No real big surprise to the marketing professionals in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry that when it comes to marketing, our industry is often behind the curve of most other industries. Part of this is because marketing was outright illegal for professional services until the 1970s. Another reason is because there is a possible perception of some of our technical professionals that selling is somewhat sleazy.
However, as with everything times are changing, and firms are beginning to realize that they need to develop their brand and market their brand to differentiate their firms to not only win more work but to recruit and retain talented professionals.
As a marketing professional, it would be great to work and build your career at one of these types of firms. So how do you find such a firm? Are you already working at one? Below I share my thoughts on some characteristics of a marketing-centric A/E/C firm. Please feel free to agree, disagree, and add your own thoughts in the comments below.
Influence in the Business of the Firm
Now many firms have marketing directors or CMOs. This position and person have a leadership role in the firm’s marketing for sure, but does this position have influence and representation when it comes to the business and growth of the firm?
Does the person leading the marketing efforts participate in the firm’s long-range strategic planning efforts? Not only attending the planning meetings but have meaningful responsibilities with implementing the strategic plan.
Does marketing have a position on the executive team or board of directors? Is there a marketing representative who is a member of the executive team involved in decision making for the operations and growth of the firm? I am not saying this person should be doing the job of the operations director but be included in the business of the firm from a higher level and able to make recommendations as needed.
Can marketing become a principal or firm owner? This is a biggie. There are firms who have rules that principals can only be technical staff. If the firm realizes value and growth come from various parts of the organization and not just licensed professionals, it may be more likely to have principals from marketing, HR, and accounting.
There are some states that have laws about who can be owners in engineering and architecture firms, mainly due to professional licensing. If this is the case for your firm, how does it work around these laws to provide similar status and ownership options to non-licensed professionals, including marketing and business development professionals?
I have been fortunate in my career that I have always been encouraged to attend client meetings, presentations, and business planning meetings. As a new marketing coordinator, this allowed me to accelerate my understanding of how the industry works and hear first hand what our clients are really looking for in their consultants. It isn’t enough for a firm to allow this, but rather, to encourage exposure to these type of activities makes them marketing centric in my opinion.
Exposure to firm financials, backlog, utilization and other indicators of the firm’s health and areas of improvement is also critical for marketing leaders to understand the full picture. With this full picture, marketing can craft strategies and campaigns to help in the weak areas and leverage the areas of success. There may be firms that won’t share all of the financials, but utilization and backlog can be a good starting place.
Viewed as an Investment
We all know that there are certain departments in our firms that are overhead and not billable like the design or construction folks. However, how these departments are viewed and treated is another story. If the firm leadership sees marketing as an investment in their brand, telling their story, differentiating their firm, and setting up the sales team (seller-doer or full-time BD) with qualified leads, it is marketing-centric. Those items take resources, times, and money. Often it takes time to see the rewards with some not being able to quantify.
These are just some of the characteristics, I believe defines a firm who is marketing centric.
What do you think? Are there any other characteristics I left out? Do you agree or disagree?
Do you feel like you work at a firm who is marketing centric?
Lindsey Diven’s article originally appeared on Marketers Take Flight.