Top 10 Mistakes Made on Architecture Websites

Architecture Websites make fairly consistent mistakes in their design and implementation

architecture websites

Honestly, this could apply to a bunch of industries, but the offenses seem particularly egregious with architecture websites and construction company websites. I get it; these are industries that, traditionally, have not had to rely on the web for much, if any, of their business. These are very ‘word of mouth’ and ‘professional networking’ oriented industries. Every firm has a symbiotic relationship with subcontractors, and vice versa. It works. That’s not the issue.

The issue is that the vast majority of companies in that sector either consciously or unconsciously ignore a HUGE opportunity for new business by forgoing even the most basic of web marketing techniques. It has never been easier to connect with people in your target market. Sure, competition is high, and positioning matters, but when have those things not been true? So, without further chit chat, here are the top ten mistakes I’ve noticed companies like these make with their websites.

  1. There’s no lead capture anywhere

    It’s at the top of the list for a reason. I consider this the cardinal sin of web design. You can’t change the fact that well over 95% of your site traffic won’t be ready to initiate a project quote, much less put money towards anything on their first visit. What you can exert some control over is whether or not their first visit is their only visit. The flip-side of this coin is that many of those site visitors will be ready to spend money with a firm at some point in the future. It should be your absolute, number-one, indisputable priority to make sure that when they are ready to spend money, they’re doing it with you. The how of this is simple: dedicate your site 100% to getting strangers to sign up to give you permission to market to them…i.e. lead capture. Not having it these days is asking to be buried by the competition in the coming years. The ubiquity of CRM tools makes it inexcusable (if you don’t know what a CRM is, do yourself a huge favor and Google it immediately). Having a successful lead capture strategy allows you to directly communicate with prospective customers and keep your company in the top of their mind as they do their research. You can become a voice of authority on information they care about. You can build a relationship with WAY more than tiny fraction of site traffic that was immediately ready to pull the trigger. It’s super important on architecture websites, because the sales cycles can be long. It’s a great way to turn strangers into friends and friends into customers over time.

  2. There is no clear navigational path for the site visitor to take

    Cardinal sin number two. It stems from a lack of clarity on the overall purpose of architecture websites. This is a problem common to many website owners. There is a general sentiment nowadays that businesses are just supposed to have a website. Unfortunately, the exact reasons WHY businesses should have a website are not as widely disseminated. The results are clear: no articulated reason for the site = no clear purpose to its design. It’s a great way to lose a lot of business since you generally have about 4 seconds get someone to do something on a site before they navigate away. The only way to keep them clicking through is to interest them right away. So, you must know why you have a site (you know why I think you should have a site), and you must know your target customer. If you can speak to their interests in a way that compels them to take some kind of action on your site, you’ve just come that much closer to getting their business.

  3. There is no clear way to initiate a project, get a quote or enter a sales cycle

    This is kind of a re-phrasing of the second point, but not if you’ve taken to heart my philosophy behind web design. Primary purpose is always to get permission to market to strangers, because this addresses the bulk of your site traffic that isn’t ready to buy while they’re there. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it easy for the people who ARE ready to buy right away. Most sites I visit (that aren’t retail oriented (and alarmingly even some that are)) don’t have a clear way for people to give you their money…or even to initiate the process of doing so! Contact information is buried in the footer or on its own page that you have to navigate to. There isn’t a big fat button that says CLICK HERE FOR A QUOTE. Architecture websites would do well to learn from online retailers in this regard. Don’t make people work to give you their business. I mean, you want more business, right? Design your site (or pay an expert to design your site) in such a way that it is unmistakably clear what someone has to do to initiate business with you. Don’t make them call you, unless you’re trying to screen your clients (different story for a different time). Give them a way to do it right then and there, and make it as easy as possible.

  4. The sites look old and the information is outdated

    Fairly self-explanatory. Businesses that don’t rely on their websites to generate business frequently let them lapse into total obsolescence. Check your copyright info. Make sure it’s up to date. Make sure you aren’t running Flash elements that won’t work on some Apple Devices. Make sure it is designed to be easily navigable on mobile browsers. Make sure you aren’t linking to dead or broken pages. It’s easy to let that stuff go if it’s not your primary method of getting business, but…c’mon. It’s not OK to have a website that looks like it was built 20 years ago if you are a company claiming to be on the cutting edge of ANY industry. If nothing else, it’s inconsistent branding. It looks sloppy, and it’s time somebody told you to clean it up. Now off you go. Skooch!

  5. Contact information is hard to find or only in one place

    Ok, so again, some redundancy on this one, but it bears repeating. Make it easy for people to get a hold of you! It’s like the old Gallagher one-liner about a hitchhiker wearing camouflage. Put it up top. Put it on the bottom. Put it on its own page and put it on every other page. You never know what will make someone decide it’s time to get in touch, so make sure that they don’t have to dig for how to do it.

