Ten Tips for Building Your Small Architectural or Engineering Business
Selling architectural or engineering services is no easy task. You face stiff competition and need a solid marketing strategy. Small firm’s need help to compete with their largest competitors.
So you’ve decided to strike out on your own and start an architectural or engineering firm. You have the skill and experience you’ve honed during your career. But starting your own firm brings an array of new challenges. Successful firm owners combine their industry expertise with business skills. But those new to the business side of things don’t have those skills yet. You may have no experience with accounting, or perhaps you haven’t pitched for work before.
On top of that, you face stiff competition. Just check the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA) stats. It estimates that there are over 13,500 businesses in the architectural sector. IBIS World estimates there are over 33,000 engineering businesses. These firms run the gamut from local specialised firms to national all-in-one providers. Your firm has to stand out if it is to compete.
That’s a problem for start-ups. Building a firm requires great marketing, as well as business skills. Your architectural and engineering marketing ideas make the difference between success and failure. Furthermore, you must combine them with other small business ideas for architects and engineers.
So how do you build your small firm from the ground up? These ten small business ideas for architects and engineers show you how.
Tip #1 – Leverage the Power of Social Media
Many architects and engineers underestimate the power of social media websites. They see them as distractions from their main work. In reality, social media is key to digital marketing for architecture and engineering firms.
Take LinkedIn as the most obvious example. With almost 500 million members, LinkedIn offers the largest collection of professionals in the world. You can use it to network with those in your field, or learn from your industry’s leading thinkers. Keeping an active profile improves your chances of connecting with opportunity-creating professionals. You can also use the content you post on LinkedIn to build your reputation in the industry.
Twitter and Facebook offer a pathway to potential clients too. Share useful content and start conversations using these platforms. Again, you’ll connect with people and build brand recognition.
Start Facebook groups and join professional groups on LinkedIn. Share your opinions and establish yourself as somebody who can answer questions. As respect builds for your contributions, you’ll develop an audience and create connections. Best of all, you don’t have to spend any money. Instead, you use your talents and time to boost your reputation.
Tip #2 – Identify Your Perfect Project
You may have started your own firm because you want to express yourself creatively. Instead of working on assigned projects for other people, you want to take control of your destiny. As a result, you probably have an ideal project in mind.
Unfortunately, you may not get you to your ideal project straight away. But you can use it to inform your architectural and engineering marketing ideas.
Write down your ideal project, then think about the people who can lead you to it.
Who do you need to connect with, and where can you find those people?
Do you have any personal or business contacts who can introduce you to new people?
Consider everybody in your network as a potential client, or somebody who can lead you to a client. Ask questions and get the ball rolling. Tell people who you are, and what you want to achieve. You may find that somebody who you already know can pave the way to a new opportunity.
Tip #3 – Charge for Additional Services
Many new firms include every service they offer in their service agreements. They’re so keen to secure the contract that they undervalue their individual services, offering them as a collective instead.
Examine your boilerplate contracts, and think about what you could charge more for. Selling architectural and engineering services isn’t about offering everything you can at once. Split additional services away from the main package. Then, give your clients the option of purchasing those additional services
So, what counts as an additional service? It depends on the project, and what you offer as part of your current services contract.
Let’s assume you’re offering a survey, which comes with a 2D drawing or 3D model as standard. That model creates extra work for you, and isn’t an essential part of the survey. As a result, you can charge extra for it. Alternatively, you could make rendering an additional service for a model design contract.
Charging for the little things is one of the best small business ideas for architects and engineers.
Tip #4 – Cement Your Hiring Standards
You can’t do everything on your own. Your firm may need somebody to handle accounting or other business admin. Furthermore, you need to find the right contractors to bring your designs to life.
Getting the wrong people early on may lead to your firm failing. You have little room for error, especially when you’re starting out.
Nail down your hiring practices from the beginning. Look for more than just an individual’s skills when bringing them on board. They must fit your firm’s culture and mesh well with your team. Remember that it’s easier to develop somebody’s skills than it is to work around somebody who doesn’t gel with the group.
Write down the qualities your firm needs from its people to succeed. Use this as the basis for hiring new employees.
Tip #5 – Develop a Great Website
If people don’t trust your firm, you’ll find selling architectural and engineering services difficult. Your brand tells people who you are and what you represent. It’s also one of the most effective marketing tools for firms on a tight budget.
Your work on social media enhances your brand. However, your website is a key point of concern here. Use your site to tell your firm’s story, and highlight its best work. Build a portfolio section to show off your skills. Fill it with drawings and model designs if you’ve yet to attract a project.
Most importantly, hire a good web developer. Your site must display well on desktops and mobile devices, which means using a responsive design. As well as adapting how your site displays on a device, a responsive design reduces the time you spend updating the site. This is because you don’t have to change both a desktop and mobile site with each update.
