Solutions for your marketing woes

Jun 13, 2021

These 10 ideas can increase engagement and create a truly effective doer-seller culture.

How do a firm’s policies and operations set their doer-sellers, and themselves, up for success? Zweig Group is a huge proponent of the doer-seller model, and we consider it the most effective and sustainable strategy for a firm’s long-term success. To make this a success, you’ve really got to make sure that everyone in your firm has a crystal-clear understanding of their role in marketing and business development.

Three key pieces of information from Zweig Group’s 2020 Marketing Report of AEC Firms are important to understanding this article:

  • The two greatest marketing challenges that AEC firms face are (1) “market awareness and expansion,” and (2) “staff involvement.” These two areas account for a total of 44 percent – a significant portion – of perceived marketing challenges.
  • The most successful marketing strategies are “direct relationships” and “networking events and public speaking.”
  • The least successful marketing strategies are “advertising and trade shows,” followed by “marketing strategies and policy” (13 percent), “content development” (9 percent), “client databases” (7 percent), and “other” (10 percent).

The irony is that our most successful marketing strategies (direct relationships, networking, or public speaking) are primarily driven by one of our greatest marketing challenges (staff involvement). And increasing staff involvement can contribute to improving the least successful marketing strategies listed above, as well as mitigate the other greatest marketing challenge (market awareness and expansion).

Below we explore a few ways to really live that doer-seller model and get staff involved.

  1. A “yes” environment. If someone comes to you with an idea, say “Yes! ... and …” and if it’s a bit left-field, then guide and direct the effort. Saying “yes” is a sure way to increase engagement and enthuse one of your biggest marketing assets – an engaged employee with an idea.
  2. Educate. Vertically integrate your education process – we all have something to learn. The leaders of tomorrow are the social media experts of today – they can help educate people who aren’t as familiar with the platform and are incredible with technology. And ensuring that all staff understand your firm’s strategic plan and vision, mission, and values will help to ensure that everyone is speaking a common language.
  3. Ask. There’s no better way to engage an audience than to ask them for help. Ask for content, ask for project pictures, create space and time for content development, project descriptions, anecdotes, success stories, and lessons learned. You can use this content in proposals, marketing materials, on social media, and on your website.
  4. Policy check. Are your policies or norms preventing you from tapping into your greatest marketing resource, employees? Are employees allowed paid time to develop whitepapers and presentations? Is your social media policy too vague, or too strict?
  5. Reinforcement. I can’t stress positive reinforcement enough. Spot bonuses, widely spotlighting behavior you want to encourage, or a shout-out in company newsletters can work well.
  6. Embrace the technical. Technical content is always good – it demonstrates your expertise. Is staff doubtful or resisting engagement? You may need to ask them in a different way. Can they provide a short explanation of a particularly well-executed aspect of a project? Provide an opinion on some new regulations? This pulls double duty – not only as marketing material, but also as staff training or even continuing education.
  7. Blogs. Find out what people are passionate about and give them some space to run. Use the technical expertise you have! Most clients want to hear from and talk to the project manager or technical expert – they’ll come to your website to read their work, too.
  8. Empower. Empower people to engage, interact with potential clients, and follow up on leads or ideas as a team effort, with coaching and supervision along the way.
  9. Track, measure, and discuss. Make sure everyone understands the difference between marketing and business development, and knows how to charge time appropriately so you can track your return on investment. Then discuss the numbers and trends and make decisions along the way to improve performance.
  10. Consistent and persistent. It takes real focus, commitment, time, and effort to create, maintain, and expand market awareness. Set a schedule and curate content, media, and activities thoughtfully – always with your market and timeline in mind.

These actions, if done properly and consistently, with leadership guidance and training, can create a truly effective doer-seller culture and create a positive feedback loop, thereby increasing engagement, and ultimately, elevate the firm’s value.

Stephanie Warino is a strategic planning advisor with Zweig Group. Contact her at

Zweig Group’s 2021 Marketing Survey is open for participation now! Participate and save 50 percent on the final or pre-publication price of any Zweig Group research publication.

July 7: Zweig Group's Elevating Doer-Sellers: Business Development for AEC Professionals Virtual Seminar was specifically developed to help design and technical professionals in architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental firms become more comfortable managing clients and promoting the firm and its services. Click here to read this week's issue of The Zweig Letter.

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.