This post is the last of a 6-part series analyzing marketing trends, technology, and the role of the marketer in an A&E firm. The previous 5 posts looked at the culture of an A&E firm and how it affects marketing success, trends in marketing and where A&E firms are struggling to keep up, how technology can be a competitive advantage, how marketing should be viewed as a strategic investment, and how to measure the success of marketing efforts.
Today I hope to inspire the A&E firm marketer to look at their role differently. With the cultural issues that I wrote about, causing a failure to view marketing as a strategic investment, the A&E firm marketer has some real challenges to overcome. We will look at some things you can do right away to increase your contribution to your firm’s success, and hopefully change the mindset of your principals around the value investing in marketing resources.
Be strategic, not tactical
With a lack of investment in resources, and sometimes respect for the importance of their role, a marketing manager, coordinator, or even director needs to take it upon themselves to add more value to the success of the firm. This means playing a more significant role in determining the marketing strategy and direction of the firm.
Many firm principals do not have a lot of experience in marketing, and may take an ”old school” approach to marketing – bid on as many proposals as possible. Today’s marketing is about social interaction, and differentiation. With so much competition, focus on cutting costs, and everyone claiming their services are the best, how does your firm come out on top and not have to cut fees to compete?
The answer is in taking a different approach than everyone else, and finding ways to promote your expertise that really adds value above and beyond the standard scope of a contract. One way to do that is to look at the changes in technology that are affecting your client, and how your firm can gain some expertise in cutting edge systems and processes that can help your client cut costs and streamline their operations.
A great example of this approach is The Traffic Group, a successful transportation engineering firm in Baltimore, Md. Wes Guckert, the President of The Traffic Group explains his firm’s strategy in becoming leading experts in robotic parking systems:
We intentionally decided to become the only traffic engineering firm building awareness about automated/robotic parking, and made it our mission to educate the A/E industry and Developers on its benefits.
We have been personally educated on each technology by its developers/engineers, and visited systems in operation for hands-on instruction. Unlike “ordinary” firms who stick to providing traditional traffic engineering services, our growing list of niche services now includes robotic parking alternatives to that of conventional parking facilities, as well as Bus Rapid Transit design, Diverging Diamond Interchange design, and Roundabouts. We feel this gives us a unique approach, and a competitive edge in our crowded industry.
Help your principals become thought leaders
As part of his firm’s strategy, Wes Guckert has personally invested time and money to increase his own expertise about robotic parking systems. This has given him thought leadership in the industry, and as a result, he is frequently asked to provide expert opinions for publications and industry events. He has also hired a PR firm to get him speaking engagements and print articles in industry publications. This has raised awareness of his firm as a leader in this technology, and increased demand for the Traffic Group’s services.
As a marketer, you can help your principals and to become thought leaders. The first step is to understand your firm’s strengths, and determine where your areas of great expertise are. Then you can develop a strategic plan through content marketing, and public relations to advance the brand of your firm and your people by creating opportunities for them to get in front of potential clients and other allies to build demand for your services.
Learn how to develop great content
As we reviewed in Part 2 of this series, content marketing is rapidly becoming a very important aspect of a strategic marketing plan. It is critical to building the thought leadership and differentiation that I am recommending.
Many firms struggle to get their technical people to contribute to the firm’s blog or other web site content. Yet this is fundamentally critical to success in building your firm’s thought leadership and brand. For this reason, the A&E firm marketing professional needs to be equipped to produce valuable content. Some shortcuts to doing this are to do book reviews, interviews of clients and professionals in your space, and case studies that show off your firm’s success and expertise.
Look for ways to publish both educational and though provoking content, and you will see your web site traffic increase and clients paying more attention to what you are saying. One caveat – make sure your content is optimized for the site engines by having a site engine optimization (SEO) professional enhance your content.
Focus on PR – get in the news, social media, etc.
One other strategy that goes along with the whole concept of differentiation is to find ways to get your firm public relations (PR) attention. This could be articles in trade magazines, speaking opportunities, and even radio and TV interviews.
Don’t forget that most journalists are constantly looking for content and have a lot of space to fill every month. I have been writing a bi-monthly article for The Zweig Letter for a couple of years which gets my name and expertise out in front of many A&E business owners that I otherwise would not have an opportunity to impact.
One place to look is help a report out (HARO) or www.HARO.com. This is a daily email you can subscribe to which gives you opportunities to respond to questions as an expert for reporters on a wide range of topics. While it is not targeted, there may be ways to utilize this or other channels to find places that you and your firm’s experts can contribute.
I hope I have given you a few ideas to help you change your firm’s perspective on marketing, and encourage you to add more value by playing a more intentional role in your firm’s marketing strategy.
What is your firm’s expertise that you can leverage now to differentiate your services?
Check out the other posts in this series –
In Part 1 – We look at the culture challenges for A&E firms today.
In Part 2 – We look at the trends that are shaping the marketing efforts for A&E firm marketers today.
In Part 3 – We look at how technology can help marketers to increase the firm’s win rate
In Part 4 – We discuss the benefits of viewing marketing as a strategic investment
In Part 5 – We look at how to measure the return on investment from marketing efforts
In Part 6 – We give some tips for marketers on how to add more value to their firm’s success.
Cash is King Webinar
Managing Cash Flow in a Down Economy
Date: Wednesday, August 19th, 12:00pm ET
The average days to collect cash in the AEC industry is between 60 to 120 days. In this web training we will examine the complete project lifecycle to understand how cash flow can be increased when the economy is uncertain. Participants will gain valuable tips to improve cash flow by improving timesheet practices, reducing the billing cycle, and improving client relationships and collection practices.
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