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MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR PROMOTING THE ARCHITECTURAL


ENGINEERING PROFESSION IN A RAPIDLY CHANGING BUSINESS
ENVIRONMENT A LITERATURE REVIEW

Conference Paper · March 2014

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MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR PROMOTING
THE ARCHITECTURAL ENGINEERING
PROFESSION IN A RAPIDLY CHANGING
BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
A LITERATURE REVIEW

Epead, A.A.H. Othman, A.E.E.


Architectural Engineering Department Architectural Engineering Department
The British University in Egypt (BUE) The British University in Egypt (BUE)
Cairo, Egypt Cairo, Egypt
amany.epead@bue.edu.eg Ayman.othman@bue.edu.eg

Abstract— In today’s competitive business environment, the strategies. With the few, though greatly publicized exceptions of
increasing challenges that face architectural design profession Architects, whose iconic status eliminates them from this
such as growing client expectations, lack of adapting to advanced discussion, the majority of medium and small Architecture
technologies, changes in policy, economy, law, technology, and studios sell themselves short, or make no attempts to sell their
competition called for design firms which aim to improve their services at all. A limited percentage of them hire full-time
performance and sustain their competitiveness, to innovate and marketing staff or work together with marketing specialists, and
rethink their marketing strategies. Towards taking advantage of there is scant to no share of the budget to be paid to the active
these challenges and overcoming their adverse impact on the promotion of the firm’s unique attributes or to securing work by
firm’s future, many architectural design firms realized that pursuing particular targets according to a definite plan [1].
developing a credible brand image and maintaining a well-defined
marketing strategy are essential tools for enterprise success. In the Architectural practice, the implication of the word
This paper aims to investigate the effective marketing strategies “marketing” beside the word “Architect” is habitually taken as
essential for promoting the architectural engineering profession in offensive. A lot of Architects vision their line of work to be
a competitive business environment. In order to achieve this aim, beyond the rules of demand and supply, free from the pressure
a research strategy is designed to gather data sufficiently rich to of business endurance and the client-oriented marketing
build a comprehensive background about the research topic strategies. It is, nevertheless, the reality of Architecture to be
including: nature of the architectural engineering profession, both a profession and a business at the same time. While it
competitive advantage and marketing strategies. This literature complies with the values of providing a service to the client in
review is based on textbooks, academic journals, conference
the finest aesthetic yet functional conditions, is still has to make
proceedings, professional magazines, government and design
a profit [2].
firms’ publications, Internet and related website.
Architects at the moment are not able to afford believing in
The importance of this research stems from the need to enable such a myth. Reality dictates many situations that as anticipated
architectural design firms to cope with the rapid changes in the put the profession along with other services; services that are
business environment and promote their services through mainly client-based and are subject to the market demands. The
adopting the appropriate marketing strategies. In addition, this client is currently shopping for the greatest achievable value, and
research sheds light on a topic that received scant attention in the market is wide open for competition at all stages of design
architectural and construction literature.
and construction [3].

Keywords— Architectural Engineering Profession; Marketing II. THE ARCHITECTURAL ENGINEERING PROFESSION
Strategies; Competitive Advantage; Business Environment.
A. The expanding call for Architectural services
“Fundamentally, architects are persons engaged in
I. INTRODUCTION a profession, which is responsible for the design and
construction of various buildings, and other
In the current rapid paced information and appearance driven structures, which provide shelter for human use,
business environment, it is conceivably astonishing that occupancy, protection, and property. This is, by
Architecture, so extremely steeped in creativity, imagery and definition, a wide ranging and rigorous endeavor,
innovation is still cautious to fully commit to bold marketing

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much of which is not common knowledge among the on the market for services, especially with all the competition
general public”. [4] from other professions is increasing. [5]
The persistent development of new clients/ customers is
The demand for the facilities and services of Architects and also vital in order to maintain and grow a practice. This is where
Architectural firms has been rising. This can be noticed from understanding the science and art of marketing is essential. The
the growing number of small firms being initiated by fresh science part of marketing is the process of recognizing and
graduates, the multiple offices of miscellaneous sizes that are relating the different activities that make up the effort. The art
busily working and requiring new staff, the growing focus paid of marketing lies in the carrying out of those activities. [8]
to Architecture in the public press, the media, and educated
circles. Even though demand is expanding, it is astonishing how
C. Architects as learners
many participants in the profession believe in the total opposite.
Many reasons could be associated with this, and one of them is Most of the Architects are learners by nature with instinctive
that not all firms have gained advantages from the overall skills in analyzing information and processing them. They are
increase in work. Some established offices have been dropping continually involved in learning from each project; however,
their market share, and are being displaced by newer firms that they are most likely lean to gather information unsystematically
are more aggressive and eager to get the work or are in tune from informal and easily accessible sources such as work
with the updated demand for specialized services. It is well associates, material suppliers, and building contractors. Skills
understood that offices that are left behind would think that the and information required are mostly linked to instant needs to
demand is being decreasing. One other reason would be the the work place rather than to achieving long term goals. While
intense competitive effort that is essential for a firm to get a executing projects, a huge number of factual information and
commission. A lot of Architects take the growth in competition procedural knowledge is attained. This information is
as evidence of a contracting market. Nonetheless it is wrong to physically and mentally hard to organize and is frequently not
conclude that because there are more firms now engaged in fully applied to future projects. Moreover, the exceptional
seeking work that the total volume of jobs available is nature if Architectural projects tends to make generalization
shrinking. The demand for services and competitiveness are hard. Architects often achieve a significant type of knowledge
connected trends, but the relationship is based on the fact that through their practice. This allows them to put lessons learnt
competition is a profession stimulates Architects to work harder from past projects into fresh and ambiguous situations. [9]
at marketing their skills. [5] The knowledge obtained has been called “reflection-in-
Today, philosophies of place and market, widely growing action” by Donald Schon. He also illustrated that this
information technologies, local authenticity, and universal knowledge cannot be taught through traditional didactic
consumer culture have integrated to generate a nexus of complex methods but can only be facilitated through mentorship,
relationships. As we have moved from a one-size-fits-all coaching, and self-reflection. [10]
economy to a customization-for-all economy, the attention of
Architecture has changed towards the “experienced economy”.
This shift demonstrates that while form and function in
Architecture persist essential criteria, personal identity and
personal growth have become even more vital in the assessment
of Architecture’s value. In this changing environment,
Architecture can play an important role in determining how
people contribute in the ongoing restructuring of economic and
cultural practices, by acting as a catalyst for new experiences and
insights. [6]

