You Are More than an Architect; You Are a Marketer.

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One of the biggest marketing mistakes some architectural firms make is working with blinders on. The firm wins a project, the firm provides quality services and keeps the client happy, the project is a success, and then the project manager simply closes out the job. What's the next step? Most architects or project managers tend to move on to the next project. But back up a minute. Did you really just close out that project, or did you close out that client too?

A commonly cited statistic is that 80% of business comes from existing clients. This supports a well-known business adage stating, “Your best client is your current client.” It simply costs less to grow business from your current clients than it does to seek out new ones. Clearly, as a professional architect, you want to devote the lion’s share of your time to architecture; however, you have the client contact and you have the face time, so it is easiest for you to continue to develop that client. Great client service, in many cases, is not enough to hold on to the client. It is simply the “price of admission.”

What Is Cross-Selling?

Cross-selling is the strategy of promoting your services to a client who has already “purchased.” After reading the “selling” part of that term, most architects have already put down this article, but cross-selling can actually be an effective and valuable service to your clients.

If you do not cross-sell your clients, two things may happen: first, you may leave money on the table that could quite conceivably go to your firm, and second, your competitors may get their feet in your clients’ doors. Cross-selling is your opportunity to increase your client’s reliance on your firm and decrease the likelihood of the client switching to a competitor.

While as an architect you may not feel ready to “sell,” other firms are recognizing cross-selling as a vital component for improving both client retention and revenue growth. If your firm is unsure about whether it should get on board with this strategy, consider this: cross-selling is one of the most profitable and least risky endeavors a company can undertake. One of the best advantages of implementing a cross-selling strategy in your firm is that when you cross-sell to existing clients, you no longer have to compete for their attention.

It’s Not Selling; It’s Customer Service.

Much of the success of cross-selling is based upon trust and convenience. People hire people, which makes building relationships crucial. Successful cross-selling focuses on the clients. Cross-selling helps you to not think of your clients simply as “jobs” and scheduled meetings but as people and organizations that have complexities and many potential needs. You, as the client’s main contact, have the ability to foster an honest, loyal, and, probably most importantly, mutually beneficial relationship with that client.

Through cross-selling you will become more of a partner with your client, and you will become more in tune with his or her continuously evolving needs and requirements. It takes that personal contact to earn the trust required for the client to assign his or her next project to you as well.

As an architect you are in the business of solving problems, generating solutions, and satisfying clients. Since you, as their professional consultant, understand the situations of your clients, you are ideally suited to provide solutions and recommendations. Any time you can fulfill more needs, address more issues, or solve more problems for your clients, you are making their lives easier. After all, your clients already trust you, like you, and are doing business with you.

Maybe They Don’t Know What They Need.

While a client might not need certain services now in the scope of the current project, that client may have a different need in the future. Have conversations with your clients, using open-ended questions that require more than simple “yes” or “no” answers. Many times the cross-selling opportunities will come naturally in the course of a conversation.

As you become more familiar with your clients through the design and construction process, you should consult them on other building issues they should keep in mind. Better yet, you may see a potential problem, and you can tell them how you and your firm can help them deal with that specific issue now and head off more costly problems in the future.

Client education is extremely important throughout your entire project. Clients have hired you and your firm because they know your services can help them. But do not assume that they understand the entire range of services you can provide. In fact, some of your clients may not even fully understand the services you are providing to them currently.

Continually educate your clients every step of the way about the many services you and your firm can offer to them. Most clients will be happy to hear more about your firm, and it is a way for you to demonstrate that you are aware of their needs and you care about their success. This type of client education creates a perception of need, and you never know what opportunities might arise from a client turning to you and saying, “I did not know you could do that for me.” Withholding information about the other services you could offer to your clients would actually be poor service and a reason for your clients to turn to another firm.

I’m In…Where Do I Start?

The next time you are working with a client, try not to be so focused on the here and now. Be proactive and look ahead in the client’s plan. What, as a professional, can you anticipate he or she will need further down the road? Talk to him or her now about the future. Successful cross-selling does not need to be aggressive. Remember: you have already drawn this client into your fold and provided fantastic professional services. But even though your client has liked and appreciated your services, there are no guarantees he or she will “buy” again.

So if you are ready to try cross-selling, try it the old-fashioned way…simply ask, “What else can I do for you?”

About the Author

Donna Taylor is a marketing manager at Di Cara | Rubino Architects in Wayne, NJ. She has had a decade of experience in marketing professional services, specifically for the architecture industry. She has worked with several of Northern New Jersey’s finest architects. This article was first published as the lead article in Leagueline, a quarterly newsletter for the Architects League of Northern New Jersey. Taylor has also been previously published as a ghostwriter for a piece entitled, “School Districts + Communities — How to Have a Happy Marriage,” which appeared in Key Post magazine’s April 2007 issue.  Taylor is also a member of the American Institute of Architects, New Jersey chapter (AIA-NJ).
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