How architects can build the perfect architect-client relationship
by Woven Agency on Friday March 1, 2019 @ 08:54AM
It’s not money that makes the world go around, it’s clients. Because they don’t just give you money, they give you a platform for your work, they tell all their friends about you, and they give you that warm feeling inside when you see their little faces smiling at the work you’ve done.
So long, that is, as you’ve landed the right kind of client.
Believe it or not, there’s such a thing as the wrong kind of client for an architect. Clients whose expectations and budgets are too unrealistic; clients who disappear during the process only to pop up at the end with a raft of changes; clients who think they’ve sussed it all out and just need a proxy to get their ideas realised.
Sound familiar, architects?
Well, those days could be over…
The right kind of client has the right kind of characteristics, and as a branding and marketing agency with over twenty years’ experience, we know a thing or two about what those characteristics are. We’ve also worked with numerous property developers and architects, so we know what makes their customers tick.
So, with credentials in place, here’s what we think makes a perfect architect client:
They want to get involved
Most projects are back-and-forth processes between client and provider. But communication is even more important in architecture, where decision-making has potentially huge time and budgetary implications. Communication is the oxygen which great projects breathe, so make sure your client wants to get their sleeves rolled up and get involved.
Tip: Make it clear from the start that you’ll expect their input at every stage. Ensure you have the same decision-makers on call at key moments in the process.
They have strong opinions but hold them loosely
You want clients who have a strong idea of what they want but who are willing to be challenged and open to new ideas when you present them.
A firm idea of what the client wants is crucial. But you also need clients who understand that your more experienced input may shift the goalposts and be willing to pay attention when you’ve got something to say.
As architects, you’ll know there are a million variables in play when it comes to planning and constructing a building. Your clients might not. So it’s up to you to be bold and show them the way when necessary.
Tip: Make it clear from the outset that the project won’t be a one-way street of communication. You want their input but you want them to understand this is a joint operation. After all, you want the work to be brilliant just as much as they do.
They want to be different
Not every project can be The Guggenheim in New York or the Dancing House in Prague. But every project, from garden offices to commercial buildings, can be interesting and innovative in all kinds of elegant and ergonomic ways.
By working with clients who want to challenge norms, you’ll be more likely to produce work that stands out, draws attention, and helps you stand out from the competition.
Tip: No matter how perfunctory the project is at face value, ask your client for a dream wish list of what it would contain. You won’t be able to make all of them happen, but you can try and make one or two of those dreams come true.
They understand your genuine value
Architecture is too often seen as a cost rather than as the value-adding resource it is. This is often because an architect’s work is less tangible than the construction side of things, and because developers are wedded to stringent cost plans.
Architects are crucial, and you need to see yourselves as such. You need clients who understand the value you bring: beautiful design, spotting potentially costly errors, creative solutions, statutory knowledge, and so on. And you need clients who are willing to budget accordingly.
Tip: Convey the value you are bringing to the client in terms they understand. If they’re figures-oriented, talk of budget savings. If they’re aesthetically minded, talk of beauty. If they’re pragmatic types, talk of efficiency. Uncover their personality traits and tie your value to them.
So, that’s what the perfect client looks like – how do I attract them?
Two words: buyer personas.
Here at Woven, as part of an inbound marketing strategy, we create detailed breakdowns of what your ideal client type is. Once we know the type of person who’s interested in what you do – the buyer persona – we then create engaging, relevant content that will appeal directly to them, driving greater brand awareness and turning qualified prospects into loyal customers.
A buyer persona defines your audience by its demographics, behaviours, beliefs, budget, and other purchasing habits. Getting that information is done through a variety of emails, surveys, phone calls, focus groups, and interviews. The more time you put into this info-gathering stage, the more detailed and worthwhile the persona will be. Which is obviously a time-consuming task, but the insight it arms you with makes that time more than worth it.
Or, of course, you could just get in touch and ask us to do it…
Looking at it from the client’s perspective
We’ve spent a fair bit of time discussing what makes a great client from an architect’s perspective. Which means we’ve run out of space to consider what clients want from their architects.
Fortunately, Architects Journal has covered this already. Take a read of their article and see how things look from their side of the fence. You might just find a lot of common ground…