Creating and communicating relevance

Last month, I was fortunate to present a half-day seminar at the annual convention for the National Association of Women in Construction. While the overall topic was marketing, the attendees had diverse roles, with only a few having the word “marketing” in their titles. It was a lively discussion with insightful participants who left me inspired.

Since joining the A/E/C industry in 2003, I’ve heard the term “marketing” used several different ways. “We’re going to market to them.” “They put their marketing spin on it.” Or my favorite—a Dilbert cartoon that concludes with the punchline, marketing is “just liquor and guessing.”

But marketing isn’t about blasting out sales messages, the dreaded word “spin,” or taking guesses while taking sips.  Here’s how the American Marketing Association defines it:

“The activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

My condensed version of the definition is that effective marketing is about creating and communicating relevant value to clients and potential clients. These definitions—as I shared with the seminar attendees—make every one of us a marketer, regardless of role, because we are all responsible for providing value to our clients. We should continually ask ourselves, how are we delivering our value, communicating it, and advancing it?

Throughout our marketing efforts, we should keep in mind that roles in architecture, engineering and construction firms are service professions. Just like our A/E/C services are meant to benefit clients, so should our marketing and business development processes. That requires good listening, seeking to understand first and then be understood, customizing our approaches to each client, and providing information that is beneficial to our clients, prospects and partners.

When it comes to marketing in the A/E/C community, we’ve come a long way. In the ‘70s, “marketing” was somewhat of a bad word—firms didn’t believe they had to market and thought it was in bad taste to do so. That has changed, but we still have a long way to go, and it starts with how we define it and how we approach it.

If you’re a provider of professional services—what makes you distinct? How do you provide value to the organizations you work with? If you’re a buyer of professional services—what do you look for in consultants? What information is helpful to you? What can we do to provide more value for you?

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Let me know your thoughts!

Holly Bolton, FSMPS, CPSM
Director of Marketing