I was having a conversation over lunch today which reminded me that the more I refine my practice of AEC marketing, the more it requires me to venture into subject areas that were previously thought to be outside of my purview or pay grade. Let me illustrate:
Let’s say I’m charged with charting a course that will get my firm to a determined revenue goal within a determined amount of time. Among the considerations I look at under the circumstances is how profitable we are with certain types of clients or market verticals. While gathering such information, I may learn that, for example, we tend to do civic work more profitably than healthcare. I may also learn that, within the civic realm, we are more likely to be profitable when working with client A vs. client B. I may also learn that profitability within this sector is much more dependent on which project manager/supervisor is leading the work than on type of project or the client. Each of these outcomes requires a different response.
If I know we are more profitable with civic than healthcare, my response may be to work on lowering opportunity costs for healthcare pursuits. Many of the steps that can be taken toward this end are in marketing’s wheelhouse. If I learn that we’re more profitable working for client A than client B, I can gather and share this information to help make informed decisions about who we want to pursue and how much we want to spend pursuing them. Some of this is in marketing’s wheelhouse too. If, however, I learn that the real difference is based on which employee manages the job, most of the solutions that need to be employed to address the problem are not traditionally in marketing’s “lane”. However, in my opinion, they are still marketing’s business.
Marketing has historically been an amplifier, not a creator of the firm’s “brand” – which is the cumulative perception of all the various experiences those inside and outside the firm have in their interactions with you – something we now call “human experience”. What marketing communicates becomes what potential clients/employees/project partners expect. Unless our billable colleagues can consistently deliver on what marketing promises, we set ourselves up to fail. Thus, in the age of instant, on-line ratings posted on, Glassdoor, Yelp and the like, the days of “staying in my lane” are, by necessity, over.
So, how do I broach the subject when I see a marketing problem that’s not really mine to fix? I believe the correct course of action is to present the challenge to my firm leaders with enough data to demonstrate why it’s a marketing problem. I ask them to fix it and to keep me in the loop as they do. I then try to focus my marketing efforts on the areas when I know we can deliver on our promise. I also trust my firm leaders to keep me posted as they fix any problems that compromise a complete and positive customer experience.