27 Ways to Inject New Life into Your Firm’s Marketing Efforts

Mar 19, 2007

I just got back from ZweigWhite’s 2007 A/E Marketing Now Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was our biggest and best-attended marketing conference ever! My task was to open the show with a short talk and some specific ideas on how to inject new life into an A/E/P or environmental firm’s marketing. Instead of telling them to “fire the marketing director” or “double the marketing budget,” I gave them 27 things that most firms could do. Here they are in abbreviated form: Hold a new kind of marketing meeting in a rented party tent and give out oddball brand candy bars to stimulate creative thinking. Or, better yet, give everyone a $2 stretched canvas and have them paint a painting. Invite the whole office and solicit ideas on how to improve marketing in a non-judgmental setting. Get your folks to do less e-mailing and instead, pick up a phone. E-mail is too easy— too easy to avoid human contact. And that hurts marketing! Seek out success stories from your people about what good came from these phone calls and share them with the firm. Make it a requirement of your annual business planning process that each business unit comes up with three new services to sell their clients. Remember marketing is not just about promotion, but also about the product you are selling! Have each group present its plans in an entertaining way to the whole firm in a 20-minute (or shorter) presentation. Take a young person out with you on every BD call you make for the rest of this year. If you want to inject life into your marketing, then why not inject some youth into the process? This is the way you will train a new generation of BD people. Have a contest for the best one- to three-minute video commercial for the firm. Give out a significant prize and use the winner(s) on a future marketing video team to help win a project. Hire someone with a successful track record in marketing for consumer products for your marketing department. Get that person’s input on everything you do marketing-wise. Consumer product marketers are way ahead of us. Have a really good graphic designer or firm design a new logo for your company and use it EVERYWHERE! Put it on every sign, vehicle, proposal, etc. Match up your office colors, vehicle colors, and logo colors. Pick unusual company vehicles (Scion Boxes? New Beetles? Honda Elements? Toyota Prius? Dodge Nitros? Restored Edsels?) and paint every one of them in a unique color scheme that makes them immediately recognizable— NOT white! Or find a company that will apply huge custom-designed decals that can turn your company vehicles into rolling billboards. Make sure each of your offices has the biggest illuminated sign that their local sign laws will allow. Make sure every project under construction has the biggest sign allowed. Send out two press releases a week to an electronic press list of 300-500 editors in a wide range of media for a period of one year. If you can’t think of anything else, do a biographical piece on your founder. Lead with something interesting. Do original research. Take a quote or two from each of your principals that relates to the market they serve. Share all key hires, awards and accolades, and new offices opened. Have client breakfasts for each market you serve where they talk about what’s happening in their worlds. Send out the summarized notes from these meetings electronically to all attendees the same day of the meeting. Put out a press release on the key highlights of the meeting. Revamp your advertising efforts. Sponsor one or more programs on your local NPR station so your name is constantly being mentioned. Rent a billboard on your local interstate. Run ads in publications your clients read, not your peers. Write three to six “letters to the editor” in publications read by your clients over the course of the year. Make sure these letters are run by someone in marketing before going out. Take a group of clients and potential clients to an auto or motorcycle racing school, parachuting school, or a skeet/trap shooting school. Combine that with a half-day meeting to talk about the future of their businesses and facility needs. Do a series of 12 humorous postcards for the year that will go out to clients. Make sure they are funny, yet communicate why your firm is different from your competitors. Hold a one-and-a-half-hour virtual seminar online (webinar) for each of the markets you serve this year. Use WebEx or another provider. Require participants to sign up in advance. Create an intern position in marketing and always have a third- or fourth-year marketing student in that job. Get someone who has a minimum 3.5 GPA and some interest in what your firm does. Harvest every name and e-mail address from your employees’ Outlook contacts that you can, and add all of these to your company’s marketing database for promotional purposes. You own these names. And since no CRM can compare with Outlook for ease of entry, guess where all the contacts of your employees reside? Try a “pay-for-results” PR firm and see what it can do for you. Give it some lofty targets such as appearing in USA Today or getting into The Wall Street Journal. Give out bumper stickers and other stickers with your name and unique logo to any employee or anyone who wants them. Place a supply of these in each office lobby. Take a three-hour course on marketing principles and concepts at a real business school and see how it changes your thinking about what marketing is and can do. Hire a firm to do continuous client perception monitoring in the form of interviews and post the unedited interview transcripts firm-wide weekly or monthly. Install a large set of shelves in your lobby to display products/samples/photos/videos/propaganda from some of your key clients in a rotating display that changes monthly. Call it the “client corner” or “we thank our good clients” or something that tells office visitors you are not trying to promote your firm. Change the way you track and report marketing possibilities, prospects, proposals, and sales. Show the numbers graphically so that early trend information is known and you can act on it. Do a study of the top-ranked firms (volume-wise) in each market you compete in. Find out what each is doing in terms of the four P’s— pricing, product/service, promotion, and place (physical location)— that has allowed them to lead. Have a discussion with the leaders from each market you serve about what you discovered in this process. Overhaul your web site and make it interactive. Allow each of your market leaders to have a blog. Do online surveys of site visitors with quick polling and immediate results on topical issues. Get rid of all employee mugshots and boring resumes and replace them with candid photos of your people and two-paragraph descriptions of each. Send out your Christmas card in June this year with a humorous note about how you are always “a step ahead of your competition.” Thank your clients for their business with a hand-signed personal note. My experience is that most marketing problems require many different fixes on many different levels. There’s little new under the sun, marketing-wise, but those who do versus those who plan will always come out ahead. Originally published 3/19/2007

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.