John Diffenderfer is president of Aedis Architects and co-leads the firm with Thang Do. For nearly seven decades Aedis has developed expertise in K-12 and higher education design. 


As firm leader, what have you done to create a marketing mentality in your firm?  

We are currently training our office on each individual’s role and importance in the overall marketing and business development process including how to interface with our Marketing and BD staff. We also include training on our CRM system. We discuss how our everyday work and relationships with clients, builders, and consultants are part of the brand and an extension of the marketing mission. These trainings are held via lunch and learns. We are also building a curriculum for our professional development program.


Is there someone who mentored you about marketing mentality? 

I don’t think it’s been just one individual. I attribute my academic knowledge to SMPS training opportunities. The regional conferences have also been really great for me. I wish I had had a mentor a decade or so ago. Less trial and error along the way, and maybe more success now. 


How do you get firm leaders on board for your marketing initiatives? 

Mostly slow, gentle pressure. I like to highlight when things go well and what might have happened to get us there. And alternatively, what could have gone better and what the lead-up was. It’s mostly about putting a spotlight on the important things. Formal creative initiatives and campaigns are still a challenge. 


How do you show ROI of the marketing program to other firm leaders?  

It is mostly revenue and a cumulative win rate for a year or over a period of time, versus our marketing budget. 


What is the best way you have found to get your technical staff involved?  

With food! In addition to the lunch and learns described above we also encourage staff to be CRM self-starters. I appreciate that my staff is proactive and makes time to meet with key people to transfer information. We have also learned to support and encourage the willing and able. 


What are three tips you give your marketing coordinators to help them progress and evolve in their role? 

  1. Keep things simple, don’t overthink things. 
  2. Look for what works, rather than what you THINK SHOULD work. 
  3. Over-communicate, not under-communicate.


What are the biggest hurdles your firm faces related to marketing?  

It’s challenging to compete with firms with more robust systems, grander portfolios, and full-time business development staff with skill and knowledge. Also, really homing in on our win themes -- refining the relevant message that resonates with the owner.

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