Perryn Olson‘s Brand Constructors blog (brandconstructors.com/blog) provides a refreshing perspective with a uniquely sensitive understanding of the special marketing challenges within the architectural, engineering and construction community. Olson, based in New Orleans, LA, also adds the perspective of someone who lived through one of the greatest U.S. natural disasters in recent history — and the opportunities (and challenges) of rebuilding. However, this blog is far less about where he is, than where the AEC marketing community is heading.
Recently, for example, he wrote a thoughtful piece: “Rise of the Marketer” where he shows how marketing (at last) is achieving respect within AEC practices and businesses, but (in part because the discipline is new and the respect is still somewhat fragile), someone without formal education and training, who might have been given marketing responsibilities as an add-on to administrative duties — can truly achieve a career breakthrough with a combination of on-the-job experience and training/certification through the Society for Marketing Professional Services (smps.org.)
The best way to show the quality of Olson’s writing is for me to stretch copyright (hope he doesn’t mind) with this long excerpt from a recent posting:
As an outsider that is waist deep in this battle for respect, I’ve also seen a shift that includes marketing departments receiving larger budgets. These larger budgets come with a higher expectation to produce tangible results. Strong, knowledgeable marketers have waited patiently for the day when they can dictate their own futures and possess pride in their accomplishments, knowing that they made the call, they executed the plan, and they saw the results garnered through their own unique expertise. This will mean that the weak marketers will perish, as they should. One of marketing’s greatest impediments is a lack of freedom to employ our expertise, and all too often marketing goes to an executive assistant in the office that needs a few extra hours of work. Again, all too often, marketing is thrust in the lap of a person that does not possess the skill, passion, and expertise to effectively manage it, and that hurts a company much more than they realize.
The marketing & business development team is the only group in a company that actually brings money into the firm, although at most firms they are viewed as unbillable and managed by the office manager. The technical team of architects, engineers and constructors may actually bill time, but without someone bringing in the project, there would be no hours to bill, making the technical team unbillable too. When I make presentations at SMPS regional conferences and in talking one-on-one, I challenge marketers to step up and show their value to their firm. Look at what you and your team have done this year, whether it is bringing in ___ % of total revenue or ___ millions of dollars to the firm. Where would your company be without your efforts and expertise? More importantly, where could they be if they removed the shackles that most companies have in place to hold the marketing team back?
Let’s go back to that poor executive assistant that has now been deemed the firm’s “marketer”. This person has two options – take orders from their boss (who is probably a technical billable person or an office manager that “babysits” the unbillable people in the office), or take it as an opportunity. Marketing does not have to be something you learn in a university setting. In fact, most people I know in marketing do not hold a degree in it, and the people I know with a marketing degree usually do some type of sales. This is why I love SMPS so much – because of the highly valuable education that they provide at conferences, association meetings, webinars, emails, and via social media. As I mentioned before, I am not a marketer by education. I have learned the trade through watching the marketers at my company (a design & marketing firm), by observing marketing and advertising in the world around me, and a few years ago, by learning the more “textbook” side and industry specific version of marketing through SMPS’ certification program. One of the best ways to market a company today is through content marketing, which is providing free resources to potential prospective clients; in other words, to learn from companies that want your company to hire them and use content to market your firm by doing a blog, whitepapers and/or a webinar.
Now, please do not mistake this for a rant; this is me encouraging you as a marketer and business developer to stand up for what you deserve to the firm’s principals and executive team, and to challenge your own marketing & business development teams to step up. I will leave you with this thought/example: the world’s best architect would be invisible to the world without a good marketer, while a bad architect can become legendary with a good marketer. The reason that your competitors who you view as “sub-standard” are receiving accolades and projects is because of good marketing and business development. It is a professional services example of the old adage, “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
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