How to make marketing important and relevant for your architectural or engineering practice

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Mark Zweig
Zweig Letter
The Zweig Letter provides a treasure-trove of marketing insights.

The Zweig Letter provides a treasure-trove of AEC-related marketing insights. In the latest issue, Mark Zweig takes on the challenge of “Making Marketing Important,”  observing that practitioners who rely on word-of-mouth are destined to remain very small.

Today, I’m trying to reach out to those architects and engineers who want to grow their businesses,” he writes. “Marketing is critical to your success. It isn’t some BS stuff that can be doled out to someone – anyone – and everyone else can just go back to real work (i.e., architecture, engineering, planning, surveying, etc.). It is REAL work. It takes a lot of heavy lifting.”

And it permeates every single area of the company. It isn’t just something that hangs off to the side that we call in when we need their help. It’s not just a “support” group.

We have a big problem in this industry. It stems from a lack of business education and from a basic belief that marketers are full of bull liars and exaggerators. While we can’t solve that perception problem easily, we can give you some advice about how to elevate marketing’s importance in your firm – a crucial first step if you want to make its contributions more impactful to the firm.

Zweig then makes four suggestions:

Hire the right person for the job.

The head of marketing, perhaps a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or a vice-president of marketing needs to be “someone dynamic,” he writes.  “You need someone dynamic. You need someone who is inspired. You need someone who is positive.
You need someone who is creative. You need someone who can communicate. You need someone who will work their tail off. And you need someone who wants to be successful, needs to be successful.” These intrinsic qualities are far more important than formal degrees or credentials, he says.

Put this individual in the right spot in the organization chart.

Zweig says the senior marketing leader should be just that — someone who reports directly to the president or CEO.

“They don’t report to a group, they don’t report to a committee, and they don’t report to anyone who isn’t the one who can allocate resources and kick ass and make things happen in the organization. This is essential, because if your marketing person is going to get anything done they will be CHANGING things inside the organization. That will ruffle feathers. Those whose feathers get ruffled will be obstructing change. Someone will probably have to confront them.

Demonstrate and report on marketing activities.

“This means constant and continuous reporting of leads, sales, new clients, new jobs, new prospects, backlog, web hits, press mentions, and about a hundred OTHER things that show something is happening marketing-wise.”

It has to go out to everyone in the firm – NOT just the owners and managers – so everyone can see what’s happening that’s good and bad and support the firm’s marketing efforts as best they can. That’s what it’s about – getting everyone involved!

Finally, recognize and promote the marketing leader’s contributions.

I think sometimes firm principals are actually AFRAID to do this, that the professional and technical staff may complain or feel is  if you don’t, someone else will!

These are simple steps — and reflect an important turning point in the evolution of an AEC practice. If you wish to be a very small organization living job-to-job on your reputation, you don’t need to do these things. And, I would argue that you need to be fundamentally successful in your business before you commit significant marketing resources to the challenge. If you don’t have substance behind the marketing push, you risk turning your business into a con job, and that can result in your going into places I don’t want anyone to visit. But if you have the fundamentals right — so well that word-of-mouth in fact is working naturally and effectively — really solid marketing leadership will indeed take your practice to the next level.

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