Posted in practice on October 20, 2015 10:44 am EDT

How to Develop a Marketing Plan from Scratch

Why do AEC firms need a marketing plan? The biggest reason is allocation of resources.











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TAGS: business, marketing, value creation,


By Cathy Hutchison

Why do firms need a marketing plan? The biggest reason is allocation of resources. A marketing plan outlines the strategy for how money and effort is applied in order to win work. But if your firm doesn’t have a plan—or if you have one but it isn’t current—how do you create something that is actually useful?

As Simon Sinek recommends, “Start with the why.”

Create clarity

One of the challenges to being a leader in our firms is that we are already immersed in the ideas we want to communicate to the marketplace every day. It skews our perspective. We often overestimate not only how informed the marketplace is about what we do, but also how informed our own teams are.

Patrick Lencioni in his bestseller, "The Advantage," says that leaders must have the answers to six critical questions in order to communicate with clarity:

• Why do we exist?

• How do we behave?

• What do we do?

• How will we succeed?

• What is most important, right now?

• Who must do what?

Starting with the six questions is a great way to start a marketing plan. It creates understanding within our own teams which improves our external communication—which can result in a team culture where everyone becomes a marketer.

Identify where work comes from

Do we know where work comes from? Most doer-sellers are so immersed in client relationships that we forget how the relationships started. While decisions on large projects are influenced by multiple decision-makers, typically, it is a single individual that gets us in the door. How did we meet that person? What made them choose us?

Developing client profiles helps us know how to tailor our messaging. Just as an advertising agency spends a lot of time getting to know a target audience, we have to know our target market at an individual level. For those of us working with churches, is the biggest influencer the senior pastor? The executive pastor? Or are we brought in through other influencers such as construction managers or the leadership in a particular denomination? By taking time to identify who brings us work and figuring out what matters to them, we can find the intersections between why we exist and what they care about.

Qualitative research is a great way to find out what is truly important to potential clients, because the best way to know what people are thinking is to ask.

Influence touchpoints

Often when people talk about marketing, the focus is on external communication to people we don’t yet know—touchpoints, like tradeshows and advertising. But just as significant are touchpoints with the people we do know, like existing clients, industry professionals or our own employees. Touchpoints can be any interaction a person has with our firm—and all of them can be influenced.

Touchpoints can be any interaction a person has with our firm—and all of them can be influenced.

You may have heard it said that “you can’t see the label when you are inside the jar,” but we can climb out of the jar long enough to do an audit of our touchpoints to try to see them as a client might see them. We simply have to shift our perspective. What is the experience a prospect might have when they:

• Visit our firm’s website.

• Read a report.

• See an employee’s profile on LinkedIn.

• Hear about us from someone in the industry.

• Stop by our office.

• Have a conversation with someone on our team.

• See an advertisement in a magazine.

A decision to hire a firm is formed by the impressions made through multiple touchpoints. The more we can create clarity and continuity, the more effective our marketing.  continued >>