Marketing Tips for Architectural Firms
Updated: Jan 11
Just as architects and designers have adopted technologies to improve their day-to-day work, it’s time to embrace digital technologies to market architecture firms and attract, find, and win better clients and projects.
For many firms, online marketing can be challenging and confusing. If you’re new to the world of online marketing for architecture firms, there’s a lot to learn, and it can be overwhelming.
Digital channels provide cost-effective solutions for direct client engagement and can be ideal for communicating what differentiates your and your firm from others.
In this article, we’re going to break down the most common terms, techniques, and tactics used for marketing architects online. By the end of this piece, you’ll have a better understanding of the online marketing tactics and techniques that get results for architecture firms.
What is online marketing?
Online marketing (also referred to as digital marketing) encompasses all web-based channels at your architecture firm’s disposal to spread brand awareness, promote your services, and get your ideal future clients to convert, or become actual new business opportunities.
The goal of online marketing is to reach clients where they spend their time online, through channels like search engines, your website, social media, and email.
Compared to traditional marketing methods like print, billboard, or radio advertisements, the techniques used for marketing online are often more affordable and easier to measure.
Traditionally, architects have relied on word-of-mouth referrals, established relationships, and repeat clients. This passive approach to new business development is what we call “Hope Marketing.”
But now, it would be an understatement to point out that the online world has become increasingly important for developing business. And having a strong online presence is key to marketing today. Prospects and clients now refer to Google reviews and perform thorough online research when they are considering a new project.
To stand out from the competition and thrive online, it’s essential to have a digital strategy in place that creates awareness of your firm, nurtures relationships with potential prospects, and builds trust in your brand.
As of April 2020, there are more than 8,000 online marketing tools available. So where do you even start?
Luckily, we’ve put together this toolbox of marketing techniques, so keep reading to navigate and understand the myriad options available for boosting your firm’s online presence.
01. Search engine optimization (SEO)
What is SEO? Search engine optimization (SEO) encompasses various techniques to get your website to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERP). SEO is typically focused on optimizing website content and web presence for search results traffic — that is, getting people to find and visit your website. What’s SEO good for? Increased traffic to your website from online searches.
What’s SEO not good for? Instant results. Search engines like Google have become the number one go-to place for finding information about anything you can think of. It shouldn’t be a surprise that potential clients research architects via Google as well.
How does SEO work? By optimizing your website for search engines, you’re more likely to appear when prospects Google ‘best architects in *your city*’ or ‘nonprofit architects in *your state*’. Ranking factors are constantly evolving as search engines adjust their algorithms, but three main areas search engine bots usually look at to determine the quality of your site:
Are you delivering relevant content to your site visitors?
Is your site easily indexed and using relevant keywords in titles, URLs, and page headers?
Do you have any links pointing to your site from authoritative websites?
To answer these questions effectively, look into the following techniques:
Keyword research: Use keyword research tools to find out which search terms your website is already ranking for, what potential clients are searching for, and which keywords competitors are ranking well for. You can also check out your Google Analytics to see what keywords you’re ranking for already, and how that’s changed over time.
On-page optimization: Ensure you’re using relevant search terms in your URL and title tags. Use alt tags to describe images, as images can’t be ‘read’ by search engine spiders. Local SEO is incredibly important for architects, so make sure you’re using keywords and content specific to your area.
Link building: To obtain high-quality backlinks, partner up with established names in the architecture industry to get exposure to their followers. Offer valuable content packed with your expertise for their blog. Another more old-school approach is to send press releases about your newly completed projects.
A well-executed SEO strategy ensures that your content is optimized using the right keywords but also serves the purpose of telling your brand’s story and answering prospective clients’ questions. Increasing your visibility through SEO techniques and delivering valuable content results in more traffic and increased leads. We always recommend focusing on getting your website right first.
Optimize your website so you appear more in search engines for Architects in your area or state.
