Marketing Our Engineering: What We’ve Accomplished
Marketing your engineering firm is not a means to an end. Like the work we produce for our clients, it’s an ongoing process of discovery, expansion, and refinement. We learned long ago that in all things we do you need to treat the work as a marathon and not a sprint. In our case, it’s a marathon with no finish line—you just keep moving!
Many people say that your reputation precedes you. While that is often the case, it’s equally challenging, as a business, to have any reputation at all. Many firms close their doors because they couldn’t manage to find their momentum. While we’ve long risen above that particular problem, we’re still looking at ways to fine-tune that reputation. Ideally, we’d like you to know about us well before our first conversation. Our marketing team has that tall mountain of a problem to chip away at. Every day they ask themselves, “how do you market an engineering firm differently than all the rest?” With our most recent efforts, we think we’ve found a great solution.
Going Beyond Hello & How Are You?
It’s no secret—many engineers lack the “soft skills” that make them the life of the party. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions. However, when an engineer is engineering, it’s often hard to break away from a task for something even as simple as a “hello” or a “how are you?”.
Knowing this, a few years back we began to put together a marketing team that can handle the soft skills that are always desperately needed in an engineering firm. Mark Workman, Executive Vice-President/Owner, explains our thought process in detail.
“The leadership team realized that traditional marketing would work and we could maintain our market share but it would be very difficult to grow into new and more robust markets if we did not embrace new technologies by being forward thinkers.
Some people in the engineering industry might say our approach was unorthodox for our size company, however, we would say we were imagining ourselves in the future; how we needed to reinvent ourselves and take what other industries have done and apply it to the engineering industry.
The original thought process was to develop a strong purpose before we even started the hiring process. We wanted to hire for a variety of opinions and hire people who love to exceed client’s expectations, also realizing of equal importance the team members and relationship builders that have everyday interaction with our current clients. We have been able to blend traditional strategies (relationship building) with more innovative ones. We did all of this by doing small experiments until we found traction and then moved forward with an intentional purpose.”
Even We Were Surprised by the Results
We’ve had a solid marketing team for some time now. Slowly, as we made our way into what was originally uncharted territory, we got a feel for what worked and what didn’t. Finally, our reputation was beginning to precede our firm positively—it was engaging with potential clients before they even reached out about our services.
Mark was one of the first to see the writing on the wall and appreciate the impact of this team. “The impact our marketing committee has had on the company would be hard to quantify and measure accurately. However, our footprint has grown, client quality has grown, our success rate has increased, and our brand is more well known. I state all the time that in the past I would have to take 15 minutes of an initial potential client meeting explaining who we are and what we are about. Today, most clients start talking about something we are doing and ask questions about something they have read on one of the social media platforms, thus giving us more time discussing the client’s needs, solutions, and expectations.”
Our Marketing Team Isn’t Just About Awareness, it’s About Relationships
It would be a mistake to think a marketing team should solely focus on brand advocacy. While it’s important to increase the radius of your audience and their engagement, it’s also important to apply the unique skills of your marketing team to the relationship you’ve already built with clients. It’s no secret marketing and communications go hand-in-hand. At BFW/Marcum, we knew that business development and marketing are two peas in a pod. That’s why Lance Allison, Director of Business Development, also heads our marketing efforts. We asked Lance what it is that he brings to the firm, as he has no foundational roots in engineering.
“My role over the last four years has changed so much from what you would consider the traditional role of business development, which is to chase and secure projects. I came from the Chamber of Commerce world with very little knowledge of engineering, like…very little.
However, I brought with me a skill set that lends itself to business development in that I understand the importance of building relationships and communicating the brand. So today my job leans heavily in the marketing arena (public relations and social media) along with building relationships with key people within local government, education, and transportation. I spend a good portion of my day researching the latest trends in social media and making sure our company is utilizing the right tools to reach current and potential clients.”
Mark also thinks of this team as a means to balance our principles and culture as a firm. “The marketing team is also responsible for making sure there are no internal silos and everyone knows what is going on within the company. We want everyone internally and externally to know our mission and values.”
Making Our Engineering Firm Marketable
Lance has learned much during his tenure at BFW/Marcum. For one, he’s learned how to market even the most hard-nosed engineer. Through the years, Lance has realized everyone has a story to tell if you prod them enough.
“Engineering is, on its surface, very foundational and not so flashy. It takes a unique and persistent group of people to highlight our services and our minds in a way that make us stand out from other firms. In a very general sense if you were to place 5 engineering firms side by side you’d find that every one of those organizations has brilliant and talented people. Yet, who is asking them to talk about themselves?
How you set yourself apart can be a determining factor in your success and that is what we have been able to do. Today, BFW/Marcum is focused on our values and our people—the two go hand-in-hand.
Our focus is top-down, all the way through from our owners to the administrative professionals signing the checks; we’re interested in all of the people that represent our firm. After all, each person has a unique perspective—we want to let it shine.”
Making Our Message Visual
Messaging is one thing—it can tell a good story and engage your audience. However, making it look good takes a whole different set of skills. Both Mark and Lance knew that to have a successful message, they’d need someone to make it visual.
Melissa Faughn, Graphic Designer, weighs in on that challenge.
“My job as an in-house graphic designer is always changing. That’s my favorite thing about the job. One day I’m in a meeting with engineers discussing the finer points of a project so I can make a PowerPoint presentation, the next day I’m creating ads for publications, and on yet another, I’m measuring walls and designing artwork for our multiple office locations.
The ever-changing tasks and the surprise!-I-need-this-by-end-of-the-day projects keep me on my toes and keep the creative juices flowing.”
Melissa greets the task of translating an entire firm’s thoughts and ideas head-on.
“Everything that comes out of the Marketing Committee is a collaborative effort. Our group has varying skill sets and personalities and includes our Vice-President, Administrative Assistant, Business Development team, IT Manager, CFO, Marketing Coordinator, and a Graphic Desinger. This amounts to a lot of voices but a lot of brilliant ideas. One of my greatest challenges is combining everyone’s ideas and refining them into the perfect marketing piece. Something that brings everyone’s vision to life.”
Relevance is No Longer a Paint-by-Numbers Affair—It Takes Ingenuity
Without our team’s efforts, we simply wouldn’t have the success we’re seeing. Lance understands the importance of having a broad view of your accomplishments so you don’t miss what is in the periphery.
“Many firms are so laser-focused on the projects in front of them, they miss out on what they should be doing to continue being relevant and successful. We are no longer competing in an era where starting and finishing a project at the right price is all that is required. The successful firms are the ones that are building relationships, communicating their brand, and are staying on top of the latest trends in their field and the new landscape in the field of engineering includes marketing and branding.”
Lance hits the nail on the head. To put it simply, marketing isn’t just about selling a product. When done well, it’s about looking behind you, looking forward, and even looking side-to-side. There are opportunities everywhere—opportunities to learn, to grow, and even a few happy surprises along the way. Without a team willing to be the lookout you’ll more than likely miss more than you think. To us, that’s the essence of marketing—a team of open minds and open eyes. We’ve built our marketing committee on that foundation, so it comes as no surprise to us that its standing proudly as a beacon to those efforts.