Why digitizing your business as an architecture firm is key to growth

The field of Architecture and Real Estate has been considerably behind in terms of how we do business with each other. Prior to the pandemic, we used to go to a high amount of networking events, wandering around and setting up meetings with as many people as possible. And this without really knowing if an opportunity may or may not come out of it.

When the pandemic hit last year, my phone started ringing day and night with people from our field panicking with the idea of not being able to attend these precious events. How were we going to do business? Well let me tell you, we have been teaching Architects, Engineers, Visualisers, Interior Designers and Real Estate Developers how to use social media platforms to trigger new opportunities and get new clients.

As most of you know we have just launched the first-ever Digital Business Development Program aiming to teach our field how to brand yourselves and your company, how to be visible online and trigger opportunities. This program combines everything we have been teaching in a year. Since the term “digital business development” has been invited by us, my team and I, thought of giving you a precise idea of the concept and what it can do for you.

  • In simple words, what exactly is Digital Business Development?

Traditional business development consists in figuring out exactly what type of projects you want to attract for your company, and how to reach out to your perfect clients. Well, Digital Business Development takes the same principles, except that the whole strategy is based online. Essentially it allows finding clients through social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram & Clubhouse by communicating efficiently the Value of your firm.

The benefits of a Digital Business Development strategy is that you will be able to target any international markets and trigger meetings with clients from all over the world.

The second thing that it does is that you waste less time and money since you don’t have to physically go to each meeting, and pitch to people that are not the right leads. By doing it online, you are able to see the profiles of the leads and understand if they match your company’s philosophy and ambition.

Social media platforms really help to target the people that you’re looking for. The only thing you have to do is to learn how to communicate your message to attract the right clients.

  • How can a firm identify if it is in need of a Digital Business Development strategy?

Every company needs a business development strategy because this is how you acquire clients. Therefore, whether it’s offline or online, you need to learn the skills to bring clients to your business on a regular basis. The biggest mistake that people make is that they start having one or two projects, and they feel so busy that they don’t have time for anything else. Then once the project that they were working on finishes, they don’t have any more to work on and no leads of prospective clients.

So the first thing to do in business development is to really understand, what does your company stand for? What is the problem that you’re trying to solve for the client? And how does your company go about it to solve it?

Once you know answered these questions, you need to make sure that you communicate that efficiently on your website, on your LinkedIn, Instagram, Clubhouse profile or any other platform you are using. Your vision should be visible everywhere, that’s going to do to attract the right clients to you. You don’t want to be stuck with a client that doesn’t believe in your values because that will never turn into a good collaboration. Once you have that foundation, then you move on to building your business development and a marketing strategy. First set a goal for yourself and then work backwards from that and really set out what has to be posted online so that people go through your website and your profile, and reach out to you.

Every firm needs a strategy because this is the only way to find clients efficiently and quickly.

  • What are the core elements of a successful Digital Business Development Strategy?

Firstly it is extremely important to define the concept of your company, and really understand what is the problem of your client and his pain points? And how does your company provide a solution to this problem? And that’s going to be a base for your business and marketing strategy.

The second important point is then trying to figure out how this core point is communicated through your social media platforms and your website. Can clients really understand what your company is about? And what are your values? For example, if your company is about sustainability, and you really believe in this as your core concept, and the problem that you’re trying to solve for your clients is to make sustainability accessible to everyone, no matter the financial standpoint, then the more you communicate that throughout your platforms, the more you will attract the right clients. You’re never going to attract a client that doesn’t believe in sustainability.

The third point is to build a strategy. So understanding which social media channels correspond to your targeted clients. Is it LinkedIn? Facebook? Clubhouse? Instagram? Then think about what partnerships can you make with other companies. Any engineering firms you can partner up with? Can they introduce you to some of their clients? Then set out a goal for yourself. Where do you want to be within six months or one year? For example, let’s say you want a project within six months, and then work backwards from it. So how many people do you need to pitch to in six months, in order to trigger an opportunity? Let’s say, you need to pitch to five to 10 people per month, in order to get a concrete contract with a potential client six months down the line. Then start thinking, if I need to trigger 10 meetings to pitch, then how many people should I contact or how often should I post online in order to trigger meetings. And from this, you can plan time per week that you dedicate to your business development and execute your strategy.

The fourth and final step is creating an audience, by being present online. And you can do that on Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn or Clubhouse, depending on which client you’re targeting. But the idea is to raise awareness about your company because you can be the best architect in the world. But if no one knows about it, you’re not going to get clients. Therefore, it is key to invest time on these platforms, be very consistent every week and post frequently.

The second point is how to build a digital network organically. And what I mean by this is to really start building relationships with people without necessarily expecting something.

You never know what the outcome is. Maybe the developer you pitch to today doesn’t have a project now but he might call you back in a year and give you the job. So that’s why it is important to build a network and build it online through LinkedIn, Instagram and Clubhouse where people meet through these platforms, get them on zoom and see if there is a potential collaboration there. Therefore try to build a network without expectations, and you will see opportunities will happen. And then the final point is lead generation. So how do you constantly get leads through social media? And that is very important every day, you should add people and send them a tailored message, to see if there could be a potential collaboration to do together. So try to stick to these points. And these are really key to make your business development work online.

  • What are the most common misconceptions people have when it comes to understanding the business development concept?

So the first thing in my opinion, that people don’t understand is that business development and marketing should be done every day without fail because consistency is definitely key. You cannot think that you’re going to finish one project, and then you’re going to land another project within a couple of weeks. It needs to be something that you do every day, as an entrepreneur, as a partner, or, as a business developer. You cannot possibly think that you’re going to pitch to someone, and they’re going to give you a project. It takes sometimes months or years to trigger an opportunity through one person, that’s why you need to meet as many people as possible. Therefore, it is important to create this network and be present and visible at all the time so that people don’t forget about you and think about calling you when the right opportunity presents itself.

The second and rather biggest misconception I would say is that a lot of people think that business development is just about filing applications to be part of a competition or be selected by a developer. That’s not the case, business development is a senior job in itself because you have to target the right clients, pitch, negotiate, build relationships & build partnerships. So it’s not just paperwork that you send out. The paperwork can be part of business development, but business development as a job and in terms of skills is much more than just filing applications. That is a concept that is very misunderstood within the field.

When people are hiring a business developer there are some who think that business development is basically an assistant job and that that person will just put together the brochures of the company and a couple of references and sends it out. In reality, business development means representing the business and go online or go out there and create a meaningful network that will trigger opportunities down the line.

To conclude, having a Digital Business Development strategy is key to growing your business. So do not hesitate to train your team and yourself to strategise, pitch, communicate and negotiate efficiently.

We will soon publish a second article answering even more questions. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about our Digital Business Development Program do not hesitate to visit our website or to send me a message on LinkedIn. I am always happy to answer any questions.

Founder of the ibd company — Architect & International Business Development Director | Learn to Grow your Architecture Business