Practice has a Marketing Problem

Architecture peeking into the frame
If we're to believe architects, the practice of architecture has a marketing problem. Their contention is that they're not being heard, valued or acknowledged to the degree they might expect.

I’m not sure architects are entirely right. For the purposes of the exercise, I’m going to assume they are and explore where they might start to set things to rights.

Starting with a quote ,

“Marketing is our quest to make change on behalf of those we serve, and we do it by understanding the irrational forces that drive each of us.”

Seth Godin

The thing I like about this quote is there’s two parts. The first part is about making change. The second part is about (cognitive) empathy.

Starting with the change architects seek to make on behalf of those they seek to serve. Who is it that they seek to serve? Their clients, the community, the environment (built or natural), something else? They shouldn’t be self-serving, this would not be good marketing. Considering who it’s for is important as the marketing must be engaging with the intended audience. We’ll come back to that thought shortly when we consider the second part of the quote.

If we explore another concept of change,

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

R. Buckminster Fuller

We can see here where the problem might lie, perhaps architects do need to consider a new marketing model.

I’m being deliberately provocative here of course and it’s not necessary to entirely rethink the marketing of the profession. The problem, that can more easily be addressed, is that architects are failing to enrol those that they seek to serve. As I’ve previously written,

People are not swayed because you are right. They’re going to be swayed because they are right.

This is an enrolment issue. It’s a good place to start when considering the profession’s marketing problem. Leading us neatly on to the second part of the quote above, about empathy, and another observation from Seth Godin,

“People don’t believe what you believe.
They don’t know what you know.
They don’t want what you want.
It’s true, but we’d rather not accept this.”

Seth Godin

We might be led to believe that everyone else is irrational. To address this perception, it’s necessary to become curious. Curious to understand what these people believe, know, want, and more. The best way to do so is in a conversation, asking generous questions and simply make space to listen to understand and without judgement or interruption. With new understanding, we might now be a step or two closer to a more empathetic connection. It is from a place of empathy that architects can establish a reason for others to care about what the profession does.

So does architectural practice really have a marketing issue? Maybe. It’s nevertheless worthwhile for the profession to consider how they might better enrol those they seek to serve and doing so with empathy.

Start conversations, take time to listen to understand, and build connections, it’s all marketing.

Image by PixaSquare on Pexels [cropped & edited]

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach. I help architects rethink their practice and support them as they uncover better ways to work. I’ve worked in architecture for over 25 years, and I ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I believe improving practice takes asking hard questions and deep listening.

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