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Marketing for Architects: The Most Important Rule!

Thinking of starting your own Architectural firm or Design Practice?

Today I want to show you the one marketing strategy that’s going to win you new Clients in the modern age… so let’s get started!

Marketing for Architects:

When it comes to real estate the mantra is location, location, location… however when it comes to marketing for Architects and Interior Designers the mantra is:

Education, Education, Education.

The Design Professional who EDUCATES the market, OWNS the market. Let me explain…

You see, most Clients don’t just wake up one day, decide they have a design problem, and then hire the first Design Professional they know.

Unfortunately, most new Clients will want to go through at least three different phases in the purchasing process before they’re ready to hire a Design Professional… and that’s why a good marketing strategy is required. 

Marketing for Architects and the sales funnel:

Since the early 1900s, this theoretical three-phase journey has been described by marketing experts (such as Elisa Lewis) as a Sales Funnel (or Purchasing Funnel).

A typical Sales Funnel for Architects and Design professionals could look like this:

Phase 1. Awareness Phase
Phase 2. Education and Discovery Phase
Phase 3. Purchasing Phase (Fee Proposal)

Sales Funnel for Architects and Interior Designers
Image by Blue Turtle Consulting

You’ll notice that there are a lot more Clients at the top of the sales funnel than there are at the bottom.

This is because most sales funnels aren’t 100% efficient! 

Not all potential clients are going to end up buying design services. Some Clients will leave the sales funnel and never make it to the purchasing phase.

(Note: To help you with your fee proposal strategy we’ve created a FREE Fee Proposal Mini-Series. To learn more click on the image below)

Sales Funnel Example:

To give you an example of just how many potential Clients fail to reach the purchasing phase let’s look at data published by a company who specializes in optimizing conversion rates. 

According to statistics published by Invesp (“The Average Website Conversion Rate by Industry”, Khalid Saleh, 11/18) the average conversion rate globally for E-commerce Websites is just under 3%.

This means that for every 100 website visitors (potential Clients) at the top of the sales funnel, only 3 become paying customers. 

This makes for a very pointy sales funnel.

Now I appreciate that you’re not running an E-commerce website, however, if you’re looking for a successful marketing strategy then you’ll want to start by making sure your sales funnel is as efficient as possible.

How can Architects, Interior Designers, and Design Professionals build a less pointy and more efficient Sales Funnel?

Good marketers understand how sales funnels and the purchasing process works.

They know that if they can position themselves to be as useful as possible during the early phases of the journey they can encourage more Clients to participate in the Purchasing Phase.

And that’s the most important rule in Marketing for Architects!

The person who educates the market owns the market!

By educating the market you can address the Clients fears, resolve their issues, answer their questions and fuel their ambitions.

Thus helping more of your potential Clients enter the sales funnel and find their way to the Purchasing Phase… and once they reach the purchasing phase, your firm will be the obvious choice for their design project!

Education, Education, Education.

Educating the market is the key to successful marketing for Architects and Design Professionals!

Education and marketing
Image by Pixabay on Pexels

Educating the Market

So, if EDUCATING the market is the key to OWNING the market and winning new Clients how can Architects and Design Professionals educate their markets effectively?

To answer that question let’s look at an Architect who has reaped the incredible rewards that come to those who educate their markets.

Case Study # 1 – The Not So Big House:

Back in 1998 a little-known Architect by the name of Sarah Susanka, decided to write a residential design guide for homeowners interested in building their own home. 

The concept behind the book was very simple – to educate homeowners on the key design ideas and concepts that make a house a home.

The book was called “The Not So Big House” and it was an instant success. 

Since its original publication, the book and its subsequent editions have sold well over a million copies and Sarah Susanka is now a household name in the industry.

Marketing for Architects Education Case Study
Marketing for Architects Education Case Study
Marketing for Architects Education Case Study

In fact, the Not So Big House has been so successful that Sarah Susanka is now in the very enviable position of being able to choose her projects from a pool of Client requests

This is a classic example of how educating the market allows you to own the market. Instead of bidding for design work, Sarah Susanka now has a list of potential Clients bidding to work with her.

So how can you benefit from the Not So Big House marketing strategy?

