Turbo-charged business development: most architects are missing a trick

The benefits of Listenback: a simple client feedback strategy gives you multiple wins across the business development lifecycle


The Listenback system of feedback takes the well-established business development model and turbo-charges it for growth.

With minimum disruption and very little extra resource, it exploits opportunities along the client journey, allowing you to learn where value can be added to improve the overall client experience.

At its heart is a simple feedback tool that measures your performance on the factors most likely to differentiate you from your competitors. And what you can measure, you can improve.


The traditional business development lifecycle (see diagram below) is static. Unless you are pitching to existing clients, you start every new campaign more or less at square one.

Treading the same path without conscious improvement: the traditional business development lifecycle

Along the way there are many touchpoints with the pool of potential clients. These fall into three broad categories of communication: external, tailored, and business.

External communications

Keen to attract work, the firm first manifests, i.e. is in business, with an office, a bank account, some equipment, and, perhaps, some staff. Next, it calibrates its offer to clients – what it does, how it does it, and in what sectors – on a website, for example. Next, it actively markets its services by sending out mailshots, networking, attending events, getting involved in the local community, entering competitions, and so on.

Tailored communications

When it hooks prospective interest, it begins to sell its services, tailoring its offer to that prospect’s specific needs. To be successful requires empathy with the prospect’s needs, communicated convincingly. If all goes well, it agrees a contract and an acceptable fee with what is now a new client.

Business communications

During the performance of the contract, it forms a working relationship with the client to build trust. It develops the brief to understand the client’s needs in detail. It solves their complex needs. Eventually, it produces viable designs and, if retained, oversees  the construction of the building.

Job done, it starts the process again.

The trouble with this approach is that the opportunity to find out how you could improve the client experience is lost. Your client has moved on, pleased no longer to have the stressful business of procuring a building on its plate.


The Listenback system turbo-boosts your business development with a conscious strategy for continuous improvement

Learning communications

The Listenback way (see diagram above) adds in a new category of communication: learning.

Instead of starting every new campaign back at square one, under this model you spend time finding out whether what you did worked. You consciously learn the lessons. You apply the lessons intelligently to improve what you do.

You don’t wait until the end of a project. You collect feedback at regular intervals during projects so that current clients stand to enjoy the benefits of any improvements you make.

Confirming and learning in this way strengthens your external communications by giving you a robust evidence base for the benefits of your offer. It makes you much more persuasive in converting prospects into clients because, rather than relying on rhetoric, you can demonstrate your value with evidence. Because you are seen to want to improve continually, clients trust you to a greater extent, leading to more fruitful business relationships.


From a business development point of view, your minimum goal should be evidence that has the potential to differentiate you from your competitors.

This is Listenback’s premise: RIBA research shows that most clients are satisfied with what architects design; they are far less satisfied with how they do so. Also, clients are more satisfied with architects who follow up.

For this reason, the free web-based Listenback feedback tool focuses on how you deliver your service by asking for feedback from clients on factors where architects’ performance is known to be uneven. The data it yields is consistent and comparable across all client and project types. It thus builds into a useful database for tracking improvements known to give you a competitive edge.

Ultimately, your professional learning goal should be to research the value of your contribution to the eventual life of the buildings you design using post-occupancy evaluations and user satisfaction surveys. While the Listenback feedback tool won’t produce this evidence, the Listenback model above still applies for this much more involved and difficult research.

Architects stand at a tipping point, threatened with obsolescence if they don’t collect evidence of their value. As Flora Samuel argues compellingly in her recently published book ‘Why Architects Matter’, “Lack of clarity about what it is that architects know makes it very difficult for them to defend their territory.”

Let Listenback be the start of your fightback. Sign up now: it’s free.


Listenback is currently looking for practices willing to partner with us to test the tool’s use and functionality.

If you are interested in participating, please get in touch with Matt Thompson at matt@listenback.co.uk

#savvyarchitect #clientfeedback #clientexperience #racetothetop #clientsatisfaction #keyperformanceindicator #buildtrust #valueofdesign

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