Time is One of Life’s (and Business’s) Most Valuable Commodities

Time is one of life’s most precious commodities. Whether it’s time spent with family and friends; working on client projects or non-billable hours marketing and growing your business, there never seems to be enough of it.

This leads to an important, yet somewhat difficult question: How valuable is your time vs. another person’s? Do you ever feel your time is more important than someone else’s?

Time is one of life’s most precious commodities. In business, it’s especially valuable.

Be honest.

Time is valuable. It’s one of life’s, and in this case, business’s, most valuable commodities.

Let’s put this idea in a business context.

Many marketing consultants like me have been approached by potential clients, colleagues and others asking if they can “pick my brain” over lunch, coffee and under the guise of “meetings.”

I compare these “brain picking sessions” to walking into a department store, picking up an armful of clothes and walking out without paying.

Time is valuable. It’s one of life’s, and in this case, business’s, most valuable commodities.

The same is true of my education; continuing education courses; dedication to my clients without whom I would not have a business providing quality marketing services to A/E/C firms; my over 25 years of experience marketing for professional services firms; and hard work. If clients are paying for time and expertise, why should I give it away for free? This is neither fair nor ethical.

If you are serious about your business, you will value not only your time but that of others as well.

It Takes Money to Make Money: Why Investing in Marketing Your A/E/C Firm is Smart Business

When the economy gets tight, many professional services firms, including architecture, engineering and construction companies, unfortunately must make the tough decision to lay people off. In many instances, the first to be let go are often the marketing and business development staff.

Marketing and business development are the backbone of your business. Why lay off those who are working to bring in business?

This has always confounded me.

You get what you pay for. Invest in your marketing objectives, and you won’t regret it. There are no shortcuts.

 Consider the following scenario:

The marketing person who was laid off had many years of experience in the industry and successfully won jobs for the company.

The company eventually re-advertised the job under a different title and hired a junior level employee with little to no experience in the industry. This person left within six months.

Did the company save money by laying off the more experienced employee and hiring someone with less experience who left less than a year with the firm? Was this a wise investment?

Here’s another possibility with scarier consequences:

Instead of hiring an experienced marketing consultant to manage its social media, a company decides to “hire” a intern for free.

The company thinks it’s getting a bargain, until it realizes it didn’t consider the potential liability of having someone not invested in their business be responsible for what gets posted on its social media presences. Unaware that the intern hasn’t been paying close-enough attention, the company’s Facebook page was hacked, and smutty images and negative comments about the company have filled the page. Furthermore, the company gets slapped with a lawsuit from one of its competitors claiming that someone from the firm was posting negative reviews, etc.

Was this hassle and potential lawsuit worth the “free” work?

As the illustration above states, I wouldn’t go to a master hairstylist and tell him or her I can get my hair done cheaper. I pay for his or her experience. Would you go to a specialist and tell him or her, “No thanks. I’ll go to a ‘doc in the box’ for my surgery?”

It takes money to make money, or as another cliche goes, “You get what you pay for.”

Should Your Firm Outsource Marketing?

Here are a few responses I’ve received over the years from owners of professional services firms when asked who takes care of their marketing and business development efforts:

“Our firm has an in-house marketing department. Why do I need to hire a marketing consultant?”

“My friend’s daughter/son/niece/nephew knows about websites and/or marketing, so he/she will be taking care of all our marketing needs.”

“I saw a commercial from XYZ company who can design my website for free!”

“We are a small firm, so I do all of the marketing myself, including putting together proposal responses, posting to Facebook, tweeting, etc.”

 

Why Outsource Marketing? 

Here are some reasons why hiring a marketing consulting firm is advantageous to architecture, engineering, construction (A/E/C) and other professional services firms:

 

  • Cost. Outsourcing some or all of your marketing objectives saves money. Marketing consultants are not full-time employees; therefore, companies save by not having to pay for benefits such as medical, dental, vacation and sick leave, retirement, etc. Additionally, consultants are self-employed and are responsible for paying their own taxes.  Incidentally, companies that advertise that they/you can design your website for free most likely aren’t going to provide you that customer-focused service a marketing consultant can. Furthermore, many of the companies who offer free websites will have pop-up ads on your site; if you want them to not appear, you have to pay a monthly fee.

 

  • Fresh Perspective. Hiring a marketing consultant gives you  an unbiased and fresh point-of-view. Marketing consultants do not work within your organization (i.e., are not “in the bubble”) and are able to objectively analyze your firm’s overall situation. An employee may feel like he/she can not be as up front / honest as necessary due to being unsure of his/her “place” in the organization; fears of possible retribution, failure, etc. A marketing consultant can look at client data and needs, conduct research and work with you to develop a comprehensive plan to move your company in the direction it needs to go.

