Recently we did some work with an Irish Architectural firm, what we realised very quickly, while Irish architects are cool… Irish architectural portfolio websites are not… we put on the kettle and discovered why…
… so where to begin? What are Irish people looking for in an architect? And how can we sell it on-line? It took us a while and in the end it was embarrassingly simple, it is not shiny offices, flashy business cards, it is…happiness
A successful on-line presence sells happiness.
So how about you, are you a merchant of happiness? Unfortunately a misconception among Irish architects on the essence of what a ‘website’ is or does leads many down a dark alley. Today we are dealing with a connected ‘informed’ marketplace, a website is a living breathing entity that builds brands, manages your marketing pillars and protects your reputation. Effective websites engage and inspire consumer reaction. Websites evolve and grow, they are not stagnant brochures of yesteryear.
Architecture has moved at a screaming pace into the digital era, but we surmise about 95% of Irish architectural firms have dropped the ball on digital marketing. Never has it been easier to engage with customers but few firms take advantage.
What do people think about your firm when it comes up in conversation?
Branding is defined as ‘what people perceive about you or your business’. It has very little to do with logos or brochures, your brand in simple terms is your reputation beyond the four walls of your office.
What are people saying about you? Are they even talking about you? If you were to stop 20 people on Grafton Street would they be familiar with your work?
The word Website is a misnomer. It can’t be labelled. It is the rock on which all marketing is now based. It will find, engage, educate and learn from your clients, it can build reputations, tell stories, convert and foster relationships. At the very least it can free up staff to concentrate on more important tasks.
So is your website pulling its weight? Is it hooking some fish?
Are you different?
If a client views 8 architectural websites will they remember yours?
Your web presence needs to be memorable, you need to be remembered above all the visual noise. Don’t disappear into a sea of architecture, with similar photography, similar terms or obvious headlines on your homepage.
Do you sell happiness
What is the biggest investment people will make in their lives? Yep…You know the answer! They might not be giving you all the dosh, but in their eyes they are…
“..they are buying the dream from you. That’s your product.”
Unfortunately most architecture websites don’t sell dreams, let alone happiness. When you finish a project and sit there with your happy clients, a warm fuzzy feeling slowly drifts from your head to your toes, right?
Well maybe not, but you know what I’m saying. Are those moments on your website? Where are the happy clients, do you tell stories online of happiness and design success?
Are your images sh%te?
The price tags are big and bold, so are the buildings, so why are the photos on many design firm sites so underwhelming? Your website is among other things a portfolio of your work, there is a famous saying from fashion photographer David Bailey…
‘you are only as good as your last set of pictures’.
Is your visual portfolio stunning. Are your visuals capable of closing sales? Are they current? Do they inspire?
Can you be found?
This is tricky in Ireland, there are a lot of architects, design organisations, newspapers and services all hogging the architectural space on Google. Statistics show there is reputational value appearing higher in Google, the public perceive that better service providers rank higher.
If someone googles “Architects in South County Dublin”,
“best Irish architects”
” award winning architects”… do you show up? How is your SEO?
Does your homepage wow?
We did a survey to pick out the best homepages among architects, but gave up. Out of hundreds of sites there were only a few interesting candidates. All sites look the same after a while, instead of a modern facade decorating your homepage, think outside the box.
Consider illustrating people working in the new space, or a homeowner photographed hanging the new curtains in their contemporary living space. Intrigue, let people imagine themselves in a new space. Use memorable imagery.
I remember when I lived in New York, reading an interview with the New York Mets Baseball starr Daryl Strawberry, when asked what his take was of being voted an ‘all star’ from over 800 players. He said he’d like to thank his dad for his memorable surname… Strawberry.
What does your place of business look like?
Statistics show that people won’t casually enter a retail place of business. Is your business ‘inviting’? Do you have images of your offices or facade on your website? Can people imagine sitting in that environment. You have to remember, architecture is something people see as complex, both technical and creative, not an environment they willingly sign up to…
Does your website illustrate a warm inviting meeting environment to new clients?
Do you draw nice pictures of houses?
Do you know thats what people think you do all day. Educate your customers… what do you really do? Some people actually believe there is an app out there they can buy to design a house. What is architecture?
..have you ever looked in a shop door to see a stern shopkeeper and you decided to keep walking?
Are you a robot?
On a creative practitioners website like yours the most visited page is often the ‘About’ page.
Why is that?
When hiring an architect they are most often buying into the creative ‘person’ as much as the creative outcome. Have a friendly, relaxed yet professional photo of yourself on-line. You should look approachable. ..have you ever looked in a shop door to see a stern shopkeeper and you decided to keep walking?
Has anyone anything good to say about you?
In marketing terms you can believe you are fantastic, you can say you are fantastic, your employees can feel super fantastic, but it’s not worth two euros to you in marketing terms.
Word of mouth, testimonials, happy clients are referred to as ‘sneezers’ among marketers. When an independent person such as a client or magazine refer to your business in glowing terms it is worth gold.
Leverage this, engage with the media, consider testimonials from your clients, trustpilot, and here is a novel one… when you put a project on your website include a photo of the happy clients in the photo gallery.
Why should anyone hire you?
All marketing and sales revolves around this question. When someone knocks on your front door trying to get you to switch to a new gas or electricity supplier. Subconciously you ask yourself, will this benefit me?
Do you offer compelling benefits on your website? Would you hire you? Why?
Wait! I am doing a really great project at the moment…
This is the big one, creatives are always working on the biggest project ever, a great portfolio piece. Let’s wait, hold the marketing until next month…
Do the best marketing with what you have right now, this will ensure there is another ‘great project’ coming after this ‘great project’. There was a time that one great project would be talked about for years, today, our attention span has waned. You need to drip feed the information all year.
Do you work for the common man?
There is a natural urge to show your ‘iconic’ projects. One of the biggest challenges is attracting that first phone call. If your projects look sophisticated and expensive, even clients with large budgets can hesitate about lifting up the phone. Add humility to your presentations on-line that speaks to everyone.
So what can you do today?
You’ve heard this before. But success is a collection of small steps. Ask yourself where would you like to be next year and where you intend going with your business? Have someone look at your on-line efforts. If you define your outcomes, you can outline the steps needed to get there. Then use an intriguing brand story, strong visuals and multiple on-line channels to engage with clients and communicate your vision.
Help people take notice, sell a little happiness…