Five Steps for Creating an Effective Strategic Plan


"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there."
- Lewis Carroll

This is a quote we use often in our workshop sessions. Many AEC firms use the same tactics they did last year, not considering whether their end goal has changed or what they want to get out of their marketing efforts. We recommend a more methodical, strategic approach.

Step 1. Determine Your End Goal

Not sure what it is you want to accomplish? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where do you want to go?
    • Do you want to open a new office?
    • Add a new service?
    • Market a new client type?
  • How will you get there?
    • What are the specific steps you will take to achieve your end goal?
  • What do you bring to the table?
    • What are the advantages you provide that your competitors do not?
  • What are you missing?
    • What are the holes in your plan?
    • Are there people you will need to hire?
    • Alliances you will need to make?
    • Organizations you will need to join?

Step 2. Develop Your Visibility Plan

A visibility plan incorporates the many ways that you are seen by your clients and potential clients. These include public relations, social media, and your website.


  • How will you stay in front of your clients?
  • How will you ensure the information you share is relevant?
  • How will you communicate in a way that differentiates you from your competitors?


Step 3. Establish Your Budget

Many small and mid-level AEC firms do not have a marketing budget – they don’t want to deal with it. This is the biggest weakness we see in firms in the industry. Nine times out of ten, if a firm is not getting where they want, it’s because they’re not budgeting and supporting their goals with the money.

Some firms budget on the fly – if an expense comes up, they decide whether to expend the dollars at that time. Other firms spend what they did last year, attending the same events and joining the same organizations, without looking at whether these expenses are helping them achieve their end goal.

We recommend a proactive approach in planning a budget that supports the specific marketing efforts that will place you ahead of the curve. For a firm who wants to break into healthcare, for example, it will be important to determine upfront whether you have the money to do it effectively.

Step 4. Develop Your Marketing Plan

Perhaps the second greatest weakness for firms in our industry is a lack of understanding of the difference between marketing and business development. While business development is external, marketing is creating the internal systems and process that support the business development and sales efforts.

  • Do you have CRM?
  • Is your collateral set up?
  • Are you looking at analytics?
  • Are you signed up to display at tradeshows and conferences, and if so, do you have a booth?
  • Do you have a branded template for proposals and qualifications?
  • Are your staff trained in presentations?


If you don’t have your marketing processes and materials in place, your sales will suffer.

Step 5. Create Your Business Development Plan

Macro to micro: Go from high-level to detailed strategy when identifying and implementing business development strategies. Use research to make sure your strategies are on point.


  • What geographic areas do you want work in?
  • What Market Sectors can you compete in?
  • Who are your key clients? Make a list of your target, current, and past clients.
  • What projects do your key clients have upcoming?

Follow these five steps and you’ll have a rock-solid strategic plan to take you through the year. As strategies change, change your tactics and budget also. Something not working? Make note and take it off the list.

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Marketlink AEC

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