Marketing for Architects
Most architects have never studied marketing - so I am writing a series of articles outlining the Principles of Marketing and an Introduction to the Classic Marketing Frameworks.
Marketing Segmentation for Architects
To avoid boring your clients – learn to segment your market!
Many architects’ brochures and are basically a list of projects. Each building is illustrated by a single picture and a short piece of text full of superlatives.
For the potential client this brochure is tedious and repetitive to read: most of the projects are irrelevant to them and there is not enough information about the one or two they are interested in. Unless it is a ‘big name’ architectural practice, there is little information about the people who actually work in the office, their approach and architectural philosophy or their personality.
How do you avoid scattering your marketing effort with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ website and brochure? The answer is to develop messages specifically for groups of clients who have similar needs. In marketing, this technique is called segmentation.
In consumer goods marketing, a lot of time and energy is spent profiling demographic groups, researching trends with surveys and focus groups because it is all about a single product manufactured in volume. In architecture the issues are very different because you are not marketing the building itself, but your skills and experience, the relationship between the client and your professional team of architects. The cost of the single building is extremely high, and the risks and uncertainties significant. You need to build trust with the client and develop a good working relationship so they want to spend time with you.
Depending on the profile and experience of your practice and the business strategy you are following, you may segment your existing and potential client base by industry sector, client type, service or geography for example.
Once you have identified your market segment opportunities, you must evaluate the various segments and decide how many and which ones to target. Look at 2 factors: the overall attractiveness of the segment and the resources and objectives of your company
For each segment, industry research will reveal the needs of the existing market and highlight future trends for which you can supply services. Analysing and understanding the profile of the different segments will suggest the most effective communication tool for you to use. This might be a sector specific brochure or a separate company name and website. The technology of the internet allows opportunities for customizing and targeting messages – however for a small practice this can be a big investment – and money is better spent fine-tuning the message and using traditional tools such as letters, phone calls and face-to-face meetings.
Remember the sector should inform how you communicate your message: for example, if you are specialised in a niche such as 5 star hotel interiors, you would have a unique story to tell and would want a luxurious communication tool which reflects the values and aspirations of the sector. This might be an A3 leather bound book or a super 8 film screening.
The ultimate level of segmentation leads to ‘segments of one’ – or an approach customised to each and every potential client. This makes sense if you operate in a sector with high value construction projects such as shopping centres where there are a limited number of developers who have projects in the pipe-line.
Potential clients often look for sector experience so it makes sense to focus marketing efforts on industries where you have proven experience. It can be difficult to persuade a new client to take a risk – so perhaps better to focus on persuading an existing client to let you design a building in a different sector, or take advantage of skills and experience your employees may have acquired in different practices.
It can often be more effective to focus on a single project which is most similar to the one your potential client would like to build and then describe in detail the process, and the experience and the result using the client’s testimony to add credibility.
A final point – remember to communicate your message to the other parties in the building procurement process: the letting agents, planning consultants, QS and project managers. These construction and property professional appreciate an entirely different level of communication