Project Management Insights: Delivering on Brand Is Integral to AEC Marketing and Management
How you deliver projects either supports or hurts your branding.
At a rudimentary level, the role of marketing is to create awareness and generate demand for a company’s product or service. The brand is the link to the buying marketplace, and it’s the identifier in name, logo, symbol or other intangible form. In the building and designing industry, the marketing function didn’t always get the respect or resources it deserved. It was seldom present at strategic planning sessions and often relegated to only proposal generation.
In a noisy, information-filled world—and in an industry that claims it’s being commoditized—it can be difficult to convey how one firm is different, or perhaps better, than the competition. But that’s also the exciting part of highlighting superior projects, polishing a message, and even being as innovative in marketing as the firm is in its solutions.
Within the last year, I’ve seen a welcomed increase in the number and types of firms going through rebranding or strategic marketing efforts. Investment in that area is worthwhile—but how does this relate to project management?
• Client-oriented is project-oriented. “We are a client-focused firm” is a common statement and suggests the client comes first above all else; the client’s voice is heard; the client’s money is spent carefully; and the firm understands the client’s market. Often, that’s where client mapping stops. With a client-oriented business model, the other integrated questions to answer include: What processes must we excel at? How do we leverage information and technology for competitive advantage? How do we develop client-focused attitudes and behaviors internally? Who can we sell to? How do we win? Sharpening the project-delivery system and aligning the firm to support a client-oriented culture are part of this equation.
• Refreshing the look or improving the brand? With the work and expense required for a rebranding effort, firms often don’t have the energy or budget left to address other issues uncovered in the employee surveys and client-perception studies undertaken at the beginning of the process. A new logo, glossy website and catchy marketing phrases are nice for the outside world. Did it make the overworked project manager in the out-of-state branch office feel more connected? Did it motivate teams to communicate better during design or reduce their stress to meet a deadline? Did it inspire employees to buy into the firm and become owners? Did it ease the concern of the clients who think you’re growing too fast? A new coat of paint isn’t enough. That’s a visual and verbal refresh. Rebranding is the “wrapping and bow” tied to important organizational improvements, strategic direction and cultural emphasis.
• The costs of rebranding. Hiring a consultant to assist in a rebranding effort is a real cost you’ll see and feel. Less obvious, initially, is the time and financial impact of being an innovative firm that’s agile and a trusted advisor. Providing an engineering or design solution different than the industry standard requires the time of more-expensive, senior people. Clients who need more guidance or want the Principal to lead the project will cost more in terms of meetings, phone calls and changes. You might reluctantly bear those costs, but your brand made that promise. Committing to organizational and operational changes that improve project delivery also will cost time and money. The actual amount is much less transparent, and the work is much more difficult. Many firms start the process, but since the results aren’t as tangible as a new logo and it requires a long timecycle, the effort is unfortunately abandoned.
• Selling an experience. Taking a cue from outside the industry, major brands are investing significantly in the customer experience. From malls and airports to coffee chains and athletic wear retailers, creating an experience is a leading strategic initiative. A good experience brings customers back. Your clients are no different. Yes, they received the solution or design they sought initially, but it was delivered through an experience that resonated. That experience from your firm is served through your project teams. After a rebranding exercise, sharing the new logo and website link around the company isn’t enough. Make sure project managers, technical staff, production teams, and anyone else touching a project commit to the words and experience the firm has now pledged. Do their goals and reviews reflect commitment to that promise?
Branding is influential—so much so that it warrants continual assessment both internally and externally. Are we doing what we said on the website?
Taking a new approach to all marketing collateral and logo is just one step. Delivering what we’ve promised to do or be starts at project delivery.