Why hiring a Business Development person doesn’t usually work.

Quite often, firms that struggle with marketing seek out a new hire…a “closer.”

The strategy is this:
1. Hire somebody dedicated to bringing in new business and new business only
2. Tie their compensation to their success
3. If they don’t work out, they get cut within a year or two; if they do, we’re in the money!

This Business Development specialist is essentially a sales person. I’m actually not saying “never”, but here is why, when this position is filled as knee-jerk reaction to tough times, it very rarely works out.

The A/E/C industry is a professional services industry…not professional product. Our project lifecycle is generally MUCH longer than our sales cycle and in such, more emphasis is placed on the personal relationship with the architect, engineer, Principal, project manager, etc.

When dealing with products, it is the norm to buy from one place/person and seek out support from a completely separate one (maybe even one in a call center halfway across the world). When dealing with a service, the person that delivers the service should either be incredibly knowledgeable about the service or the one actually doing the work.

Think about the doctor as an example. The doctor checks you out, looks over your records, tells you what’s wrong, prescribes medicine and you’re all better. When you later have a follow up question about your health, you wouldn’t expect a completely separate doctor to answer it…and definitely not the person in accounting.

Professional services such as architecture are very similar, but there is usually a team of acceptable people to call on. However, once the project kicks off, that team almost never includes the Business Development lead. They are off focusing on bringing in other new business and generally don’t even know what happened to the project once the contract was signed.

In the end, when people choose your firm, they choose to work with the people in it. Potential clients need to be marketed to (not reeled in) and then communicated with by the team of professionals that will deliver for them at the end of the day.

When business developers are a strategic part of the marketing and project team, they have a much better chance for success. When they’re hired in a reactionary manner and used as an auxiliary sales force, it isn’t likely to improve your client relationships…or hit rate.

Unique Positioning – But At What Expense?

I recently had a conversation with some DC area architects about this post:

This young intern architect did a great job at finding a low-cost way to get attention.  It’s actually turned into much more of a PR success than a marketing one.  (ie, he’s gotten much more free press out of it then paid attention from ads, etc.)
As he notes himself though, what DOES it do for/to the profession?  How many architects are silently fuming that a non-licensed architect four years out of school is offering professional advice for a nickel?
Truthfully, it doesn’t matter.  He is filling a need in the industry that wasn’t previously being met.  In an almost “Target-like” move, he is bringing design to the masses in a non-intimidating way.   As long as he is providing decent advice, he could be doing a great service to the industry.  He could be educating people about the process, overcoming some misconceptions that people may have about architectural professionals, and even adding some design sensibilities to everyday homeowner problems.  
The challenge for him and his new partner now is, how do they overcome the identity that they have set up for themselves?  The 5 cent advice booth doesn’t translate well into a profitable business unless the brand is managed well.  They have to make a jump from low value consultation to high value (or at least medium) design services.  In an industry where homeowners often just let the contractors/builders make design decisions for them, that could be a tough challenge.  

Markitecture to present at AIA DC Lunch ‘n Learn

Date: 4/3/2009

Time: 12:00noon to 1:00pm

AIA|DC Lunch ‘n Learn: Marketing for Peanuts

With cutbacks occurring across the board in many firms, marketing budgets are often one of the first to go. Now we are facing lower budgets and more emphasis on billable hours, but have a greater need to market than ever. How can we do it without breaking the bank? Join Markitecture’s Chris Denby for a brief presentation that highlights ways that Principals, project team members and marketers alike can help bring in new work.