On the whole, A/E/P and environmental firms seem to take themselves and their marketing too seriously. Sure— many of you DO have life-and-death responsibilities attached to much of what you do. You are serious people and want to project a serious image to your potential clients and to the general public. And marketing is critical to the firm’s ability to sustain itself. Changing marketing approaches is inherently risky. So it’s easy to understand why firms are afraid to do anything “fun” with their marketing. That said, firms in this business could do a lot to build marketing momentum inside and outside of their firms, not to mention differentiate themselves from the myriad of competitors by injecting some fun into their marketing. Here are some suggestions for how to make marketing more fun:Business development calls. Make ‘em more fun by bringing along a raw neophyte. I’m talking about a new, graduate-type employee with little or no work experience— someone who just joined the firm. They have a ton of questions and make some neat observations. I know. I was taught to sell A/E services in this fashion and did it myself for many understudies since then. Being able to spend some time with a newcomer to your firm and show ‘em the ropes on how to sell will be fun and worthwhile. Internal marketing meetings. Why, why, why are these always so boring? I sure don’t think they have to be! The most important thing is to NOT spend all your time on reviewing sales data and every potential project that you are tracking. Spend more time educating people on what marketing is and why it’s important. Have a discussion about consumer products that are hot right now. What are those companies doing, marketing-wise, that your firm can learn from? I used to know a marketing director with an A/E firm in Ohio who would pass out different kinds of obscure candy bars at each meeting just to make it more fun. Bring in guest speakers from the outside that can help your firm marketing-wise in some way. Get creative and have some fun!Client visits to your office. These should be more fun than they are. They are too often “non-events.” What I mean by that is, too often, nothing happens. Get a welcome sign. Decorate the whole office, or at least a section of it, with a theme designed around that specific client. I knew a firm that had a team dedicated to one of the major brewing companies. Everything in their workspace reflected their dedication to serving this particular brewer. The client loved it when they came to the A/E firm’s office for the first time after giving them a project. Have a lunch and invite all employees to meet the client (or clients). Do a short, humorous video on what it’s like to work for that client and show it to them. Proposals and qualification documents. These have long been too stiff and, as a result, fail to differentiate. Make them more fun by doing things such as including hand-drawn diagrams or concepts. Use a highlighter to focus the reader’s attention on a few things that you want them to be sure to read. Put on a fun cover instead of the boring, standard-issue one. Poke fun at your firm in a lighthearted way that makes you look humble and real. Trade show booths. These should be fun, not some stodgy, old setup that hasn’t changed in 10 years. Only show candid photos of your people. Give away something good— or something silly— such as a year’s worth of peanut butter, or a five-gallon jug of dill pickles delivered to your door, or something similarly wacky— to the visitor whose business card gets “randomly” selected. Project presentations. If the proposal or qualifications document was fun, the presentation should be even more so. Call in actors if you need to. One of the most fun presentations I ever saw was put on by an A/E firm in Nebraska that had a group that specialized in doing baseball facilities. When they did their presentation, they had a sportscaster’s voice introduce their entire team with a background of cheering. This presentation was fun, entertaining, and successful in winning the job! Direct mail. It’s time to make the direct mail more fun. One Florida planning company did a humorous series of postcards, one of which showed some toddlers in a wading pool on one side and, on the other side, three grown men with a set of plans looking out over a new resort hotel with a pool. It was fun to look at these cards and I know they got a tremendous reaction from their clients and potential clients. Business cards. Why be so stuffy? One firm I know of in another industry used to let their employees put any title they wanted on their cards. They had some wild and funny titles such as “Jack of All Trades and Master of Some” and others. Can you think of how clients might react to “William S. Smith, AIA, World’s Greatest Designer?”I’m sure there are many other ways to inject some fun into your firm’s marketing. Maybe you ought to have a little brainstorming session, coupled with a squirt-gun fight, and see what comes out of it!Originally published 1/22/2007
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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.
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