Clients want to learn about your firm’s capabilities, resources, and experience, but only as it relates to them and their projects.
One of the best-known songs in the Pink Floyd catalogue includes a voiceover that says: “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you haven’t eaten your meat?” The same can be said about marketing when we’re talking about best practices, processes, and methods to our madness. There’s a reason why old sayings like “don’t put the cart in front of the horse” still ring true to this day. Melodies have structure, processes have steps, puzzles have pieces, and walls have bricks.
At AEC firms we are full of ourselves and are not afraid to show it. The most popular slide at a presentation is “About XYZ Firm,” and we absolutely love to talk about how amazing we are and the array of wonderful things we have accomplished. This approach usually overshadows one tiny little detail: It’s not about us, it’s about them! Of course, clients want to learn about our capabilities, resources, and experience, but only as it relates to them and their projects. It is entirely up to us to engage them in our conversation, but making it all about us before them is essentially asking for the pudding before eating our meat. Here are some things to consider in your marketing and business development efforts:
- The research brick. Websites, archives, annual reports, news items, regulatory databases, social media channels, your network, colleagues, and other clients – we all need to simply learn everything there is to know about our potential clients, the opportunities we’re pursuing, and the people with whom we must make contact. Research is an ongoing task since knowledge has a beginning, but no end. Use every tool at your disposal, keep track of the fruits from your intelligence gathering, and share them with others.
- The listening brick. Albert Einstein said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” Once we get in front of that client, we have to listen and listen hard. This business is all about relationships, and just like a successful marriage, the key is to know, listen, and understand your partner. Go beyond the facts of a project or a plan; keep digging to comprehend not only the finer details, but the big picture, including what’s at stake for each player. Listening is also an ongoing task that requires discipline because we usually neglect it – just ask my wife!
- The mortar brick. So now that we know and understand, we are ready to bind the bricks together and tell a story that will resonate with our audience. This is the right time to talk about your business’ awesomeness levels and the outstanding relatable projects you have completed recently, with the huge caveat for describing how these things are relevant to them. This is a delicate balancing act, just like adding the right amount of water to the mortar powder to create the perfect binding agent. Every time we talk about ourselves or our companies, we must remember to ask why. The answers will set you free.
Tattoo this cyclical process in your mind: learn, understand, apply – research research research, listen to their issues, and apply your experience to their situation. As you’re building your marketing wall, treat it as vision board, not as a dividing obstacle and let it guide you in the right direction – that it’s about them!
Javier Suarez is the central marketing and sales support manager with Geosyntec Consultants. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.