What’s new?

May 27, 2019

A recent Zweig Group promotion asked, ‘Is your marketing fresh and clean?’ The email went on to list 15 different marketing focus areas – the first being the marketing plan.

How often have you thought about your firm’s marketing plan? If you don’t think about it too often, it might be comforting to know that history is on your side. In 1909, the AIA pretty much forbade it. This was one of the many messages shared at the Convention of the American Institute of Architects that same year: “Advertising tends to lower the standard of the profession, and is therefore condemned.”

So now you may be saying, this is an odd way to start an article on marketing. Except that I will remind you that this was 1909, my friends! Not only is that more than 100 years ago, but think of all the innovation that has gone on in the world – and the field of marketing – in that time.

For firms with a marketing plan and a person or team dedicated to moving that plan forward, the temptation is strong to be happy with that state of affairs. After all, if we are being honest, we know many peer firms who have not achieved this level of marketing success. And however comforting those thoughts are, that is not the mindset that will maintain your success. A solid foundation is great and a stable plan and consistent effort is wonderful. But that and only that, over time, is actually a recipe for staleness, stagnation, and, potentially, failure.

The real challenge for us today is to ask ourselves, what’s new?

As an example, only 15 years ago, white papers were all the rage in marketing. If you wanted to demonstrate expertise, a white paper was the way to go. Pages of text. Sometimes with graphics. Very often delivered in hardcopy format.

Today, expertise must be demonstrated in brief. Twitter allows only 280 characters. Instagram allows 2,200 characters – but the emphasis is still on images, not words.

As a mother of a rising high school junior, this situation is brought home to me, pretty much daily, in my mailbox. Institutions of higher education are reaching out to my daughter in myriad ways. No. 10 envelopes are plentiful and about 90 percent offer a white paper of some variety (yes, I do pay attention and track these things!). Some even give an option to choose what white paper fits you best.

However each mailer with its related white paper offer, despite the time and effort that may have gone into them, has wound up in the same place, with the same inaction.

Except for one. A full-color, fold-out postcard mailer. It focused on a particular college’s study abroad opportunities and the offer of a poster of one of four locations that are part of the study abroad program. Simple, direct, enticing, different, easy, new, fresh, clean. And it worked!

So, is this the silver bullet solution? Colorful and tactile postcard mailers and posters? Of course not. But something new and thoughtful that will resonate with your desired contacts? YES!

Over the past year, what “new” have you brought to your marketing efforts? In the coming year, what “new” is to come?

Don’t abandon the foundation – the plan and the consistent action. But don’t let it grind your marketing to an end either. Inject freshness for your clients – the simple, direct, enticing, different, easy, new, fresh, clean.

Seth Godin puts a different spin on it (and if you don’t know Seth, you should!):

A note from 2020:

Twelve years from now, your future self is going to thank you for something you did today, for an asset you began to build, a habit you formed, a seed you planted. Even if you’re not sure of where it will lead, today’s the day to begin.

Jane Lawler Smith, MBA is the marketing manager at Derck & Edson, LLC. She can be reached at jsmith@derckandedson.com.

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.