The retailer John Wanamaker once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” The same can be said for AEC marketing. Here are 5 ways to tell if you’re wasting your marketing dollars.
1) You exhibit at a conference, get a stack of leads, but don’t follow up
The real value of conference marketing isn’t what happens at the conference, it’s what happens after. Leads you gather while either speaking or exhibiting at a conference are useless if you don’t follow up and nurse those leads into real project opportunities. I typically gauge the success of conference marketing not only by how many leads we got, but by how many of those leads were converted to projects within the next 24 months.
2) If you’re an architect, you settle for the cheapest photography you can get.
Spaces like people may or may not be photogenic and spaces, like people, can be made to look even more beautiful when the right photographer shoots them. Why would you spend several years and thousands of your firm’s staff hours on an important commission, then rely on snapshots that your intern/project manager/marketing coordinator who is good with a camera took to demonstrate the quality of your work? This is the very definition of penny wise and pound foolish. There are all kinds of ways to keep costs down and still get very good photography. Make sure you put only our best foot forward.
3) Not project managing proposals like you project manage projects.
There are costs associated with responding to RFPs and there are many people who may want to be involved in crafting the response for an important commission. Both the process and the volume of staff hours allocated to achieve it can easily get out of hand, especially these days when a number of proposals are calling for design ideas/solutions as part of the RFP. I have seen senior principals sit beside marketing coordinators literally for days having them tweak and retweak copy or move images an eighth of an inch to the left or right, agonizing over every layout decision. It would be smarter to spend extra time on strategy rather than execution.
4) Not having an effective go/no-go process that you actually follow
It’s easy to rationalize a reason to answer an RFP for a project the firm logically has no hope of winning. Perhaps it’s because it’s the kind of project one of your principals is dying to do. More likely it occurs because 1) work is slow and people are finding ways to fill their time, 2) someone believes that responding to an RFP is a good way to introduce yourself to a potential new client or 3)”It’s really only costing us overhead time so what’s the problem?” None of these are good enough reasons to put the time and effort required into submitting an RFP. There are many more productive ways to fill time and meet clients and it will cost you 2.5 times the salary of your current marketing person to hire and train the new one when the current one gets burned out and leaves from overwork and lack of success.
5) Not checking whether your identity and your image align before you begin marketing your “brand”
Your identity is all the ways those of you who are part of the firm see the firm. Your image is the way all those outside your firm see the firm. The extent to which those two perceptions are mismatched is the extent to which any and all of your marketing communications activities are set up to fail. If you see yourselves as a service oriented firm, but your clients don’t believe they are getting good service, then you’re promising what you aren’t delivering. It pays to stake your claim for the reputation you want, just be sure to also be clear about the actions you will take to back up that talk. In other words, make sure your practice staff actually walks whatever your branding efforts talk.