Experience or Expertise – Should you shave your portfolio?

I’ve had a number of conversations recently about experience – project portfolios, resumes, etc. On the flip side, I’ve been challenging clients and connections to focus on expertise.

What’s the difference?

Experience fills a resume; expertise builds a brand.

Proposals represent one of the very last chances that your firm has to share information with a client before a project award, and by their definition they have to show experience. Meeting minimum requirements for qualification means providing experience.

Expertise is what your marketing should focus on at every opportunity though, including before, during and after the proposal. The idea of focusing your marketing efforts on expertise means telling clients and potential clients what your firm is best at, not what you’re good at.

What you are best at builds your brand, your reputation, your revenue and your profit. Everything else, the projects that you just can do, will always have a varying success rate.

The tough part – sharing your expertise, but not your experience means leaving stuff out. It means trimming your website, shaving your portfolio and rewriting your boilerplate without the laundry list of industries, project types and disciplines. It’s a tall task, but a necessary one for an AEC firm to fully take control of its marketing.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Next Marketing Endeavor

There is always something else to do.

There is always another RFP, another conference, another brochure, another meeting…another bright shiny object.

What distinguishes the bright shiny object from the light at the end of the tunnel is your marketing plan. There are five questions I think AEC marketers should ask before any new endeavor. I like to think of these questions as my litmus test. If the answers aren’t suitable, we’re probably doing the wrong thing.

What problem are we trying to solve? (This could be the client’s problem, an internal communications challenge…anything.)

Who are we solving this problem for? (Be specific.)

Will solving this problem help us achieve our firm’s business or marketing goals? (The goals have to be clear.)

Can someone else handle this task quicker, cheaper or better than we can? (Know your strengths and capabilities.)

If we have done something similar and were unsuccessful, what are we doing differently? (Learn from your mistakes and retool your approach.)