Do Architecture Firms Need a Value Statement?

Dear Doctor,

Our architecture firm is trying to up our marketing game. Popular opinion says a value statement is a key part of this effort. But we’re designers, not business people! Can you please explain what makes a good value statement, and why it’s important?

Thank you—

Visually Oriented


Dear Visually Oriented,

This is a great question, and thank you for asking it! Because it gives me the opportunity to answer it. I completely support your desire to ramp up your marketing efforts. Spring has sprung, let your outreach efforts bloom! But first off, let me say that I never really cared all that much for popular opinion. The doctor advises you to beat your own drum, make your own melody, sing your own song! Still, whatever tune you’re humming as you walk down the street, it needs to underscore your value! Why? As I have said many times before (sorry if I’m boring some of my readers), it’s like this: you know the saying “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”. Well, the same is true for your architecture. If you design a building, you can’t just assume that people will see it: you need to tell them about it. And you also need to tell people what’s so important about it that they need to hire you, pronto!

Now, here’s a little secret—well, a couple of secrets. First, people don’t buy buildings, they buy your expertise and services. If you are great designers (and I know you are) you are not selling them a building off the shelf. You are selling them your approach to designing that building, which is more complex and nuanced. Second, people buy solutions to problems. That’s important, because you need to identify that problem and then explain how you can solve that problem (of course, over here at Hausman HQ, we like to see design as providing opportunities, not just solutions). Let me explain why this matters so much: if you can’t articulate why you add value, then your potential customer might just decide to stick with their status quo (i.e., you know, I thought I needed a new pair of shoes, but new ones are too expensive, and I’ll just go to the shoe repair and have my old ones shined). On the other hand, those new shoes might make you look taller, 20 pounds lighter, and five years younger. And if that’s the case, the doctor advises you to buy a new pair for every day of the week.

In much the same way, you have to explain why you are the catalyst pushing your client forward to the moon. Yep, you have the key to fire up that starship! If you don’t bring value, then there is no reason that they should they hire you over your competitors. Say you are interviewing for a new school project and you and your competitors have all designed several award-winning educational facilities. What other point of comparison can that client have to base their final decision on, except fee? But now imagine that you can say to your client that your design increased attendance by 20%, reduced energy use by 15% while educating the students about resiliency, and improved test scores? Now, I’m no genius (OK, maybe I am, just a little), but I would say that these metrics would be a great way to demonstrate how your design adds value…and can also help you win more clients to boot!