I've observed planning, strategy, proposal writing, promotions, and all things marketing at companies of every size. I've learned the following best practices remain consistent, no matter the size of the organization.
Communication, leadership, strategy, resources, metrics, and go/no-go are all essential gears in the AEC marketing engine. How these gears are sized may vary, but they all must be in place for your firm's long-term sustainable success.
This post was adapted from "Best Practices - Working With Varied Firm Sizes in A/E/C Marketing," Marketer, December 2021, pages 42-43
Marketing is an art.
Ok, and a science, but it is mostly an art.
While the science of marketing is all about research and data, what you do with that information is what I consider art. If I just repeat data such as features, benefits, proofs that we are the best solution to a client’s problem, I believe it, but does the audience? “The very fact that you presented the proof makes it suspect,” according to marketing guru Seth Godin. Godin goes on to explain, “If a consumer figures something out or discovers it on her own, she’s a thousand times more likely to believe it than if it’s just something you claim.”
So the big question is, how do you craft marketing messages to spark discovery rather than making braggadocios claims?
I will answer through illustration. The best movies, best books, best experiences are those that tease. A tease is giving you bits of information without telling you everything. Think about your favorite teachers, favorite preachers, favorite authors. They all give you pieces, stories, colors, textures just enough to excite your interest and keep you engaged.
Great marketing is the art of using just enough data, story, and experience to create interest without delivering the climactic punch line. Who wants to hear a joke when the punch line is delivered too early without any setup?
Here is a marketing message from a civil engineering website home page.
“Our depth of resources includes a varied and well-cultivated network of professionals known for strong community relationships, an urgent approach to your needs, and the technical capacity to effectively navigate the increasingly complex set of development and planning issues across the country.”
BOOM! A massive claim with lots of data that makes the audience go, “huh?”
Here is the marketing message re-written with an artful tease.
“Every development project is tricky! Development is a journey. Who will you choose as your guide?
Allow your audience, the prospective client, to discover for themselves their best solution. Discovery is about giving them hints at the facts, stories instead of lectures, teases rather than full-frontal nudity! Think about this when you talk about your services, expertise, and what your firm has to offer. Tell stories that pique interest. Give hints at your successes. Give them just enough so they can discover it for themselves.
Surprising. Memorable. Disruptive.
The best marketing has these three aspects in common. Even if you hit one of these three with a marketing campaign or effort, you will likely have a good return on your objective. If you hit all three, you will have a marketing homerun!
Over the weekend, while watching football, a commercial came on for Frank’s RedHot sauce. I had never heard of Franks RedHot. However, the ad capitalized on several key marketing strategies.
In 14 seconds, Franks RedHot was surprising, memorable, and disruptive. While this strategy is controversial and not for every product or service, there remains key aspects to this strategy that can be harnessed for less dramatic campaigns.
Frank's RedHot TV Commercial, 'Free Time' Featuring Eli Manning - iSpot.tv
As engineers who design public infrastructure, we do not produce commercials or use celebrity endorsers. However, we do create marketing messages and craft a public image of who we are, what we do, and how we do it. We place advertisements in our client’s magazines and journals, sponsor events and conferences, maintain a website, post on social media, recruit new talent, and tell the stories of our clients and their projects. When doing these things, it is good to push ourselves in a more creative direction. If we can accomplish these marketing activities capturing attention through surprising, memorable, and disruptive strategies, we will also reap the benefits of great marketing. Most likely, the effect of better creativity will produce even more dramatic results in an industry that is plagued with sameness.
Gabe Lett, FSMPS, CPSM, LPC