Times change. Deal with it.
provided by: bluStone Marketing
In some ways it’s like watching your grandfather contemplate the latest iPhone. He kind of shakes his head, mutters something about back-in-the-day and gets a wistful look in his eye as he realizes his time has come and gone.
Here’s the version of that story I hear almost daily, accompanied by the same melancholy look:
“We had projects walking in the door for decades with almost no marketing effort.”
“Our reputation was all we ever needed.”
“Our founder and CEO brings in all the work. Everybody loves him! He’s retiring next year.”
“Our clients are treating our services as a commodity.”
“None of our technical professionals like to sell.”
Nostalgia and sentimentality are nice around the holidays, but they won’t bring profitable work in your door. This is the new normal of today and any firm that does not step up to the challenge of these new realities will go the way of your grandfather’s rotary dial phone.
Marketing – non-stop, over-the-top, aggressive and intelligent marketing – is an absolute necessity. And that doesn’t mean simply cranking up the number of RFPs you respond to. That gets you nothing but a lower hit rate. It means embracing a marketing and sales culture, engaging marketing professionals and learning as much about marketing as you know about engineering or architecture.
As you think ahead to 2018, here are four non-negotiable must-do’s if you want to be telling a different story in 12 months.
- Differentiate! Find something – anything! – that sets your firm apart from the crowd. Clients treat you as a commodity because all the firms you compete with look and sound and act EXACTLY the same. I don’t care if you become known as the firm that drives around in pink trucks, so long as you do something to set yourself apart.
- Build your brand! Within the design professions, branding is the least understood, least utilized and yet most powerful marketing tool available. The day in which you can say that it only works for beer and soap and cars is over. Yes, it works wonderfully for them. And the same principles can work for you too. Learn about the power of branding. Then leverage it to your advantage.
- Write fewer proposals. But make them intelligent, clever and laser-targeted. It’s long since been proven that throwing lots of proposals out there is a really bad way to win work. It costs a lot of money, it frustrates your marketing coordinators no end, and it simply doesn’t work.
- Get serious about business development. And get comfortable with an unpopular four-letter word: SELL! Yes, design professionals have to sell, sell regularly and sell hard. Selling requires a set of skills that wasn’t taught in engineering or architecture school and you need to learn, practice and hone those skills daily. The founding CEO can’t and won’t do it forever.
Your grandfather will manage just fine without an iPhone. But you have no choice when it comes to embracing a marketing and sales culture if you want to survive and thrive in this game.