When things go wrong in our marketing: What can we do?

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A perspective of New York City from Google's NYC headquarters

termite robot harvardSuccessful architectural, engineering and construction marketing combines science, art, and timeliness.  The science, shaping actions and results through hypotheses, experience and experimentation, combines with creativity — this is a place where a bit of difference can go a long way. Yet, outside of certain residential construction environments and special circumstances in the business-to-business space, we have one really big problem: Time. That is, the distance between our decision to execute a marketing strategy and our ability to measure its true success may need to be measured in months at minimum, but often years and (even) decades.

The reason: The sales sample for even medium-scale projects and commissions happens to be very small; and the time from initial conception to contract signing (and even more painful, the ability to measure profitability) can be extremely long — with many variables between start and conclusion. This is why I can empathize with AEC marketers who throw their hands up at the mantra: “You need to measure your results.”

Sure, some things can be measured quickly. You can tell if people are visiting your new website almost immediately. You can also assess initial inquiries and responses to marketing materials. You can count trade show booth attendance, and even develop a simple tracking report on initial conversions to something a bit deeper. But if your business grows by winning two new school projects (out of 12 the year previously), did that growth occur because of your marketing, or because (a) there were some fortunate proposals that came through or (b) because you hit the home run in designing and developing your marketing and business development strategy.

Nevertheless, ultimately, you may conclude that the results indicate success, failure, or more challenging, the “grey area.” And here, I enjoyed Eric Gagnon’s perspectives in his Business Marketing Institute posting.

The important thing is to recognize when you have a problem that can be solved by better marketing, and when the problem is the product, which must be changed. Product-related sales problems often involve making changes to the product to enhance its marketability: Removing unneeded features which unduly raise the product’s price, or are unwanted by prospects, improving or modifying the product to meet the applications your prospects tell you they want to use your product for, instead of selling the feature set your company’s product engineers think your prospects need.

Where the problem is marketing-related, your ability to make the required changes to the deliverables, methods, and media in your marketing program to respond to necessary product changes can get your product, and your marketing program, back on track. Here is yet another situation where your (and your marketing team’s) ability to execute well means all the difference between success and failure.

Gagnon also concludes with the message that underlies much success in any endeavor: perseverance.  “There is always one more thing you can do,” he writes. If we are playing the long game, then there’s nothing wrong with some uncertainty along the way. Let’s measure what we can as we go along and apply best practices as we know them. If we’re thoughtful and creative, and spend less money and more time on good thinking, we probably will get closer to our goals, despite the uncertainty.

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