Mar 19, 2001
If, like many firms, you have deferred maintenance on your marketing program because you’ve been too busy and it’s been too easy to get work, you might want to think about doing a marketing tune-up. Here are five things I would take a look at right now: Incoming calls. How are they being handled? Do the people who answer your phones in every office have personality? Do your switchboard operators understand who in the firm handles specific types of inquiries? Do these people even understand how to pronounce your company name properly or what your firm does for a living? Do some testing. Get someone to make a few calls and report back to you on what’s happening. Your marketing efforts are only as strong as the weakest link. If you spend a ton of money to get inquiries and then can’t process them effectively, it’s kind of a waste, isn’t it? Lead tracking. You need to know about everything that’s in the pipeline, all the time. Some firms make half-hearted attempts to track leads, but it usually turns out that they’re tracking “only the ones marketing knows about.” That’s dumb! Marketing needs to know about every single one. Every lead that comes in needs to be captured in the database. That way, if things don’t work out, the firm can continue to market to these people. Every lead that comes in needs to be accounted for so that the firm can track trends in the number of leads it’s getting. If they are declining, new efforts need to be made to increase leads before sales suffer! And everyone needs to know which leads the firm is monitoring, so that if anyone has information that can help close any of them, they can give it to the person who is handling it. These things are just fundamental marketing basics that every firm outside of our industry most likely already understands. Direct mail response rates. The effectiveness of mail as a marketing tool may be declining, in general terms. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work in our industry. It does, believe me. More and more firms are doing it now, so it’s obvious that many of you are sold on its benefits. Just read a copy of our sister publication, Revolutionary Marketing, and you will see case after case of successful direct mail programs. That said, I am still seeing the same goofy mistakes made over and over. Many firms have totally unrealistic expectations for results. A response rate of a half of a percent is excellent— it’s fantastic! Even a quarter of a percent is not bad for many efforts. That means that if you sent out 6,000 pieces of mail, you would get 15 inquiries or leads. Direct mail programs. Many firms still don’t get the idea about what you can get across in a postcard (and what you can’t). I saw one postcard the other day that was trying to communicate about 16 things. It should have been 16 different postcards! People have limited attention spans. Recognize that you have a millisecond to catch their eye. Don’t fall prey to the typical A/E or environmental firm marketing trap that there has to be something in there for everyone, and that every principal in the firm has to be placated by every single marketing piece. That kind of thinking hurts a lot of companies! Selling. You want people to sell? Then make it easy for them. Do the other types of marketing that make the phone ring. Then let the professionals in your firm who are the most responsive, the best communicators, and the most interested in marketing go out and close. This is not the same as trying to get all your professionals to make 10 cold calls a week! They won’t do it. Most of them won’t at least. You cannot afford to wait around for something that may not happen! The answer usually doesn’t lie in hiring professional salespeople either. Besides the fact that most of them can’t sell beyond selling themselves into the job (19 out of 20, that is), you’ll pay double if they are successful. They will hold you hostage, demand more money than anyone else, and if you mistreat them, take their “book” of business contacts and walk over to your competitor. I hate being dependent on salespeople! Originally published 3/19/2001.
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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.