Tag Archives: business development

5 Ways Marketing Coordinators Drive Project Managers Crazy

In the heat of the RFP process, we are all under a fair bit of stress, which sometimes leads to behavior that, if we thought about it, we would realize was not particularly useful.  Just as practice staff can drive marketing crazy during this process, marketing can frustrate PMs and principals.  Here are five ways we lose our minds and vex theirs:

1) Keep asking for the same information about a project over and over and over.

Often we get information from PMs about a project while we’re working on a proposal deadline, then forget to store it somewhere so we have it to use the next time we need it.  Recognize that by the time you are looking for details on  Project B for a proposal, chances are good that the PM is well into Project C and what you’re asking for requires them to go back to archived files or banker’s boxes to gather the info you need.  Thus, if a PM did the work to find it for you a month ago, they’re not likely to feel too kindly about having to find it again now.  Practice colleagues are organized.  We should be too.

2) Pout, sulk or throw a tantrum when you are asked to do something you can’t fit into your schedule

It’s not the PM or Principal’s job to know what’s on your plate every day.  If someone asks you to take on a task you truly can’t fit into your schedule, give them the benefit of the doubt and help them understand your reluctance.  A good thing to say might be, “Okay, in order to do that task, I need to take something off my plate.  Which of these other tasks can get put on the back burner in favor of this new one?”   Usually a conversation like this will yield a positive discussion about how to solve the problem as well as an understanding of how hard you’re already working.  That’s what I call a win-win.

3) When the onset of a high priority project changes the deadline for another project on your plate, don’t tell anybody about it. 

On Monday a PM asked you for an introductory brochure to send to a client and you said you’d have it by Friday, but on Tuesday an RFP came in that’s also due on Friday and you can’t get both done.   Clearly the RFP takes precedence, but it’s only common courtesy to go to the PM and let them know that you need to adjust their deadline.  If I give you a project to do and you give me a deadline, I assume that’s when it’ll be done.  If you have to change the deadline, let me know so I can plan accordingly.

4) Assume it’s somebody else’s job to make sure all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed.

If you’re in marketing and you’re working on an RFI/Q/P, it’s your job to read that document cover to cover.  It’s your job to know when it’s due, how many copies of what kind are needed, how much of the response you can put together from information you already have and how much you need your practice colleagues to create for you.  You are the expert on how many project sheets we have, whether the right kind of resume is available for everyone chosen for the project team and for ensuring that all questions asked in the RF? are answered in the response.  It’s also your job to make sure your practice staff know which parts of the proposal you have covered, which you need from them, and when you need their information so you can put together a coherent submission.  Take ownership.

5) Phone in your first draft by simply assembling as much existing, unedited, standard content as you can, then wait for feedback.

If you want to be taken seriously as a marketing professional, rather than pigeon-holed as a glorified admin assistant, review your draft thoughtfully and make sure the most relevant information is also easiest to find.  Read the resumes of the team identified for the project and rearrange their experience lists so the most relevant projects are the first ones listed.  Read the project sheets, look at the photos and see if things need to be edited slightly to make the document relevant for this particular project.  If you have copy available about a specific requested topic (sustainability experience, BIM capabilities, quality assurance processes, etc.) include the version of it that’s most relevant to this project as a leaping off point for editing.  If you’ve left something out but know it’s coming, leave a place for it in the draft and indicate that.  Let’s do everything we can to make it easier for our professional practice colleagues to fit in marketing among the scores of other responsibilities they are juggling each day.  Respect is at best, reciprocal and, at worst, earned.

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5 Terrifying Truths about Presentation Skills

In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d offer a few reasons why my AEC professional practice colleagues need to face one of their greatest fears: making presentations to clients.  So make sure the door is locked and hold onto something comforting.  Here goes.

1) You literally must acquire presentation skills.

There are very few competitive project opportunities that can be won exclusively by principals and marketing people anymore. In fact, more often than not these days we marketing folks are explicitly being told to stay away on presentation day.  So, not only can we not win it for you anymore, we often can’t even be in the room to help you.

2) Success in presentations has almost nothing to do with your technical skills.

By the time a few firms are shortlisted and asked to interview for a project, it has already been determined that all the firms are qualified.  We wouldn’t have been invited into the room if the client had questions about whether or not we could do the job.  What the interview is about is figuring out what it’ll be like to work with you, how you present yourself, whether or not you ask smart questions and if you listen well.  Demonstrating all that requires presentation skills.

3) The Project Manager is most often the linchpin to presentation success.

The PM is the person a client figures they’re going to have the most face time with over the next six months to 3 years until the project is done.  They want to like you.  They want to know you like them.  They want to know you can hold your own with all the other consultants in the room.  Ultimately, they want to know you’re not afraid of them.  If you’re afraid to present, you look like you’re afraid of them.  If you’re in the PM role, chances are the job will be won or lost based on how well you do in the presentation.

4) It usually takes time and effort on someone else’s part to get you to the next presentation.

As a marketing person, it frustrates me when we lose a job and the team somewhat cavalierly says,  “don’t worry, we’ll get the next one.”  It can take marketing and BD people 6 months to 2 years to bring an RFP in the door from a prospective client and, at the presentation, you have that marketing or BD person’s reputation in your hands.  I am fine with losing when we give it our best effort.  I just don’t want to lose sloppy.

