Dave Sharp advises architecture firms on social media, communication and marketing strategy. More.
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When I’m creating marketing strategies for architecture firms, I’m always surprised by how most directors can’t confidently tell me their total market potential — a pretty basic business plan question. They tell me things like “my market is married couples over 40” or “people looking to build a really good extension” (with the caveat: they have to have lots of money).
In other words, “it’s everybody”.
You might think that’s your market, but it’s helpful to drill-down more, be more realistic and specific about the true size of your market, or the marketing campaign you’re paying me to run could easily miss the mark.
In reality, architecture clients, in your city, with a problem for you to solve are a tiny niche — with super specific needs in common.
How many architect designed-houses are built each year in Australia?
In the last 12 months,there were 117,080 new houses in Australia.
What percentage of those were designed and overseen by architects?
We don’t know — but everyone’s best guess seems to be around 3–5%.
That leaves our industry somewhere between 3512 and 5854 houses per year.
Let’s break the higher number down to a monthly figure for each state. I care about monthly because we measure website traffic in monthly cycles so it helps you to imagine it in comparison to your web traffic and lead-generation success rates.
Monthly opportunities for architects in each state
- New South Wales — 122 houses per month
- Victoria — 155 houses per month
- Queensland — 105 houses per month
- South Australia — 34 houses per month
- Western Australia — 57 houses per month
- Tasmania — 8 houses per month
- Northern Territory — 2 houses per month
- Australian Capital Territory — 4 houses per month
So that’s the answer to the question of how big your market is.
If your firm operates in NSW, there’s 122 prospects in the market for your services this month, give or take. If you’re in NT, there’s 2.
Competition is high
Now, let’s look at how many residential architecture firms are competing over this work. This is data we scraped from Houzz (sue me), which represents most, but not all firms actively marketing for residential work in each state. I’ve also included the ratio of firms to monthly project leads for scale.
- New South Wales — 1992 (16:1)
- Victoria — 1575 (10:1)
- Queensland — 724 (7:1)
- South Australia — 516 (15:1)
- Western Australia — 749 (13:1)
- Tasmania — 119 (14:1)
- Northern Territory — 38 (18:1)
- Australian Capital Territory — 135 (34:1)
You have two choices: Get super granular or give up
The reason I broke down these numbers was to hopefully dissuade you from asking guys like me to find you “people looking for an architect” right now, while you’re also approaching your market as a generalist.
Why? Because the real answer is that there are almost none of them, and for the ones that do exist, there’s 1500 other firms looking for the exact same thing, saying the same thing, offering the same thing. We’re not a highly differentiated market.
Whether or not one of the few prospects lands on your website, email you, and sign a contract is largely luck.
So is that the end of the story? Marketing architecture is a complete waste of time and I should turn off the lights at Vanity Projects and call it a day? Nope.
Here are the marketing opportunities every architect is ignoring:
To build your firm’s business, we need to do what no other firm is doing, and forget about people looking for an architect this month. Just write them off, they’re gone — let the other 1500 firms invest their marketing efforts in vain trying to make it onto the computer screens of these 100 or so prospects without any clear picture of who they are, what they want, or how much they’re willing to pay for it.
We have a better plan, we’re playing the long game, and it involves three components to turn the market size into something we can work with — people who WILL look for an architect, but aren’t there yet.
Think like a talent scout, poach clients early and stay top of mind.
If you’re in Victoria, there’s only 155 serious prospects in your market this month. But how many will there be over the next five years? 9300. Of that group, only 1.66% are looking for an architect now. So why are we investing all of our marketing efforts. brand position, PR strategy and focus on the 1.66%?
- Why are we running adwords campaigns to people searching for “melbourne architect”?
- Why does our website talk about starting a project right now, treating everyone like they’re ready to pick their architect today?
- Why do we ask website visitors to describe their brief in order to speak to us?
- Why do we desperately seek publication in print, when today’s Houses magazine will be tomorrow’s fish and chip paper by the time our prospect is in that stage of the purchasing journey?
The other 98.34% currently have no idea that they’re eventually going to hire an architect.
So we need to ask ourselves, where is this group hanging out? What matters to them? What are the telltale signs that they will eventually work with an architect?
Here’s the bottom line: They love architecture, and they’re not architects or becoming architects.
What could communicating to the future-client look like?
Our audience is in the interest and awareness phase, they aren’t yet making a decision or taking action — so our job is to nurture that interest and slowly nudge them towards our goal over time by building trust and giving them value.
Instead of focusing on short-term goals and immediate action, we pivot to building a community:
- Our website is a resource for people who love architecture. It has blog posts that answer simple questions about architecture and construction, and its text is laser-focused on sharing a passion for architecture (because, let’s face it, it’s the only thing you and your audience have in common).
- Our Instagram shows people who love architecture, architecture that they’ll love. Sometimes it will be our own work, and other times it won’t be.
- We generate traffic by targeting paid social campaigns to people who Facebook knows are closeted architecture fanatics, because it knows you better than your own mother by what you look at, what you say, which websites you visit.
- Our monthly newsletter is a vital resource for architecture fans, including the latest news, coolest projects, and smartest tips from across the industry.
Do these things consistently and you’ll build your traffic and leads, because that audience is really big, really active, and includes every client you or any of your competitors will begin a project with in the next decade.
With patience and a long-term perspective, the market for real residential clients is enormous — and best of all, we’ve never had such easy tools to reach them.