All architectural work has to be won. The old-school approach where architects met clients on the golf course and were given work that way has long disappeared.

Some work does still come through personal relationships and recommendations, of course, particularly at the smaller end of the scale. And that work is often the best kind. Unless the work is repeat business (the very best there is) then the architect winning it will have had to make themselves known to the client, at least by reputation and probably personally.

Building that awareness with potential clients is crucial, both for competitive and non-competitive work, and relationships have of course to be maintained to make repeat business possible. We deal with relationship building in the second section of this white paper, “How to get upstream”.

But in order to be appointed for much of the substantial work that is available, it is necessary to make some form of competitive submission. It is mandatory for publicly funded work, and many private developers like to follow a competitive route.
Architects therefore need to understand the different types of competitive routes that exist, the opportunities that they offer and how demanding and difficult they can be, in order to make an informed decision.

The current situation is far from perfect. While there is no point in just wishing it could change, there are some changes on the way, which should make life easier — especially for smaller practices wanting to bid for work.

The Importance of Marketing

There are two things that the intelligent practice should do well before starting to prepare an entry to a competition or filling in a PQQ — they should take steps to be aware of work that is on the horizon that will interest them, and they should do everything that they can to make sure that potential clients are aware of the practice, its strengths and its ambitions.

Both these activities come under the heading of marketing, and can either bring a practice work by direct recommendation or put them at an advantage in a competitive situation. Caroline Cole of Colander, a business consultancy for architects and engineers, says: “Having watched numerous juries, if you are known to a client, they will pick up your document. If you are not known then you have to work twice as hard.”

Look out for a new extract from the report next week on deciding what to enter