‘We’re too small’

Nov 06, 2017

If that’s your justification for not having a marketing department, you’re either blessed with a super team of all-stars, or you’re kidding yourself.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an architecture/engineering firm tell me they are “too small” to have a marketing department. Many of these firms have 150 or more people and multiple offices, yet they don’t want to allocate any expenses toward marketing personnel.

According to Zweig Group’s 2017 Marketing Survey of A/E/P and Environmental Consulting Firms, 91 percent of industry firms have a full-time marketing staff member or marketing department.

For firms with one to 24 people, 64 percent have a marketing department, usually with just one full-time person. For firms with 25 to 49 people, 80 percent have a marketing department, with a median number of two people. For firms with 50 to 99 people, 95 percent have a marketing department, with a median number of four people. For firms with more than 100 people, almost all firms surveyed had a marketing department, usually with five or more people.

For firms concerned with utilization/chargeability, 45 percent of firms said marketing staff also work on billable projects, and are on average 11 percent billable.

You might be able to get away with having no marketing department if you meet the following criteria:

  1. Your firm has little competition in a market that is continuously growing and needs your services. Everyone at your firm enjoys marketing, communicates well, and works well together. You have someone who is outgoing, awesome at website development, great at graphic design, can write well, and clearly communicate why a client should work with you.
  2. You have an aggressive “seller-doer” model with no emphasis on chargeability or utilization rates. Everyone is welcome to spend 30 percent or more of their time cultivating new leads and also works well together to create solid marketing materials, website, and consistent branding.
  3. Your firm consists of you and two other people in one room. You aren’t concerned with growing your company and already have a solid hoard of cash in the bank.
  4. You have a good partnership with another organization that can consistently provide all your marketing needs. This company works with your firm’s leadership on a solid strategy and understands your markets. You have no problem paying this organization whatever they choose to charge.

My point is, if you want your business to last and stay successful, you’re probably going to need at least one full-time marketing person. This person isn’t just someone who writes proposals. They also need to be conducting or viewing market research, ensuring that your firm has a consistent and visible brand, maintaining relationships with clients even after the job is over, creating good looking marketing materials and a website, and so much more. If you aren’t busy with a lot of projects, your staff might have time to work on these things, but chances are, if you’re doing these things effectively, you’ll have so much work you won’t have the time!

Christina Zweig Niehues is Zweig Group’s director of marketing. Contact her at christinaz@zweiggroup.com.

Zweig Group's 2017 Marketing Survey of Architecture, Engineering, Planning & Environmental Consulting Firms is a benchmarking and advisory guide to industry firm marketing activities, budgets, marketing department organization, staffing levels, compensation, and investments in marketing systems and infrastructure.

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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.