How Nancy Wolthuis creates a marketing mentality—an interview with an industry veteran
With 35 years of experience in the AEC industry, Nancy Wolthuis has developed the skills and network to help firms grow. Her title says it all. As the Client Relations Director, Nancy is laser focused on creating and fostering a marketing culture at Calder Richards Consulting Structural Engineers.
As a firm leader, what have you done to create a marketing mentality?
I believe the most important way I’ve helped to create a marketing mentality is leading by example and helping the firm principals do this as well. The philosophy of “do as I do” is the most helpful to creating this culture. If management is not using this approach, then the junior level staff members wonder why they should. They need mentors and examples. I don’t ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.
Why do you think marketing/busines development in our industry is so important?
Technical staff participating in marketing and business development is so important because our clients want to communicate with the people working on their projects. It’s about personal connections. Helping staff members learn about marketing and business development can be tricky because clearly these tasks require different sides of the brain. I find that having marketing staff help with market research, teaching connection to client, proposal services, assisting them in their efforts builds the trust and respect that I need.
How do you get firm leaders on board for your marketing initiatives?
Getting buy-in is very important and it’s successful when I can help principals engage the whole company to be on board. I have bi-weekly meetings with firm principals and make it clear how I have helped lead the efforts and hold everyone accountable for what they say they will do. I’ve found that having principals help hold other principals accountable is very effective in keeping initiatives on track. Let the principals encourage other staff members to do their business development tasks.
How do you show ROI of the marketing program to other firm leaders?
We have to ensure that work and accomplishments are rewarded. I use my database to show ROI. It tracks what project and clients our staff have pursued, and projects won. It tracks revenue in target markets. I also track how the marketing department has removed workload from the billable staff’s plate (tasks like market research, appointments scheduled, proposals or marketing materials created, etc.). I am a strong believer in marketing staff understanding the financial side of the business.
How do you get non-marketing staff involved in/excited about supporting marketing efforts?
I believe everyone gets to be involved in one client-oriented organization (i.e., AIA, DBIA, UFOMA). It’s very helpful to train technical staff on how to make good connections. I take them with me to association meetings and show them by example how to work a room. This also helps establish my credibility because they see what connections I am making for the firm.
What marketing-related training do you provide within your company?
I communicate constantly! I share articles and emails with tips. I assign technical staff to assist with getting the materials out. I encourage them to use me as a sounding board. They know they can always call me and I am accessible and happy to hear from them.
Most importantly, I’ve realized that the energy that we, as marketing leaders, give to our staff is the most important training. Make it fun! I start BD meetings with a training topic and we sometimes role play making cold calls or writing e-mails or I suggest books to read (for the introverts). I love when someone send me emails and ask me to review it before sending it to a client. We celebrate successes with a “happy dance” in the office.
Is there someone who mentored you about marketing mentality?
The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) organization has immeasurably helped me. I’ve been a member for more than 30 years and have made lasting friendships. We are stronger together than we are separately when working to advance our personal and professional goals. I have never met so many talented people that are so generous with their time to help others.
What are three tips you give your marketing coordinators to help them progress and evolve in their role?
- Be reliable and dependable—show up for work and be ready to work.
- Be a self-learner—eat lunch at your desk and use your extra time to learn. Ask questions and always be learning.
- Set career goals—work toward establishing your long-term goals always. Surround yourself with people that have goals similar to yours.