Guidance for AEC Industry Marketing and Business Development Leadership


Believe it or not, now is the perfect time to start preparing for your annual strategic planning session. Your firm invests hundreds of person-hours contributing to what will be your roadmap for the upcoming year or two. It’s time to reflect on how successful your marketing plan process has been in the past. Did your plan sit on the shelf? Did you structure your marketing plan with the end in mind? 


Marketing and business development activities are difficult to monitor without the appropriate quantifiable checkpoints. Many firms do not create a strategy that can be monitored and measured, and in turn are not considered successful by management. By modifying your previous process slightly, you can ensure your firm’s success. Start this new plan in the right direction. 


Make Your Plan Measurable


What does measurable mean? Elements of your marketing plan should include quantifiable data. Data will allow you to determine your return on investment and provide numbers, timelines, and black and white results and statistics. 


Why do you want to measure your marketing plan? As marketing and business development professionals, we are evaluated on our performance. We continually need to establish our credibility within the firm. Quantifiable data proves how marketing efforts can contribute to the bottom line. Suppose you can confirm your department’s effectiveness, you will begin to establish support for your budget requests and build rapport with technical staff and management professionals. 


Content Of A Measurable Marketing Plan


When establishing your marketing plan, there are two essential types of categorization: firm-related categories and market sector-related categories. 


Tactics for Firm-Related Categories


The following do not fall within a particular market sector but under general firm-related issues and categories.


Client Maintenance: Determine a percentage of revenue from the firm’s top existing clients. Then determine the number of client relations calls that need to be completed by person/firm for the year; set dates for a target number of client appreciation events; pre-determine the number of existing client meetings/contacts by person/firm for the year. You’ll always want to establish the number of client testimonials to obtain for use in marketing materials.


Size of Practice: To reach your revenue goals for the year, what adjustments will need to be made to staff members so you can increase or decrease in workload? Set a specific number of new hires/lay-offs for the firm or market sector.


Geographic Distribution: If your firm has decided to alter your existing geographic targets, how many offices will you need to open/close to meet that goal? In addition, on what specific dates would you like to accomplish certain milestones of this process?


Marketing Support: Quantifying areas of your marketing support efforts can seem like an impossible task. Ideas to consider: the number of resumes/project pages to update every month; the number of project photographs to obtain for the year; Google Analytics targets for website and social media; information to update in your marketing database with dates assigned for completion; a calendar of marketing training workshops to be completed each quarter.


Total Firm Revenue: Compare year-to-date actuals with projected year-end goals. Is your firm on track in terms of revenue, profit, and expenses? If not, determine the reason, strategize and brainstorm ideas to improve your results, and develop marketing tactics that address new strategies. Once you’ve established an overall firm revenue, divide the total amongst each target market sector by percentage. This will enable your client relations and business development efforts to be tracked more specifically by market sector.


Overall Proposal Hit Rate: Establish a target hit rate percentage for proposals, short-lists, and fee proposals per quarter.


Tactics for Market Sector-Related Categories


The following categories and tips relate to your firm’s targeted market sectors. 


Targeted Market Sectors: Determine fee goals per market sector (i.e., 14% of your revenue will come from K-12 projects); identify specific project pursuits for each market sector that will allow you to focus efforts to meet your projected fee goal; establish your staffing requirements for each market sector based on increase/decrease in revenue generation.


Targeted Clients: Take the time to list specific names of clients or agencies to target; establish the project pursuits you will qualify with each client; and make specific deadlines for outreach and go/no go decisions. 


Direct Marketing (face-to-face client contact): Establish the number of connections to be made with each potential client; identify the number of qualified clients to pursue; determine the number of tradeshows and conferences you will attend or at which you will exhibit; clarify the client associations you will target; decide how many client presentations/brown bag presentations your firm will do this year; and most importantly, review your existing client list. Are you obtaining 80% of your work from 20% of your clients?


Indirect Marketing: Determine the number of direct or digital marketing/collateral pieces to be developed and sent out to clients; establish the number of award submittals in which you will participate; create a means in which you can quantify the number of calls received from indirect marketing efforts (advertising, digital marketing, social media, website, public relations); list the professional association meetings that staff will attend; create a schedule for marketing collateral maintenance (# of updates, dates for updates, new templates); and if applicable, quantify goals for website (calls generated, number of hits, dates for updating, new business developed).



Important Areas To Ensure Your Plan’s Success


Evaluate success regularly. An important aspect of achieving your goal is regularly evaluating where you are, assessing your progress, and making changes as needed to keep on track. Quarterly evaluations can prevent costly mistakes and ensure that you have met your goals. 


Frequently evaluating the “big picture” is essential. Which tactics have produced the results defined by your firm’s initial strategy session? Adjust your efforts and focus your resources on these, and eliminate or reduce time spent on non-productive activities. 


Involve key staff in the creation of the marketing plan. The only way a strategy can be successful is if you involve all key staff members in its formation. When they are an integral part of determining the objectives and action plans, they will buy in to the process. This buy-in is also a meaningful way to begin creating a marketing mentality throughout the entire office. Start talking and including them in initial planning now.


Empower marketing staff to hold people accountable. It is crucial to monitor the progress of the plan. Marketing staff can be a key resource for this effort. If personnel assigned to specific objectives are not meeting their goals, allow the marketing manager to reassign to a staff member who would better fit the purpose.


Use your marketing plan as a catalyst for your regular marketing meetings. Take your action plans one step further: review dates and objectives in your regular marketing meetings. Staff members will feel accountable by reporting on the progress they have made for the week, month, etc.


Utilize your accounting and operations department’s resources. Your accounting department is a wealth of information that can be useful for your marketing plan. Meet with accounting and bookkeeping staff monthly to determine whether your firm is meeting the fee goals, budget requirements, etc. 


Realize this is a process. Nothing is more frustrating than putting forth the effort to make something more effective and then finding that it’s not moving forward. If you feel that all of the suggestions above are overwhelming, pick one or two areas you think you can begin and move forward with a vengeance. The small daily steps of making your plan easier to measure are what matters. These small steps will give you the confidence that you are moving in the right direction


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