Does Your AEC Firm Have a Fear of Commitment?

I’ve found that the AEC industry is an amazing beast when it comes to commitment. Where else can it take more than 6 months (or a year) to win one job, but we expect marketing efforts to produce 1-to-1 results in 6 months or less?

Marketing professional services firms takes time and consistency, both of which are necessary if your marketing efforts are to make an impact. A great strategy can go down the tubes quickly if there is no consistent execution and timeline. Likewise, brilliant execution is wasted if it only happens once and then your firm is never heard from again.

As marketers, we need to commit – to our budgets, our campaigns, our newsletters, our target audiences, our websites – for a longer period of time and measure our successes and failures by the quarters or years, instead of by the months. This length or level of commitment is driven by a multiple of our clients’ buying cycles.

When we simply respond to an RFP, we’ve hit the tail end of the buying cycle. As we all know, this rarely works out unless there is a prior relationship. It’s what we do after the loss that shows our commitment to the client though. The day after the job is won or lost is the first day of the next buying cycle for your clients. If they don’t hear from you again, you likely won’t factor into the next decision. If they hear from you consistently during the next year, you have gained awareness and proven a level of commitment to understanding their needs.

I’ve recently launched a postcard campaign that highlights three distinct marketing vehicles. All three of these play a part in showing clients how committed you are to their industry/needs – your website, your social media presence and your proposals. Obviously there a number of other ways to impact a potential client’s perception of your firm, but these three specifically are arguably the most widely used and can be uniquely crafted to show commitment to your clients.

When it comes to assessing how successful your marketing efforts are – whether one of these three or not – be sure to ask yourself how committed your firm is to the target audience. If you’re confident in your commitment, give your efforts ample time to work their magic.

Perfect Timing – When Your Firm Should Communicate

This weekend, my family and I had a blast at Top Golf, a local computerized driving range and miniature golf course. My five year old son and three year old daughter have been asking to go back every day. So, my wife and I (mostly me) thought it would be a great idea to head back over there this evening after work and try to have some more fun.

The result: nowhere near as fun. Although the weather was about the same, if not a little better, the experience was underwhelming. The place was packed, the service was slow and the kids were flat out exhausted from a long day of sun and preschool. My wife made the joke that “it was a good thing this wasn’t our first time there, because if it was I would have sworn it off.”

She was right. If this was my first experience I might not have gone back. I definitely wouldn’t have rushed back three or four days later. That led me to think about the importance of timing in everything – including communications. So, I thought I would prepare the below list of the best times to communicate with your audience based on popularly accepted stats:

Best time to send an eblast – Mid-week eblasts usually have the best open rates.

Best time to tweet – Everything I’ve seen/read points to about 12 noon East Coast time in the US.

Best time to do a direct mail campaign – Avoid major holidays unless you’re doing a holiday mailing. If you are doing a holiday mailing, a popular sentiment is to pick off-beat holidays to make a bigger impact or gain more awareness.

Best time to seek PR or earned media placements – Approach the media when you have a unique and timely success story, not just something big “coming up”.

Best time to do a blog post – Regularly. Every blog is different, but to develop followers and a consistent audience your timing needs to be somewhat predictable or people won’t keep checking back. Feeds and following tools help, but not everyone uses them. I try to post 3-4 times a month personally. Some folks post daily. Just be consistent.

Best time to launch a new website – When your team is embarrassed to send people to the site, it’s already too late. But, if you’re not yet in that boat, you should expect to redesign your site when the technology and style are outdated. As an example, Flash sites were all the rage several years back, but with the emergence of Google Analytics they have become relatively useless for tracking (without a lot of work-arounds). A simple, well-designed site can last a while, but most will start to look outdated within two-three years. Content should be updated regularly though, whenever you have something new to communicate.
Best time to go to Top Golf in Alexandria, VA – Not after a full day of school.

Three Events – One Big Topic

I’m very excited to announce three upcoming presentations/webinars that I will be giving in the coming months! As luck would have it, all three of my talks will be on social media in the A/E industry. With three presentations about a month apart, I sat at my desk thinking “how on earth will I be able to make these all different?” After a bit of soul searching though, I found a way to cater each presentation to its venue a bit and I think they should all be a lot of fun.

Optimizing the Use of Social Media for A/E Firms
Webinar hosted by ZweigWhite on August 25, 2010
Registration Info Here
This presentation will focus on the pitfalls of social media and the realistic expectations that firms should have with regards to resources and commitment.

The Business of Architecture: Firm Development, Effective Marketing and Attracting Clients
Four day web conference series hosted by Elevation Research Group September 13-16, 2010
Registration Info Here
This presentation will focus more on the resources available to firms and strategic ways to approach social media in our industry.

Architecture Week
A week of lectures and tours hosted by the Potomac Valley AIA, October 18-22, 2010
Registration Not Open Yet
This will be a more hands-on and specific look at social media for local AIA members.