B. Challenges to Architecture

Architects used to get new projects using the old-boy


network, although there is an increasing competition than ever,
some are still unwilling to abandon their seines for disciplined,
modern marketing. [7]
There are three main challenges to Architectural practice, the
first one is the urge to match the demand for practitioners to the Figure 1 Learning from Experience
supply of Architects and to adjust the number of Architects to
the potential demand for their services. The second challenge is
the need to improve a philosophy of practice which is
dependable but at the same time it also has to match with the
expectations, requirements and demands of the building
industry. The third one is the need to sustain a vulnerable hold

2
D. Competitive Advantage reputation and the quality of their work. Marketing and
Currently, Architectural Firms undertake different advertising were similarly infrequent. Ranked amongst the high
strategies to ensure their existence in the market. Some consider arts, Architecture did not have to advertise in the same way that
people to be very important assets within the organizations for painting and sculpture had no reason to: a good Architect would
achieving a sustainable competitive advantage. Thus, a job never find himself short of work precisely by way of being a
development is a crucial matter for enhancing the employees’ good Architect. Meaning that, the amount of commissions an
abilities. Other organizations Lead in using information Architect could get by word-of-mouth referrals and due to
technology; technology has been endlessly improving, among accumulated professional prestige were only consequences of
the Architectural profession. This causes a high business professionalism and the superiority of his work. [6]
pressure that affects organizations’ present and future
competitiveness. Focusing on continuous improvement through B. Architect’s essential of marketing
applying total quality management -TQM- concepts in the
Marketing is a function of the social, political, economic and
construction industry has also been indicated as an effective
technological features of the society in which it functions. As
tool of competitive advantage. Commitment to quality and to
these characteristics develop and change, so must the marketing
continuous quality improvement is crucial for the profession to
process. This is a mainly a crucial aspect of marketing and its'
endure its market share. LEED certified projects add a viable
relationship with architecture. Architects must accept and
benefit to the firm, as well. Applying Porter’s competitive
respect the social conditions that characterize and differentiate
advantage model and strategic marketing, in addition to,
their work. [13]
building business image and branding are new disciplines in the
Architects will not be able to play in today's competitive
Architectural profession that help adding uniqueness to the
environment unless they are capable of marketing their services
practice and gain sustainable competitive advantage.
successfully. For an Architectural firm to develop a marketing
strategy, the major tasks that should be followed are:
III. ARCHITECTURE AND MARKETING establishing a mission statement, vision statement, and action
plan; signifying the firm's identity and position in the market;
A. Historical background and allocating and managing a marketing budget. There is a
great significance of earning clients' trust; their choice of
Marketing is defined as “An organizational function and a set Architect regularly depends on intangible qualities like
of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value individual chemistry, personality, and passion. Architects have
to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways to be practical and identify their clients' needs. The key is to set
that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.” [11]. marketing as a consistent part of the firm's work, continuously
Architects are relatively new to the field of marketing. In the assessing what strategies work for getting new business and
past, marketing was forbidden. The first principles of practice publicity, and which methods need modification. [14]
implemented by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in The RIBA’s communications chief, Roula Konzotis, has
1909 banned Architects from using even the simplest means of demanded Architects to be more outward looking, enhance their
marketing. They were not allowed to advertise -defined as paid marketing skills and put less importance on peer recognition.
publicity- or rather put their names on a sign in front of one of She added that the profession has “a lot to learn about
their buildings during construction. They could not present free marketing”. [15]
services, like proposals or sketches. They could not be involved
in any competition except if it was held under the AIA’s
C. Marketing strategies for Architectural practice
guidelines. Before 1970, the biggest obstruction to competition
between firms which led to the prevention of marketing was the
regulation that had forbidden a firm from intentionally The very broad definition of architecture is intended to help the
competing with another by offering less charge of the same profession overcome the 'micro-definitions' that have led to the
work. This rule was reinforced by the obligation that fee rapid degradation of our built environment. That is to say that no
schedules, disseminated by the AIA, were to be used to existing definition allows for the architect to overcome the many
determine what firms could charge for work. The exact same influences on architecture that create problems and diffuse the
percentage of construction cost was to be charged by every initial purpose of the discipline. The reason for this is that a
Architect. It was assumed that if one Architect charged less than contradiction exists between the creation of architecture and the
the other, the bidder with the lower price would generate a business of architecture. This contradiction is manifested in the
building of lower quality. [12] differences between the rationality of sound business practices
In Europe, the predominant mentality until lately was that of and the intuition and sensitivity of design. There is. However,
the artist working under charge, responsible solitary for the one business practice that seeks to bridge the gap. This practice
quality and refinement of his art. Which such general, is 'Marketing.'
prohibitive practices as the ones established by the AIA in
America weren’t that common in Europe, competition between
firms was nonetheless not an important matter, since
commissions were mainly awarded according to the Architect’s

3
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