It’s your virtual office/meeting room and can create a negative impression of your firm if not kept up to date. Just a word of caution on expectations: As we’ve seen many clients over the years looking for instant results from a brand new and optimized website, be patient. It takes time to build up the content that boosts your ranking. It’s also important to remember that you have to keep up the good work to get long-term traction from your SEO efforts.
02. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) & Pay-per-Click (PPC) advertising
What is SEM? What is PPC? Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the term for a digital marketing strategy working with a broad search. Part of this can include having paid ads placed at the top of search engine results based on specific keywords being searched. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a tactic used in SEM. A PPC Ad is developed for the search phrases and keywords most relevant to your audience and your firm, and you pay each time a user clicks on the ad that appears in the search engine results.
What’s PPC good for? Faster results.
What’s PPC not good for? Long-term website ranking improvement on the search engines.
PPC can be a relatively cost-effective way to increase website traffic. Although you are paying for PPC ads, you only pay when a visitor clicks the ad and visits your website. PPC campaigns come with a host of tools and metrics to give you the ability to use A/B testing to improve your campaigns or retargeting to reach users that didn’t follow through with your call to action the first time they visited your site. While at first glance, this sounds like a great tool for an instant boost in website traffic and potential clients. Our advice is to be cautious, as this might not be the best option for your firm to attract the clients you want to work with.
For paid ads to work for architects, their website needs to be up-to-date and look good.
Unfortunately, from what we’ve seen with architecture firms that have taken this approach, paid ad campaigns often attract a higher number of clients looking for one-off services. We’ve heard stories about people coming through from an ad looking for blueprints or asking for a stamp for plans they have purchased online. Another important thing to remember with paid ads: If you’re paying to drive traffic to your website, it needs to look good, showcase your best work, and function correctly. There’s no point in paying for traffic if your contact form doesn’t work or your highlighted projects are less-than-inspiring.
03. Content Marketing
What is content marketing? Successful content marketing builds trust in your brand by providing in-depth and highly relevant content on your website and blog. It can include blogging, articles, e-books, videos, and webinars.
What’s content marketing good for? Raising brand awareness and authority, communicating your value, and improving search rankings.
What’s content marketing not good for? Instant results. Content marketing encompasses all your efforts and techniques to create educational and shareable content for your target audience.
Content marketing helps to establish your architecture firm as a thought leader.
Many architecture firms focus their marketing efforts on the last stage in the buyer journey, the ‘hire me’ stage. This assumes that your website visitor is an educated buyer - which often isn’t the case for most people new to hiring an architect.
This often leads to frustration on both sides when content doesn’t make it clear what the architect does. Unless prospects have worked with architects before, they might have ideas about your firm’s services in their minds that don’t match reality - and you will probably end up feeling undervalued and underappreciated as a result.
Thankfully, this issue can be solved by creating content that answers questions, primes readers for working with you, and ultimately attracts your ideal clients. Content marketing is your chance to establish your firm as the authority in your niche: 96% of marketing decision-makers say content marketing has been effective for their brand.
Content marketing has proven to be incredibly effective for many of our clients, helping them attract more clients and better-fitting projects. Is content marketing for architects easy? With the right process in place, you can effectively create content that engages and converts your audience. Great content marketing doesn’t need to take hours of your time.
At Archmark, we use this successful method of creating content that gets results for our clients, and can help you make content marketing easier too:
Conduct a video interview with the client, covering the important aspects of the topic they want to write about
Transcribe that video
Create an article from the transcription and post it to the client’s website
Use clips of the video for social media marketing
Pick out interesting quotes from the transcript/audio track and use them as social updates
This way, you can get multiple pieces of content from one topic, and minimize the time it takes to repurpose for different mediums.
If you’d like to explore your options to make content marketing as easy and effective as possible, get in touch with our team of content marketing professionals.
04. Social Media Marketing (SMM)
What is social media marketing? Social media marketing for architects includes all marketing techniques you use to market your firm on social media networks. The goal is to create tailored content for the various social channels available to drive engagement and increase brand awareness with your audience, and, of course, get one step closer to winning new projects.
