We all know we need something to help us stand out from our competitors, but it can be tough to figure out a point of difference.
When we try to work out what we do differently, we often end up going around in circles. Is anything we do that unique? How do we know what any of our competitors do in the first place? We aren’t their clients!
If you’re getting stuck figuring out your point of difference, don’t lose hope. There’s more than one way to differentiate your firm. One alternative approach is to think of marketing tactics that your competitors are either avoiding or overlooking, then test them out for yourself.
Here’s why it works…
When it comes to deciding how to design our websites, write our copy, choose which social media platforms to post on and what to post, architects usually follow the herd and do things the same way as our peers.
The end result is that potential clients end up seeing firm after firm looking the same, sounding the same, and doing the same. Boring!
In this article, I’ll focus on three simple ways you can stand out by doing what other architects aren’t, starting with your website.
Show your clients and tell their stories
By featuring your clients on your website, social media and communications, you will make it a lot easier for potential clients to see themselves living in one of your projects and working with your studio.
Potential clients like to see that people like them are using your services. Older couples will enjoy seeing older couples, young families will enjoy seeing young families.
I’d estimate that less than 1% of architects websites have a single photo of a client. This is a huge error of judgment by the industry, but a big opportunity for your firm to take advantage of.
Here’s a great example of a client-focused photoshoot from Bower Architecture. Many of the images on their Coastal Court project gallery feature shots with the clients Peter and Michelle.
They also took the opportunity to film an interview with Michelle.
If you’re looking to stand out from all the cookie-cutter firms, Bower’s strategy of highlighting their clients is the one to follow.
I recently spoke to Anna from Bower on the podcast, you can listen below if you’d like to learn more about her client-focused approach to marketing.
Make the process easy to understand
Another easy point of difference is a well-written process page and FAQ. Only a small percentage of architects have a process section or page on their website that explains the steps of the process in their own words.
By explaining how the design and construction process works in a way that everyone can understand, you’ll build trust in your abilities as an expert and help re-assure potential clients that the process will run smoothly.
Their whole studio page is well written, but I particularly like the their alternative guide to the RIBA Work Stages. It does a great job explaining how the process unfolds, as well as what each step means for the client and how it benefits them and their project (i.e. why they should care).
Your process page should also have a frequently asked questions section that answers the most common objections clients usually have when they first chat to you about their project.
Potential clients will be blown away that you’ve already considered and answered the issues they’re feeling unsure about.
How many architects have you seen with an FAQ on their website? It’s crazy how overlooked some of these basic tactics are.
And here’s another great FAQ example from Robeson Architects that helps to create those spooky “omg she’s reading our minds” moments for potential clients as each of their concerns are addressed.
Show your people
Team and individual staff photos help visitors to get a feel for the personality and vibe of the firm, yet so many architects don’t have any photos of them or their team anywhere on their website for potential clients to see.
I’d estimate that at least half of the firms I look at are missing these essential photos. Even fewer have photos that are interesting, colourful, inviting, and taken with decent lighting and equipment.
Here’s a few great examples of engaging and professional team photos, starting with a really simple team shoot from Welsh + Major.
Architecture Architecture had fun with this parody of a school photo.
Austin Maynard Architects shows their team and space in an unconventional way.
And here’s a really striking shoot from Sibling Architecture. You don’t see something like that everyday on an architect’s website.
For greater effect I’d make sure to place team photos prominently on the homepage—typically the last place you’d expect to find friendly faces on an architect’s website.
Differentiation doesn’t just have to be about figuring out what you do differently during the design process, it can also be about taking an unconventional approach to the look and feel of your content, branding, social media and website.
By thinking about what your competitors are doing poorly, then setting out to make sure that’s something your firm does well, it’ll open up a whole new set of opportunities for your firm to stand out and become the most attractive option for a whole new set of clients.