No time. None. It's not possible given my schedule. Time is one of the few elements that is simultaneously a preventer and an enabler. It's precious and should be well spent. You know the firm needs work and you sense that the market is changing or at least shifting away from your main strengths. What can you do as an owner practitioner, to break the cycle? How can you possibly find the time?
Good questions all. Not to kick that dead horse BUT....as we all know, doing the same thing over and over expecting different results...you know the rest. So what is the best way to slip into the marketing and business development mindset without killing your project schedules or wiping out your family time? There are lots of ideas and philosophy's regarding building new habits. And while most habit changing ideas are valid, I still like my version to ease into the new behavior as you retrain yourself to include marketing and BD as a part of your business day. It can be an effective way to use marketing and BD to provide the set up and do a lot of the initial heavy lifting while minimizing your personal time during this adjustment period. Here is one approach I feel can be a great way start.
First - if your firm really has not been engaged in any marketing program for a while, select a base line approach to inform your former, current and prospective clients of what you have been doing and keep them up with current work and events. This could be staff news, project news, or trends.
Second - make an effort to create a minimal, low cost Inbound marketing program through your website, eBlast, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter etc. Open your accounts if you don't already have them and plan to produce one to two posts a week.
Third - make a list of former clients from the past 24 to 36 months. Call one a week based on a priority of importance. Make the purpose of the call to schedule a walk through your mutual project to see how it is performing, holding up, leasing, etc. Make it easy and low key. You are really just interested in the client, the project and re-kindling the relationship.
This idea is based on your firm having some basic level of marketing and BD staff, or a savvy administrator that can help you with simple activities like sending eBlasts, posting to social media. Your total involvement is making one call and making one future appointment to go see one former client weekly. Your new In(bound program should be timed to land in your client's inbox anywhere from 3-4 weeks ahead of your calls. This is what turns your last 24-36 months of inattention from what in a practical sense might be a cold call, into a warm call. This can make the difference between the client taking your call or just not being available.
"As usual, it's not magic and there's no silver bullet. But the one certainty is that it won't happen by itself without you."
For smaller firms, there might not be marketing or BD staff. You could be running lean on administrative support as well. This leaves 3 choices. 1, carve our more of your precious time to do the marketing and BD tasks yourself; 2, hire a young support staff who is Internet and social media equipped, maybe a part-timer; or 3, hire a professional who can take on your marketing and BD tasks, assist with writing and composition and provide you some advice on who and when to call and what to say when you do.
As usual, it's not magic and there's no silver bullet. But the one certainty is that it won't happen by itself without you. It's important to run a program like this for 90 days then see how 144 (2 posts x 6 platforms x 12 weeks) web and social media notices, 12 ( 1 x week) phone calls and 12 (1 x week) personal visits have moved the needle. The first 90 days should set some habits, perhaps enough so that we can step up the program in the second 90 days. I've got lots of variations on this theme, anyone of which might suit your schedule very well and over a 12 month period should have a positive affect on your firm and your firm's presence in the marketplace. Now imagine this same scenario executed with a strong program behind it based on a vision and mission plan for your firm and a team to help you deliver with intent for the next 12 months. Powerful indeed.
William M. Burwell is a retired Architect and Interior Designer whose career focused on corporate interior architecture in sole proprietorships, and partnerships from 9 to 120 staff. Bill retired in 2014 and began Burwell Consulting a Marketing and Management Consulting firm, to share the wisdom and experience of those 45 years Bill writes articles sharing his experience in four keystone practice areas: Marketing, Design, Project Management and Practice Management. He graduated from the University of Houston College of Architecture in 1971 and now serves the College on the Dean's Committee on Excellence. Check him out at www.burwell-consulting.com