How to Market Your Architecture Business

By Maya Weber posted 06-23-2014 06:30



One 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:

This 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.

Re-Architect Your Marketing For Success In 4 Steps:

There 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.

1. Develop a Systematic Approach for Determining Which Relationships are Worth Cultivating

In 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 on.

Rather 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.

2. Prospect with Current Clients

Current 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 work".

Instead, 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 help.

This 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 helping.

3. Feel Out Dormant Clients

With 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 you!"

If 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.

4. Look For Prospective Clients

Once 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 them.

If 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.

One 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:


The 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."