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Getting Clients for Your Architecture or Interior Design Startup is All About Finding the Best Match


It’s tempting to chase every client you can—especially early in your architecture or interior design startup. Who knows when your next project might bubble up? And really, how can you turn down a potential client?

To answer the second question: You can’t turn down a client. If you can take on a project that shows up at your door, do it.

Finding new clients, however — and selling to them —is different.

Each client has different needs, which means winning their contract means telling a different story every time. The only consistent thing is that is has to be a story that shows you’re the best firm for the job.

Write a catch-all story and you’ll sound vague and no different from anyone else. Write something special for every single person and you’re flooded.

So, the key is to get really good at chasing one kind of client (or a few, if you can handle it).

Identify The Ideal Client for Your Architecture or Interior Design Startup

The first step: have an honest look at your firm. What are you good at? Where are you weak? How about other firms? Why would a client prefer you? Between your projects, what’s in common?

Your ideal client is someone who needs someone with your skills. Boom. Half the work is done.

From here, build your list of clients. Marketing to them will be easiest. You offer what they want.

Now, ask yourself, is our pool of potential clients still too diverse? Too large for us to handle? Or is it too small? Can we keep the doors open with just them? What does our competition look like? How are we different?

Some of it is trial and error. The answers to these questions will change. Your firm will change.

Keeping these questions in mind is what will keep you on track.


Refine Your Story

Storytelling might be the last thing on your mind. This is an Architecture or Interior Design startup, after all, not a publisher.

Except, stories communicate your firm’s values. Those values connect your work to your client. A good story helps the client decide that they like your work—even before they see it.

And that’s the key.

Who are the Principals, Designers, Architects, Project Managers, etc. of your firm? What are their backgrounds? Where were your business’ beginnings? What has been your journey that led you to this client? Why do you do this? Why these clients?

Now, this story can turn into a tome fast. Nobody has time for that. Cut it down to a pitch you can deliver in a few short minutes. Practice it.

I am an engineer that designs low energy homes. My career has been devoted to…

And we’re off to the races. This is who we are. This is who we work for. These are our goals.

So, when it comes time to write marketing pieces for these clients, you can tell a story that says you are better than your competition for their project.

Commit to Your Strategy.

The most common obstacle after a business has agreed to their strategic direction is—well, abandoning it. Communicating a story to a specific customer type gives your firm identity.

Time after time, I hear things like, This is the firm that does all of the homes in our area—they just know our area’s building codes or They just have more experience with Dental offices.

That comes from consistency. Telling a specific group of people your firm’s strengths over time.

It’ll even shape your work. Your interior design startup will become better at those projects. You’ll know the nuances and innovations. You’ll know the kind of people who want those projects. What their tastes are.

Half-heartedly chase your ideal client and you’ll lose out. Boo.

My last point: Commit to your strategy with some urgency. Other firms are looking for open markets. If they move in your direction before you, you might catch yourself behind the eight-ball.

Hit like and comment below. What are some lessons from your experience? Do you have a different take on one of our ideas? Maybe a cool story?

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Published May 10, 2017