What’s social media marketing good for? Engaging with prospects directly, improving brand awareness.
What’s social media marketing not good for? Instant conversions.
At All Out Digital Media, we’ve found that most social media feeds of architecture firms are populated with posts about awards, firm announcements, new hires, and completed projects. Yes, these kinds of posts have their place.
However, you also want to share content that is more relevant to your audience. Give priority to creating content that answers your potential client's concerns and shares your insider insights.
Get people to click through to your website with valuable, informative, pertinent content they can use. These types of posts remain relevant over a longer time, so you can share them multiple times over several months.
Known as “evergreen” content, this is more likely to be helpful to your audience and provide you with more bang for your content marketing investment.
More routinely sharing valuable content helps to establish you as the go-to expert and get a wider reach and increased engagement.
So how do you know which social media platform is right for you to join the conversation and find prospects?
Every social media platform has features that might or might not be right for your firm depending on how much time you have available to build up a following.
The Pros & Cons of Social Media for Architects We’ve listed some pros and cons of each social media platform below to help you make your choice:
Facebook - the pros for architects:
Use paid ads and Facebook Business Manager to fine-tune ad campaigns and reach your target audience at a relatively low cost.
Join Facebook groups related to the architecture industry and participate in the conversation.
Facebook - the cons for architects:
Building up an organic following takes time. Before you have a certain number of followers, the reach and engagement of your posts will be below.
Depending on your audience, Facebook may not be the best platform for finding qualified, new business opportunities.
Instagram is great for showcasing beautiful architecture project photos.
Instagram - the pros for architects
This is the social media platform people use for beautiful photography. Display your portfolio of completed architecture projects here and post as often as you can.
Use architecture hashtags to trigger the Instagram algorithm and to show your posts to followers with similar interests.
Instagram - the cons for architects
It takes time to build up a following on Instagram and you also have to post quite frequently. Evaluate whether you can commit to posting an image once a day — as any less won’t increase your following.
Don’t expect too much engagement with your audience. Instagram users mainly scroll through their feed, ‘heart’ an image they like, and move on.
Linkedin - the pros for architects
Next to your website, you and your firm’s Linkedin profiles are highly likely to come up as a close second in search results. Even if prospects are referred to you, they check your profile. Make sure it’s making a great first impression.
This is the place to connect and network with prospects, partners, and promoters. No time-consuming and costly in-person networking events are required.
Because Linkedin is one of the few social platforms for businesses and professionals, people on Linkedin are ready to make connections with each other. Just make sure any outreach you do has a clear purpose and value for your potential connections.
Linkedin’s search tools make it easy to find and connect with your ideal future clients, as opposed to other platforms where it can take a long time to build an organic following.
Linkedin - the cons for architects
If your profile isn’t set up to convince prospective clients that you’re the best choice for their project, they’ll decide to move on to somewhere else. We put together The Definitive LinkedIn Architecture Firm Marketing Guide to help you perfect your profile so you attract and connect with better clients and projects.
Improving your Linkedin profile to a high standard can be difficult to navigate. To help you, we created this free Linkedin profile checklist.
If you’re still unsure about how to use Linkedin, you might consider scheduling a consultation with us to learn more about how we can help you on Linkedin.
YouTube - the pros for architects
Video drives the most engagement on social media and YouTube can become the place where all your firm’s video content lives.
Video files are usually large and increase loading times on your website. If they are hosted on your YouTube channel, you can embed them to avoid that.
Videos give you the ability to show off your work and tell potential clients why you do what you do in a more personal manner. Add educational content that demonstrates your experience and expertise to the mix and you’ve got a captivating visual representation of your firm’s brand.
YouTube - the cons for architects
There is quite a time commitment to produce videos, learn editing skills, and get them up on your YouTube channel with an SEO-friendly description.
