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Three ways architects can better market their value to clients

Learn more about how a website can communicate your value in an increasingly congested marketplace.

13 May 2024

Why should you use an architect? The answer is always that architects add genuine value to a project – specialist, high-level skills, creative solutions, beautiful design, and competence and compliance with the latest building safety and insurance requirements as well as a wider general understanding of the project process and collaborative needs.

In an ever-congested marketplace, communicating this value to potential clients is not only essential but sometimes tricky.

“You first need to identify your value,” says Nikita Morell, a copywriter and marketing strategist who works only for architects. “Competition is fierce – architects are competing against builders, drafts people, even Aunty Karen’s best friend’s son who is ‘good at drawing plans’. So you need to ask yourself, ‘what makes your ideal clients choose you over all other options?’”

So where to start with strengthening an architect's message? It all starts with their website.

Strengthening an architect's message all starts with their website. (Photo: iStock Photo)

Why investing in a website can pay dividends

An architect’s website is a practice’s online shop window and should first and foremost show visitors how it has successfully delivered value in the projects they are now being invited to check out.

When it comes to refining an approach to demonstrating value, Nikita suggests asking these questions before proceeding: should an architect make their homepage a soft-focus interior detail that offers visitors no clues to what lies beyond? Or should an architect make the visitor actually hunt for the menu cleverly hidden in a statement image before they get access?

Nikita recommends a website designed to communicate a clear message instantly from the outset. This approach requires a clear strategy.

1. Add a headline and/or subheading to your website homepage

Many practices make the mistake of having only a beautiful hero image on their homepage, Nikita begins.

But Microsoft did a study that showed people lose concentration after eight seconds, which means that an architect doesn’t have long to capture the imagination of any potential clients.

This is why you need WORDS not just beautiful images on your homepage.

A home page or a sub-page needs a headline or a subheading to communicate the value you bring to a project. The right tagline will attract the right clients and filter out those clients who are not a great fit.

2. Show, don’t tell: showcase your value in your project descriptions

Nikita recommends using a website’s project descriptions to showcase design thinking, problem solving and approach to projects.

Many architects use project descriptions that simply state facts or features of the project, but there’s a need to go beyond this. In short, show, don’t just tell.

This means vividly depicting the project through sensory details and experiences, rather than merely listing features or intentions. Below is an example to illustrate the difference:

Tell: The hospitality project is located in Terminal 1 of the International Departures at LAX Airport. A combined café and shop, it aims to provide travellers with quality local ingredients that you can dine-in and enjoy, grab-and-go or purchase as gifts.

Show: Hand painted vintage signs point the way to the buttercup yellow café, Rider’s Shack. Facing the tarmac, it offers respite from the busy concourse at Terminal 1 of the International Departures at LAX Airport. Travellers seated at long, resin communal tables enjoy their intricate smoothie bowls, while others pass the time perusing the local produce displayed on solid maple shelves. The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA plays over the speakers, a charming nod to California’s laid back 1960s surf culture.

This ‘show’ approach immerses the reader in the experience of the building, making the project's goals and features more tangible and impactful.

To go beyond describing what a person can SEE, ask:

  • What does your space smell like?
  • What do certain materials feel like?
  • What can you hear?

Aim to weave in at least two senses when writing project descriptions.

Read more about five easy fixes you can make to improve your website

Prospective clients will encounter an architect’s website testimonials when researching architectural services. (Photo: iStock Photo)

3. Sprinkle testimonials throughout a website

Social proof that an architect can deliver value is incredibly powerful. “It’s much more impactful for others to brag on your behalf,” says Nikita. “Collect and prominently display testimonials from past clients and collaborators who can speak to the quality and impact of your work.”

Typically, prospective clients will encounter an architect’s website testimonials when researching architectural services, considering different options and evaluating if they are the right fit for them.

At this point, potential clients will have questions – better known as objections – running through their minds:

  • Will they really listen to and respect my ideas?
  • Do they have experience in working on projects similar to mine?
  • Will they respect my budget?
  • Will they stick to my timeline?
  • Will they prioritise my project?
  • Are they easy to work with?

Testimonials on a website can help:

  • Prove the effectiveness of a design process.
  • Attract the right types of clients (and discourage the wrong ones).
  • Overcome doubts.
  • Reduce perceived risk.

Thanks to Nikita Morell, Copywriter & Marketing Strategist for Architects. Sign up to Nikita’s newsletters for more architecture copywriting tips, tricks and templates.

Text by Neal Morris and the RIBA Practice team. This is a Professional Feature edited by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas

RIBA Core Curriculum topic: Business, clients and services.

As part of the flexible RIBA CPD programme, professional features count as microlearning. See further information on the updated RIBA CPD core curriculum and on fulfilling your CPD requirements as an RIBA Chartered Member.

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