Small Project Design

Community HTML

BI(h)OME (by Kevin Daly Architects)

Quick Links

Who we are

AIA Small Project Design (SPD) Knowledge Community supports, celebrates, and promotes small projects by engaging designers and the public.

Expand all | Collapse all

Marketing and Advertising

  • 1.  Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-09-2020 04:15 PM

    I would like to open a discussion to share marketing/advertising strategies among small residential design firms.  Most of my business is word of mouth but I would like to broaden my reach and target a few specific neighborhoods.  Please share any strategies that you find particularly successful.  I have researched HOUZZ Pro, Angie's list, marketing postcards to specific neighborhoods, more frequent social media posts and ads in local Home and Design magazine, but have never used any of them and am not sure of their effectiveness or if they are worth the investment.


    Thanks in advance,


    Stephanie Sola-Sole







  • 2.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-10-2020 05:39 PM
    I have used several of the lead services and not had much luck with any of them. Before it became Home Advisor, it used to be Service Magic. I started with Service Magic when they started up and would get maybe 5 leads a month that I paid about $25 each for. I was closing about 70% of the leads they gave me. As others started using the service the percentage kept creeping down. Now that it is Home Advisor the closing rate is below 10% and the cost per lead is about $85 plus a $40 monthly fee to stay active in their system. I believe they bought out Angie's list. I received a lead last month that I found out originated from my client contacting Angies List. Unfortunately I paid my fee to Service Magic for a lead for people that know I am an architect and I see every week. The biggest problem with the leads I get from them is that they do not check phone numbers & email addresses before sending leads. I spend hours trying to get credit for leads that I can't get people to answer the phone or return an email. It usually turns out that about 15% of the leads I have never made contact with the person and  get only about 10% of the lead fees returned to me. I did as well with the free listing on Houzz as I have with their paid subscription. In 1-1/2 years I picked up 1 project using their paid leads.That service is costing me hundreds of dollars per month. I also get similar results from Yelp advertising. I wuill be discontinuing each of these services as sonn as my contracts expire.

    Edwin Elliott AIA
    Edwin O. Elliott, Jr., AIA - Architect
    Pleasantville NY

  • 3.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-10-2020 05:47 PM

    Thanks for your honest feedback.  I was not convinced that Angie's list or Houzz pro services would be very helpful.  You voiced my concerns.


    I appreciate your response.



    Stephanie Sola-Sole





    m:  202.744.3251




  • 4.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-10-2020 05:53 PM
    I have used for a number of years and have had good results. I am presently paying $300 per month to be promoted in two geographical areas of the Denver Metro. area which is still experiencing good growth in the residential real estate market.  In the beginning I spent quite a bit of time setting up my pages on the site, including posting many good quality photos of my completed projects and filling in the project descriptions, etc. I have also managed to get a number of positive reviews from previous clients. ( I don't request reviews from clients unless I feel intuitively that they will write something positive.) Frankly, has kept me afloat because otherwise I don't know how else I'd get work other than by the occasional word of mouth referral. I used to use "Home Advisor" but found the leads they sent were too small in scope to bother with.​

    Robert Larsen AIA
    Robert R. Larsen, A.I.A.
    Denver CO

  • 5.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-11-2020 05:44 PM

    We subscribe to HOUZZ too.  We do indeed occasionally get a decent referral because of this.  However, be very careful about downloading or sharing anything on the HOUZZ site.  There are internet "trolls" who peruse everyone's' website or blog that gets stuff form HOUZZ for copyright infringement. We just had to settle out of court for a significant sum simply because we shared an article off the HOUZZ site that has a photo embedded in it from a photographer that claims HOUZZ had no permission to use his photo.  Until HOUZZ gives us real assurances on this we have decided to take any links we shared from them off of our blog.  Too big of a risk.

