A universal misconception

One belief seems to be universal among architects: All you need to run a successful firm is to be a good designer. Just the other day, I read an interview of an architect who proclaimed that “good work will get noticed.” False! 

This misconception might just explain why architects are so ill-equipped to run financially-sustainable practices. I’ve learned that there are three key myths plaguing the industry and holding us back. Time to bust them!

Let’s be clear: good design—or anything to that matter—does not simply ‘get noticed’ and sure doesn’t sell itself. No matter how amazing your designs, your firm needs more than that to get by. 

Myth #1 – Good design will sell itself

Let’s be clear: good design—or anything to that matter—does not simply ‘get noticed’ and sure doesn’t sell itself. No matter how amazing your designs, your firm needs more than that to get by. The biggest challenge architecture firm owners have isn’t design-related. It’s getting work in the first place.

Try getting published where your clients will take notice (I said clients, not your peers). Promote your work and ideas through social media posts, whitepapers or case studies. Raise awareness about who you are, what you have to offer and why clients should choose you. You work hard enough to make good designs, now make sure you get them in front of your prospective clients.

Myth #2 – Marketing is for the top dogs

Before you say you’re too small an office, let’s clarify what marketing actually is. It’s essentially communicating your firm’s value and services to attract prospective clients and retain existing ones. The good news is you don’t need any money to do that. Just 2-4 hours a week will do for a small office.

Meaningful blogging or social media posts can be enough to stay top of mind, educate clients and provide them with information they need to navigate their developing and building journey. You’ll earn their trust and establish yourself as an authority in your field. By definition, architects are creative problem solvers. So simply see marketing as a tool to solve a different kind of problem.

By doing away with these myths, you open yourself up to increasing your bottom line and acquiring the types of clients and projects that you want. It’s precisely in these times of global economic disruption that it’s important to explore new avenues.

Myth #3 – Business development is about winning tenders

Most architects hold a narrow view of business development. I define it as all the activities aimed at driving growth and profitability. There’s clearly more to it than winning tenders. Proactive business development is about seeking out your ideal clients and developing existing accounts.

Start by making a list and working to establish or reinforce relationships with 5-10 target clients and contractors/engineers you’d like to work or team up with for future tenders or projects. Create a service portfolio that explains what your work entails, for whom it’s for and even alludes to pricing to fluidify your sales process, onboard and upsell clients and get projects off to a rolling start.

New avenues

By doing away with these myths, you open yourself up to increasing your bottom line and acquiring the types of clients and projects that you want. It’s precisely in these times of global economic disruption that it’s important to explore new avenues. I’m confident that those of you that invest in simple marketing and business development tactics will be the ones standing tall when the market picks up again. You’ll be the ones getting noticed and hired.

Read the dutch language version of the column posted on A.Zine online architecture magazine here originally posted September 7th, 2020.

Want more?

Join host Sara Kolata and I on Arch Talk:Tank podcast as we go further into detail about these three myths plaguing the architecture industry. Watch here.

Arch Talk.Tank #23 - Sara Kolata - Nyasha Harper-Michon

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