Undoubtedly, one of the biggest problems in AEC marketing and business development relates to the mis-connect between marketing and sales (business development) initiatives. In the pure “distinctive”model — marketers spread the word and build the reputation to the point that worthy leads appear; and business developers engage in the one-on-one to convert the lead to orders.
Of course, things don’t work out so well and simply in the real world, especially when the AEC sales cycle is often so long and the core of most business (including in the public sector) is from repeat and referral clients. In other words, the “hand off” isn’t at a simple demarkation point: Business development and marketing need to be integrated through the entire sales cycle.
In a recent SMPS Marketer article, Tim Asimos outlines how marketers can help business developers avoid costly missteps, including:
Selling before the client is ready to be sold.
The solution here is to ensure content marketing and “giving” become the mantra for initial relationships — the push to get the order should only come when the potential client indicates that it is time to buy.
Following up to a prospect meeting with the wrong content.
Here, the business developer sends out boilerplate “statement of qualifications” material, without really providing practical and relevant information that the potential client can use. The marketer needs to be involved with the salesperson, learning what really matters, and helping to design the follow-up content.
Failing to stay regularly engaged with a prospect over the long sales cycle.
The AEC sales cycle can be long, lasting months and even years in some cases. Along the way there are only going to be so many opportunities for face-to-face interactions. A good BD representative will set reminders to send out the occasional touching-base email and will look for prospects ant industry conferences and networking events. However, there is only so much that BD can do to stay engaged throughout the buyer’s journey. That’s where the marketing team can help to regularly engage clients and keep your firm top-of-mind.
Asimos suggests that marketers should “develop a closed-loop lead management program that nurtures and monitors leads throughout the buyer’s journey.”
Initiatives could include creating blog posts and educational material that address a prospect’s questions, needs and interests, developing long-term lead nurturing campaigns, investing in marketing automation software, monitoring clients’ engagement with your email, website and blog and leveraging “the use of lead-behaviour scoring to help BD identify which prospects are most engaged with your firm and better prioritize their outreach efforts.”
Yes, this process requires thought, sophistication and — if you are doing it right — systematization and measurement. Yet it doesn’t need, in my opinion, to be excessively complicated. If you think of business development and marketing as an integrated, ongoing coordinated process, rather than a “hand off” relay, I think you’ll be much more successful in the long run.