Low Cost, High Value Offers: How Architects Quash Client Hesitations

November 5, 2023

Tyler Suomala

Founder of Growthitect

Ever found yourself in a scenario where a client's enthusiasm doesn't quite translate into a signature on the dotted line? You’re not alone.

Actually, if you haven’t noticed, I spend a lot of time writing about client hesitations. Why? Because they’re abundant! And you will deal with them on every single project.

They’re impossible to avoid. But they aren’t impossible to overcome…with the right tactics 😏

Something that regularly prevents architects from progressing and adopting new methods is the belief that we are (very) different. We believe that no other industry is like ours. Architecture issues aren’t just unique - they’re unprecedented, right? No other industry faces the same hurdles as architects.

That train of thought is a bunch of bologna. It hurts the industry. And it prevents us from learning from the success of other companies that “don’t understand” what it’s like to work in architecture.

I’ve detailed cars, waited tables, shadowed neurologists, built websites, designed skyscrapers, sold software, and written a boatload of content. Every experience can relate back to architecture in some way (and vice versa). There’s so much to be learned if we open our minds and consider what we have to learn from those outside of architecture.

Last week I wrote about Nike and IKEA. This week, it’s Spotify.

Spotify squashes hesitation

The architectural journey is an intimate one. Clients are about to embark on a significant financial and emotional investment, and naturally, they seek reassurance every step of the way. Their hesitation is natural and expected:

  • They love your work, but can't quite envision how your design style will suit their needs.

  • They're excited about the possibilities but are intimidated by the scale of the financial commitment.

  • They're ready for a change but anxious about the disruption to their daily lives or business operations.

It's a critical impasse that demands a strategic approach.

Your favorite music and podcast streamer, Spotify, navigates these hesitancies well.

“Not sure if we’re the right fit? Try us for free and see for yourself!”

It’s a try before you buy situation. By providing users with a free tier service, they give a taste of what's on offer - enough to enjoy but with the knowledge that there's more, should they choose to commit. And many do.

Don’t worry, I’m not here to suggest that you give away anything for free. That would go against everything I preach relative to the value of architects. But there is still a lot to be learned here.

Why does freemium work so well?

We humans love trial experiences. They reduce our fear of buyer’s remorse and provide us with a sense of ownership and engagement. And there are a few cognitive biases at play:

  • Endowment Effect: People ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. In the context of 'try before you buy,' once customers feel a sense of ownership, even temporarily, they are more inclined to purchase because they place a higher value on the item or service.

  • Loss Aversion: People prefer to avoid losses opposed to acquire equivalent gains. In the context of a free trial, the idea of losing access to a service after becoming accustomed to it can be a powerful motivator to subscribe or purchase.

  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: The inclination to continue something once an investment in money, effort, or time has been made. Although not exactly 'sunk' in the context of free trials, the time or effort put into using the free service can compel the user to pay so that they are able to continue use.

How can architects adapt Spotify’s freemium model to their own client work?

Low-cost, high-value offer

Most firms don’t offer hesitant clients a way to test the waters. You’re either in or you’re out. But hesitancy isn’t a sign of a bad client - it’s a sign of a logical thinker. And offering them a way to get their foot in the door can increase revenue and win rates.

I call it an LCHV (low-cost, high-value) offer. How does it work?

  1. Pinpoint the hesitation: Identify the moment or point of hesitation among your prospective clients. Is it visualizing the outcome? Securing a permit? Understanding the architecture process?

  2. Identify the first step: Once you know the moment of hesitation, then identify the first step to mitigating that hesitation. For example, if it’s visualizing the outcome then the first step might be renderings or conceptual design diagrams. Offer this as a first step for a fraction of the cost of the total project (but still enough to ensure profitability).

  3. Overdeliver your value: This is your opportunity to showcase your expertise and offer an incredible client experience. Over-communicate. Over-research. Over-deliver. Turn that small commitment into an oh-so-obvious big commitment.

It’s worth noting that “low-cost” is relative. If your average fee is $50k, the $3k - $5k is low-cost. If your average fee is $1MM, low-cost might be $50k.

Here are some LCHV examples to drive home my point:

  • Scenario: Residential remodel

    1. Moment of hesitation: A client can't visualize how a modern design would suit their century-old home.

    2. LCHV: A $3,000 feasibility study that includes a historical evaluation, zoning analysis, and preliminary design options.

    3. Prove value: The study tells the past and future story of the home, guarantees permit approval, and includes some basic renderings along with the preliminary design.

  • Scenario: New commercial development

    1. Moment of hesitation: A developer is unsure how to maximize the potential of a newly acquired lot.

    2. LCHV: A zoning and market analysis for $10,000 that includes a review of local demand, zoning restrictions, and optimal building orientation.

    3. Prove value: The analysis confirms the lot's potential, reveals a creative solution to increase leasing revenue, and also positions your firm as the expert to realize it (cue transformation statement).

  • Scenario: Public facility upgrade

    1. Moment of hesitation: The committee is divided on how an upgrade can modernize their facility without disrupting services.

    2. LCHV: A $1,500 logistical analysis that sketches out the project timeline, phases, and temporary solutions for ongoing operations.

    3. Prove value: The analysis is presented using clear and visual diagrams (thank you, design chops) that also elaborate on the ROI of more efficient operations.


Steal Spotify’s brilliant squasher of client hesitancy. Embracing the 'try before you buy' approach can revolutionize your client relationships. By learning from Spotify, we're reminded that sometimes the best way to move forward is to allow our clients to sample our expertise, reassuring them that their investment is well-placed.

  1. Pinpoint the hesitation

  2. Identify the first step and turn that into an LCHV

  3. Overdeliver on your value

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