Over 90% of business-to-business (B2B) buyers check a firm’s website before contacting them. Ensure your website meets the professional standards potential clients expect.
Tip #6 – Don’t Forget the Follow Up
So you’ve made contact with a new client. They’ve told you what they want, and you have the tools to deliver. You tell them what you can do, then wait for their call. Unfortunately, it never comes, and you’re left wondering what you did wrong.
Selling architectural or engineering services extends beyond the initial contact. It’s the follow-up that often secures the sale. Don’t assume that your potential client will call first. In fact, you may spend a lot of time building a relationship with the client before they consider buying your services.
Stay in touch with the people who contact you, be it a prospective client or a business contact. Send emails to update them on what you’re doing, and any new offers you may have. Keep yourself in the forefront of their thoughts, so they think of you when they need the services you offer.
Tip #7 – Reduce Your Outgoings
As well as figuring out how to earn more money, your firm must cut costs wherever possible. This means driving up efficiency so you produce less waste and spend less money.
Examine your business processes to see where you can make savings. For example, converting to the building information modelling (BIM) method offers several benefits. You reduce the amount of reworking needed, produce fewer drawings, and improve efficiency. Once you adapt, BIM can save hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per project.
Furthermore, take stock of your expenses. Separate those you require from those you don’t. Avoid renting more office space than you need, and don’t overstock on supplies. Even something as simple as turning the lights off in unused offices can save money. You can then turn these savings toward selling architectural and engineering services.
You will spend money to build your small firm up. But spending unwisely means you have less money to dedicate to the areas of the firm that really need it. Frugality is your friend in all areas of business.
Tip #8 – Create a Great Elevator Pitch
Imagine you’re meeting a prospective client for the first time. You introduce yourself, then go into a long speech about your firm and what it does. The new contact listens politely, but excuses themselves once you’re done.
The problem is that you misunderstood the first rule of networking – plant the seeds. Don’t go into the hard sell straight away. You’ll turn clients off before they’ve had the chance to express an interest in what you do.
Instead, develop your elevator pitch. Ideally, you’ll introduce yourself, your firm, and your services in less than two minutes with your pitch. You’ll plant the seeds of interest in your potential clients’ minds, without making them feel pressured.
Thankfully, you don’t have to go off the cuff with your elevator speech. Practice it constantly to bring it down to the required time. Use it to introduce yourself at networking events and spark conversations. Potential clients feel happier to speak to somebody who doesn’t take over the conversation with self-serving selling.
Tip #9 – Adapt to New Technologies
Large firms may have the money, but they’re often slow to adapt to new technologies. This gives you an advantage when selling architectural and engineering services. Adopting new technologies early is one of the best small business ideas for architects and engineers.
Take virtual reality (VR) as an example. A burgeoning technology, virtual reality is finally affordable. Nevertheless, many firms won’t commit to the technology, possibly seeing it as a passing fad. They stick with their dry presentations and drawings, which creates a window of opportunity for you. Using VR, you can stand out from the larger firms competing with you for contracts.
Follow the same line of thinking with your digital design software and business processes. Use new technologies as a unique selling point for your firm. If you can show your potential clients something they haven’t seen before, you boost your chances of securing their business.
Tip #10 – Don’t Forget Your Existing Clients
Your firm may focus on attracting new clients with its architectural and engineering marketing ideas. That’s important, as selling architectural and engineering services to new clients grows your firm.
However, don’t make the mistake of forgetting about your current clients. Keep the people you work with right now happy too. This ensures a constant income stream, but it has other benefits too. Happy clients tell others about your business, which builds your reputation. They’ll recommend you to their contacts, becoming a marketing force in their own right.
Deliver on your promises and put everything you have into every project. The strength of your current work helps when you’re selling architectural and engineering services to others. Your current clients are the bedrock on which you’ll build your firm. Keep them satisfied, and new opportunities will come your way.
Small architectural and engineering businesses face a host of challenges. They must build their reputations in the industry, often from the ground up. Furthermore, they’ll face competition from firms of all sizes for every project they pitch for.
Use these small business ideas for architects and engineers to get started. Meeting the right people, building your brand, and capping your expenses all help you to develop your small firm. Keep your current clients happy, build your presence in the sector, and use new technologies to your advantage.
Speaking of new technologies, ArchiStar Academy can bring you up to speed on the latest digital design software. We offer courses in several of the latest software packages, including a Revit BIM course. This teaches you how to implement building information modelling with Revit. Our blog also offers advice on how to use the latest wave of technology to your advantage.
Contact ArchiStar Academy today if you’re interested in a course or want to buy 3D modelling software at industry-best prices.
ArchiStar Academy offers several courses across the spectrum of digital design software. You’ll develop your skills, allowing you to create more accurate and functional models.
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Posted on 20 Jan 2020