Sidekicks: How To Frame Architecture Clients as the Hero

April 2, 2023

Tyler Suomala

Founder of Growthitect

Let's talk about heroes.

We all love a good hero story, right? But when it comes to your firm, are you the hero? This is what I see at most firms:

  • Hero: The Architect

  • Sidekick: The Client

  • Villain: Bad Design

Most firms frame themselves as the hero in all their stories and conversations. Their website, proposals, case studies, and conversations focus on their hero story. They talk about their experience, their expertise, their awards, and their achievements in their own words and from their own perspective.

Here’s the bad news: your clients don't care about you being the hero.

Clients want to be the hero of their own story.

When firms continue to reinforce themselves as the hero, they create a chasm that separates themselves from their client. And that chasm creates several challenges:

  1. Lack of connection with potential clients: Firms may come across as self-centered and uninterested in their clients' needs, which quickly shuts down conversation and interest.

  2. Focusing on achievements instead of benefits: Emphasizing credentials, awards, and accolades instead of client benefits incorrectly positions your firm’s value prop. It sends a message that you're more interested in your own success than that of your client. This makes it difficult for potential clients to understand how the architect can solve their problems and meet their needs.

  3. Ignoring the client's perspective: When architects present themselves as the hero, they may inadvertently ignore the client's vision. This can make them feel like they're just a means to an end, rather than an important partner in the process.

  4. Limited differentiation from competitors: When the firm is the hero, it can quickly become a race to the bottom against competitors. If most firms present themselves as the hero, clients are limited in their evaluation - so they’ll usually just choose the firm with the lowest fee.

  5. Attracting low-quality clients: When the firm is the hero, it attract clients who are looking for a transactional relationship rather than a collaborative partnership.

Alright, Tyler, I get it. What’s the story I should be telling?

A New Hero

There’s a new trio in Gotham City:

  • Hero: The Client

  • Sidekick: The Architect

  • Villain: Common Client Pains

You want to frame your client as the hero.

When you make your client the hero of the story, you create space to understand their pains, challenges, and desires. This means putting them at the center of your messaging and making them the focus of your conversations. When you make your client the hero, you're showing them that you are committed to helping them relieve their pains and achieve their ideal outcome.

The architect then becomes the sidekick. You're the expert who can help them overcome their challenges and achieve their (Hollywood) dreams. You stand by them, always communicate the situation, emphasize their best interest, and empower them to be the best version of themselves. (Don’t we all want to work with the best versions of each other? It’s a win-win.)

And what's the biggest challenge standing in the way of your client's success? That's the villain in your story. It might be a lack of space, a tight budget, or a difficult site. Whatever it is, by framing it as the villain, you're positioning yourself as the expert sidekick who can help your client conquer that villain and emerge victorious as the hero.

They’re already rolling out the red carpet!

But don’t worry - this doesn’t mean you can never talk about yourself or your firm accomplishments. You’ve earned those and you should be incredibly proud of what you’ve done and the value you’ve created. This is simply a (metaphorical) exercise in framing and storytelling. You want to talk about your firm in a way that elevates and supports the vision of your client while diminishing their villain.

Rewriting The Story

Bet you never thought you’d be a movie producer, huh? Here’s how to identify the hero, sidekick, and villain in your messaging and conversations:

  1. Identify your ideal client: Who is your target audience? What are their goals, challenges, and pain points? What motivates them? (Think back to your Transformation Statement for some help here)

  2. Position your client as the hero: In your messaging, put your client at the center of the story. Use language that emphasizes their goals and aspirations. Show them that you understand their challenges and are committed to helping them succeed.

  3. Position your firm as the sidekick: As the architect, you're the expert who can help your client overcome their challenges and achieve their goals. Use language that positions you as the support system for your client.

  4. Identify the villain: What is the primary challenge standing in the way of your client's success? Think back to those common answers you hear to questions around pain points and challenges. Identify the breadwinners and use language that positions them as the primary obstacle standing in the way of your client’s vision.

  5. Craft your messaging: Use the hero-sidekick-villain framework to craft your messaging and conversations. Use it to create more compelling case studies, testimonials, project descriptions, proposals, and social media content that will attract heroes (cough cough high quality clients cough cough).


When firms frame themselves as the hero of the story, they inadvertently repel the interests and desires of their client. This can cause a slew of undesired consequences like miscommunication and low-quality, transactional clients.

Instead, let your client be the hero of their own story. Embrace the role of sidekick to help them overcome their villain. And update the messaging on your website, marketing materials, and conversations to better reflect the new story.

This will help you to attract high-quality clients that trust you and value your expertise.

Happy sidekick-ing! 🙂

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