Shaking Hands



Warren Buffet

If your clients are basing their decision of hiring you on price then you are seen as a commodity. In the book How to Sell at Margins Higher than Your Competitors: Winning Every Sale at Full Price, Rate, or Fee, Lawrence Steinmetz and William Brooks argue against the statement that companies “reason that the only way that you ‘sell’ anything is to be ‘competitive,’ that is, have a low price.” However, if this was true then the only provider for any given product or service would be the lowest cost provider.


Clients, customers and markets rarely buy solely on price. Unfortunately, most businesses do not understand the real value of their services - and architecture is no exception. What is the value of a house design or ensuring a project comes in on budget (over 80% of projects are either over-budget or behind schedule)? Of course we can attempt to throw numbers at these concepts, but as Peter Eerlings of ArchiSnapper states in his blog post Architects, Engineers and Contractors, How to Win Better Deals, Work Less and Get Projects You Enjoy, “‘value’ is subjective; everybody values your services differently.” 


People are willing to pay for value, but it is our jobs, as businesses, to position ourselves to provide that value. No one wants plans for a house and no one wants a permit. The paper and ink that comprises the plans is not worth a lot of money, but the spaces that support a family’s lifestyle and create a positive, encouraging place to raise children and age in place is priceless. So, what is the value of the architectural services that provide that solution?


This is market positioning - positioning your firm to be the expert solution provider for a given market.

It starts with how you communicate what you provide, and for whom. What they can expect, and how much it will cost them.


But the preponderance of professional liability claims against architects, Schinnerer said in 1974, "result from a failure to exercise rudimentary management control or to display sufficient competence in a given area of practice." 



  •  Strengthen Promotional Strategy - defining your market position helps you to target your marketing toward this market in a way that is compelling to that market

  • Reinforce Service Evolution - defining your market position helps to target how your services need to evolve to serve that market better. It also helps to create new services as that market evolves

  • Promote Client Loyalty - Defining your firm’s market position develops client loyalty in your firm. This helps your company to keep clients when employees are lured to another company

  • Clearly Identifies Competition - Your market position allows you to clearly identify who your competition is and differentiate your firm advantageously

  • Increase Rates and Fees - defining your market position and evolving your services means that you can add more value to that market segment, which positions you to increase your fees to provide that value.


Misconceptions / Mistakes

  • We can just pick a market - Penetrating a new market takes time and effort. Leveraging your background, or your passion, can ease the process and accelerate the returns

  • We can shift between markets easily - Different markets want different services and require different specialties. Shifting between markets keeps your team working harder and reduces your profits.

  • We need to cast a wide-net - Wide-net marketing leads to generalizing your services (“we provide architecture”). Clients want to see the value that they will get out of architectural services and if you don’t know what that value is then your services will not provide it

  • We need to provide “full-services” - This falls into the realm of casting a wide net, just because you can do it does not mean it provides value to your market.

  • We can design anything - we call this the “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none”. Just because you can do something does not mean that you should be doing it. 


Solutions / Best Practices

  • Market Positioning starts with clarifying the target market you serve and then defining them through their demographics and psychographics.

  • Research into this defined market will reveal what they value, how to reach them, and how your marketing efforts will connect with them

  • Creating a Value Proposition and Core Story that speaks to that market makes your marketing work harder

  • Define a service ladder that ranges from low-cost entry level services to the premium service that provides the highest value

Tools to Assist your Conversions
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