As the New Year begins, A/E/C firms have made (and are still making) plans for where and how to spend their marketing time and budgets in 2017. Doing what matters most, fixing what’s broken and adding what’s missing can make your marketing more effective than ever.
Just as people everywhere are making resolutions to improve their lives—both personally and professionally—in 2017, why not do the same for your firm’s marketing efforts? With the goal of improving the impact and effectiveness, here are 14 marketing resolutions to consider embracing in 2017.
1. Move beyond a proposal-centric approach to marketing
In the A/E/C world, proposals are synonymous with marketing. Outside of the A/E/C world, proposals are a product of the sales department, not the marketing department. But while proposals play a crucial role in helping get new business, a firm’s approach to marketing shouldn’t be proposal-centric or entirely limited to proposals. As the industry continues to evolve, a growing emphasis needs to be placed on non-proposal marketing activities. In 2017, look for ways that marketing can proactively support your firm’s business development efforts by reaching, engaging and nurturing prospects and clients alike before the RFP is issued.
2. Strategy before execution
It’s always a good reminder to commit to putting strategy ahead of tactics and execution. A/E/C marketers will always be tempted (and perhaps pressured) to be reactionary, but don’t give in! Strategy should drive everything you do. Whether it’s your overall marketing plan, website, social media, email marketing, tradeshows, or general communications, a solid strategy should be behind it.
3. Write it down
Speaking of strategy, your marketing strategy and the tactics that correspond to it should be written down in the form of a marketing plan. I recently spoke in front of large group of A/E/C marketers and asked how many of their firms have a formal marketing plan, as opposed to simply a list of “to-do” items for the year ahead. Shockingly, only one person in the room raised their hand. And unfortunately, I’ve found this to be more the norm than the exception. So let’s change it! In 2017, set out to develop a comprehensive strategic marketing plan. If you need help, seek out a qualified agency to assist.
4. Lose some (tactical) weight
Losing weight, dropping bad habits and being healthier seem to be perennial New Year’s resolutions for many people. A similar approach should be taken with your marketing as well. The New Year is a great time to stop doing what you shouldn’t be doing, even if your firm has been doing it a long time. Evaluate your firm’s marketing practices and look for strategies and tactics that are no longer effective. The truth is, most firms need to lose some tactical fat before they can build tactical muscle.
5. Police your brand
Assuming your firm already has a solid, impactful brand identity (if your brand leaves much to be desired then consider a brand refresh in 2017), one area where many firms stumble with branding is consistency. While especially challenging for A/E/C firms, consistency across all touch points is a crucial aspect of brand management. Try performing a communications audit that takes an inventory of your current communications efforts (online, social, print collateral, business cards, ads, tradeshow booth, signage, etc.) and identify any inconsistencies and areas that need improvement.
6. Prioritize your website
In 2017, your website will play a larger role in the business development process than ever before. Prospects and clients alike visit your website to answer their questions, perform due diligence, understand your capabilities and experience and inform selection decisions. Is your website up for the task? Whether you just launched a new website this month or are planning to redesign in the year ahead, updating and improving your website should be an ongoing priority for the marketing department.
7. Share more, sell less
Prospects and clients aren’t nearly as interested in your boilerplate, company news and thinly veiled sales pitches as you might assume. Rather than a sales pitch, they’re looking for you to answer their questions, solve their problems and establish credibility. Content marketing for A/E/C firms is all about sharing knowledge and best practices—not selling or talking about your firm—in order to attract prospects and build trust. In 2017, this philosophy should be applied to virtual every piece of content you create, whether your emails, blog articles, social media updates or proposals.
8. Commit to blogging
Speaking of content marketing, blogging should play a central role in your firm’s content marketing program. But while many firms have a blog, they are frequently ineffective and may go largely unread! This can be the result of posting the wrong kind of content on the blog, or inconsistent or infrequent posting. In 2017, commit to posting high-quality, thought-leadership-oriented content at least twice a month and ideally weekly. Blogging is a lot like working out: the more often you do it, the more results your firm will see.
9. Focus your social efforts
While social media certainly offers a lot of promise for firms to build their brands and grow their reach, focus is an absolute requirement for success. In 2017, resolve to bring more focus to your social media efforts. Choose the most relevant and appropriate social channels for your audience and content strategy and tailor your approach for each one considering the context of the platform. Be intentional with your updates and posts by tying all of your activity to your firm’s content strategy and remember to be consistent. Better to do more with less, rather than less with more.
10. Rely more on email
Email marketing has largely taken a back seat in many A/E/C marketing plans, with more focus on newer and trendier topics such as social media, content marketing and web development. But email is still the fastest and most direct way to reach clients and prospects with content and it’s one channel your audience accesses regularly. However, as attention spans have shortened and people have less tolerance for spammy emails (spam is in the eye of the receiver), following modern best practices for email marketing is critical. In 2017, consider making email marketing a bigger part of your marketing and communications plan.
11. Think mobile-first
The growth in mobile usage over the last few years has been staggering to say the least. As more and more people depend on their mobile devices for email and Internet browsing, it’s become price-of-entry to have a responsive website and send mobile-friendly emails. But in 2017, it’s important to start thinking about your marketing from the lens of mobile-first. Knowing that a growing majority of users are interacting with your content, website, emails and social media on their mobile devices, should start to be more influential in your overall strategy and approach.
12. Rethink your tradeshow strategy
Nearly every A/E/C firm attends conferences and tradeshows as a marketing and business development tactic. In many cases, tradeshow expenditures make up a significant portion of a non-payroll marketing budget. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for many firms to handle tradeshows as more of a tactical and reactionary exercise, rather than a strategic investment that demands ROI. In 2017, many firms should rethink their tradeshow strategy overall. This means scrutinizing what tradeshows they should attend, identifying a game plan, goals and metrics for each event and making conference speaking opportunities a priority.
13. Track your success
As management guru Peter Drucker famously quipped, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” And you can’t measure success without establishing goals and metrics for defining what success looks like in the first place. In 2017, aim to ensure that every marketing initiative—both digital and offline—has specific goals and quantifiable metrics that align with those goals. Establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will play a critical role in tracking the ongoing performance of your marketing and help you determine what’s working, what’s not working and where best to invest your firm’s resources.
14. Try something new
Marketing is in a perpetual state of change, with new channels, tactics and technology rolling out seemingly every day. It’s easy to get in a rut and get comfortable managing the same basic marketing playbook and marketing initiatives that have been in place for a while. But don’t make this mistake! Modern marketing is all about adapting to the evolving landscape and recognizing the need for agility in your marketing approach. There are a host of new marketing tactics and trends to consider. So in 2017, I encourage you to try some new things and add something new to your marketing mix.
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The start of a new year provides the opportunity to start fresh, and correct shortcomings from the previous year. Hopefully these 14 resolutions will provide some ideas on how to fine-tune your A/E/C marketing in 2017.