Vertical Growth: How To Dominate Your Architecture Market

January 21, 2024

Tyler Suomala

Founder of Growthitect

Standing out in architecture is tough, to say the least.

With so many talented firms, it's easy to feel ordinary. It's not just about being good at what you do; it's about being noticed for it.

Typically, when I speak to a firm that is struggling to increase their pipeline and backlog of work, they inevitably reach one of these two conclusions:

  1. “I think we need to expand our services to other markets.”

  2. “Maybe we should lower our prices.”

In the moment, these may seem like good ideas.

You need more work so you can just expand to another market and open up a whole new pipeline, right? Not quite. Expanding to other markets is a massive task that will cost time, energy, and money. And it typically only works well if you have healthy financials and a proven model of success in at least one other market. If you try to be everything to everyone, you won’t be great at anything. (Did Socrates say that? 😉)

How about lowering your prices - that will work, right? Sure, you might win some projects with that but the clients will likely be low-quality and may even cost you money in the long run. You won’t become undercut resistant by undercutting others. It’s just a race to the bottom. And it doesn’t get to the root of the problem.

So what’s the solution?

Vertical Growth

When you’re struggling to fill your available work but you’re not yet at the top of your market, you should focus on vertical growth.

Vertical growth is about becoming a specialist in a specific market, rather than offering a wide range of general services across many markets (which is horizontal growth). It involves deeply understanding and excelling in a particular niche, and then tailoring your services, marketing, and growth strategies to that niche.

Think of it as a way to add revenue streams without going outside of your current market.

So how can architects go vertical?

01 // Expertise

Dive deep and identify a niche in your market. Expand your expertise and stack up the design and business certifications that are respected in your niche. It's like adding extra layers of authority in your chosen field. Whether it's sustainable design, historic preservation, or high-tech commercial spaces, become the go-to expert in that area and learn everything you can.

02 // Service

Think of services as an ice cream cone. Right now, you might only have one size cone and one flavor. But as your expertise grows, you can expand the scale and flavor offerings. On the small scale, it could be designing compact, efficient Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), interior renovations, or sustainability consultations. On the larger scale, it could be master planning or development. The key is to offer services that complement and enhance your niche.

03 // Network

This is all about making connections that count. Rub shoulders with engineers, consultants, developers, and anyone else who plays a part in the lifecycle of the project in your niche. It's not just about knowing people; it's about being part of the ecosystem and having the most trusted team for every project.

What are the benefits of going vertical?

  • Increased Market Exposure: Specializing means you're more likely to dominate your market. You're not just another residential architect; you're the eco-friendly residential architect. You’re not just a commercial architect; you’re the high-tech commercial architect.

  • Cost-Effective Marketing: When your marketing speaks directly to your niche, it's not just effective; it's efficient and easy to optimize. You're reaching out to a specific audience, and that means less waste and more impact for every marketing dollar.

  • Higher Rates & Fees: Specialization equals premium value. Your niche expertise allows you to command higher fees, positioning your services as a differentiated luxury rather than a commodity.

  • Reduced Competition: When you're the go-to person in your niche, you'll find less competition. Sales cycles get shorter, opportunities to dominate increase, and you'll find yourself in a position where clients seek you out, not the other way around.


Vertical growth is about making strategic moves to stand out in your field. Instead of moving away from your market, you’re going deeper and higher in your market. It's about focusing on what you do best and making sure the world knows about it.

  • Become the expert

  • Expand your services

  • Grow your network

And enjoy all of the benefits that come with your vertical domination.

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