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.
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.