Trigger Warnings: How Any Architect Can Spot Their Next Client

October 8, 2023

Tyler Suomala

Founder of Growthitect

Every architecture firm knows the challenge. In the vast sea of potential projects, how do you ensure that your firm is visible to the right clients at precisely the right moment?

We know they’re there.

But how do we find them?

Cold outreach conundrum

At any given moment, there's a multitude of opportunities available. But the age-old issue remains: either (1) avoid reaching out due to uncertainty or (2) blanket every potential lead with your pitch, hoping one sticks.

Considering the 95:5 rule, where 95% of your audience isn't immediately ready to commit, the traditional cold outreach method will not be the most effective.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m a big fan of cold outreach. And you should be too. But there’s a difference between “ice cold, frozen tundra” outreach and “I think I smell Spring in the air” outreach.

Cold outreach is better when it’s not so…cold.

Trigger warnings

Rather than waiting in the wings or approaching clients haphazardly, the key is to recognize the triggers that often precede the need for architectural services.

Think about it:

  • A tech startup just secured substantial venture funding. That's your cue – they may be considering expanding or creating a modern workspace reflective of their brand.

  • Or a family in your community has recently purchased a large plot of land. This could indicate their interest in building a custom-designed home.

By identifying such triggers, you can approach prospects when your services are most relevant. How do you identify and act on the best triggers? Glad you asked 😏

01 // Identify preludes, challenges, and campaigns

The first step is understanding what actions, changes, or challenges typically precede your services. This means you’ll want to dive into notes from previous discovery calls and meet with your marketing team to understand common scenarios. Here’s a few questions to get you thinking:

  • What events often precede a need for your expertise? For example:

    • Corporate shifts: Did a local company just merge, indicating potential rebranding or a shift in their physical space needs?

    • Real Estate transactions: Monitor significant property purchases which often signal upcoming construction or renovation projects.

    • Business milestones: Did a local business just celebrate a landmark anniversary? They might be thinking of revamping their commercial space.

  • What are the most common challenges that make your clients aware that they need your expertise? For example:

    • Space limitations: The growing pains of a thriving startup in a cramped office or a family outgrowing their home are genuine problems.

    • Outdated designs: Buildings that have not seen renovation in decades might be looking for a modern touch.

    • Under-utilized spaces: Businesses or families with a lot of unused land might be considering new constructions or expansions.

  • What awareness campaigns historically make your clients take notice and/or book a meeting? For example:

    • Website analytics: Track when and why potential clients are exploring your online portfolio.

    • Event sponsorships: Assess if there's an uptick in inquiries after you've sponsored or participated in local or regional events.

    • Advertisements: Check if certain ad campaigns or promotional deals have resulted in better client engagement.

02 // Define your triggers

Spend some time evaluating your insights from above. Pinpoint 3-5 triggers most relevant to your firm.

  • Which do you hear and see most often?

  • Which tend to lead you to more high-quality clients and projects?

Residential architects should consider real estate transactions, family announcements like births or marriages, or local community developments.

Commercial architects should keep an eye on business growth indicators, mergers, rebranding exercises, or large-scale hiring drives.

03 // Build trigger lists

After identifying your triggers, it's time to start building out lists and automations that make it easier for you and your team to identify warmer opportunities.

This is where your creativity comes in. Answer the question: What’s the best way to identify a person or business in this situation? It may be public records, local news, regional events, or even marketing data.

  • Research tools: Use public databases, local news sources, or online tools (like a Google search alert) to stay updated on these triggers.

  • Team effort: Triggers know no bounds! Whether someone is an architectural designer or a firm owner, they can be on the lookout. Ensure your entire firm knows these triggers. Knowledge is power, and with everyone on the lookout, no opportunity will be missed.

  • Documents or forms: Set up a quick and simple system that you and your team can use to record opportunities. Try a Google doc, form, or even a Notion database.

04 // Tailor your outreach

Woohoo! You’ve identified triggers and even built out a system to track opportunities. Now, one of your architects just reported an opportunity. What do you do?!

Well, here’s the good news: You have the knowledge and resources to create a highly tailored and customized approach.

Why? Because you know the trigger! And, from past experiences, you know a client’s common challenges, thoughts, and desires associated with that trigger.

Whether you’re giving a prospect a call or sending them an email, be sure to lean on the trigger to set the stage. Use the simple template of: “I noticed [x], so I was wondering [y]?” For example:

  • "Hey Jane, I noticed your startup just secured a Series C funding round. As you plan your expansion, have you considered how your office space will reflect your brand and growth?”

  • “Hi Mike, I heard that you purchased that beautiful plot of land on Anderson Road. Curious if you’re considering building a home?”


There’s luck and then there’s planning. Don’t rely on luck to find your next client. Rely on planning, precision, and execution. And ensure that you are in the right place at the right time.

  1. Identify preludes, challenges, and campaigns

  2. Define your triggers

  3. Build trigger lists

  4. Tailor your outreach

By understanding and acting on client triggers, your firm can be perfectly positioned, showing potential clients that you're not just any architect – you're their architect.

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