Do you want a surefire way to get your firm’s ALL-IN marketing training program launched? There are five practical steps that marketing and HR departments can take in adopting, developing, and implementing a long-term, AEC-focused marketing training program. This training strategy is the most effective way to develop and maintain an ALL-IN approach to marketing focused professional development for your architects, engineers, contractors, administrative and marketing colleagues.
Marketing training initiatives that are not developed as a “program” that is administered consistently or consists of one-off sessions often fail to meet organizational objectives and participant needs. Effective, on-going training that can be delivered consistently and with purpose is especially important under normal circumstances, and now even more important with today’s increasingly remote workforce.
An effective AEC marketing training program for employees should be built by following a systematic, step-by-step process. Below we outline the five necessary steps to creating an effective AEC training program that will result in positive business impacts by supporting your firm’s overall strategic plan.
- Assess training needs: The first step in developing a training program is to identify and assess the needs of your marketing staff, technical staff, firm management, principals, projects managers and others that take part in marketing related activities. Assess which areas of your marketing and business development skills need attention by various groups within your firm. These can include:
- Direct marketing skills: any topic that provides guidance and training on making face-to-face contact with existing or potential clients.
- In-direct marketing skills: any topic that provides training on marketing or business development areas that are support functions for your marketing objectives.
- Set organizational learning objectives: The training needs assessment process (organizational, task & individual) will identify any gaps in your current training initiatives and team member skill sets. Once you understand the needs or your team members, you can analyze these in conjunction with the overall strategic planning goals. Review each firm objective and then determine how training can assist with achieving and exceeding these goals. Answer questions such as:
- How do we increase our firm’s hit rate? Maybe by providing guidance through more effective interview training? Does our firm’s project pursuit strategy need some fine tuning? Who would be best to be involved in training that will increase the firm’s hit rate? What type of training is available or needs to be developed?
- How can we utilize our technical staff’s knowledge of clients and projects to make our marketing content more focused to client needs? Can our technical staff use some training in how to write project write-ups that capture solutions provided during projects?
- What individual needs do our AEC staff members have to meet their business development goals? How can our training program provide this help? Is one-on-one help needed?
These gaps should be analyzed, prioritized, and turned into the firm’s overall training objectives. The goal is to bridge the gap between all your staffs’ current and desired performance/knowledge through the development of a program that has the firm’s business goals at its core. At the staff level, the training should match the identified areas where improvement is needed.
- Create a training action plan: The next step is to create a comprehensive action plan that includes learning objectives based on needs assessment, instructional design, content, materials, and other training elements. Resources and training delivery methods should also be detailed. While developing the program, the level of training and participants’ learning styles need to also be considered. Training approaches should be varied and provide options that meet the availability and needs of your team. Here are a few examples of different types of training formats:
- Case studies: Case studies can provide a quick reference for your staff to learn about actual marketing and business development situations that happen in real life. Case studies are best used for focused topics, such as making a cold call or new client introduction meetings, as more complex topics will generally require more in-depth training. These case studies are a great opportunity for firm management to provide mentoring.
- Coaching/mentoring: This one-on-one type of training focuses on fostering a relationship between a staff member and a trusted senior level team member. The one-on-one training style allows for continued support throughout the progression of the trainee’s career development.
- eLearning: eLearning consists of online courses, webinars, testing materials and other training materials. eLearning allows participants to complete their training at their own pace and is one of the most convenient and cost-effective types of marketing training to implement, especially if staff members work remotely or you have multiple offices. eLearning can be interactive, which may increase the rate of participant engagement with the program. An eLearning program can fit many needs, and there are many sources to find relevant AEC marketing related training information such as smps.org.
- Group training activities: Group training can be useful in sparking discussion, training through collaboration and team building. It allows team members to train together and learn from one another in an environment that best fits their needs. The activities and discussions that take place in group training can be facilitated by your firm’s marketing leader.
- Hands-on training: Hands-on training encompasses any practical training conducted directly on the job. This type of training focuses on the specific role and the staff member's proficiency at performing it.
- Marketing leader-led training: Marketing leader-led training occurs with the firm’s marketing leader(s) as trainer presenting the material to participants. This provides an opportunity to for staff ask questions to further understand what's being taught, especially for very technical or complex topics. This approach allows for the marketing leader to tailor the education topic to fit the unique and individualized needs of the participants. Trainers can adjust their teaching style to match the experience level and learning style of the employees.
- Management-specific activities: This type of marketing training is focused primarily on the needs of firm leaders and management and can include the use of simulations, brainstorming sessions, team-building exercises or other combined types of training.
- Implement training initiatives: The implementation phase is where the training program comes to life. Firms need to decide whether training will be delivered in-house or with an AEC marketing consultant. Program implementation should consider colleague engagement and learning goals, as well as thoroughly planning the scheduling of training activities and any related resources (facilities, equipment, create questionnaire process etc.). The training program is then officially launched, promoted, and conducted. Firm leaders should determine how they want to require program participation and communicate with the participants how they are expected to participate. During training, participant progress should be monitored to ensure that the program is effective.
- Evaluate & revise training: As mentioned in the last segment, the training program should be continually monitored. In the end, the entire program should be evaluated to determine if it was successful and met training objectives. Feedback should be obtained from all stakeholders to determine program and its effectiveness, plus knowledge or skill acquisition. Firm leaders should determine how they want to require program participation and communicate with the participants how they are expected to engage. Successful firms incorporate the training program into employee evaluation interviews and have a minimum requirement of training that must be met. Analyzing this feedback alongside an employee performance review will allow the company and training program organizers to identify any weaknesses in the program and use feedback to build a more robust experience. At this point, the training program or action plan can be revised or re-assessed if objectives or expectations are not being met.
An AEC marketing training program is the most effective and engaging way to create an ALL-IN mentality for your marketing objectives. This specialized and targeted training, mentoring, and coaching approach allows marketing leaders to focus on the unique needs of individuals, studios, branch offices, departments, technical teams, marketing staff and service disciplines to accomplish the goals set forth in your strategic planning process.