Related videos that are unappealing to your prospects might come up next to yours on YouTube. Unfortunately, you have no control over what shows up here.
Clubhouse - the pros for architects
The idea of Clubhouse is to have discussions and answer questions in a Room, which is an audio chat between a group of people with similar interests. Rooms are like audio-only webinars making this is a great way to build a community and earn trust for your brand online.
The clubhouse is an efficient networking tool to find a group of like-minded professionals and exchange advice and inspiration.
Because Clubhouse is relatively new, it’s currently easy to gain traction, and it’s the perfect platform for introverted architects.
Clubhouse - the cons for architects
As of this writing (April 2021), access to Clubhouse is invite-only. It is also only available to iOS users.
To get the most out of this platform, your architecture firm should actively participate in discussions and set up Rooms to showcase your expertise.
It depends on how much time you can invest and how much value you get out of your new contacts to determine whether Clubhouse is where your firm should focus its social media efforts.
We hope this list of pros and cons gives you some idea of where to focus your efforts on social media.
Having an effective social media strategy is key here and can get you results easier than you might think, as long as you choose your social media platforms carefully and employ an effective strategy.
05. Email marketing
What is email marketing?
Email marketing involves collecting email addresses from prospects and regularly sending them informational, promotional, and engaging emails to nurture your relationship with them.
What’s email marketing good for? Nurturing leads, building relationships, and re-engaging with former clients.
What’s email marketing not good for? Ad-hoc attempts at outreach.
The sheer volume of emails sent and received worldwide every day (293.6 billion, yes really) might leave many architecture firms with the impression that this technique might not be feasible for them.
The reality is that email marketing is a great opportunity to achieve a high return on investment. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42.
This marketing technique nurtures existing client relationships, keeps you in front of the mind, and helps you establish your architecture firm as the expert in your market.
How do you build an email list?
To obtain prospect email addresses, you can create a free offer or lead magnet on your website. This can be a branded PDF guide with helpful content like a project checklist, must-ask questions for hiring an architect, or a step-by-step guide on how your process works.
Remember to answer your prospective clients’ questions and they will happily download your advice in exchange for their email address. But, they don’t want to download a sales pitch, they want actual, valuable insight.
How can you stand out in people’s inboxes?
Once you have their contact details, you can stay on people’s minds via regular newsletters and other email offers.
To get started, invest some time in planning, learning the tools, and getting your chosen email software set up.
06. Lead funnels
What is a Lead funnel?
Lead funnels are a systematic approach to generating leads. They ‘funnel’ your target audience through distinct marketing/awareness stages until they decide on hiring you.
What are lead funnels good for? Targeting (and converting) a specific, well-defined audience.
What are lead funnels not good for? Targeting broad audiences.
A lead funnel is a purposely-built, carefully-crafted buyer’s journey from becoming aware of your brand to hiring you. There are usually four stages to a lead funnel:
Awareness This is where people search for information to identify their problem and a solution for it. They become aware you’re an option to provide that solution for them.
Interest At this stage, potential clients are looking for more specific, in-depth information on how to solve their problems. Site visitors can be converted into leads by providing the advice and insider insights they’re looking for.
Decision Once leads have made it this far, they’re ready to make their decision. Your informational content and clear brand messaging should convince them that your architecture firm is the right choice over your competitors.
Action At the bottom of the lead funnel, your prospects will probably have questions about pricing and implementation to see if they’re comfortable with what you’re offering. If you’re the right candidate, they take action and hire you.
To build an effective lead funnel you need to provide quality content throughout the client lifecycle to attract your ideal clients (and filter out any unsuitable ones).
We often see architecture firm websites without a clear initial offer to hook prospects into the funnel, or they’re trying to move potential clients too quickly to the ‘hire me’ stage.
It may seem like a funny comparison, but a lead funnel can closely model courtship. You wouldn’t expect someone to marry you at first sight. Likewise, your website visitors may not be ready to hire you on their first visit. They may simply be looking for answers to basic or initial questions.
