Dave Sharp advises architecture firms on social media, communication and marketing strategy. More.
1. Project pages are clingy.
Projects should be the strongest content on an architecture website, but they’re usually the biggest losers.
Project pages should bring visitors from the rest of the internet and drive them towards a primary goal. They should be contacting you, not closing the tab.
Yet, this is the sad state of project pages on most architect’s websites.
Right now, your visitors land on your homepage, head to the about page if they’re curious, then leave the site.
They might skim one or two projects, but not enough to convert them. Why? Because project pages are usually photo galleries, with a bit of generic copy. They don’t convert.
The problem with home pages
Here’s the rub, nobody wants to link to homepages. Google doesn’t want to link to your homepage. If a journalist is discussing your project, they don’t want to link to your homepage.
You can improve your project pages by giving them unique and noteworthy URL’s, and then structure the copy so that it tells a story to your audience.
Here’s an example:
- Client testimonial
If a visitor comes to this one page, it should be as potent as your homepage. Look at Apple for inspiration. They launch a new product, and that product page could be a homepage in its own right. It sells Apple while selling Airpods.
You poured your heart into project for two years. Spend an hour crafting copy that sells the building and your firm at the same time.
Once your project pages have images, structure, and at least 500 words, you’ll be able to promote them.
Upgrading old content is as important as creating new content. Go back to your old projects and upgrade their supporting copy.
2. No lead magnet — so no leads.
We help our clients to improve their Instagram marketing. They generate lots of inbound traffic, but they still get few enquiries. What gives!
You need a conversion lead magnet.
Here’s why. When we look under the hood at their analytics, we can see that their site’s conversion rate is often less than 1%. Sometimes 0.25% of website visitors will reach out to you by filling in a contact form. That’s a huge issue.
When it comes to generating inbound traffic, there’s a lot of ways you can go about it. You can win an award, post on Instagram, record a YouTube video and so on. Those marketing channels can be cheap or expensive depending on your site’s conversion rate.
A conversion lead magnet can go a long way to fixing the issue. 99.5% of people leave your site and never come back because there’s nothing valuable for them to get their hands on.
If you give them something valuable, you’ll get their email address. Now you can push new projects to them as often as you like.
0.5% of your visitors will contact you on their first visit. But on visit number ten, that conversion rate looks different.
What are lead magnets?
Lead magnets are usually downloads. Guides, articles, checklists. A piece of proprietary information that would be valuable to the kind of client you’re looking for.
“10 point checklist for what you should take to your first meeting with an architect.”
“How to choose a block of land with great solar orientation.”
“Our 2017 guide to construction prices in Victoria.”
To get their hands on these desirable packages of information, your visitor has to hand over their email. You can set up an automated sequence of emails to follow up on those leads and invite them to book a call.
When we add lead magnets to our client websites, they sometimes from converting 0.5% of visitors to 15%. That’s the kind of conversion rate that makes inbound marketing profitable.
- Write a 2000+ word guide for your niche.
- Install Sumome or Hello Bar on your website
- Create a List builder popup offering a PDF download
- Integrate List Builder with your email newsletter software.
3. Conversion goals are MIA.
The last point wouldn’t have made any sense if you haven’t set up conversion goals in Google Analytics.
The percentage of visitors who complete the conversion goal is the conversion rate.
This rate matters because it’s the benchmark for measuring content effectiveness.
Imagine this scenario. Your latest project has been featured on Archdaily and attracted 500 visitors! But on the same night, your Instagram post of the new project attracted 45 website visitors. Sad! Or is it? You got a few emails from the website. How do you know where those website visitors came from?
With conversion goals, you’ll be able to tell that 35% of Instagram visitors are contacting you, whereas 0.01% of Archdaily visitors are. Where will you put your focus in the future?
The same goes for your projects. You’ll be able to measure each page against its conversion rate and find out which portfolio project is bringing in a lion’s share of your leads. If you have this info, you’ll know which project to try and outreach with.
But, if you find a project isn’t bringing you any leads, it’s a clear candidate for an upgrade or refresh. It isn’t driving business results.
What about geography? With conversion tracking, you can see which suburbs are getting you traction.
Finally, paid media. Paid media rocks, but you can’t tell whether you have a money machine or money pit unless you can measure the ROI from your website conversions.
Once you have a conversion goal, you have clarity over what’s driving your growth.
- Set up a ‘thank you’ page on your website.
- Have your contact form redirect to the thank you page.
