The headline marketing assertion may be an intellectual twist, but I believe it is true that effective marketing for the architectural, engineering and construction community is indeed both absurdly easy and truly difficult, at the same time.
First, the easy part.
There’s no secret that the marketing foundation relates to your client experience. If you get it right, you attract word-of-mouth and repeat business. If you get it wrong, you don’t. Nothing proves this point more clearly than a recent example that I am investigating because of its scale. A major educational institution awarded a $43 million in single-source contracts for a new campus building to an architect and contractor who had worked previously with the college on separate buildings. The school decided there was simply not enough time for a conventional bidding process because it had a tight window to access special government funds. So it called on the architect and contractor to build the project without any competition. (And I know there are plenty of other contractors and architects who would have liked to bid on the work if they knew it was even available.)
In other words, you don’t have to do much “marketing” if you really have your practice/business in good order. Word of mouth, repeat business, and performance-related bidding will help you find plenty of business, and where you can (and need) to bid on price, you will be competitive.
Now, the hard part
Solid marketing in the AEC sector requires an integrated, disciplined, patient and incremental mind-set. Outside of some residential and very small-scale ICI work, the time span and cycle of work is long (and when it is short, as described above, you won’t get the job unless you’ve done it well previously) and the usual scientific and statistical tools for measuring your effectiveness won’t count for too much. So you can pour tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars into a marketing campaign and easily end up with a “I don’t know if that did anything at all” result.
Undoubtedly, however, if you think long-term and integrate your vision with solid community and association relations with really great client experiences, you can achieve a meaningful payback. Perhaps, however, the “Chief Marketing Officer” should be renamed the “Chief Client/Community Relations Officer”.
Since our business earns 95 per cent of its revenue from advertising clients, you might wonder if it pays at all to advertise, based on this commentary. The answer is in the details. If we practice what we preach, and deliver an integrated experience to our advertising clients, we’ll deliver enough value for the essential repeat and referral business.
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