  6. There are no links to social media

    …If social media even exists. Social media has an extremely low barrier to entry when it comes to talking directly with potential customers. People’s guards aren’t way up, like they are with traditional cold-calling. They are much more receptive to your message, and much more likely to share it with others who may also be interested in that environment. It’s also a great way to keep in touch with even more of your site traffic (not to mention up your site traffic in general). People who are rushed looking around your site on their phone are likely to click through to your Instagram or Facebook so they can be reminded about you when they have more time. It’s a good thing to have, and it’s a good thing to have prominently displayed on your website.

  7. Images are either way too big or way too small

    Newer architecture sites are usually guilty of the prior and older ones of the latter. By too big I mean file size. There is rarely any good reason to use an image that has a file sizer of more than 1MB. Even a couple years ago 1MB was considered way too big. I think you can usually get away with it, because connection speeds keep improving, so an image that size won’t give your page concrete shoes when it comes to load-time. You can also keep a pretty high resolution image at that size if you use compression tools like Kraken or Adobe Media Converter. I know you want to show off your work in exquisite detail. You can, but don’t do it at the expense of your site working for people with one or two bars on their phone, or who are trying to view it on a busy Wi-Fi network.

  8. There is no clear goal for the website

    This could arguably have gone at the top of the list, but I think you can still do a lot by addressing the symptoms of this problem without addressing the problem itself. Even if you disagree with my philosophy on web design, you can still take these recommendations without drastically changing the look and feel of your site (unless it’s guilty of #4). Add lead capture. Add appropriate calls-to-action. Create an easy path for someone to initiate business with you. Link up social media. Compress your images. If you do that, but still aren’t clear on the goal you have for your site, you will still get great results.

  9. The site is self-indulgent instead of customer-centric

    This is more of a marketing taboo than anything else. If the site is all about how cool you are and how awesome your work is, you might be missing an opportunity to convey the benefits choosing your firm will impart to a prospective customer. That’s why it’s crucial to know your target market: you can speak to their motives, interests, passions, and desires. If you attach a meaning for the customer to the way you show off your work, you have made it about them instead of you. This can be done very subtly, but it requires some thought.

  10. What the hell is SEO?

    Last but not least: what the hell is SEO anyway? Just in case you don’t know, it stands for search engine optimization, which means making your site friendly to the ‘bots’ that Google et al use to index sites and return search results. A lot of it is snake oil (beware companies that pitch this as a magic bullet solution to your business troubles), but there are some general principles that you may want to follow if you want your site to show up on Google when people do a search relevant to your industry. Again, you have to know your target market to do this well. Most keywords that people search for often have a huge amount of competition, so relying solely on this to drive site traffic is a potentially expensive mistake. It can be a effective part of a larger marketing strategy though. The basics of SEO are also good web design practices. This includes semantic structure of your code, so that the bots know what pieces of information get priority on your site. It includes finding a niche set of keywords that your customers use to find your site. It includes making sure that your company is registered with Google. It includes making sure your company name is included throughout the site. Lots of companies have names that are similar to something else lots of people search for, so when someone types your entire company name into Google they still can’t find your website! At least make sure you’re the first result if someone is looking specifically for your company! Getting on the first page of Google for other keywords may or may not actually increase your site traffic. Sometimes Pay-Per-Click ads are just as effective. Sometimes social media and blogging are just as effective. The trick is to use all the best tools at your disposal and build a coherent online strategy. SEO is a part of that.

So there you have it. It’s my two cents on the subject. I am by no means the last word on this, but I think a lot of you will agree with some of the points I’ve made because they hold up against the rubric of common sense. It’s very much a do this, get that sort of thing. Take it or leave it. I promise if you take it, you WILL see a difference in your business.

