-term strategy for growth. And you will start to get your firm seen by an even larger demographic of people in no time.

If You are a Local Firm, You Need to Focus on Local SEO

Image: Make sure your firm has a local presence online too - architecture business development

If you are an architecture firm with a local presence, then you need to optimise your website for local SEO.

As part of your plan for long-term development, you want to be the go-to architecture firm within your region or city. So it’s important that you’re the first website that shows up in a local SEO search. In fact, it is vital.

Four in five consumers use Google to find local information. If you optimise your site for these searchers then they will help you to capture those all-important clients. The ones that are looking for architecture firms in the local area. Without it, you cannot fully take advantage of the local demand which exists for your firm.

For this to work, you need to feed information such as locally-targeted content, social media pages and backlinks to search engines like Google. The search engine will then infer these local SEO signals. As a result they will direct the relevant searches to your website.

A Great Client Experience Goes a Long Way

It’s worth remembering that even your previous clients can have an impact in helping to grow your architecture firm.

And they will be especially important for your initial growth.

81% of consumers say that trust is the most important factor in their buying decisions. So part of the hurdle you will face to secure those first few clients will be proving that you can be trusted to deliver the best service possible.

Image: 81% of consumers say that they wouldn’t deal with a brand they didn’t trust - architecture business development

So how can you do that?

Well, for the most part, reach out to your previous clients.

Check in with your previous clients and ask them how their project is performing. Does it live up to their expectations?

If they are really impressed with your work (which they should be!). Then don’t be afraid to ask them to leave you a review. Or even refer you to their network when looking for work in the future.

In fact, recent surveys suggest that 82% of B2B consumers read reviews before making a purchase decision. So it seems silly to not ask them for such a small favour.

Keep Positive, Keep Persevering

Lastly, it’s important to remember that developing your businesses into a reputable, well-known architecture firm will take time and a lot of graft.

The architecture industry is driven by experience, relationships, and business connections. And to build these connections takes time. Especially for those who are just starting out on their own.

Not every conversation you have will turn into a new project. And not every piece of marketing you do is going to result in more leads. But that’s just part of business.

Statistics suggest that the average global conversion rate is just under 3%. This means that for every 100 website visitors who appear at the top of your sales funnel, only 3 may become paying clients.

It’s important you familiarise yourself with the kind of numbers you should expect to see, so that you don’t lose momentum. After all, when you look back on previous work, isn’t it momentum itself that tends to attract more work?

Just remember that whenever they come in, to nurture those leads. Even if it’s a follow-up call to see if they need any extra information. Because it’s always good to remind your clients that you’re there. It’s all a crucial part of your architecture firm’s business development.

Summary

Whether you’re looking to launch your own architecture firm, or working out a way to expand your service offerings, you need to remember that business development is a process, and it needs to have a system in place if you want to see long-term growth.

At the start, you will need to put in a lot of hard work into promoting your firm online and in the local area. This includes putting together a robust strategy which combines content with SEO to improve your rankings on search engines like Google, and get you discovered by searchers with relevant queries.

Once you have these leads in your grasp, it’s then essential that you nurture them as best you can. As we’ve established, architecture is a profession built on good relationships, and you will need to do everything you can to impress them – whether it be regular telephone calls, lunch meetings, or a varied and expansive portfolio to hand them, only you will know how they best respond.

But once you’ve started to gain some professional experience for your firm, and your marketing strategy is well underway, you will reap the benefits from putting in the effort at the start to create a long-term business strategy. No matter how hard those first few months or even years may feel, keep persevering and you’ll soon become recognised as the go-to firm for your speciality.

Working With a Marketing Consultant to Develop a Strategy
For your Architecture Firm

As an architect, it’s unlikely that you have much marketing experience. Up until you decided to launch your firm, your focus at work has probably only been on getting your projects complete.

So when you then build your own firm and need to also worry about the leads coming through your front door, it can feel pretty daunting to think about what marketing for your firm may look like, and how you can go about it. Especially how to create an architecture specific business development and marketing strategy.

As such, you may consider reaching out to a marketing consultant, such as myself, who has extensive experience in helping firms create and implement long-term marketing strategies to help them grow their client base.

Having worked across a whole variety of sectors to improve their visibility online, I know exactly what it takes to grow your business to the point where you no longer have to worry about where the next client is coming from.

If you’d like to hear more about how I can work with you or your architecture firm on your business development strategy, then please get in touch. I’d be happy to arrange an obligation-free chat with yourself and find out more about your firm.

    About Murray Dare

    Murray Dare is a Marketing Consultant, Strategist and Director at Dare Media. Murray helps UK businesses find better ways to connect with their audiences through targeted content marketing strategies. Please follow Murray on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.


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