Brand Building: The common isolation of marketing

Jun 26, 2014

Make your company stronger by involving marketing folks in the sales process.

I recently attended a SMPS “Spring Training” one day seminar in Oklahoma. The first speaker, Carolyn Ferguson, asked several probing questions about developing interviews. She asked how many of the attendees had ever been to an interview. Affirmative answers were absurdly low, especially considering that most attendees had job duties that included assembling presentations for client interviews. Although I was not surprised, this exercise exposed a big problem in many A/E firms. The people responsible for developing our sales documents are completely isolated from a big part of the process. An example: We have marketing staff developing interviews who have never been to an interview and do not understand what really goes on behind those doors. Why does our industry view marketing as a separate function from the rest of the firm? Can you imagine if General Motors never allowed their marketing people to see the production floor, visit a dealership, or participate in any of the vehicle development decisions? Marketing is often at the heart of every business, yet the professional services industry seems to be an exception. Some of the great and somewhat untapped resources in our firms are marketing people. They are wired differently than the typical design and technical professional. That perspective can be beneficial, especially when you are reaching out to a diverse audience. Many of the selection processes and committees include a diverse range of people that respond differently to documents or presentations. A more focused and deeper integration of marketing people with the design and production staff produces a more comprehensive and wider reaching message. Instead of sharing this view, A/E firms often view marketing as an overhead function and isolate them in the organization chart – off to the side. It is that visual that captures what we think about marketing. Deep down in the subconscious of many leaders is the tendency to view marketing as an overhead expense that must be minimized. We keep the marketing people in a nicely defined box where they don’t get in the way of the design and production teams, viewed as the “heart” of the company. Instead of fully leveraging our internal marketing resources, we tend to only trust them with a very limited scope of services. There is great opportunity to get more out of the valuable marketing talent that already exists in many of your firms. At ZweigWhite, we have plenty of data that shows that marketing investments produce some of the greatest return. Our high growth firms survey consistently shows that rapidly growing firms do so by investing more in marketing than their average performing peers. Here are some simple and easy things you can do to invest more in marketing and better integrate your marketing people into the sales process:
  1. Include marketing people in meetings. This is especially true for meetings that discuss clients and upcoming projects. It is important to give marketing people a complete perspective of what the firm does on a daily basis and how the project teams interact with clients. I am not suggesting that all marketing staff attend every project meeting. Rather, I am suggesting that you designate a marketing person to have some ownership over an area of the business and look for opportunities to include that person in meetings or communications that discuss clients and future projects. This is opposed to just bringing them in to just assemble a document or presentation.
  2. Invite marketing people to interviews when possible. At a minimum, each person that is involved in developing interview presentations should be invited to at least one interview per year. This is should be very easy. At any interview where you need some set-up and break-down help, invite a marketing staffer to do this job. This allows the interview team to maximize their interaction and influence over the interview selection committee. During the interview, have the marketing staffer watch the presentation closely and the reaction of the committee to slides, statements, and answers to questions. That experience can provide invaluable input for that person to take back to the office. All of these benefits are a bonus to the career fulfillment and sense of inclusion the employee will feel.
  3. Involve marketing staff in more events. Conferences, ground breakings, ribbon cuttings, and career fairs are all examples of events where a marketing staffer can aid in making the event more productive for your design and technical representatives. Plus, they provide opportunities for the marketing person to observe brochures, giveaways, and what the competition is doing. Again, involving marketing folks in events provides them greater job satisfaction and valuable on-the-job training.
You can see the theme here. It is all about engaging your marketing staff in more areas of the firm. Allow them to contribute in a bigger way while providing them a sense of empowerment and greater job satisfaction. As design and technical firms, it is time we make make marketing a larger part of our businesses. Marketing is one of the three areas of investment that we believe will have the biggest impact on making firms bigger, better and stronger. Chad Clinehens is ZweigWhite’s executive vice president. Contact him at This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1062, originally published 6/30/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

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.