Category Archives: project management

Coloring Outside the Lines

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.


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Filed under CX, Human Experience, HX, marketing, project management, team

5 Important Things You Should Be Doing Now

Currently and uncharacteristically,  most of my colleagues in the AEC industry are experiencing a rare and joyous period of marketing by answering the phone.  What is a boon to architects, engineers and contractors can also be a boon to the marketing folks who serve them.

Throughout my career in this industry I’ve spent most of my time trying to fit in what’s important (strategy, social media, efficient and effective work process development, etc.) between the urgent tasks that need to be done by a specific deadline (e.g., proposals, award submissions, interview prep.)  Yet while reviewing my tasks assigned and accomplished over the past 90 days, I realized that I have been able to devote an unprecedented amount of time to things that will allow my entire team to work smarter when the urgent again takes center stage.  Not sure how to explain how satisfying that feels.

To those of you who find yourselves in the same boat I’m in, here are my recommendations for how to prepare now to work smarter later:

1) Ensure you have an effective system and process for gathering, tracking and retrieving project statistics.  Having good data and a solid system to manage it will substantially reduce the amount of time you have to spend looking for information when you’re in a hurry to have it. If you have a system that doesn’t work all that well, now is the time to tweak it.

2) Check and update your references, testimonials and standard collateral.  When you’re in the throes of a proposal deadline one task that often goes by the wayside is calling the references you’re including to make sure they’re a) still employed there, b) still accessible by the numbers and e-mail addresses you have and c) still willing to provide a reference when asked.  It’s also a good idea to look at the age of your testimonials.  Even the best reference letters don’t age well.

Likewise this is a good time to make sure that current project sheets for jobs that were completed last year don’t still have language in them that suggests the project itself is still a work in progress.  It’s also a good time to look over your standard firm introduction and other often-used tidbits of information that nobody has looked at in years to make sure they’re still valid, accurate, useful and representative of the firm. One caveat: while it’s a good time for you to update resumes, it’s probably not a good time for your practice staff who are slammed with work.

3) Teach yourself something new that makes you better at your job.
Want to know how to measure the effectiveness of your social media?  Wonder if HootSuite or Marketo or SurveyMonkey or MailChimp or BatchGeo would help you market better but don’t know how to use them?  Want to hone your management or negotiating skills?  Want to get in the trenches with your practice professionals and shadow a project to learn how they do what they do?  Now’s the time.  Do it.

4) Figure out the most informative and efficient ways to market marketing.    When firms are not flush with work, staff who aren’t billable are under increased scrutiny to ensure that they’re delivering value that exceeds their cost.  If you have an ongoing and effective way to let the firm know what you’re doing, how it’s benefiting them and why they should care, you go a long way toward ensuring you’re “at the table” rather than “on the menu”.  If you don’t, now’s a good time to create one.

5) Ensure that your brand promise is consistent across media.  When was the last time (since you first started your job) that you had time to verify that the essential messaging that underpins all of your communications media is expressed across those vehicles (website, collateral, mailers, social media, signage, etc.) in ways that are working in harmony if not in unison?  I’m going to guess maybe never.  You are unlikely to have this kind of time again anytime soon, so go for it.

After the uphill slog through the mud that was the Great Recession, it’s refreshing to have the time and opportunity to make hay while the sun shines.  Don’t squander this chance  to prepare wisely for whatever comes next.





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Filed under marketing, project management, Uncategorized

Who’s Your Tribe?

A facilities director, a contractor, an architect and a development director walked into a (breakfast) bar and began a frank conversation about the things each of us do that drive the other ones crazy when trying to get a project going.  No, it’s not the punchline of a joke, although the conversation was at times as hilarious as it was instructive; plus it was interesting enough to draw a crowd of over a hundred eavesdroppers/contributors at a national facilities conference.

On the way home from the conference I was reflecting on the things that made this panel a success and recognizing that they were also the things that make a project a success: common purpose, enough trust to allow for vulnerability, open communications, and acceptance of shared responsibility for the outcome.  In other words, we were united in the understanding that, for the purposes of this particular 90 minutes on this particular day, we were all members of the same tribe –  built environment professionals – and it was our job to understand and inform each other about how we can work well together.

So often projects go south because instead of aligning ourselves with our project teammates, we identify with our particular discipline, lumping all other disciplines, and occasionally the client, into the broad category of “them”.  When the latter happens you end up with the equivalent of a group of people standing on a sinking ship arguing about who punched the whole in the boat in an effort to assign both blame and risk to one of “them” .  When the former happens, you focus on fixing the hole because you know that, at the end of the day, all project partners will share the risk.    Personally, I think the former is how it should be.

The best project experiences are those in which honorable people develop a bond driven by mutual respect, shared purpose and commitment to collaboration.  They recognize that it’s all human beings on this team and that each of us is tasked with giving our best effort to the assignment and the benefit of the doubt to each other.  Sounds like a tribe I want to join.  How about you?

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Filed under project management, team, tribe