    Warm Regards,

    Peter L Pfeiffer,  FAIA
    President & Founding Shareholder

    Comprehensive Design | Innovative Building Science

    1800 W. Sixth St. Austin, TX. 78703     office 512 476-8580 x101     cell 512 426-3306                                              





  • 6.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-10-2020 05:55 PM
    Try also advertising with the NextDoor app. My firm doesn't do residential but my wife and I use the app for all things local. We started using it about a year ago. The number of people participating has grown substantially in that time. People asking for trade and service references is quite common.

    Paul Gladysz AIA
    BDA Architecture, P.C.
    Albuquerque NM

  • 7.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-10-2020 06:46 PM
    I'm still paying for a Houzz pro account, and just finished a (painful) $300 a month ad series in a targeted neighborhood magazine, but most my leads come from past clients and contractors.  But, back in the day, I ran a postcard program where I made cards featuring recent projects, with a soft sell message and found it VERY effective.

    The key is your mailing list: at it's peak, I had over 4,000 names on it, separated into categories: my "A" list of past clients and industry partners who I wanted to stay in touch with, my B list, then a Contractor and Sub list, a Realtor list, a Banker/Lender list, and Media list.  I even had an Architect/Interior designer list, and you'd be amazed how many references I got from other architects who didn't do the kind of work I do (residential remodeling)

    My favorite story was a client who came in with a 13 year old postcard that they'd kept on their refrigerator, knowing that someday they'd be able to afford the whole house and new second story remodel I eventually did for them!

    I assume you already have a logo, good collateral materials, including job signs (amazing how much they can do).

    Good luck!

    Douglas Walter AIA
    Denver CO

  • 8.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-10-2020 07:31 PM
    Hello, Stephanie:

    Much of my work also comes from word of mouth, as well as from several general contractors who recognize that code-compliant design work is needed for building permits, and who seem to think I do a good enough job to keep mentioning me to their customers.

    However, I do participate in a few pay-per-referral services, Home Advisor and Thumbtack.  Both allow you to restrict leads to certain zip codes (may work for your "neighborhoods" and to take your name off-line if you are busy. (HA has two-week blockout times, maximum, and they send you a reminder a day ahead of time, almost enough warning for me usually.) My more interesting, out-of-the-blue projects, as well as the projects that I am least interested in, have come from these sources.

    Both services are frankly more interested in extracting their $50 per referral fee (or, whatever weekly or monthly limit you have set) than finding projects which are a good fit, and the simple choices they offer to their (non-paying) contacts, to describe the possible job to me, are outlines of the work at best.  However, for people who don't have word-of-mouth friends to drop your name, they do seem to serve a purpose.

    For some high-quality kool-aid (which I've sipped, but not fully acted upon), take a look at what Eric Bobrow, Richard Petrie, and Enoch Sears are peddling.  They have good recommendations on what to do, and what not to do.  I think they have a pretty good understanding of the consumer mentality.  As a profession, the usual format for responding to public agency RFQ statements [ " .. we are pleased to present this information outlining our qualifications ..." ] is terrible, for both those projects as well as private home owners.

    You might find that a Facebook or Pinterest presence, and perhaps even subscribing for such sites to rank you higher for searches from your target zip codes, might be worth the effort.  On the other hand, those companies, and Google and Yelp, are getting rich at a few pennies per click, if you are paying for sidebar presence.

    best regards,
    Joel Niemi
    - Architect

  • 9.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-10-2020 08:17 PM
    Hi Stephanie,

    The future of marketing appears to be creating meaningful content, delivering it in a fun and entertaining way (through social media channels), and building a community around your brand. Allowing prospective clients to get to know you before the specific need for your services even arises for them. Then, when they do have a need, you are already a trusted advisor to them. The suggestion about building your database is spot on. This is critical. I suggest more than a database. I suggest a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, and you will need to understand how to make use of it. If you have not yet done so I encourage you to become a member of the Small Firm Exchange (Sfx). SFx should be a great resource for you. There are also consultants like Jeff Echols (Managing Principal, A/E/C / Revenue Path Group) and Enoch Sears AIA, his podcast is here that can guide you as well. Much of what leads to success in business, in general, is what will lead to success in your architectural practice, including how you market your services. So books on marketing using the technology of today should be of assistance to you.

