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Misguided about Marketing in the AEC Industry

March 15, 2011

A Letter from SMPS Boston President, Matt Hawk, Sr. Marketing Coordinator at Fay, Spofford & Thorndike

I am misguided about marketing in the AEC industry. I call myself a marketer, my title is senior marketing coordinator, and I am a member of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. I must be in marketing. Although, my head spins when someone tries to define marketing. I blame my education for my inability to grasp the concept of marketing in the AEC industry. I have a degree in English. My first job was in publishing, I have a secret desire to write the great American novel, and I was hired in the AEC industry because I could read and write better than the other candidates. There may be more to that last phrase, but not enough to prove a background in marketing.

We, marketers are in sales— pure and simple. As support staff, we call our craft marketing so we fit into a nice, neat spot our professionals can accept as integral to their firm’s success. It also relieves them of a number of tasks they were not trained to do. Every brochure we create, web site design and redesign, article published and proposal written contribute to meeting our firm’s sales goal. Everything we do supports selling our ability to provide better customer service than the other guy.

I just blew your mind. First, I call what we do sales. Second, I tell you what we sell is customer service. As marketers, we understand the latter. As marketers, we are afraid to acknowledge the former. Sales to a marketer is smarmy car sales, and, then there is the expectation to sell something. Selling is the basic, unwritten tenet marketers are expected to perform everyday.

There was a point at which I almost made a career choice to be a house painter. One job led to the other and I found myself with the prospect of painting all year round. I did good work, but the clients needed to know their houses were safe with my crews and they were informed of and satisfied with our progress. This was my value proposition. This was my selling point. Painting was the expectation, but the warm feeling that I was invested in their house too was the service I was truly performing

All the pretty things we create are for the sole purpose of the sale. They are an integral part of the sale. We convey the architect’s passion, express the engineer’s integrity, and extol the superintendent’s attention to job site safety. We sell these descriptions because they are true, and we want the client to know we care about their projects and the people who will benefit from them. I am serious when I say we are in sales. However, there is no reason to scratch out the department name on the door, because, whether you call it sales or marketing, we fulfill an important role.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt Handal permalink
    March 15, 2011 5:55 pm

    I always felt marketing was about influencing the decisions of others. If someone sees your principal speak and, as a result, hires your firm, I wouldn’t consider that sales, per say.

  2. Valerie permalink
    March 16, 2011 9:44 am

    It’s the classic discussion – marketing vs. sales vs. BD vs. PR. They’re all related, but they’re not all the same. By generalizing functions we miss the delicate details that separate them, which leads to expectations that become unaligned with realities. Marketing is the support staff to sales. We create the value proposition and do the background work to make sure our firm is living up to that value proposition. We arm our salespeople with the knowledge, imagery, and tools to sell that value proposition, but it’s the salespeople that need to embrace the message, develop the relationships, and bring in the business. A good marketer makes the salesperson’s job easier, but they’re not responsible for replacing their function.

    • March 18, 2011 7:57 am

      Once our firm wins a project – a sale – it leaves the marketing department. Then it is the project managers in front of our clients that are the marketers. They are no longer selling, but they are building the company brand (equity) with the client. They must deliver our services with consistency every time. However as a marketing department we remind them to keep selling, to keep asking the questions that lead to another project, and to build a deeper relationship. It is in those discussions we help the PM sell additional services or the same service on another project. The marketing a marketing department does gets left behind and forgotten at a career fair or conference.

      I’m playing devil’s advocate to a degree, but marketers lose track of their importance as an integral part of the sales goal. I don’t think many CEOs or principals suggest their Web site, brochure, or press releases are as important to bringing in work as great engineering and customer service.

  3. Anna permalink*
    March 17, 2011 9:19 am

    Well said, Valerie! I could not agree more.

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