6 Steps to Keeping a Full Sales Pipeline of Qualified Leads

sales pipeline

1. Capture Everyone, and Put Them into the Sales Pipeline

The first and most important thing is to stop letting people walk out your door. There just aren’t that many people shopping for your services on a given day. Get them all. It is critical that you capture every visitor from your website, your call-ins, and most certainly from your office visitors. That is the foundation of everything. You can’t follow up without the information you need to do so. A sales pipeline with anonymous entries is pretty useless. The fact is I’m probably not buying today. We both know that. Making a buying decision can take a long time (especially if it’s a large financial investment). Some people will buy right away, but most will do a lot of research. The good news is that doesn’t matter. You may not know when I’m going to buy but I came to your website or into your office for a reason. I may not buy today, but I will someday. When I do, you need to make sure it’s from you. That starts with capturing my info. This is the first step to getting me in your sales pipeline. Get my email. In person this is easy. I’ll give it to you because you just spent time helping me learn. I appreciate it. I’ll be happy to give you my email. It’s a little trickier on a website, but it’s the same principle. Just ask, but give me a reason. If I’m already at your site, then it’s safe to assume I’m genuinely interested in learning more about your service. It isn’t spam. I want to receive it. Send me something digital. Have a go-to item for anything I asked about, or anything we talked about. A PDF brochure, links to website articles, reviews of the service I was most interested in, YouTube videos, or blogs or eBooks about some aspect of what I’m interested in, and of course, your contact info. With this stuff I might well place myself at the top of your sales pipeline! Honestly, I don’t want paper; not even your business card. It will go into a drawer or the trash. If you email it. I’m more likely to save it and share it. Most importantly, you now you have a way to follow up with me for as long as it takes to move me toward a sale. I’ve given you permission, and I’ll welcome your contact. What could be better than that for your sales team?

2. Learn What I Care About

So you got a name and email, but you learned a lot about me before I left. If whoever I talked to at your office did their job I probably told you about my interests, my experience, the kind of services I’m seeking, my present situation that prompted the inquiry, and a whole lot more. I also told you all of the concerns that are holding me back: costs, time, ability and many more. I also told you when I was likely to buy. Every word of that is a sales opportunity now and in the future. Keep it all. Even if all your business is done through word of mouth it’s foolish to ignore site visitors and social media contacts. Many customers will fill out one or more of your web forms. How much specific information does that give you? What about Facebook likes and Twitter posts, retweets, etc? It’s usually pretty easy to tell who is interested in what you have to offer, even if they can’t immediately afford it. These people should be your bread and butter, but in most cases they’re ignored.

3. Put Everything In A Central Place

All of that information is great, but to follow up with me, you’ve got to put it somewhere that makes it USEFUL. It’s no good if you can’t or don’t use it daily as part of your sales and marketing efforts. In 2016 I saw more than one receptionist write emails and other customer information down in notebooks or sticky notes. That’s better than nothing, but it doesn’t do much to help your follow up over time. Put it all into a simple database as soon as you can. Do it right after I leave, or better yet, just record it while I’m talking to you! Use a notepad or an iPad. Don’t worry. It won’t annoy me. In fact, I’ll appreciate it. I’ll be shocked that you care about helping me so much. Nobody else does. You can accomplish similar tasks with website forms. For now, just get the basics–my name, email, my interests, and my concerns. What kind of business do I own? What made me seek you out? My primary concerns? You’ve just created a simple, but solid profile that you can build on. It takes only minutes, but it pays off for years. Here’s how.

4. Follow Up Continuously

So now you’ve got my contact info and you know my interests. The problem is, just like all of your other visitors I’m not buying today, but I will be someday. It might be next week, next month or next year. You’ll never know, but it doesn’t matter. You just need to make sure that when we are ready to buy, we buy from you. I want to be in someone’s sales pipeline. Why shouldn’t it be yours? You do that with follow up. You’ll remind me, educate me, and develop me into a lifelong customer. You know what I care about, so just give it to me. Follow up slowly, consistently and automatically over time. I WANT to hear from you. I’m trying to learn as much as I can. You aren’t spamming me. You have my permission. Send me everything you can to guide me to the right decision. You’ll establish your credibility, build trust, and become my friend. I’ll actually remember you.
(Some people don’t believe it when I say this because they’re accustomed to deleting hundreds of emails from every website they’ve ever visited out of their inbox every day. I know I do it routinely. However, you have to keep in mind that you offer something special–something that is crucial to your niche. I’m not talking about a broadly blasted email from the Walmart; I’m talking about personalized emails about things recipients actually care about. For instance, I get emails every now and then from Electrical Guitar Company out of Florida. I’m way into their products, and when I have $4000 to spend on an instrument, I plan on getting a new build from them. So when I get an email from them, I actually want to read it. It stands out from the usual daily blasts I get from everyone who has ever somehow captured my email address. Granted, this is a totally different industry, but the same principle applies. I’m likely to read things directly addressing my interests.)