The good news is that you don’t have to write a New York Times bestseller to achieve success from this strategy. The key to the marketing for architects strategy is three-fold:

Step 1 – Identifying Client Fears and Aspirations in your chosen Market

This can be achieved by listing out the most common questions Clients typically ask during that initial Education and Discovery Phase meeting. 

For example, most Clients have three main concerns:

• design,
• time and
• costs.

Step 2 – Create a Guide that Addresses the Clients Fears and Aspirations

Once you’ve created a list of questions, think about the type of guide you can create to answer these typical questions based on your area of expertise and specialization. For example:

  • 10 Kitchen & Bathroom Design Mistakes Homeowners Should Avoid
  • 7 Renovation Ideas for Empty Nesters
  • The Do’s and Don’ts of Attic Conversion
  • The Ultimate Design Guide for Single Family Homes
  • Cost Guide & Budget Considerations for Restaurants & Bars
  • How to reduce construction time with Prefabricated Design
  • Office Fit-outs – 5 Case Studies
  • 7 Ways Biophilic Design can Save you Money
  • How fast-tracking your Next Commercial Project will Save you Time and Money
  • Lesson learned from 50 Condominium projects
  • Millennials Guide to Home Renovation

Step 3 – Place your Guide in a High Traffic Area

Once you’ve created your Guide don’t wait for word of mouth referrals.

Instead position your services in high traffic areas, where people who are actively looking for design services, can engage with you.

Case Study # 2 – John Morefield:

A good example of placing your services in a high traffic area is provided by a Design Professional from Washington State by the name of John Morefield. 

This poor guy lost his design job twice during the early stages of the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.

However, he didn’t let unemployment phase him, he knew that success could be achieved if he could just reach the right people.

So, what did he do? 

Well every Sunday morning, instead of waiting for word-of-mouth referrals, he went down to his local farmers market and set up a stall called “Five Cent Architecture”.

Placing design services in a high traffic area
Image source:

As market-goers walked past his stall, he’d offer to answer their design related questions and provide design advice in return for placing five cents in a little jar he kept on top of his stall.

Most Design Professionals are probably thinking:

“Is this really necessary?”

Mr. Morefield went on record to say he earned more money in his first year of this business than at any other time throughout his career (“John Morefield, the 5 Cent Architect, Reappears!“, Steve Delahoyde,1/22/10 ).

Obviously, he wasn’t making all that money from the five-cent collection box, but by placing his services in a high traffic area, and offering to answer specific design-related questions, he was able to significantly increase the number of potential Clients entering the top of his sales funnel.

By increasing his traffic, Mr. Morefield was able to achieve impressive financial returns in a very volatile market.

High Traffic Examples:

Now you don’t have to set up a stall at your local farmers market to achieve more traffic.

You could; set up an online advertising campaign, including a download link on your home page, rent a stand at a trade show, host an event for local industry professionals, write responses to popular design forum questions, or give a talk at your local home and garden center or local meet-up.

The point is that by positioning your services in a high-traffic area and starting with an educational service, you’ll attract more potential clients to your sales funnel and achieve far better results than simply relying on word-of-mouth referrals.

Marketing for Architects Summary:

This has been a quick look at the role that education plays in winning new clients and developing a more efficient sales funnel.

When thinking about how you can develop this marketing for architects strategy think about the most popular questions that your potential Clients typically ask you.

Once you have a list of questions think about how you can document and answer those questions in a written publication.

Then give some thought to what you’d like your Client to do after they’ve read the publication. 

Be sure to include a call to action at the end of your publication.

You will be amazed by the results.

Before I go, I’d just like to share one last marketing for Architects example and how educating your market leads to owning your market.:

Case study # 3 – New Zealand Residential Architect:

I recently read an article written by Enoch Sears from the Business of Architecture about a residential Architect who specialized in home renovations in New Zealand. She developed a publication called “7 Mistakes People Make When Renovating”

According to the article, after attending just one trade show and handing out her guide, she received over 140 leads (“Marketing for Architects, the Authoritative Guide, with Case Studies“, Enoch Sears, 7/22/18).


So, let me leave you with one last question – How many qualified leads could you achieve in one weekend with an educational guide placed in a high traffic area?

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