of the hardest things for a successful architect to manage is
learning the business of architecture. The practice of architecture
is one thing, but for most architects, their only exposure to
business development or marketing may have been updating their resume
or making presentations. From the view of the up-and-coming
architect, therefore, it often seems like the key to generating
business lies in RFPs (definition:
is a serious mistake. The real key to securing architectural work is
the relationship you have with the client -- a focus not on "selling"
them, but on actively looking for ways to help them. The process of
bringing in work begins months or years before the RFP is ever
issued. In fact, the RFP and resulting proposal can often be more of
a formality than a keystone of the project cycle, once you understand
how the business really works.
Your Marketing For Success In 4 Steps:
are four simple steps you can take to get off the hamster wheel of
client-chasing. Follow them, and you'll find that working on your
relationships relieves you from the stress of paying your bills and
the preoccupation with finding more work.
Develop a Systematic Approach for Determining Which Relationships are
all probability, your firm has an overwhelmingly long list of client
relationships, if you consider all the relationships you've developed
over time. From the people in client organizations you're currently
engaged with, dormant relationships, people who changed jobs and are
now new potential clients, sub-consultants... the list goes
than trying to cultivate new work from all, focus on relationships
with current clients, dormant clients, and prospective clients who
you know are already aware of your firm.
Prospect with Current Clients
clients are far and away the best source of new business. While it
seems like it would be awkward to ask for new work during an ongoing
project, the trick is that you aren't ever going to "ask for new
take a client-centric approach. Look at the client's business, their
strategic and business goals. Feel them out in conversation to see
where they're headed, and identify ways you might be able to
is a genuine approach which feels great to use -- you really do care
about the success of your client, and if you can find a way to
continue helping support them, that's not selling at all. It's
Feel Out Dormant Clients
dormant clients, you may have relationships with people who are at
the organization, or you may find your contact has moved on. In the
first case, it can feel like a reunion, sometimes one that leads to
immediate work as the client says, "I was just thinking about
your contact left, this is where some marketing skill comes into
play. If you use promotional products, for example:
their predecessor may have left them around the office, building up
familiarity before you call. Then you call, explain you like to
follow up periodically with past clients, and say you'd like to meet
with the new person to get to know them and learn about the
organization's current goal. Again, the goal of this meeting is to
learn if and how you can help.
Look For Prospective Clients
you've cultivated your current and dormant client relationships, you
can move on to prospective clients. Perhaps the most common mistake
firms make here is being a "waiter" -- waiting for an
invitation to a job, waiting for an RFP. Instead, you want to go out
and select desired clients-to-be. In fact, if possible you should
meet with prospective clients to see if you want to work with
this seems outrageous, it's not. Most clients select new firms for an
intangible reason known as the "fit." But this "fit"
doesn't come out during the presentation, it comes out much earlier.
Therefore, start out by taking time to define your clients' ideal
characteristics and traits (in addition to "deal breaker"
factors) and then go through qualifying prospective clients.
of the best tools for qualifying clients is to look at how they treat
you when you reach out to them. Pay attention to how open they are,
the level of access they give you to key people. Ask people who've
worked with them if they pay on time, whether they decide based on
price, and if they pay attention to design. You can find more
information on how to qualify potential clients here:
hardest part of the four steps may seem like reaching out to
prospective clients, but it's not. Once you've moved through current
and dormant client relationships, reaching out to new clients will be
surprisingly easy. The real point where you need to pay attention is
your attitude towards clients -- you want to eliminate the idea of
"selling" and focus instead on "helping."