5. Send Content I Care About

With everything you know about me, now you can segment me into the right box. Say you’re an attorney, and I’m seeking your services. Am I a contract, lease, or general counsel guy? Do I have general questions that can be answered by one of your blog posts? Is there something you can send me to make yourself a trusted source of information? I get sick of big businesses sending me blanket print content when a cursory look at my purchase history would clearly indicate I have a very narrow range of interests. If they paid attention to that, they might not be losing market share to mom and pop operations. Start sending me information that matters specifically to me. When you do, I’ll open your emails and click on your links. I’ll know that you remember me and that you care. You’ll be helping to educate me about everything I need to know to buy the right service. It doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact, it shouldn’t be. You don’t need a lot of fancy newsletters that take a lot of production time. If you have to do those, they won’t get done. Simple emails are fine. Simple emails get opened and read. And guess what: It’s easy. You don’t have to create great content. It’s out there for the taking. The Internet is filled with information and people are begging you to link to their content. Just find it, forward it, and even store it to use again later. You’ll gradually assemble a huge library of content that you can use again and again and people will thank you when you send it. Content Is Easy You already know what I’m interested in. Send me things that match my interests. Here’s an easy one: all business owners are interested in increasing sales. How many different people could you send an article like this to that would value its content, even if it doesn’t directly address their specific industry? OK, so let me say this first: I’m about to mention a lot of stuff here, but you have to believe me when I say this is easy. It really is. It’s already out there and it’s free. Chances are you already have a lot of it. The rest is easy to find, save and use. Every basic legal question has a wealth of information readily available. You have the expertise to know what information will be useful. The Internet is full of brochures, reviews, articles, photos and videos available for use. Gather them up. It’s easy to quickly collect and store a list of digital materials and links that can be put into emails that you can send automatically over time. Just keep saving new content as you find it. You’ll have an ever-growing library of content that you can use again and again for any purpose you can imagine. Types Of Content You Can Send The Service I Want Send me everything about the service itself–the one I inquired about or the one you think would suit me better. I told you what I’m after. Now keep reminding me of it!
  • Digital Brochures
  • Links To Relevant Blogs
  • Magazine Reviews and Articles
  • Reliable Forums
  • Informational and Review videos
Improving My Business Fuel my passion! Send me more of this than anything else! Keep reminding me of why I am passionate about business, customer service, innovation, and all things that get people out of bed in the morning. Reinforce my values when I buy. This is stuff about my dreams of achievement. Everyone can relate to this on some level. This is what really motivates me, not just to buy, but to do pretty much everything I do.
  • YouTube Videos
  • Articles About my Industry
  • Examples of Previous Work
  • Industry Specific Blogs
  • Magazines, Books, Articles, Websites.
  • Cool New Technologies or Techniques You’re Using
Buying Your Services Now I trust your firm and want to give you my business. Show me how I can get it. Tell me everything I need to know and do to get the service I’m after.
  • Financing
  • Payment Plan
  • Promotions
  • Options
Don’t make me think. Tell me everything I need to know. Give me the ‘Easy Button’ for acquiring your services. Overcome My Concerns Don’t let my concerns stand in my way. Show me how much it can improve my business, how low my payments can be, and what my ROI will be. Whatever I told you is holding me back: don’t let it. I want your services. Help me get them. Win Me Over Time Don’t try to send everything at once. I’ll never look at it all. Give me small bites consistently over time. That’s the key. The more you stay in contact with me, the more I’ll remember you and appreciate your efforts. Build a relationship with me. It doesn’t matter if it’s weeks, months or even years. When you’ve got me in a trusted system, you can stay in touch no matter what. Keep It Simple I’ll say it again: it doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to create a lot of fancy, graphic-intensive emails. Just a simple text email can do amazing things in terms of building trust and long-term relationships. ‘Hey Billy, I saw this video about green energy building in Arizona. Thought you’d be interested. Hope you’re doing well.” When I see that, I’m thinking “Wow. This guy has a pretty serious commitment to customer service if he still remembers me and my interests.” All you have to do is just stay in touch and show that you remember me. Your competitors don’t. When it’s time to buy, I’ll buy from you and only you. Think about sending that email to EVERY person interested in that same service. There may be hundreds of them! I know us small business owners like to think we’re chronically unique, but in reality, our interests overlap a lot. Even if they don’t you can do it quickly and easily.

6. Automate Everything

Most businesses think it’s impossible to try to keep track of thousands of people all with different interests, concerns, and buying time-lines. It’s Easier Than You Think. Using any of the hundreds of CRM and automation platforms available, it has become simple to capture new leads, group them all by interests, and follow up with everyone without having to think about it. Nothing slips through the cracks. And it happens while you are busy doing other things. Best of all, you can launch it with a single click. Now when I walk out of your office door, you’ll just put me on an automated follow up campaign that matches my specific interests. It can be whatever you want it to be, and it can go on for weeks, months, or even years, continuously and automatically. Learn and Improve Best of all, the more you interact with me, the more you’ll learn. With every new email, you’ll learn more and more about me. You can track who opens your emails, clicks your links, and visits your website. You’ll know who’s interested, what they’re interested in, and when they’re likely to buy. You’ll learn what works best to drive the most traffic and new sales. Over months and years, you’ll be building an ever-growing mountain of new opportunities that will convert to new customers and new sales continually over time.