6 Business Tips for Architects

Lindy Johnson , 6 June 2017

How do you increase the value of your business and put your clients front and centre? Lindy Johnson shares six helpful tips.

1. Put your clients, not your peers, at the centre of your business

Your existing and potential clients are key to the future success of your business. To attract the right number and type of clients, you need to identify who they are and then connect with them through meaningful conversation.

A classic mistake that architects make is to write web copy that speaks to their peers. If you write in a language that only architects understand, then they will be your only audience.

An effective business development strategy will put your clients front and centre by considering your existing clients while identifying the sectors you want to work in and the types of clients you want to work with. The next step is to connect with those clients and develop a relationship with them. Very rarely will you win work without a pre-existing relationship with a client.

When any client, existing or potential, engages with your website content, newsletter or social media, they need to feel that they are having a conversation with you!

2. Don’t be scared to stand out.

Standing out makes it easier for the client to choose you. We have some of the best architects in the world here in Australia, working in a well-regulated environment with excellent training and rigorous registration requirements. This means that clients will get a high level of design and professionalism from a short list of architectural firms working in the same sector. An architectural practice that doesn’t stand out runs the risk of blending into a sea of obscurity and being forced to compete on price.

The reality is that the selection of an architectural firm usually comes down to the people and their personal attributes. Human beings are driven by emotion first and justify with logic and reason second.

So, rather than standing out for the sake of it, I’m suggesting that you identify your brand and focus on what is unique and special about you. Communicate this message clearly to your existing and potential clients and they will be confident in the reason they are choosing you and not your competitor.

3. Use design!

Creating a thoughtful customer experience both on and offline is of paramount importance to your business. Architects are trained in the discipline of design but often don’t apply these principles to their outward-facing business activities, such as graphic design, website, signage, the design of their office spaces, or their systems and processes.

A good graphic designer will work with you to design the overall look and feel of your business for all your outward communication, including your website, logo, marketing collateral and reports. A good business strategist can help you design your systems and processes.

If you ignore these elements, you are taking a huge risk by leaving the success of your business to chance. You should apply the same care to the marketing and development of your business as you would the design of a building.

4. Use the best architectural photography, rendering and virtual reality (VR)

Ninety-nine percent of existing and potential clients will only ever experience your work remotely. An architectural photographer understands the discipline of architecture and how to capture the unique aspects of a space. They draw the viewer into the photograph and give them a sense of experiencing the building. A photographer specialising in shooting architecture can identify and subtly showcase the best internal and external features of an architectural project.

The same applies to specialists working in the growing fields of architectural 3D rendering and VR. By providing 360 degree views, skilled creative professionals can provide a fuller, more human-scale picture of a space, leaving no corners hidden. This can enhance understanding and appreciation of a space.

Of course, high quality photography and high quality rendering is also critical if you wish to have your work published.

5. Be aware that people do business with people, not buildings

In a highly skilled and competitive marketplace, your personal attributes will be a greater priority for your existing and potential clients than your architectural expertise. Your clients want to have a long-term relationship with you. They want to trust and get along with you in order for their project to be successfully designed and delivered.

Architects who focus their external marketing on their projects instead of showcasing the personal attributes of their people miss the opportunity to build relationships.

6. Remember, you are central to your business brand

Your brand is not what you say about yourself, but what your clients say about you. Everything you do is synonymous with your business brand. Every encounter your existing and potential clients have with your business should reflect your brand and your core values.

By understanding this, you can purposefully design the experience you want for your clients, giving clear, consistent reasons for clients to choose you over your competitors.

Lindy Johnson is Director of Lindy Johnson Creative, leading a dynamic team of marketing, business and publicity specialists to help her architecture clients increase their bottom line and win new work. She has 30 years’ experience working at senior levels of government and industry creating national and global demand for creative services. Lindy conceived and branded world-first government-to-business programs like HEAT Architecture. HEAT was a highly successful program for architects and designers, which generated millions of dollars in international editorial and new commissions. She also created Australia’s first whole-of-government 2% for public art policy; and the Ulysses program, which continues to transform Australian businesses through design-led integration. Lindy is passionate about increasing the value of architecture and design businesses, and has won many industry and government awards for her innovative and groundbreaking work.

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