Marketing expectations: Assessing reality and results and developing your strategy

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I wish there could be a way to effectively guarantee architectural, engineering and construction marketing success. You plan your investment/campaign, execute it and achieve results — an increase in profitable sales.

While there are measures you can take to improve your probabilities, there are no guarantees. Worse, in high-ticket, long sales cycle businesses, it truly is challenging to equate any single marketing initiative with success, because external conditions could change from inception to conclusion and you will lack a sample size large enough to allow for proper statistical evaluation or effective market testing, evaluation, and recovery.

So, in many cases, you are left with assessing and measuring parts of the picture. You might, for example, be able to view your web traffic, engagement, and even initial inquiries/sign-ups. Or you could track the standard metrics (such as sales, cost of sales and initial inquiries), if you have enough projects, to gain some awareness of your achievements.

But measuring results continues to be astoundingly difficult and successful measuring/assessing often depends on quantifying some “common sense” attitudes.

Consider, for example, the architectural practice in the US that determined the key metric of success on project proposals was how much the practices’ principals engaged in the proposed project at the pre-bid stage. The practice had detailed time reporting tools, so it could count the hours.

If principals bought into the pre-proposal project, the win rate (and resulting profitability) was truly satisfactory; if not, the cost in pushing things through to the shortlist stage, only to lose the job at the final competition, made the effort frustrating, to say the least. The solution: Use the principals’ time tracking to determine the “go” projects.

But there are two big problems with this tool, even though it is effective for at last one architect. First, you have to be big enough to have several principals and plenty of projects to even bother. And second, do you really need to be a rocket scientist to know that if your company’s leaders are investing precious time in a project, that they care enough about it to likely make it successful.

So where do you go when you face these seemingly insurmountable challenges in assessing your marketing budget and figuring out your business value.  I’ll present a few observations to help close the gap

No matter what, there is work to be done

Proposals and bids need to be prepared, and you need to know when and where to go for the gold, and how to invest money and resources to achieve results.

Here there are several quantifiable points; you can often assess the hard/time cost in preparing RFP responses, and you can certainly build a matrix to establish clear go/no go rules on proceeding.

Best practices for SEO, media/public relations, and client service don’t need to be relearned and are really inexpensive.

There are solid rules that transcend industries, and require relatively modest investments. As an example, generally websites need to be refreshed/rebuilt on approximately three-year cycles. You should at most need to spend a tiny fraction of your overall business budget on this work. (I believe you can build a valid website for about $5,000 to $7,500 or less — possibly much less — in most cases, unless you hare trying to develop exceptional e-commerce or data-intensive concepts.)

Engaging with client-facing associations and groups will, if you are patient, deliver incredible market intelligence and worthy business relationships.

This isn’t a three-month turnaround, though sometimes you can be lucky. And you might need to relate to an association for upwards of two years or more to know if there is lasting value. But usually you can discover the lay of the land quite quickly; such as whether your competitors are so entrenched in the association that there is no point in pushing the case — or you can figure a work-around. (In one major association, a competitor “owns” the relationships at the national level, but I am well-connected at the local chapter; and these relationships have generated many thousands of dollars of profitable business over three decades.)

Conclusion: While you need discipline and an overall marketing strategy, you won’t in my opinion be able to measure the big picture with any degree of satisfaction — but you can still take measures to improve your results and effectiveness, and avoid pouring good money after bad.

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