07 May COVID-19: You may have been focused on how to survive – it’s time again to thrive.
SURVIVAL TACTICS ONLY GUARANTEE SURVIVAL FOR SO LONG
It has been 8 weeks since Canadian architecture and engineering practices moved their operations online and adjusted to the reality of working from home. There is uncertainty about how much longer this will last, and perhaps more still about what returning to ‘business as usual’ will look like. Business leaders have been focused during this time on survival, damage limitation and responding to other immediate challenges. Understandably, emphasis will have been on cutting costs and preserving capital. It’s important now, however, that business leaders shift their focus to the future in preparation for a strong recovery when economies rumble back to life. To do so, attention needs to be given to increasing revenue by protecting existing revenue streams and finding new project opportunities. It’s time to think hard about getting new work.
THE MARKETING & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT LANDSCAPE HAS SHIFTED
The first thing to realize is that the business development landscape has not just changed temporarily. It has shifted significantly, and for the long-term. The ways that most firms networked, maintained market visibility and encountered potential clients have all but disappeared. Conferences, seminars, trade shows and effectively the entire calendar of industry events have been suspended indefinitely. Even those chance encounters and introductions that are catalysts for project opportunities won’t exist for the foreseeable future. With no date set for when events might resume, and little likelihood that the first round will be well attended anyhow, one thing is certain – finding new opportunities through which to prospect, network and develop new business will be fundamental to securing a strong recovery. Digital marketing and networking will inevitably become more critical components of robust business development strategies.
YOUR BRAND IS WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT YOU WHEN YOU’RE NOT IN THE ROOM
The notion of brand as it relates to professional services is often met with a degree of scepticism and even resistance. ‘The work speaks for itself’, or ‘branding is all smoke and mirrors’ are assertions that we hear now and then from creatives. Projects may indeed speak for themselves, but without an interested audience, will fall on deaf ears. Or worse still, fall on none at all. We often tell leaders of creative practices that their brand is what people say about them when they’re not in the room. As we continue to social distance and stay apart, the importance of managing and communicating your brand virtually is more important than ever.
EVERY FIRM HAS A DIGITAL FOOTPRINT
It’s likely that your next client is spending as much time online these days as you are. Think about that for a moment – if somebody interested in your firm during this time wishes to learn more, where would they go? To Google of course, which should promptly direct them to your website. Is it up to date, both graphically and in terms of content? Does it truly showcase the best of your work and reflect your values and ethos as an organization? Are your social media channels being actively managed and updated, or, do they sit idle?
All of these channels are direct digital windows into your practice. They are instrumental in building a client’s perception of what it’s like to work with you and what you can deliver to them. These are now your most visible brand touchpoints, and need to be carefully shaped, managed and communicated.
BEFORE SHOUTING FROM THE ROOFTOPS, KNOW WHAT YOU WISH TO SAY
Before rushing ahead with a marketing drive, take some time to conduct a brand audit and assessment. Look objectively at how your firm, its work and key people are presented to the market. What is the message being communicated? Do prospective clients get an accurate impression of how you work, what it would be like to do a project with you? If not, why? Is it due to a lack of information, inaccurate information or outdated information?
Our consultants co-ordinate and conduct brand audits for architecture and engineering practices as a foundational step toward implementing marketing and business development initiatives. This can include visual brand assessments, phone interviews with past and present clients and collaborators, and employee surveys. The information gathered provides business leaders and marketing professionals with valuable insights and helps to ensure that a compelling message is being communicated to the right audience in the best possible way.
Written by John McKenna, Consultant
May 7, 2020