- Set the thank you page URL as a conversion goal in Google Analytics.
- Import a content efficiency dashboard so that you can attribute goals to projects.
4. Contact forms don’t say no.
Most architects are doing the right thing by having contact forms, rather than email links.
Email links are bad because you can’t easily track whether people are clicking them, so you won't know your overall conversion rate (or where those leads are finding your website).
The problem with a lot of forms is that they don’t assist you in the laborious process of qualifying inbound leads.
Qualification is easy when you only get one lead a week. In fact, if you only get a few leads a month or less, you won't want to create any obstacles at all for your visitors by asking for too much information. When that number increases 10x from your marketing, you’re going to need a process.
A lot of architects tell me how frustrating they find tyre kickers. The best way to fight the kickers is to create a contact form that prods their brief out of them.
You can see an example of a qualification form at the bottom of one of our client’s websites. Sergio’s form asks questions about budget, goals, seriousness of enquiry. That way, he can get a sense of who matters and who doesn’t before following up.
Once you upgrade your form, it should redirect visitors to the thank you page I mentioned earlier.
This page should have the next steps. “Our director will reach out to you to schedule an initial discovery call. If we think we’re a good match for each other, we’ll send you a fee proposal to begin pre-design on your project. Our proposals range in price, but in the past, they have started at $XXXX for the initial steps of the design process leading up to tender — which are 1, 2, 3”
The copy above is hypothetical, but it’s a helpful time to get a lot of the pain points out of the way. It can prevent those awful meetings where the client has an unreasonable budget or misunderstands your service.
- Add extra questions to your contact form.
- Write next steps on your thank you page.
5. Wishy-washy home pages turn us off.
Most architects appear to offer the same service. We don’t differentiate. When you don’t speak to your audience specifically, architecture becomes a commodity.
That’s why architects are in a branding arms-race. We all know architects who spend a small fortune every year on logos, website refreshes and business cards. It’s crazy, and it doesn’t work.
Differentiating isn’t only about a 1–2 sentence primary description. You don’t need to craft a catchy byline.
Instead, focus on homepage and navigational structure.
If you’re a small firm, your homepage should be a lot more personal. Who are the people behind this? What are they like?
Your client needs to build trust with the entire architecture profession before they can trust you.
Your homepage should sell architecture
As the Architects’ Journal discovered in their 2012 survey of the general public, most people have no idea what architects do.
The consequence of this valuable information is that they’ll trust you as an expert.
Your project photos can be the last item at the bottom of the homepage. They become inconsequential when you sell the profession first. Even a single project will do, the one you feel best embodies the values espoused above. If that project page then elaborates on the points you made about architecture on the homepage, then that’s even better.
What can a big firm do?
If you are targeting corporate or institutional clients, they have bosses and stakeholders. Your home page should the boxes that they’ll have to tick for their boss. As an architect, you have a due diligence process for identifying capable builders. Imagine your website was being looked at through the lens of due diligence.
Your visitor doesn’t want to get fired. They want a promotion, a raise. They want to select a designer who will over deliver and make the project a huge win. What do they want to see on your home page that builds this kind of trust?
Large firms should focus on the big wins.
- Past experience with similarly structured organisations to your target.
- Featured projects or case studies from your target vertical.
- Clear geographic focus.
- A unique complimentary service — branding, business planning, marketing, social media.
- Company culture
Why does culture appeal to these hard-nosed corporate types?
You’re a big company. To a prospect, your success guarantees competency.
But, your competitors are also competent.
Your prospect assumes that you’ll produce the same outcome, at the same price and in the same time frame.
Being demonstrably better at architecture isn’t an effective differentiator for large firms.
But, at the end of the day, who does your client want to sit in countless meetings with and not get completely bummed out by month three?
How can they get a feel for your team’s cool temper facing a stressful deadline?
How do they know you will answer their calls and respond to their emails in a business-like timeframe?
How do they know you’ll add something unique to drive their ROI that your competitor’s can’t?
Whether you’re big or small, make your homepage about client psychology. Not photos of buildings.
Wishy-washy websites don’t convert.
- Your website can turn more visitors into clients, which makes your marketing efforts more profitable.
- Your project pages can become powerful magnets for inbound traffic.
- By recording and analysis conversion goals, you can compare marketing ROI and content efficiency.
- An email is better than a close tab, so focus on grabbing emails as a primary goal.
- Examine your home page structure. Redesign and re-write to focus on your ideal client’s psychology rather than your creativity.