 

  • outsourcing_marketing

    There are many reasons your A/E/C firm should consider outsourcing marketing.

    Expertise.  While someone you know might claim to know about designing websites, if your website is in need of updating or, heaven forbid, crashes, will that person be available to assist when you need them?  Will your friend’s daughter/son/niece/nephew be available when you need them in a pinch? You wouldn’t hire a website designer to design a house…you would hire an architect. A marketing consultant is an an expert in his or her craft: marketing.

 

  • Marketing Staff are People…Not Machines. Proposal writing/RFP burn-out is a real thing…ask any marketing or proposal coordinator who has worked for the same A/E/C firm for more than 3 years. Proposal deadlines often coincide in quick succession which leads to stressed out staff, documents that are cut and pasted quickly with little time for proofreading. Having a marketing or proposal consultant as a resource during “crunch-times” gives internal marketing staff a chance to take a break and delegate some or all of the work temporarily. Finally, having someone review/proofread the final document before it goes to print is one of the most important and often overlooked (no pun intended) parts of the proposal process. A fresh set of eyes can catch glaring errors that people who have been working on a document for numerous hours can easily miss…and save the client from not only embarrassment but being eliminated from consideration due to careless errors.

 

  • Priorities.  If you are the owner of an A/E/C firm, wouldn’t you rather be spending your hours on billable work such as designing buildings or waterline systems than developing your website or putting together proposals? Working with a marketing consultant as part of your team is one of the smartest investments you can make and will allow you to focus on the priorities of running your business and doing the things you enjoy most: designing and building.
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Don’t Become a Social Media Marketing Mishap!

Social media can be an invaluable marketing tool for business owners who want to get the message out about their products, services, employment opportunities, etc.  There are, however, some general rules that should be followed to avoid looking like a “social marketing mishap:”

  1. Implement a social media strategy. Without one, you will not be able to deliver an effective message to your audience.
  2. What is your “distinct social media voice”? Do you have a social media policy in place? Who is monitoring your social media channels for spammers, potential issues, etc.? Who is responsible for posting, tweeting, etc.?
  3. Don’t create accounts on too many platforms too soon. Doing so will most likely result in you abandoning them. This goes back to having a social media strategy.
  4. It’s not only about “you” (i.e.. “the brand”). Share the work of others (be sure to give proper credit, of course), re-tweet, etc. This may result of others doing the same for you.
  5. Avoid using irrelevant and/or too many hashtags. If your mission is to annoy people, #this #will #undoubtedly#do #it.
  6. Don’t share too much information in a short amount of time. Create a posting schedule. Sharing too much too soon…even within minutes or hours… is a real turn-off to your followers and prospects.
  7. Proofread your posts, tweets, etc. Your credibility is on the line.
  8. Remember that social media includes being “social.” Answer questions and respond to comments. This builds trust, confidence…and makes your audience feel more connected.

Source: Adweek.com, Kimberlee Morrison “8 Social Media Mistakes to Avoid (Infographic),” July 14, 2015,  http://tinyurl.com/p9y4dmn

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What My Great Pyrenees Sadie Can Teach You About Marketing and Growing Your Business

My husband Matt and I had been thinking of rescuing a dog for a long time. We went back and forth about the size of the dog, breed (Golden Retriever? Terrier Mix? Maybe a Samoyed or Great Pyrenees?), where we would rescue our future pet companion, etc.

After months of searching, we decided to put in an application to a rescue group which helps save Great Pyrenees puppies and adult dogs. After anxiously waiting for an answer as to whether we would be approved as “proper pet parents,” we were relieved when our application was accepted, and we were invited to visit the dogs.

There were probably 20 dogs in rescue. Great Pyrenees are large, barking dogs and can be very intimidating when first approached. After visiting several of the dogs, one stood out. In fact, she “picked” us.

Sadie, my occasional traveling companion.

Sadie, my occasional traveling companion.

Her name was Sadie.

The rescue coordinator asked us if we wanted to see any other dogs. My husband asked me what I thought. “No. She’s ours.”

We brought her home the next day, and she has been an amazing addition to our family.

What does this story have to do with marketing and growing one’s business?

Great Pyrenees dogs are a unique breed. They are known to be:

  • Loyal
  • Attentive
  • Fearless
  • Tend to be steady and serious rather than silly and playful
  • Independent-Minded/Strong-Willed
  • Stubborn

Some of these traits can serve a business owner well. An entrepreneur must be fearless; he or she is steering his or her own future and must put him or herself “out there” in order to stay afloat. Whether this means going to networking events, giving presentations to a group of people you’ve never met but are in your target market…be fearless, and just do it!

