Marketing and Business Development Taking a Backseat at A/E Firms

Nov. 4, 2008

NATICK, MA - According to a recent survey, A/E firm leaders are having trouble getting employees to fulfill their marketing and business development responsibilities. 

In fact, 25 percent of the A/E firm leaders who took part in ZweigWhite's 2008 Marketing Survey of Architecture, Engineering, Planning & Environmental Consulting Firms say their greatest challenge when it comes to marketing and business development is getting staff to actively participate in the marketing and sales effort. "When project and client demands start to mount, marketing and business development almost always takes a backseat," says Jeremy Kamm, a consultant in ZweigWhite's Strategic Advisory Services group, specializing in marketing and strategic planning. "However, neglecting marketing and business development today almost certainly leads to slowdowns tomorrow, especially in these uncertain economic times, so firm leaders need to be explicit when it comes to planning and executing their firm's marketing strategy."

Kamm suggests the following strategies to ensure marketing responsibilities don't fall by the wayside when project demands start to pile up:

Create a schedule and stick to it. It sounds basic, but you'd be surprised how many firms don't plan out their annual marketing activities. Create a marketing plan that includes—at a minimum—a budget, an editorial calendar for all direct mail, press releases, etc.; and a list of client and industry events your firm will participate in throughout the year. The simple act of assigning a responsible party and setting a deadline can do a lot to facilitate follow through and accountability.

Set aside time for prospecting. Nobody likes cold-calling prospects, but it often comes with the territory. To make sure you stay in touch with clients and potential clients, set aside a certain amount of time each week or month for prospecting. For example, designate each Thursday afternoon client time—shut your door and spend the afternoon calling past clients, key potential clients you'd like to work with, and anyone who has expressed interest in working with your firm in the past. 

Make marketing a part of the firm's culture. Firms that embrace marketing as a part of their culture are more likely to have employees who naturally see marketing and business development as part of their jobs. Firms in this industry are quick to praise employees for an elegant design solution or successful project; however, they are less likely to do the same when it comes to marketing and business development. Raise the awareness of and importance of marketing and business development by celebrating new project wins, throwing proposal parties, and recognizing employees who go above and beyond when it comes to marketing and business development.

"Keeping clients happy and executing on projects are obviously critical to the success of any A/E firm, but so is marketing and business development. By developing a plan and sticking to it, A/E firm leaders can help ensure that employees dedicate enough time and effort to both project work and marketing and business development," adds Kamm.

ZweigWhite is a leading source of management consulting, information, and education for the design and construction industry. ZweigWhite brings together experts in strategic business planning, organization, operations, business valuation, ownership transition, human resources, recruitment, finance and administration, information technology, mergers and acquisitions, market research, marketing, project management and project delivery methods. The firm is headquartered in Chicago, IL, with additional offices in Natick, MA, and Washington, D.C. For further information, contact Jeremy Kamm, [email protected], or visit

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