5) Your ability to present has substantial impact on your long term career success.

When times are tough, as they have been in recent memory, the people that will stay employed are they ones that can do their jobs well, communicate with clients well, and bring in new work.  Honing your presentation skills makes you good at all these things.


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Persistence or pestering?

In the not quite so new anymore world of marketing, we’ve come to realize that savvy B2B customers want to find us more than they want us to find them.  Oddly enough, the world of inbound marketing has both helped and exacerbated the problem.  Like all great inventions, we start with a startling new premise, based on true insight (in this case, the idea of a “pull” strategy that is content-focused being more effective than a “push” strategy that is close-focused), that is executed expertly and achieves remarkable enough results that the rest of us are compelled to jump on the bandwagon.  What follows is a mass need to ramp up, to demonstrate that we too know enough to be able to do this innovative thing for our customers, and mixed results as to how well we execute it based on how close or far away we are from understanding the original premise.  Those of us who watched the metamorphosis from innovative open plan workspace to Dilbert-esque cube farm have seen this trajectory bear “fruit”.

In the case of inbound marketing, this has led to some excellent consequences as well as some maddening ones.  On the maddening side, today I deleted the 11th (yes, 11th) automated voicemail from my local pharmacy chain in the past 2 weeks telling me it’s time to renew a prescription.  (Seriously?  Do I seem so feeble that you need to remind me every day?) I also deleted 123 (yes really) e-mails I got last month from a professional organization I belong to, all of which were either encouraging me to attend a webinar, reminding me that they provide me with good service (they don’t) or telling me why I need to be professionally certified (at a net cost to me of upwards of $4000 in coursework, test-taking and certification fees.)

What these examples tell me is that folks are applying a logic to their inbound marketing strategy that says more is always better.  This strategy didn’t work well in person-to-person cold calling. Why would it work in this arena?  Persistence is admirable, relentlessness is not.

On the excellent side, there are those blogs and websites that offer me content to help me get up to speed on a subject and the opportunity to talk with someone, presented either while I’m browsing the content or at reasonable intervals (which for me is no more often than monthly) without cluttering up my inbox with so many e-mails that I miss the one or two that might really be relevant.  These are the ones that recognize that when I trade my contact information for content, it’s to open a dialogue with a hope for real, measurable intelligence, not an invitation to cyber-stalk me.  So yes, let’s practice inbound marketing, but let’s focus on quality, not quantity.

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It seems there a trajectory we marketing folks go through in our career development within the AEC industry.  (It may well be that this pattern crosses industries, but I can only speak from a certain kind of experience.) I believe how one moves through these phases determines, in no small part, whether one’s career advances or not; whether one is trusted by clients or not; whether one controls his or her destiny or not.  Here are the three phases as I see them:

React – At the outset of one’s career, I think there’s a lot of reacting going on.  When someone asked me what my average day was like, I used to say, “Well, I start by making a to-do list, then I work all day, then about 4:PM I pick up my to-do list and get started on that.”  I think this is because there’s a lot of urgency in our field, mostly driven by business development opportunities or publication/submission deadlines that must be met.  This is a boon for adrenaline junkies and a fine way to start developing a sense of competence in our field, because it’s about meeting and exceeding expectations.  But it only gets you so far.

Respond – Eventually I think we get weary of living at the mercy of externally-generated deadlines.  We know they come with the job and we accept that.  We’ve learned that some of them are predictable, and we recognize the need to approach predictable goals/needs with at least some semblance of strategy behind them.  We desire to establish and manage priorities and expectations, not just meet them.  We begin to ask not just what someone needs but why they need it.  Then we need to gauge where that person’s top priority fits among the eight or ten tasks that are the top priorities of each other person who has tasked us with something.  We learn the importance of asking questions, offering feedback, challenging logic and offering perspectives that lend additional expertise to decision making.  Finally, we start to get a better handle on the delicate balance between the urgent and the important.  I think most people who have earned the title “marketing manager” have done so because they know not only to react, but to respond.  They have the ability to make compelling arguments to support their approach to problem solving.  In this way they become not only trusted doers, but trusted advisors. 

Lead – Leading is the next level, and I believe it is more of a leap than a step. Leading suggests you’ve looked into your profession and your practice of it deeply enough and critically enough to create the marketing and business development path rather than just to traverse it well. It means you can both listen to what people tell you they want, and ask enough questions to know whether what a client, colleague or firm leaders says they want is actually what they need.  Where you find discrepancies, you also have to be able to help that person get to the same conclusion you have reached.  It involves sharing what marketing is up to at regular intervals rather than just waiting to be asked.  It means not only sharing what is happening, but why it is happening and to tie strategy and tactics to results.  It also involves being able to articulate how those results affect the bottom line.  Leading also involves having the ability to speak truth to leadership as a consultant does, while being as deeply invested in the outcome of one’s decisions and direction as any principal would be.  It also means understanding how your practice professionals do what they do well enough that you can tell whether they’re good at it. 

For my part, I like leading.  How about you?

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