Proposing new work, qualifying for new work, tweeting, socializing, blogging, networking, branding, planning, relationship building, forecasting, developing and advertising; it all falls under marketing and it is always changing. This list could go on and on and with so much ground to cover by the marketing department alone, it’s a wonder how one department can handle it all. Where should the time be spent? What should be the focus? When is it ok to say no? And when should the envelope be pushed a little further? All of these questions are being asked all over South Florida, in and around the design community, who are (hopefully) starting to see a welcomed upturn in the local economy. These questions were also being asked at the monthly Miami AIA meeting, held last Thursday May 22nd at the Coral Gables Museum as the Women In Architecture hosted the “Marketing for the New Normal” event.
Moderated by Cheryl Jacobs, Executive Director of AIA Miami, Cheryl has 20+ years experience in Marketing and Business Development. The panel of professionals that Cheryl and AIA Miami put together has a combined experience of over 40 years. With such seasoned professionals present, it was great to hear their perspective on the “New Normal” for marketing in today’s economy. I found there were several key topics discussed which I’d like to expand upon.
DEFINE, PLAN, BE FLEXIBLE:
First, let’s define Marketing. What it is and what it isn’t. Marketing, Business Development and Public Relations are actually three distinct entities. Marketing is the actual promotion of the business. Business Development is building relationships and Public Relations is the image of the business. All three categories have different defined goals and courses of action, however the message of all three must be the same in order to be successful. It’s important that all three groups understand the message of the company and present it in a cohesive manner. Is your company a small company? If so, that’s ok! Maximize your existing staff and remind them that even though their title may not say “marketing”, the entire company is actually the marking department as well as the face of the company. How they interact with clients as well as networking in social environments showcases the company so make sure the message is being presented clearly and consistently with everyone. Another part of successful marketing is the marketing plan. This plan should be a fluid document that is constantly changing. What are the company’s strengths? Weaknesses? Desires? Where does the company want to focus? And where does the company want to go? With so much information that is requested for RFPs and RFQs, it is important to be self critical and ask the question, “Can we really do this project”? If the answer is no, then sometimes it is okay to pass on that project and pursue others that will let the company focus on what they’re good at.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE:
They say “your next best customer is the customer you currently have”. What a true statement, yet, rarely do we look at it this way! The number one goal of any project should be to have 100% customer satisfaction. If you have done that, then you know it is a successful project. In order to know if you’ve done a fantastic job and to keep the customer coming back, communication is key. If Bobby, Sally and Jimmy are all satisfied with the project, but Mr. Owner isn’t, that is not a success. In order to know if Mr. Owner is satisfied, talk to him, keep the lines of communication open, become his friend and fix whatever issues there are. What a great opportunity to show your strengths as a problem solver by fixing the problem correctly and in a timely manner. After you fix the problem, call the owner and follow up. Make sure they are truly satisfied. The design and development industry is a customer service industry, so service the customer. After all, you’re only as good as your last project. Along the same lines of relationship building, sometimes the tweeting, social media and emailing aren’t good options. Sometimes it’s best to stick to old fashion methods like picking up the phone and making a call. And in the case that you really want to impress someone, why not revert back to the ancient art form of writing a note! What better way to show how much a relationship means than to write a personalized Thank You note or greeting card. This is something that is rarely done anymore and if you take the time to do it, it can go a long way and speaks volumes to what the relationship means to your company.
The final marketing strategy that was touched upon is to look to the future. What are the trends going to be in the next 5 to 10 years? Now if we all had a crystal ball, this would be an easy task! Begin to look at the region and see if your company has the option of tapping into an undiscovered market or specialty. Going into uncharted waters can be a scary thing but also extremely rewarding when executed properly. This takes keen insight, a great sense of intuition and a little insider information. Meeting with experts in the development industry can help you identify these unexplored avenues and also help you establish relationships with other individuals who many need your services in the future. If you company finds itself in over its head on a new endeavor or sees an opportunity but doesn’t feel it has the experience to take on the task, consider teaming up with another firm with complementary strengths to that of your firm. And in the case that you know a loss is eminent, it is okay and sometimes best to say no. Stick to your strengths and pursue the opportunities that will be the best fit for your firm. And speaking of the next big thing, I can’t end without making reference to social media! What a trend this has been, however, I would say that social media isn’t a trend, it’s the future. It’s here to stay and so with that said, it’s important to realize the potential of this brilliant marketing tool. Does your company have a Facebook account? Are you on Linked In where thousands of other professionals are? Have you been on Twitter and are you learning about what’s “trending”? If not, you need to be as there is valuable information out there. After all, the more you’re out there, the more you’ll be seen and recognized and more likely to get the call.
In closing, I’d like to thank the AIA Miami for putting on such a great event as well as the panel of experts: Vanessa Bermudez, Judy Carty, Juli Edwards and Betty Sanchez for their time and expertise and sharing all that they’ve learned over the years about Marketing.