If your website can provide a high-value resource to answer those questions, and allow you to capture their email, you can keep them interested with a stream of emails.
By using email to start — and keep — the conversation going, you can help them feel more excited about working with you, and effectively position you and your firm as the go-to experts they need for their project.
With any lead funnel, it’s crucial to make it easy for users to sign up for your services. This means providing clear calls to action that lead to an offer, like a paid consultation, to establish initial contact.
07. Marketing automation
What is marketing automation? Marketing automation is used to reduce or replace repetitive tasks and manual marketing processes using artificial intelligence (AI) and purpose-built software.
Marketing automation is a great way for architects to streamline processes.
It includes tools like appointment schedulers, chat-bots, client relationship managers (CRMs), email marketing, social media post schedulers, and pay-per-click ad campaigns.
What is marketing automation good for? Streamlining processes and reducing repetitive tasks.
What is marketing automation not good for? Quick implementation. Marketing automation software can help cut through tedious admin processes and ensure you follow up with the right people who are interested in your firm’s services. A good place to start with automating your email marketing processes is to set up your CRM system to send personalized, targeted messages to prospects. Many CRMs can send a series of emails triggered by specific actions or based on predetermined timing (these are known as “drip campaigns”). For example, once prospects sign up for your newsletter or download your lead magnet, you can send a series of follow-up emails, with additional high-value content, over the coming days or weeks to keep your architecture firm fresh in their mind.
08. Virtual events and webinars
What are virtual events? Virtual events are a fantastic way to grow your authority as an expert and expand your audience. Virtual events and webinars are live streams hosted on video conferencing platforms like Zoom, GoToWebinar, or Livestorm.
What are virtual events good for? Building a loyal following over time and growing your authority with your target audience.
What are virtual events not good for? Quick or low-effort results. Virtual events have seen enormous growth in 2020 and that will continue in 2021 with everyone trying to stay safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. It clearly shows in the numbers, as 80.2% of event organizers were able to reach a wider audience with virtual events in 2020.
In our own experience, organizing and hosting the 2020 Architects Success Forum virtual events are a fantastic way to grow your authority as an expert, partner with other like-minded professionals, and expand your audience.
If you’re considering hosting a live event or webinar to show off your industry knowledge, keep in mind that next to being informational, it should also be entertaining.
Depending on the scope, potential interest, and the ‘star quality of your guests, you might even be able to sell tickets for your event. This is a great way to get email addresses from prospects too. After all, taking time out of their busy schedules to attend your event shows enormous interest. If they like what they see, there’s a higher chance of hiring your architecture firm for their project.
Hosting events takes considerable planning, effort, and time, but it can also be an invaluable asset for building trust in your brand and extending your network of contacts.
09. Business listings
What are business listings?
A business listing is your architecture firm’s public profile on online directories like Google My Business, Bing, Yahoo, and Yelp. This usually includes your name, address, and phone number — in short, NAP.
What are business listings good for? Creating brand consistency across many channels, improving local SEO, managing online reviews.
What are business listings not good for? Direct engagement with prospects, low-effort results (unless you use a listings management service).
Business listings play a huge role in local search engine optimization (SEO), so it is vital to ensure that contact details are correct and consistent across all online directories.
If you’re thinking that this might be a lot of admin work, we have a solution for you. At Archmark, we offer a service that allows you to claim and maintain the TOP 70 listings using one simple dashboard. You can also track and manage online reviews from some listings.
We normally don’t recommend paid or premium business listing options like Houzz, Home Advisor, Thumbtack, or Angie’s List. (Though some of these platforms offer a free listing/account that may make sense for your firm). The problem with these “paid” listings is that you often have to pay for leads, whether or not they become clients. Instead, we recommend that you ensure your firm’s information on your local and state AIA website are up to date with the correct details.
Getting your NAP information right and distributing it to as many online directories as possible increases your firm’s visibility, improves your site’s search rankings, and ensures brand consistency online.