The DND Method: How Architects Win Against Competitors

November 13, 2022

Tyler Suomala

Founder of Growthitect

“We’re also talking to ABC Architects.”
“Do you know about ABC Architects?”
“ABC Architects told us this.”

You’re having an awesome conversation and then you’re hit with one of these.


You think to yourself:

  • “Not ABC again!”

  • “Their work isn’t even THAT good.”

  • “They undercut their fees every time.”

Then you panic.

You want this project.

You need to defend your firm.

Your client should understand why ABC is so bad.

And before you know it, all of those internal thoughts are coming out of your mouth. You’re speaking negatively about your competition. You’re saying how much better you are. And when it’s over, something feels a bit off in the conversation.

What happened?

You’ve lost the respect of your (prospective) client.


You hurled off a wave of subjective criticisms and critiques about your competition and, in the process, made yourself and your team seem less professional and reliable.

Does this sound familiar?

Maybe your approach is more passive.

  • ”I can’t speak to what ABC does.”

  • “I haven’t heard great things about ABC.”

  • “I’ve seen some of their work but I don’t know much.”

Not as bad, to be sure. But still not great as it shows a lack of understanding in your own market.

There’s a better way to address your competition in conversations. And it’s pretty simple.

Different Not Down

If you want to attract high-quality clients then you need to be a high-quality communicator. That means maintaining high levels of respect from both your clients and your competition.

Instead of talking “down” about your competition, you want to highlight how you’re “different”.

I created the Different Not Down (DND) method to help myself handle these awkward exchanges more gracefully.

DND allows you to:

  • Speak positively about your competition.

  • Maintain respect and professionalism with your clients.

  • Redirect the conversation away from your competition.

  • Position your firm as the best solution.

Let’s jump in.

01 // Competitor Strengths + Weaknesses

Competitive analysis and research is simple task with a big ROI. But don’t feel like you have to evaluate every single firm in your area. Start by reviewing the 3-5 competitors that you come across most often.

Jump on their websites and reach out to some partners in your network (builders, GCs, consultants, developers, etc.) that may have worked with them in some capacity.

List out 1-3 things that each does well (strengths) and 1-3 things that need improvement (weaknesses).

We’re keeping it simple here. I know you’re busy.

02 // Competitive Differentiation

Your differentiation from each competitor exists in the space between their strengths and weaknesses.

What do I mean by that?

When discussing your competitors with prospective clients, it’s not effective to say that you have the same strengths or weaknesses. For example, “ABC Architects is very good at modern design but so are we,” isn’t going to get you much traction.

You’re specific leverage with each competitor can be:

  1. A more focused strength. For example, if a strength of ABC Architects is “modern design” then your competitive differentiation could be “sustainable modern design” or “residential modern design”.

  2. A direct hit to their weakness. For example, if ABC Architects struggle with staying under budget then your competitive differentiation could be a proven track record of under budget projects.

  3. An untouchable truth. This is something that likely differentiates you from MOST competitors. But it has to be a measurable, objective truth to really work. For example:

    1. 95% of your projects are completed on time.

    2. You have more than 50 client reviews with an average of 4.9/5 stars.

    3. You’ve designed more than 100 built projects.

You get the idea. Review the list of strengths and weaknesses for each competitor and add 1-2 competitive differentiators.

03 // DND Statement

This is my favorite part of every Tyler Tactics newsletter - it’s time to bring everything together!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Compliment their strength: “ABC Architects has a great focus on modern design.”

  2. Introduce your competitive differentiation: “We’re a bit different because we focus on clear communication with stakeholders, which is why 95% of our projects are completed on time.”

  3. Redirect with a related open-ended question: “How important is it to you that the project is completed within your 12-month timeline?”

Why does this work so well?

Here’s the crazy part of this Different Not Down method:

It completely diminishes the unwanted topic of your competition while redirecting the conversation to one of your strengths.

Instead of spending 5-10 minutes comparing and contrasting yourself to your competition, you will spend 15-30 seconds bringing the conversation back to you and your client.

Now you can actually be excited when someone mentions your competition 🙂

Taken altogether:

  • “ABC Architects has a great focus on modern design”

  • “We’re a bit different because we focus on clear communication with stakeholders, which is why 95% of our projects are completed on time.”

  • “How important is it to you that the project is completed within your 12-month timeline?”

Growthitect is a newsletter that shares one quick and powerful growth tactic for architects each week:

Join 4,500+ architecture leaders already reading each week.

Share this article on: