No, everyone is not a marketer (but quite a few people who aren’t think they are)

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We all are influenced and can contribute to the marketing process. But should we defer to the experts when it comes to decision-making?
We all are influenced and can contribute to the marketing process. But should we defer to the experts when it comes to decision-making?

Can we have some respect?

Scott Butcher, vice-president and CMO of JDB Engineering and affiliate companies, has written in an Engineering News-Record blog posting about how AEC marketers experience meddling and incompetent behaviour from non-marketers “assuming” the marketing role outside their scope of responsibility.

It is a sobering indictment of some of the sloppiest practices within the industry.  Have you ever experienced things like the examples he writes were shared by his colleagues:

  • A construction executive asked the firm’s marketing partner for “a pretty book with lots of pages.” When queried what, exactly, he meant by “book,” the executive simply stated that he wanted a really thick brochure with all the firm’s experience to make them look “impressive.” Never mind that they didn’t even know the prospect’s specific needs yet, much less the fact that most of the potential credentials were in other market segments – totally unrelated to the prospect’s potential project;
  • A department manager wanted a new brochure for his division. When his well-seasoned marketing director tried to determine the specific messaging, relevant visuals, and overall value messages, the department manager instead provided six pages of hyperbole and said “Make this all fit on an 11″x17″ brochure – we don’t need any visuals.” Like another human being would take the time to read that incessant self-promoting drivel;
  • An engineer told a CMO that blogs were useless because he would never read the company blogs if he was looking for information to help him do his job better. Never mind the fact that the engineer wasn’t even the target audience for the blog, and he further had absolutely no understanding of the value of blogs for things like Search Engine Optimization;
  • A company held a strategy meeting to look at trends, target markets, potential disrupters, brand messaging, and more. Their senior marketing professional was not invited to attend, even though that individual knew more about all these things than the rest of the attendees combined;
  • A marketing professional looked at a proposal opportunity, and filtered it through her firm’s go/no-go project evaluation process. It was a definite “no go” because it did not meet the minimum criteria for a proposal pursuit, which had been previously established by the firm. She was overruled by a project manager who insisted that the firm pursue it because “he felt good about their chances.” The marketing team spent 60 hours on the pursuit, and the firm didn’t even get shortlisted, perhaps because they had never even made contact with the client, and furthermore didn’t have much relevant project experience;
  • A marketing/business development professional was hired by a construction firm to make inroads in two new market sectors. It was immediately clear that in addition to having no credentials in these markets, the firm employed no technical staff with relevant experience in these markets. As the company looked to hire new positions, the marketing professional pleaded that they hire staff with experience in these new market segments. The firm didn’t. When they lost projects and got a debriefing, they heard time and again that the client didn’t feel comfortable hiring a firm with no experience – corporate or personal – in their industry. After several years the business development position was eliminated for failing to have success in penetrating these new markets; and
  • A marketing director with 20 years of experience was hired to build a communications and marketing program for a mid-sized general contractor. She ended up wearing multiple hats – including one as administrative assistant to the firm’s executives. This not only diminished her value to the firm, but also added a touch of sexism, since most likely a male in that position would not have been asked to do the administrative tasks.

This is a tiny list, and these examples play out hundreds of times a day in A/E/C firms. We ask estimators to prepare construction estimates – and trust that they know what they are doing. We ask mechanical engineers to design HVAC systems – and trust that they know what they are doing. We ask IT professionals to increase network speed and create virtual offices – and trust they know what they’re doing.

Ouch!

Butcher writes these observations to remind readers that effective marketing, in large part, is based on the knowledge and expertise of marketing specialists — and if you try to do things outside your scope of competence, you’ll cause more harm than good. He concludes:

Your firm hired an expert for a reason.
At the end of the day, this really isn’t about your marketing professionals. This is about your company. Ask yourself:
  • Do you want to increase profitability or lose money?
  • Do you want to elevate your win rate or be mired below industry norms?
  • Do you want the company to be well-known to clients and potential clients, or do you prefer anonymity?
  • Do you want talent to long to work for your firm, or do you want to run useless “help wanted” ads that get no qualified respondents?
If things like profitability, win rate, reputation/brand, and recruitment are important to you, step aside and let your marketing professionals do what they were trained to do.
But if these really don’t matter to you, just keep doing what you are doing.
Have you experienced meddling in your marketing by others? Please share your observations by comment or email to buckshon@constructionmarketingideas.com.
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