Marketing in our industry is a-changing, Folks! It is not business as usual for A/E/P and environmental firms. The tough economy and the increasing power of the Internet and electronic communications are changing everything marketing-wise.Here is a quick rundown on some of the changes that are occurring: Social media— Facebook may actually eliminate the need for web sites. If you set up a Facebook fan page for your firm, you will be surprised how easy it is to communicate marketing messages to your clients. Your people can take photos of projects in progress and post them to Facebook from their cellphones. Notices can be sent to all of your fans in an instant. You can have a blog. A lot of what a traditional web site does and much more can be done on Facebook. And, the really neat thing is that they automatically send you a report each week that shows how many new fans you have this week vs. last, how many interactions you had, etc. It’s great feedback for you on how effective your marketing is. Twitter— I don’t know a lot about Twitter, other than it allows you to be in constant communication with your audience. You can tell them what you are doing and what you are thinking, all from your cell phone! You can also show them you have some insight into their issues of concern. Blogging— Blogging is a great way to sound off on the problems you are seeing and the solutions to them. It’s also a place for two-way communications with your clients and potential clients. You can post and they can react. It’s all about interaction, instead of one-way communication with your audience.Electronic distribution of what used to be print— E-marketing newsletters, downloadable PDFs of brochures, white papers that clients can print on demand, and more are all becoming increasingly common for A/E firms today. The savings in printing and postage costs are significant! Increased working visibility— Vehicles, project signage, clothing, name tags, even office buildings that identify the company are all being used more frequently by firms in our business to help build up brand recognition. Successful companies in other industries have been doing this for years— why is it taking us so long to catch on?Marketing no longer the domain of just firm principals— When I started out 30 years ago in this business, marketing was the exclusive territory of the firm’s principals in just about every company. I can remember being at Carter & Burgess 25 years ago when the principals went off to discuss marketing and didn’t even invite the marketing director because he wasn’t a principal— that would NEVER happen today. Today, more and more, everyone is supposed to be helping out with the marketing efforts— whether that is bringing in specific leads for projects or simply helping build up the contact database to support future marketing efforts. Shared client database— This was a radical notion at one time, i.e., that a firm would have one database, accessible to all, that supports ALL marketing efforts. More companies than ever have it today, though still not all do. I cannot imagine trying to implement any kind of direct marketing effort without this ever-changing, ever-growing database. Trend tracking— It’s not good enough to know what you are selling and what your backlog is. Today, you have to look at the trends. The smartest companies are looking at the numbers and dollar value of inquiries and LEADS coming in for new projects as well. Seeing whether those numbers are trending up (or down) gives early warning that it is time to staff-up, or time to do something different marketing-wise before a problem with lack of workload arises. The good news is these changes represent a real opportunity for you to do more and spend less. The bad news is if you don’t understand and embrace them, you could be left in the dust pretty quickly!
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.
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