Editorial: No marketing: Doubtful future

Jun 05, 2014

Are you investing in consistent, brand-building marketing activities, Mark Zweig asks.

Let’s face it. Living too well can be a problem. I’m talking about eating your seed corn, spending too much, and not reinvesting in your future. “Overharvesting” is like a drug. It’s hard to wean off the excess profitability. Everyone in the company (substitute “family” if you like) is used to living too well. They don’t want to make any sacrifices for the future. Marketing is one of those “off balance sheet” investments that masquerades as an expense. When it comes to the A/E or environmental consulting business, brand-building marketing activities are most conspicuous by their absence in firms that are living too well. Money just isn’t spent on marketing (it’s viewed as a waste) unless it is directed at winning a specific project. The difference between a small business and an entrepreneurial venture is that a small business exists solely for the immediate benefits of its owners (profits paid out), whereas an entrepreneurial venture builds value that is primarily extracted not along the way, but rather mostly upon exit. Operating like a small business and not investing in brand building marketing activities when you have so many people depending on you is just plain irresponsible. The problem in many of these companies is that the owner(s) actually like the fact that they have created a cult of personality around themselves. They want to be indispensable and essential to the business. But this means there’s a limited lifespan because these owners will only live so long or be engaged in the business so long. So, fat and happy, they become unmotivated. But it’s hard to get people who are successful to change. They don’t see any reason to change their behavior. It’s human nature. We don’t do anything we don’t have to (for the most part). A/E firms need to allocate a reasonable budget to brand-building marketing activities and then look for ways to spend it. It is easier than ever to quantify the benefits of doing so. Web hits – how long visitors stay on your site – and the number and value of incoming leads are just some of the metrics you can easily track and report on these days that should be going up the more you spend on this stuff. Revenue growth should follow. Higher growth firms are more profitable and more valuable. You get the picture. The seeds are planted through the marketing budget and resulting activities. So how does your firm look? Are you investing in your future and that of your employees through consistent, brand-building marketing activities? Or are you sitting on the sidelines, overharvesting, and praying the gravy train continues? Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com. This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1059, originally published 6/9/2014. 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.