    Kevin Harris Assoc. AIA
    Director, Sales & Marketing
    AGS Stainless, Inc.
    Bainbrdge Island WA

  • 10.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-10-2020 09:03 PM
    I am not sure how effective any of them are either.

    I get calls from Angies List.  It is not exclusive.  They will let anyone on who will pay.

    John A. Feick, AIA, CSI, LEED AP 
    224 East Water Street 
    Sandusky, Ohio 44870 
    419-625-2554 (w) 
    419-656-3017 (c)

  • 11.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-11-2020 12:29 AM
    I am retired now, but had a sole proprietor custom residential and office-warehouse practice in the NY-northern NJ area.
    Aside from word of mouth I got many referrals from real estate brokers. My residential practice were often alterations  and/or additions to older historic houses. I had also done a large addition on my own 1905 house which helped launch the residential practice with five additions in our town of mostly older housing stock. I also had the office-warehouse practice in northern NJ which got referrals from commercial real estate brokers and owner/developers for their tenant upgrades. I designed many buildings as new and then got the tenant changes and alterations as the leases turned over.
    Hope that helps,

    Edward R. Acker
    Emeritus AIA, LEED AP

    Edward Acker AIA
    Senior Architect
    Broomfield CO

  • 12.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-11-2020 10:00 AM


    When I went out on my own 25 years ago I joined the local chapter of Business Networking International (BNI). They have a great program of networking round tables. You can't just attend meetings though. You have to be very active in the group teaching fellow members how to market for you and learning what their needs are. Better yet, become a chapter leader and frame the membership around professions related to architecture, engineering construction, real estate development and real estate financing. It does work. I was soon getting 60% of my work from this group and the referrals snow balled. I have retired now and just teach but I still get referrals and requests related to that group.


    Thad Broom


    Thad A. Broom, AIA Emeritus

    332 Laskin Rd. Apt 534

    Virginia Beach, VA 23451

    Tel: (757) 618 1125



  • 13.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-11-2020 11:59 AM

    I have used Google AdWords, Thumbtack, and Bark. I have gotten one client through Houzz, but I only use their free listing. The paid version struck me as expensive for what I thought it likely to produce.  Of the three, the first two were initially successful in generating inquiries while Bark has never generated any useful contacts.  AdWords gradually diminished in effectiveness, which I attribute to a more crowded marketplace.  I never could make any sense of their keyword priorities and was eventually put off by their charging for clicks that were coming from people who would never use our services.  Thumbtack was also initially useful but changed the way they charged and tended to produce weaker and weaker prospects over time.  At present, I use none of the services.  I do get inquiries from people randomly scanning the web for local architects, who then visit our website. I recommend a simple website with useful information rather than just a display of your work.  It won't necessarily help you in specific neighborhoods, but it will help prospective clients find you. 


    Christopher N. Carley, AIA

    C.N. Carley Associates, Architects and Planners
    4 Vernon St.

    Concord, NH 03301




  • 14.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-14-2020 09:52 AM

    Thanks to everyone for your responses.  I appreciate you taking the time to respond.  We have some great work-generating options to look into.


    Stephanie Sola-Sole





    m:  202.744.3251



  • 15.  RE: Marketing and Advertising

    Posted 12-14-2020 10:44 AM
    I noticed that Enoch Sears name was mentioned in one of the posts.I recommend checking out his current firm - Business of Architecture as well as the firm he founded with Eric Bobrow & Richard  Petrie - Architectural Marketing Institute. I did better with these 2 firms than everything else I did put together.

    Business of Architecture

    Architectural Marketing Institute.

    Edwin Elliott AIA
    Edwin O. Elliott, Jr., AIA - Architect
    Pleasantville NY