Using digital marketing tools can help you amplify your reach and grow your network. As natural creatives, you instinctively want to devote your efforts to ongoing projects. Running a business, however, means that you must also market your services. Finding new leads is one of the necessary challenges most architecture and design firms face. You may already have your own methods to find prospective clients, but a robust digital strategy is an absolute must.
Here are 6 ways you can use digital marketing to expand your client base:
1. Social Media Visibility
In 2019, about 45% of people used social media, spending an average of 2 hours and 23 minutes on it per day. About 58 minutes of this time was used on Facebook and 53 minutes on Instagram. This is good to know where people are spending the most time, but maybe those aren’t the people you want to reach. Find out where your audience spends its time, and start there. LinkedIn cannot be ignored – especially when the time comes to find new hires. It has the ability to present a more credible, professional profile and is a way to build connections among industry peers.
These platforms can help you create and monitor targeted ads for lead generation depending on your chosen demographic. You can also perform brand awareness or engagement marketing campaigns on these platforms by sharing photos of work-in-progress designs, finished projects and portfolio items, client case studies, and more. Be sure to show off your work with professional photos and solid lighting.
Creating a presence on social media can itself feel like a full-time job, especially when you are working with multiple platforms. Try to connect them with a management tool like Hootsuite to streamline your posting schedule and monitor analytics through one dashboard. Realize that it can take some time to build engagement – this is a marathon, not a sprint. So stick with it and don’t get discouraged early on.
2. Use Houzz.com
Houzz was specifically created for homeowners to connect with designers, homebuilders, and suppliers that may help them accomplish almost any home improvement need. Visitors can search for local architects and building designers, general contractors, interior designers, and more through the Find Professionals section of the site (specifically under the Home Design & Remodeling category).
Houzz Pro, a segment created specifically for industry professionals, connects you to clients who visit the site and can help streamline your work. There is even an online payment feature and live customer support for professionals to take advantage of.
Before you invest too much time, be aware that Houzz does have some limitations. It caters mostly to homebuilding and home improvement projects. If your expertise lies outside of the residential sector, turn to Mortarr instead. It is somewhat the equivalent of Houzz for commercial projects
3. Develop a Strong Website
Being present on social media and lead-generating platforms like Houzz is important, but having a professional website is even more critical. If you can’t drive social media users to your company website, you’re going to miss out in a major way. Not only does it provide added credibility, but it also gives you the opportunity to showcase more of your work. You have the freedom to shape a visitor’s experience with your brand and showcase your firm’s focus.
An unprofessional site will reflect poorly on your company, so make sure you enlist the help of the website development and design team to create an attractive site. Design is important in architectural work, and that should be well represented here, too. If you insist on building the site yourself, there are plenty of user-friendly tools like WordPress or Wix to consider. These companies give you the chance to start small, and both offer assistance from web professionals via online chat if and when you need help.
In any case, avoid using your website simply as a digital business card. Utilize it to build your brand and clearly define your position in the architecture industry. This will help convert initially skeptical visitors into leads and hopefully, new clients.
4. Boost Your Email List by Blogging
Write about your expertise and experiences in the industry. Start with any topics related to your firm that can help your potential readers. These might include design tips, home improvement ideas, or even current trends. Don’t miss an opportunity to give your firm’s opinion on an issue that affects your clients and their business–explain your firm’s view and how your clients might benefit from the information.
Over time, these efforts allow you to become a repository of knowledge for your audience. They will build trust in you and/or your brand, which could help boost your firm’s image (or your personal image) as an authority in your industry. As you build rapport, you should consider encouraging readers to engage with your website, or even refer others to your blog or website. Give them an opportunity to engage by requesting their email address. Lead generation software such as OptinMonster can help you grow your email list from blog readers and website traffic and convert them into customers and sales.
Did you know email marketing strategy ranks the highest among the leading online marketing strategies? It can potentially bring in $50 as a return on every $1 investment. So once you’ve built a solid email list with the lead-generation tool, pair it with an email marketing platform like Mailchimp. You can launch branded, measurable email communications through this platform that can help build a relationship with your audience and ideally drive website traffic. Mailchimp even allows you to create personalized landing pages to connect your email campaigns to your website (think customized photos and messaging for retail, hospitality, office, and other sectors). It also allows you to publish targeted ads for Facebook and Instagram, connecting all the dots for you behind the scenes.
Bottom line: take time to cultivate a strong email list and deliver engaging content. This can help convince potential clients to actually move forward with a project or refer new contacts who have similar needs and could become future clients.
5. Use SEO to Work Smarter, Not Harder
A website with powerful content is important, but it’s almost worthless if people can’t find it. Make sure your target audience can find your website by deploying Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This helps your website – or specific articles and pages – rank higher on search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. A WordPress plug-in like Yoast is vital to any SEO initiative in order to refine its content. It performs a basic SEO analysis, encourages good key phrase usage, and improves readability.
Once you are able to get your website up and build in strategic SEO keywords in the content, you need to track performance. There are a variety of SEO tools available—the leading ones are MOZ, Ahrefs, and SEMRush. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses depending on your needs, so do some research and find the best SEO tool for you.
These tools can provide greater insights that let you know how your website – and your keywords – perform against your competitors. Then you can make improvements to rank higher in searches, ultimately working toward appearing on the traffic-generating first page of results.
6. Spend Wisely
Digital marketing can indeed boost your brand. It helps you win more clients and eventually grow your firm. These might seem like expensive, time-consuming, and even confusing tactics. But, they are crucial for architecture and design firms to integrate into everyday business in order to compete for online leads. You can always outsource this work to digital marketing professionals and keep yourself focused on what you do best.
Just how much of your revenue should be spent on your digital marketing? Ideally between 6.5 to 10 percent depending on your business type. Find out what your ideal marketing budget should be before diving in. If you can’t stretch that to cover all five of these tactics right now, start with a solid, keyword-optimized website and go from there.
About MG Shlachter
MG Shlachter is a built environment and architectural consulting firm with an in-house production team. It delivers architecture support services in the retail and hospitality industries for leading brands and publicly traded companies worldwide. Learn more at mgshlachter.com.