Everything I need to know about marketing, I learned from being a dad

While I do love working in the AEC industry, there isn’t anything I love more than my family. I’m the father of two little ones, both under five years old, and they keep our house buzzing. My wife and I are constantly trying to figure out creative ways to get them to listen to us, stay out of harm’s way, stop picking on each other, etc. One thing we’ve learned in our time as parents is that communication is EVERYTHING, not just what we say, but how we say it, when we say it and to whom.

Then the other night it dawned on me how similar marketing is to being a Dad (or Mom). Thus, the list of parenting, err…uh…marketing tips below was born. Enjoy!

Set a timer – Regardless of what activity we’re doing, with two kids we have to manage expectations. Part of that is communicating how long we’re going to do one activity before switching to the next. It seems simple, but without timing, marketing plans are no more than a to-do list that never has to get done.

Use words they can understand – There are all kinds of grown-up words for going to the bathroom, but when I need my kids to go, I say “go potty” and it works. Be direct with your client communications and use words they would use themselves.

Be consistent – Pretty self-explanatory, but difficult for both parents and marketers. Marketing shouldn’t only happen every once in a while. It’s a constant and your success depends on repetition and consistency.

Be creative – Doing the same things every day is boring. Kids and clients both will tune you out if you say the same thing in the same way day after day, month after month.

Contingency plan – Things don’t always go as planned…actually, they rarely do. For kids, you might need a change of clothes half-way through the day, for your marketing efforts, you’ll probably need a change in focus half-way through the year.

Capture (and share) the memories – I’ve never been a “picture” person until I had kids, now I can’t get enough. When it comes to marketing, the memories are really about the success stories and the metrics. Capture them, enjoy them and share them with the rest of your team.

Now…if anybody has any marketing-related advice that applies to me getting my kids to actually go to sleep, that would be great!

Social Media Lies: “Social Media Is Here To Stay”

A Guest Post By: Matt Handal

One of the lies you will hear about social media is “social media is here to stay.” if you consider what people are actually talking about when they say “social media,” (as explained in my Definition of Social Media post) the statement is ridiculous. In the world of technology, nothing is truly “here to stay.” On the world wide web, staying power is rare. Your ability to stay around often relies on your ability to turn a profit or your ability to sell your site to a big company who can absorb your losses. This usually hurts the site more than it helps it.

Let’s look at Myspace. Remember Myspace, one of the biggest sites on the web? It used to be the bees knees and mentioned regularly on the nightly news (just like Twitter). What happened? Quite simply, Myspace did not have a sustainable business model. So they simply sold the site (and all its user data) to Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp. Facebook came along, out innovated Myspace, and became much “cooler.” Everybody switched to Facebook. Myspace should have seen this coming, because it did the same exact thing to Friendster. Can you see a pattern?

LinkedIn, on the other hand, has been a profitable business from very early on. This may indicate more staying power. Twitter, which was started by the same guys who started Blogger.com, has a business plan that revolves around making $1 from each of its users. Twitter hasn’t figured out how to do that yet. The rumors of acquisition are already surfacing. Will people always use these platforms? I have no idea.

I’m not saying that social media will be blowing like dust in the wind. What I’m saying is that nobody who is telling you social media is here to stay is qualified to predict the future of the tech sector. In my opinion, if you make a statement that you are not qualified to make, it is a lie. Making statements like this is fine unless you are directing someone to make business decisions. Look in the SMPS marketing handbook’s social media chapter (page 248). It recommends you make a Myspace page for your firm. It was written last year.

As a marketer, producer of the Construction Netcast podcast, contributing editor of SMPS Marketer, co-author of the Marketing Handbook for the Design & Construction Professional, and Twitter.com’s @MattHandal, Matt sure is busy. But never too much to answer your questions at mhan7474@yahoo.com or post at http://www.helpeverybodyeveryday.com/, where you can sign up to receive his weekly articles.

Who cares about your website if you are just THAT good?

It’s a fantastic time for John Hillman, the 2010 ENR Award of Excellence winner. His patented Hybrid Composite Beam finally hit a big wave of industry coverage and attention – earned media – which is beyond comparison with regards to gaining credibility from potential clients and colleagues.

His 14 year journey definitely got my attention. The ENR article describes his trials and tribulations and makes it sound like he’s finally going to come out on top, with a well-revered and much needed new product.

I came across his story first in the McGraw-Hill Construction newsletter, clicked through to the ENR article, but then what? My next reaction was to go to his website and check out how he has chronicled the development process, how he markets the product and to whom, etc.

Unfortunately, that’s where my search stopped. He does have a website, but it isn’t much of one. I was a little disappointed to see that though. The best possible situation after a large amount of media attention is a high traffic volume to your website and of course, phone calls for new work.

I can’t help but fall back to many of my earlier posts and so many discussions that I have had with clients and potential clients alike. Did his website get him this award? Obviously not. But his lack of a marketing presence may in fact prevent him from getting many of the calls and follow up leads that he would have gotten.

His online presence doesn’t say “ENR Award of Excellence winner,” it says “struggling start-up that may or may not still be in business.”

I mean no negativity in this post. I think it’s fantastic that Mr. Hillman’s passion and determination are beginning to pay off. I just wonder if more savvy marketing, or just more attention to marketing period, could have positioned him to win this award sooner or at least make a significant difference for him after this point.

I’d love to ask any readers’ opinions on the subject! Does HC Bridge Company’s website matter? Is the product so technical that marketing presence as a whole isn’t really that important? I know what I think…how about you?

Does Your Website Have A “Select Clients” List?

The “Select Clients” list is a pretty common phenomenon when it comes to AEC firm websites. The conversation internally usually revolves around a few key points:

1. We want to include all of our big clients on our site…
2. But wait, we don’t want to include ALL of our clients…
3. And we want people to know we can do work like this…
4. But we don’t want people to think we CAN’T do this…
5. And we definitely don’t want to write-up every project we’ve ever worked on.

Thus the list of select clients is born. The uncategorized list that shows the firm has provided a wide range of services for clients of all types in multiple markets.

But what does the list really say about your firm?

From my perspective, the problem with providing an extensive list of ALMOST all of your clients is that it has too much irrelevant info, and not enough relevant info.

When working with clients on their websites, a large part of the exercise is defining the target audience(s) so that everything can be designed and written from their point of view. It’s really difficult to work in that state of mind though! It’s so much easier to just organize things how you look for them or write things in words that you understand.

So, thinking from your potential client’s perspective, what are they looking for when they are viewing the experience or clients section of your firm’s website? Recent, relevant experience.

Unfortunately, the long list of client names doesn’t provide any information of value in their quest. They may be able to discern that you have worked for some clients with similar needs, but they won’t be able to tell what kind of work you did or how long ago. Especially in the public arena, you’re only as good as your last three-five years, so why include the last ten years worth of clients?

What to do instead? That depends on the strength of your project experience and your marketing goals. However, the idea is that the majority of your site should have enough information to impress your top three audiences (ideally the ones that make up 70-80% of your revenue). As things change, and your client list shifts, update your site to reflect the shift.

Until they shift, don’t spend valuable time and effort marketing to the wrong clients!