When I sat down to write this article, I thought it might be challenging. With all of the stress, deadlines, and sometimes lack of respect AEC marketers are given, this is often a thankless job. What can I possibly be thankful for as a marketing professional working at an architecture firm? However, when I stopped to think and write, it just started pouring out of me. I hope some of my items resonate with you or make you stop and think about just what our industry provides us. It isn’t always rainbows and kittens, but it is amazing with the right perspective.
Marketing Professionals Camaraderie
Since day one working for an engineering firm over a decade ago, the community of other professional marketers embraced me and helped me in my career. Not only did I get support learning the proposal process from marketers inside my firm, but I received advice and support from marketers at other firms, sometimes even competing firms. I credit my career development to my marketing peers. Without their guidance and shoulder to lean on, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have done.
When I talk about the wonderful people I have met all over the country to marketing professionals in other industries, they are just amazed. Marketers who are in the agency setting often are competing with their peers to get the next opening and rarely form a network and friendship with other marketers outside their industry. Even other architects haven’t formed the kind of supportive relationships we have formed.
Career Growth and Advancement
There are tremendous growth opportunities for marketers in the AEC industry. Some marketing coordinators might not see especially if he/she has been working for the same firm and there is no clear path at their particularly firm. However, there are hundreds, if not thousands of engineering, architecture, construction firms in each city. Each one of them has a different organization and culture as well as vision for growth in the future. There is enough opportunity out there for a marketing professional at any level in his/her career to find a great place to work.
The way firms are evolving their marketing and business development also presents new opportunities. As firms advance their content and online marketing, more writing and content production positions are needed. This also presents an opportunity for digital and online marketing management—i.e. lead generation and funnel/pipeline tracking. Another emerging need is knowledge management. With the recession behind us, many firms have secured numerous projects and new people. Collecting, storing and analyzing this data in an efficient and efficient manner will be crucial to maintaining firm success. We are already starting to see new positions such as Marketing Technology Specialist and Database Coordinator. I suspect that this new type of position that combines marketing with technology/software will continue to gain importance in the AEC marketing departments.
Even with these new marketing strategies and technologies, firms will still need business developers to develop off-line, face-to-face relationships with clients. Clients continue to get more sophisticated and the projects more complex which means sellers with technical knowledge will need to be at the frontline of your business development teams. Less seasoned seller-doers will need coaching, training, and support to be successful in new business development roles. This presents new opportunities for marketing professionals to train, coach, and support them in this role.
The great thing about AEC firms is that they are in every major city, suburb, and nearly every rural area. About a month ago, I presented the basics of AEC marketing to the Student SMPS Chapter at UCF. I had a slide that talked about the advantages of the being an AEC marketer. Although this is very self-serving, as I trying to convince the room of about 50 to come into our industry, it really made stop to think about the advantage of mobility.
If you work for a large firm with multiple offices, you can most likely move to a different city through a firm transfer. If you want to move to a different city for whatever reason, there are most likely AEC firms already located there. In today’s marketplace, at least a handful of them are looking for marketing professionals.
This is an advantage that I think most of us overlook. If our spouse gets transferred, we want to move closer to family or just want a new adventure, our position, and skills as an AEC marketer are very mobile to the new area. Even more so, if you have already built your marketing network nationally through organizations such as SMPS.
I know I am guilty of being so focused on pursuit after pursuit or overseeing my team that I forget to stop to be in awe of the projects my firm designs. I am grateful to work at firms (both present and previously) that have designed some of the greatest structures and facilities in the world. Some of the solutions the talented engineers and architects have developed are mind-blowing. Yes, they don’t get me information when I need. Yes, they are often too humble which makes it difficult to get the really good info for the projects they designed. Yes, they get hung up on a color of a box when I really need them to write the darn cover letter! Despite all of that they are very talented professionals who develop awe-inspiring solutions and designs every day.
I am a very competitive person. I think every marketing and business development person should have a strong competitive streak. We need to have that desire to win to keep moving on and striving to make each one better than the last one. I am not ashamed to say that I am grateful when our firm wins. The pursuit team works hard to win. It is fun to win. We shouldn’t feel ashamed to admit that. We too quickly move to the next proposal to take the time to enjoy the moment of winning.
I am grateful for the friendships I have made through my network. I have made friendships that will last the rest of my life as an AEC marketer. These are deeper than networking acquaintances or work friendships. These friends know my husband and kids, know my worries and fears, and are there when I need a shoulder. We go through some unique challenges in this field. When I first started out and was in an office where I was the only marketer, I didn’t have too many people to talk to through about my struggles with deadlines, proposals, engineers, etc. My husband didn’t understand and my friends were in different industries. This is when many of my AEC marketing friendships developed.
Direct Connection to Management/Executives
Often times marketing professionals, even junior staff, and assistants, are in meetings and correspond with upper and executive management of the firms. This allows us to have exposure to firm decision-makers and influencers, often times much more exposure than just a junior designer or young engineer. This exposure is just like getting face-time with a client. They notice you, relationships form (albeit professional), and you gain name recognition. When a special project or important pursuit is there, your name could be top of mind. This is another great way to advance your career.
I didn’t realize this until earlier this year. There is a woman I know who wasn’t sure if she wanted to stay in marketing or move to the operations side of the business. She tried out a project assistant type role for a short while and found her way back to marketing. When I discussing this with her, it hit me by moving to the operations side she was just one in a sea of operations folks. When she was back in marketing, she had opportunities to work directly with upper management and executive team members. I don’t know if she even realized this.
Everyone might not like to be directly working for upper management and have the opportunity be in the know of firm decisions. However, if you do being a part of the marketing team is the place to be.
What are you grateful for?
Even though today might be one of those challenging days for you, take a moment to think about one thing that makes you grateful to be a professional marketer working in the AEC industry. It takes more than just thinking about it to feel better. Write it down or say it out loud. Better yet, leave it as a comment below. Your gratefulness might just brighten someone else’s challenging day.