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Had coffee with one of my marketing colleagues yesterday. Interesting conversation about how so many of our clients in the B2B marketplace perceive the discipline of Marketing as a superficial indulgence they engage in, reluctantly, from time to time.
After all, everyone knows Who You Are, which is the first sign and symptom of Word of Mouth syndrome. Your company has been around for a while. You’ve been drinking your own Kool-Aid® and believe your firm will be top of mind when an A/E firm is needed.
Let the newbie competitor engineering and architecture companies nipping at your heels engage in “marketing communications.” After all, the newbies are the ones who need the business, not your company, right?
Newsflash folks. No matter How Great You Think You Art, you are not as top-of-mind in the vendor selection process as you think you “art.” And those competitor companies nipping at your heels? They aren’t all local, or even domestic, competitors. Their marketing communications efforts firmly place their companies where their clients and prospects are looking and when they are looking to receive strong and consistent messages about the core competencies of their firms. And Where They Art, You Are Not. Now who is competing with whom? And in what market space?
Marketing isn’t the sprinkles on the cupcake, folks. It IS the cupcake. Marketing is the front end of cash flow. And if you are looking to shorten your business development, sales, and order-to-cash cycles, marketing is where you start. It’s not a matter of cold calling or constantly stopping by your customers and leaving coffee, donuts and brochures. It’s not a matter of wining and dining them or inviting them to your company’s annual golf outing.
The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” Hmmm. Sounds a bit more noble than sprinkles on the cupcake. In fact, it sounds like marketing addresses how you identify prospective customers, the actions you take to secure these customers, and the strategies you use to retain these customers. Sounds like a plan to me. And it sounds like an endeavor that should be part of everyone’s job description.
Because everyone in your organization is the physical embodiment of your delivery of your core competencies against your marketing strategy and marketing communications. Yes, it’s that’s important.
So what kind of marketing strategy and communications does your company engage in? Especially since marketing appears to impact the type of cupcake you bake. Forget about the sprinkles. An annual ad in the ADA journal? A booth at a local trade show, maybe every other year? Purchase of Google ad words? A little bit of this, a little bit of that, dabbling instead of aggressively pursuing. Because the professions of architecture and engineering are noble and lofty, which preclude them from engaging in marketing communications? Huh?
Ah c’mon folks. Do you know how many people look for information about doctors on Angie’s List (yes, Angie’s List)? Do you know how many folks just type in local architect and call the company whose name starts with “A”, which usually is the local handyman or design-builder? Who ends up doing a good job?
If you don’t educate your current and prospective customers about Who Thou Art, they will never have an opportunity to find out How Great Thou Art. And you don’t have to necessarily feel like you are part of the latest chapter of Mad Men® when marketing. In fact, it might feel natural.
Marketing involves a bit more than hawking your wares. It’s more like growing your personal and corporate brand. In deeds, rather than words. In stewardship, rather than client dinners.
When’s the last time your firm published a white paper, worked with Engineers Without Borders®, taught a drafting class at the local trade school or partnered on the local Habitat for Humanity® project? When’s the last time you invited your prospective and current clients to join with you in these efforts?
That’s the real marketing. Because that’s what matters. That is how you can walk your talk and show how your art and craft is all about making this place far more tolerable and habitable for society.
That’s the recipe for a well-baked cupcake. One that your clients will want to buy. Over and over again.
Think about it.