Marketing From the Driver’s Seat

Apr 08, 2002

Robert stompeas felt good. he felt really good. There was a heck of a lot of satisfaction that came from having a great year when so many other firms were having a lousy one. Nautso-Lethargi Associates had its best growth ever in 2001, and the trend was continuing on solidly into 2002. And Bob Stompeas knew the reason for its success could be described in one simple word— marketing. Marketing in all of its facets was Bob Stompeas’ greatest passion. He never tired of it. He lived to sell a job. He savored the victory. He agonized over every defeat. So what was it that Stompeas did as a CEO to make marketing real in his firm? A bunch of things, including: Every time it got a job over $5,000, Nautso-Lethargi Associates announced it to all employees via a quick e-mail. Then Stompeas would add his two cents worth in on why the victory was well-deserved and who should get credit through a separate e-mail or comments at the firm’s weekly staff meeting. Every time it lost a job, the potential client got a call from Stompeas himself asking, “Why?” More often than not that loss was a temporary one, and clients would be back on Nautso-Lethargi’s doorstep with other projects before long because they were always impressed with Stompeas. Stompeas insisted the firm have quality marketing leadership. He wasn’t afraid to recommend Kitty Fitz (the firm’s VP of marketing) be made a principal. She was a tremendous seller of work and did a great job defining the firm’s place in the various markets it served. And she was a smart person with good business sense. There were plenty of objections from some of the other principals that a non-design/technical person was allowed to become a principal, but Stompeas insisted. It had a clear set of marketing priorities. Stompeas knew that the marketing department, while helping the various business unit leaders get their proposals and presentations done, had other things to do as well that were important. Like getting the post card series out for each of its four market sectors. They also made darn sure that the monthly client perception monitoring got done. And they did a fantastic job organizing functions in each of the firm’s major focus areas that got clients into their office. Whenever it looked as if the marketing crisis of the day would keep these larger things from getting done, Stompeas stepped in and either got more resources or found another way to keep the long-term initiatives moving. All of this good marketing came at a price— Nautso-Lethargi had marketing overhead that was a couple points higher than industry norms. But it was willing to invest the money not knowing for sure if it would pay off. Most firms in this business will not. In the end, the money was clearly well-spent based on the results it got. Stompeas was a nut about consistency. Every time the firm’s name was used, the full name was used. The firm didn’t allow abbreviations. Every office had the same color scheme. Every job it could put a sign on had the same signage. Every company vehicle was painted forest green and had a tan interior (the corporate colors). Every reception area had a literature rack filled with current Nautso-Lethargi marketing materials. At the end of the day, every desk was clean and every blind in the same position, and the dog-eared drawings that clog up most firms’ work areas were stored away. Impressions are everything, and Stompeas used it to the firm’s advantage. Originally published 4/08/2002.

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.