Almost inevitably, when you look at a business or AEC practice’s marketing success, you can see almost into the eyes of the organization’s principals — the shareholders/partners and key stakeholders who lead the enterprise.
If they “get it” things go well; if not, they struggle. As much as you might wish to argue that an organization is the sum of all of its people; and leadership doesn’t necessarily need to be top-down; at base, the enterprise’s leaders determine its direction.
This observation also raises some powerful challenges for anyone concerned with marketing and business development. If the power to change — to purchase your product, service, or consulting advice (especially in the business-to-business world, when you are selling business-related services rather than mass consumer products) — is so highly concentrated, how do you bridge the gap and reach/sell to the people who count — the principals?
The answer relates to relationships, connections, and highly focused and strategic marketing. It also requires something of a soft touch, because coming in with the hard sale will probably cause you to hit a hard stop at the gatekeeper (either a receptionist/secretary, or some underling assigned to fend off unwelcome solicitations).
Yesterday’s post, where I described a community service/charitable initiative, provides part of the answer. It is a somewhat difficult approach to execute, because if you engage in community service with the expectation of business reward, you will fail. But if you strategically work on community service initiatives where the eyes and ears of the community’s leaders are apparent, you open the door without having to put your foot in it.
The second route to reaching the powerful decision-makers relates to your unique and special advantages. If you are going to aim for the top, you need to be at that level, and the world should know it. In other words, your aspiration should be to be the recognized expert/thought leader within your market/community. Speaking engagements, white papers, published articles, and media relations/attention will all help out in the process.
Neither of these approaches appear to be quick fixes, at least if you are thinking in the short-term. But we aren’t talking about impulsive purchases of small-ticket items. Each day I read news releases about ground breaking events for massive multi-million projects. When I research, I find precursor stories dating years or decades. Unless it is a genuine emergency, you shouldn’t expect anyone to move instantly in the AEC marketing space.
Conclusion: You need to focus your marketing on a relatively small group of individuals. And the best ways to do that is, with patience, to integrate yourself with these key decision-makers through community/association service, proving yourself as a true leader in your own right.