Stop being afraid to be different!

Apr 30, 2015

elephantsEmbracing marketing to set you apart from everyone else can change your business – and your life – for the better.

Good marketing has the power to change your firm – and your life. If you can figure out how to drive demand for what your firm does – beyond your ability to supply it – everything changes. There’s no need to work for bad clients who won’t pay good fees. Say “goodbye” to slow-pay clients; a not-so-fond “farewell” to clients who abuse you and your staff; and “hello” to your ability to attract and retain a quality staff of competent people who always get the job done, a fatter bank account, and a lot less stress. But, we have a problem: Those of us working in the A/E/P and environmental business – for the most part – when it comes to marketing, are conformists. We’re all doing the same thing – living our stereotypical roles and getting about the same results. What do I mean?
  • Most architectural marketing is about the same. Architects tend to focus on pretty pictures of unoccupied buildings. Or, even worse, pretty drawings of buildings that haven’t been built yet. Either way, the buildings either aren’t being used by people (people are messy) or haven’t been built (nothing screams disconnect from construction costs more loudly than selling a design that isn’t built). These kinds of images, coupled with text full of architectural-speak gobbledy-gook – and you all know what I mean: big multi-syllable words strung together in meaningless diatribes (with a subtle implication of how ignorant the readers must be by comparison) – and, you get the picture. Then, add to this kind of material limitless design competitions, messy offices, and a penchant for odd-looking glasses, and the stereotype is fully fleshed out.
  • Engineers, by comparison, have their own unique tendencies that tend to show in their marketing efforts. They love to use technical terminology and acronyms that those of us who are non-engineers don’t understand, as well as overwhelm readers and listeners with way too much information and way too many details. That 10,000-square-foot commercial building is often over-described down to the type of foundation, size of structural bays, roof spans to the inch, HVAC loads and capacities, and so on. Engineers often get so mired down in detail that they forget what they are doing and why. Couple this with a lack of confidence in face-to-face meetings, ill-fitting sport coats, and a love for gadgets, and the stereotype is well-established. ​
  • Both architects and engineers, as well as other allied disciplines, are handling their marketing similarly.Way too much effort is expended reacting to opportunities to submit proposals and qualification packages with little thought. Branding efforts are largely ignored. Direct mail/ e-marketing is infrequently used. There’s no good central database of clients and potential clients for each market served. Even sending a Christmas card is difficult, due to the lack of a good list. And there’s way too much overreliance on a few people who are good sellers and who have relationships with clients.
Firms who break out of the stereotypes and get off the well-worn cow paths established by other firms, from a marketing standpoint, really are doing things differently and taking some risks. They build a brand – that makes the phone ring and emails come in with new opportunities that they can carefully evaluate and follow up on IF they are compatible with the firm’s mission and goals. But to build a brand, you first have to believe it is possible. Take a look at HOK, Gensler, CH2M-Hill, Figg Engineers,Arquitectonica, EDSA, and others. They did it. How did they do it? By focusing on what they are good at. By being consistent in how they use their names and logos. By hiring real experts. By being unwilling to work for low fees so they can actually DO a good job and spend money on people, technology and marketing – so the “virtuous cycle” repeats. By not viewing marketing expenses as overhead but, instead, as an investment in the firm. By being selective about the work they do and who they do it for. And by everyone else in their space doing lots of things differently – from proposals, to presentations, to the actual work itself. Yes – this is ALL part of marketing. It is a wide-ranging activity that touches every single aspect of your company. It can change your future, and it can change your life. Embrace it – instead of fighting it – if you want to break out of your geographic bounds and make it to the big leagues. Mark Zweig is president and CEO of Zweig Group. Contact him at © Copyright 2015. Zweig Group. All rights reserved.

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.