Attentiveness is incredibly important in business. Be attentive to clients and potential clients. Your steadiness, attention to detail and dedication to excellence will be rewarded time and again.

When working with others, being strong-willed and too independent-minded can backfire. Also, being stubborn won’t win you any points in building relationships. One must not only talk, but listen. Compromise, communicate and always try to come to a win-win resolution.

Just remember: no barking is allowed.

A Failure to Plan is a Plan for Failure (or Why You Need a Marketing Plan)

A FAILURE TO PLAN…IS A PLAN FOR FAILURE.

These words glared at me from a poster on the wall of an engineering firm’s conference room where I led the weekly marketing meetings every Monday morning. This was almost 20 years ago.

Truer words have never been spoken (or in this case, printed on a corporate office poster).

Don’t Have a Marketing Plan? It’s Time!

Having a plan – or in this case,  a marketing plan – for your architecture, engineering, construction (A/E/C) or other professional services firm is essential. A marketing plan is a document that outlines your company’s marketing and advertising efforts for the upcoming year. It is also “living document” as things change over the course of time (personnel changes occur, markets changes, etc.).  As such, the marketing plan should be referred to at least every quarter in order to track progress.

Your marketing plan should include at a minimum:

  • Your company’s most recent financial reports (profit/loss, operating budgets, etc.). for as long as you have been in business.
  • An organizational chart
  • Involvement / feedback from staff.
    • Include not only management, but personnel in the field as well as non-managerial staff. Excellent ideas come from everyone and everywhere.
  • Understanding of the Marketplace/Target Audience
    • Who are your competitors?
    • Who are your customers?
    • Are you limited by geography as to where you can provide your services?
    • What are the current trends in your practice area or areas?
  • A List of Threats and Opportunities
    • Are there trends in the marketplace that are attracting or possibly repelling potential clients?
    • Do you have current products you offer that are poised to succeed in the current market?
    • Are the demographics in the marketplace working in your favor or against you?
  • Marketing Objectives and Goals
    • What marketing objectives do you want to achieve?
    • How do you intend to fulfill your marketing goals? A new website? Attending trade shows? Redesigning marketing materials?
    • When will these objectives occur (scheduling is important)?
  • Budget
    • What is your budget for executing the marketing plan’s objectives and goals?
    • What are your priorities (for example, a new website, first? Marketing materials, second?)?

Now, let’s get planning!

Sources: Entrepreneur.com, “The Ingredients of a Marketing Plan” and “The Small Business Encyclopedia and Knock-Out Marketing” http://tinyurl.com/zfymxpm

How Much is Customer Service Worth? It’s Priceless!

customer satisfaction_350

Excellent customer service should never be                   under-estimated.

If given the choice of choosing an architecture, engineering, construction or other professional services firm that provides superb customer service or another that provides mediocre customer service, who do you think potential clients would choose?

This insightful article provides some great tips to help your firm retain more clients, earn referrals and build a reputation for providing stellar customer service…and none costs a thing!

Source: Entrepreneur.com, Jacqueline Whitmore, “8 Ways to Offer Stellar Customer Service That Don’t Cost a Penny,” June 5, 2015  http://tinyurl.com/httodqb

 

 

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What’s On-Trend for Online Marketing in 2016?

2016 trendsWhat’s in store for online marketing trends this year? Here are a few items to watch for on the marketing “runway”:

More websites will be designed to be “responsive.”  In April 2015, Google implemented what some dubbed “Mobilegeddon,” in which websites which were not “mobile-friendly” or “responsive” were automatically ranked lower on search engines than those that were not.  Not having a responsive website impedes search visibility, causes lower search engine rankings than responsive websites and often causes potential clients to leave websites quickly due to frustration (since they can’t view websites on their mobile devices).

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will continue to shift to content marketing. Search engine algorithms have been more sophisticated and are able to filter genuine, crafted content from that which has been “gaming the system” in order to obtain higher rankings.

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Video is set to become a bigger content platform.

Video will become more important as a communication platform. Video is becoming more popular as a way to engage end users (such as using You Tube, etc.). While blogging will remain a critical component of online marketing, videos engage users quicker and at a higher rate. Some studies have shown that visitors will stay on a website for two minutes longer if it has video on it than one that does not.

Design and Speed Matter. Visually attractive, fast-loading websites that provide useful content win the day. Slow-loading, inefficient websites with information that does not engage potential clients will go by the wayside.

Source:

Inc.com,  Dan Scalco, “5 Online Marketing Trends to Watch for in 2016,” December, 22, 2015  http://tinyurl.com/zezu9uu