Cycle times, testing, and the real challenge of AEC marketing

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giraffeNot surprisingly, I enjoy reading marketing stories from a variety of places. Idea cross-fertilization helps. Especially, of course, are articles relating to marketing for publishers (my business), such as this rather fascinating story about how the Economist magazine tests, tests, and tests some more — and looks forward to failure as an opportunity to succeed in attracting clients with the right and long-term marketing value.

Trouble is, the advice here won’t work for you.

I mean, unless you are a really big, high volume residential contractor doing very small jobs, relatively, you are simply not going to get the sample sizes to be large enough for a proper end-to-end marketing evaluation of any program; and any tweaks or tests you conduct will only cover a part of the puzzle, and won’t truly effectively integrate with the bigger picture.

Example: ┬áLets say you build an average of three, $10 million projects, a year. That’s a $30 million business. If you were a retailer, you would have thousands of clients, and a sample size wildly large enough to really do some statistical number crunching and testing. Take this a step further, and think Google. Now we’re talking sample sizes in the billions. Tweaks, tests, iterations, retests, and evaluations can continue constantly, as you refine and improve your capacities — and you’ll be able to measure everything, every inch of the way.

But you aren’t designing or building billions, millions, thousands or hundreds of projects a year. You are doing, well, three. A single digit. Just, the work is on a rather incredible scale (at least compared to those mass market retail businesses.

So how do you measure and evaluate things to  be successful?

I can’t give you a perfect answer. The partial answer is to measure the things you can, though of course the total may not add up to the sum of all the parts. You could assess traffic on your website, develop client satisfaction reviews (probably though independent interviews rather than formal surveys) and of course, you could measure and assess various sub-components of your actual job performance. You may also be able to build a reasonably solid “go-no go” criteria based on previous results and trends — a significant issue since your cost of pursuit will be much higher for the bigger projects than the smaller transactions measured in other industries.

Maybe, also, we can learn by observing the practices and models of other big-ticket industries. How do companies selling turbines and jet engines assess their marketing success and performance?

In the end, however, I think all the science in the world won’t replace a bit of common sense and creativity. Maybe, just maybe, listening to our gut and observing that our business will likely thrive if we can really deliver the goods to our current clients, and hang out with them in environments where they are likely to be near others who will be influenced by their recommendations.

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