4 Tips to Put Your Sponsorship Dollars to Work

The AEC Industry really doesn’t have a long history of “marketing” in a true sense of the word. Business Development is a little more prevalent than marketing in many ways – there are almost always expectations placed on principals or other senior folks.

However, the one marketing tactic that does seem to come up over and over, even in firms that don’t think they market at all, is sponsorships.

  • My son’s little league team – slap a logo on that shirt.
  • My spouse’s local charity  – absolutely, we’ll pay a few hundred bucks for an ad in the program.
  • Industry conference/convention – may be a little pricey, but what the heck, we get a mention in the print magazine AND the website, go for it.

What tends to happen, is that all of these sponsorships add up at the end of the year and management is looking at a $5,000 line item in the budget (often grouped together as advertising) and saying “What the heck happened? We spent 5K and didn’t see a single new lead from our advertising efforts!”

The issue isn’t that sponsorships aren’t worthwhile – it’s that money was put in the wrong place and not backed up by a solid commitment. Here are a few recommendations to make those sponsorship dollars have more of an impact on your firm’s bottom line.

Show up.

If you want to sponsor an event, don’t just throw money at it. Go to the event, volunteer with the team – do what you can to show that you and your firm care about the cause.

Stay on brand.

It’s easier to show up, when you actually DO care about the event, team or publication you’re sponsoring. With that in mind, choose to support things that make sense for your brand. Sure, it helps from a marketing perspective, but it also allows for greater buy-in and less teeth-pulling to actually get people to participate.

Stay on budget.

If you don’t have a marketing budget, you should. And if you have one that doesn’t include a line item to support sponsorships, it should. It’s inevitable that your firm will place an ad in a program or on a banner throughout the year, so track that cost and be realistic about how much you plan to spend.

Include your message.

I’ve written on the importance of a good name and logo countless times, but let’s just say that your firm happens to have an acronym of your principals’ last names. Placing your acronym logo on a banner, in a program or on a shirt does nothing to build awareness or even show your firm’s support for the cause if people don’t already know who you are. Be sure to develop a logo with some form of messaging included, if it isn’t already immediately recognizable what your firm does.

DCN Webinar on Social Media for Architecture, Engineering and Construction Firms – Follow Up

Markitecture was privileged enough to lead a webinar through the Design and Construction Network this week entitled “Keeping Up with Social Media – Focusing Your AEC Firm in 2012”. We had such a lively crowd and great interaction that there were a few remaining questions after Q and A that were unanswered. Below are those two questions, and my written responses to them. In addition to emailing them to the participants, I thought it would be nice to post them for all to see!

Question: Where can you go to get continued education about Social Media?

I first noticed “universities” and things like that pop up about 5 years ago for social media certifications (they may have been around before that though). I have yet to see one that was truly valuable and none that has been fully sanctioned by any major marketing entity that I’m aware of. Going through associations like SMPS, there are plenty of wonderful courses and education sessions during conferences that cover Social Media, and if you’re a CPSM (certified professional services marketer) the courses do count towards your CE credits. The real education in this field is best obtained by interacting though. Look to some of the resources I listed at the end of the presentation to just learn what’s out there and hear what experts have to say. Content that’s published in workbooks and given in classrooms for more than six months or a year is likely going to be outdated – and that kind of goes against what social media is all about.

Question: How would you suggest approaching the issue of management blocking social media access, specifically the sales and marketing team?

Numbers and case studies. I’m not a huge proponent of sharing every study on social media use and it’s positive impacts, but sometimes that is all that management will look at. Share information that is as industry specific as possible and make the business case that “our clients our out there and our competition is talking to them.” Hubspot is great for numbers that are B2B or professional services focused, but ZweigWhite and SMPS both have marketing surveys that discuss Social Media usage as a part of the overall marketing program.

Before preparing your best argument though, try to understand why they’re against it. Is the firm behind the times on all technology? If so, you have a cultural shift that has to happen. If you have people that still rarely use their email and use hand drafting instead of cad or BIM, you’ve got a bigger battle to fight than social media.

If the issue is a concern of productivity, use the numbers, competitive benchmarks and start small – just trying to work with Twitter or one other SoMe channel. You can also try joining a few relevant LinkedIn groups on your own and sharing the email digests from them. Some of the dialogue that occurs in groups is very valuable and can literally generate leads or new key relationships.

The other big common concern is control over “what people will say”. If they’re blocking access completely, that probably isn’t the concern, but it may be. If so there are two major points. 1. If other people are talking about us negatively, they are doing it anyways and by blocking access we are not even hearing about it to do damage control. 2. Develop guidelines that outline what is and isn’t ok for “us” to say. Spend the first few weeks (even though it’s a pain), sharing every post or tweet for a quick review before posting it so management is comfortable with how things are going. They’ll loosen the reigns quickly.

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.