You gotta have faith

May 08, 2017

Break free from immediate metrics and returns, because with marketing, the ROI could take months or even years to realize.

Growing up in the ‘80s, the recent passing of George Michael brought a lot of songs to mind that evoked that time period. When I debuted our new marketing course in Austin, Texas, and as I was discussing one of the essential traits that visionary AEC leaders exhibit when it comes to marketing, the song “Faith” came to mind. Then, of course, I was unable to get the song out of my head, especially the chorus: ‘Cause I gotta have faith, I gotta have faith, because I gotta have faith, faith, faith, I gotta have faith, faith, faith.

How does this relate to marketing? At some point, AEC leaders must have faith in their marketing investments. Because the tangible benefits of a true marketing campaign may not be realized for months or even years, visionary leaders must break free from the need for immediate metrics and returns. Typically, the time between pursuing a project and actually working on a project is quite lengthy in the AEC industry. It is directly translated into marketing investment and the time needed to realize results. As such, we must rely on a more ambiguous and vague sense of accomplishment, or even future accomplishment, to justify a continued investment in marketing.

We work in an industry that is obsessed with the immediate feedback loop of “work an hour and send out a bill for an hour.” Billable hours, and the money that results within about 60 days, wires our brains to think short-term and to demand similar returns on other firm investments. The fact is, marketing may take a long time to produce results, and even then, the results may be difficult to tie back directly to the investment. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to measure the ROI on marketing, and to do so to the best of our ability.

A firm that employs a strong open book management philosophy, where a variety of metrics are tracked monthly and reported to the entire organization, can greatly aid in seeing the trends that should result from an intentional investment in true marketing. Some metrics include number of website hits, dollar volume of new work booked, proposal hit rate, social media likes/follows/shares, number of new contacts in the marketing database, etc.

Take it from a company that has studied the industry for almost 30 years – marketing fuels growth and profits in the AEC industry. Period. Our new marketing seminar titled Real Marketing and Branding for AEC Firms is the first of it’s kind in the industry. We go into hardcore marketing theory and prove the need for real investment in an attempt to break free from the reactive, never-ending cycle of proposals and interviews. Most firms react to preexisting market demand and find themselves very close to the industry average win rate of about 20 to 30 percent. Other firms with a real marketing strategy create demand, generate opportunities, and win more work and profit more from that work. More wins and more profit fuel growth, which in turn fuels returns to shareholders, which fuels demand for the stock. All of this contributes to a healthy, successful firm that out-paces the industry. You just gotta have faith!

Chad Clinehens is Zweig Group’s president and CEO. Contact him at

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.