Tag Archives: conference

5 Ways You Are Wasting Money on Marketing

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.


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Conferring on Conferences

In conferring about marketing strategy and budget for the coming year with some of my colleagues we got on the subject of conferences.  I’m a strong believer in attending them, whether it’s to sharpen my axe and shore up my CEUs, or to develop new business.  However, I’m also a believer in making strategic decisions about how I’m going to utilize them.  For now, I just want to focus on the business development purposes for attending conferences:

1) Critical Mass – It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best, most cost-effective way to make a lot of local contacts is at a national conference.  For example, early in my career in AEC in Chicago, I attended the World Workplace conference in San Diego. While there I attended a joint Chicago/Northern Illinois Chapter cocktail hour, at which I met and had a bit of initial face time with about 40 potential clients who then had a chance to check my references with a few of my clients who were also in the room.  All in it cost me about three days time and about $1500 in travel, meals and lodging to be there for that meeting on that day to make those 40 contacts.  Compare that against the 6 months to a year’s worth of cold calls and meeting requests it would have otherwise taken me to develop a positive connection (not to mention have the ability to successfully vet) those same 40 folks enough that they would return one of my calls and I’d say the investment was well worth it.

2) Reputation Building – Again, it sounds odd to some, but speaking at conferences is the introvert’s best marketing tool.  I have worked with several colleagues who are horrified at the prospect of introducing themselves at networking events, but fine with presenting something they know well to a group of 100 people at a conference. When they do this right, the business opportunities end up coming to them in the way of business cards handed over at the end of their talk.  Makes them happy; makes me happy.  That said, we have to make sure that we record, track and follow up on the leads we gather this way to ensure we convert those leads to projects, or else we miss out on the substantial benefit this opportunity could have provided.

3) Intelligence Gathering –  If you have the luxury of being able to send someone to a client-industry conference simply to listen and gather intelligence, it will make you better at your job.  In other words, the more I know what my clients are thinking about, what new challenges are facing them  and what keeps them awake at night, the better prepared I am to serve them.  Marketing deliverables that can come out of such an exercise include position papers, surveys, and new perspectives on making web, blog and other content rich and relevant.

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