Next week I’m off to Tasmania to be part of a media discussion panel with editor of Houses Magazine Katelin Butler (@KatelinButler) and former BVN media guru Alysia Bennett (@Alysia_Bennett). We’re going to be talking to architects about media and promotion and how they can share their architecture and ideas. We’re going to be covering traditional media, new media and answering as many questions as we can. One of the key messages that i want to cover is how blogging and social media can help architects (and people in other creative industries) connect with better clients. I’m still searching for a “sticky” word for this concept and i’ve dabbled with the idea of using the term “golden client” but it’s a little bit cliche for my liking and so for now i’m simply going with “clients who get you.”
I’ve spoken about this concept before with Michael Smith on the Red and Black Architect, and also in a recent interview with DQ magazine, so you may have heard parts of this idea before. Rather than repeat those conversations I want to introduce some story telling and approach the concept with two different architects which we’ll call the traditional architect, and the awesome blogging online architect. But before I get into that I’ve got to make sure I plug the event and ask any architects in Hobart to come along. It’s being hosted by the Australian Institute of Architects and you can find out more about the event below:
The story of the traditional architect
The way a client finds the traditional architect is really like blind dating. They knew very little about the architect and find them in one of several ways. The first is the Yellow Pages, which more or less has been replaced by Google. Someone does a search and for what ever reason they click through to the architects website, checks out a couple photos and reads a description which tells them almost nothing (read this post on Website For Architects for that reference). This takes all of 5 minutes and then they book in three appointments with three different architects. The second way they may find the architect is via a reference from a former client. This is slightly better because references are powerful, but just because two people are friends doesn’t mean they are going to match the same architect. It’s a step in the right direction, but could be improved. And the the third way is by reading a magazine, or newspaper article which provides authority and also some level of fame status. Because the publication has an audience it reaches out to a lot of people and it validates the architect.
The problem is that when the potential client walks through the architects door, they still know very little about who the architect actually is. They may have a reference, or a photo of a project, but the client probably has no idea how the architect likes to work, what their goals are, and what their passion is. The stuff that really is going to make a good partnership hasn’t been explored and now the architect finds themselves sitting in front of a stranger with only thirty minutes to decide if they want to get married and spend the next two years working on the project. It’s a serious commitment with very little courtship. There just isn’t enough time for both parties to explain what it is that they are trying to achieve and too often the result is a mismatch of goals. The problem increases when the architect doesn’t have many clients approaching them, so even when they don’t think the client is a great match, they try to win the project anyway, even at the expense of their own values. It’s a choice of necessity and it’s not all that surprising that architects are full of stories of difficult clients and projects that could have been so much more.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Every now and then a special client walks through the architect’s door who “gets them.” They have a similar taste in design, they understand the time it takes to resolve issues, and they want to work with the architect, not against them. They’re probably still a pain in the ass in their own way, but at least they’re pulling in the same direction. It’s just a shame there isn’t more of them because it’s these types of clients who help the architect create the best work they can. It’s these great projects which bring in more great projects, and it’s these projects which are worth talking about and publicising and in turn there is an entire positive feedback loop happening. It just doesn’t happen all that often.
Or at least it never used to, but all that’s changing because of social media, blogging, podcasting and what ever comes next. And that’s exactly what I’m going to be talking about in Hobart, the story of the awesome blogging online architect. (Sorry to leave you hanging like that. Even if you don’t come to Hobart i’ll follow up with the second half of the story in a week or so. Stay tuned…)