Although architecture, engineering and construction firms generate business in many ways, classic marketing and sales tactics remain at the heart of that. Executing a joint strategy, each helping drive the success of the other, should improve a company’s return on resources invested in both. Marketing and sales are two different functions, but both must focus on revenue growth. Marketing is fundamentally a “one-to-many” sales relationship, not generally tied to a specific client. Sales, by contrast, focuses on individual clients in “one-to-one” sales relationships.
In many A/E/C firms, these functional groups interface little, with marketing staff unclear about what sales staff is doing (and vice versa). A close integration can yield a highly sophisticated marketing effort that helps drive revenue because it operates in the context of a sales strategy. Simultaneously, the sales process is more effective as it leverages the groundwork laid by marketing, making the sales cycle shorter. These groups must serve the same master—pipeline and backlog. Integrating them is a must. An integration strategy must incorporate:
A sales plan It’s best to start with a sales plan rather than a marketing plan. A good sales plan has focus—such as geographies and market sectors—generally based on the firm’s skills and portfolio. A list of target clients further focuses efforts and helps determine how to allocate resources. A good sales plan provides transparency so stakeholders understand goals and expected outcomes.
A marketing plan Marketing needs a plan that supports a firm’s sales strategy. Most marketing efforts are ad hoc rather than integrated, reducing the return on investment. A more “tapestry-like” approach weaves tactics together in which activities drive and support each other, increasing the impact of each subsequent tactic. Then overlay the sales strategy with the marketing plan to ensure integration and cohesiveness—with a focus on sales goals.
Building the brand A brand is more than a logo and corporate color scheme. Though subtle and sometimes illusive, a brand encompasses all the intangibles of a company’s reputation. While not something the prospective client can touch and feel, a brand influences client opinion and expectation and gives them an indication of the customer experience. It can convey values, quality, integrity and other aspects of a firm’s cultural and operational norms. At its best, a brand helps potential customers “self-select” and seek out service providers that complement or match their culture and business. Marketing efforts that focus on brand-building should draw the potential client in.
Improving sales skills To achieve growth goals—especially in today’s competitive environment—firms must become better at acquiring new clients and expanding the scope of services to existing clients, while controlling cost. This means improving sales skills, prospect targeting and partner networks to build pipeline and convert opportunities into backlog. Embracing selling as an acceptable, honorable component of client service is key. When sales efforts are led and encouraged from the top, and accountability for developing and maintaining quality relationships is shared throughout the firm, an effective sales culture can flourish.
Maintaining customer loyalty Even firms with a long list of repeat clients must not take those for granted. Project teams must always strive to achieve the highest levels of customer satisfaction, implement active and on-going stewardship of critical relationships and teach clients how to best utilize skills and services. Stewardship, much like sales, should be held accountable for the health of client relationships.
Making the most of what you have It’s rare that an A/E/C firm can afford the luxury of full sales and marketing legions who get out and keep the pipeline of work full and flowing. But a simple plan that incorporates the critical components outlined above and that takes full advantage of the benefits of both marketing and sales can take a firm down a much smoother and straighter road. A little planning—and a little integration—make for healthier client relationships and a healthier bottom line.