MARKETING REPS

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  • #175990

    I have an interesting question to ask all of you! You know how you always have product reps stopping by to show you new products i.e. – irrigation, play equipment, lighting, etc….you get the point?

    What if you took that same concept and applied it to our profession? What if you hired a marketing rep to market to all of those architecture, engineering, state, local, and federal agencies and do the same thing that a product rep does when he visits your office?

    Have you ever seen such a thing or thought about it and could give me some more information on this topic?

    I welcome any comments good or bad on the topic……

    Thanks in advance for all of your great input!

    #176008
    Jay Everett
    Participant

    I remember in school, in our pro-practice class we were told that professional services for landscape architects were traditionally spread by word of mouth and by responding to RFPs and RFQs. We were discouraged from entertaining ideas like buying advertising space on billboards. They used lawyers as an example: “you don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who buys billboards and tv commercials”, but I think hiring a marketing rep may not be that bad of an idea. I’d say it could be done very professionally if you had the right approach. Ultimately, from a business point of view, the rep would have to bring in enough work to justify their salary, or you could possibly come up with a commission incentive for them to get out and attract business.

    #176007
    nca
    Participant

    Landscape Architecture is an art and social science, with varying and unpredictable permutations in the built and non-built environment. The outcome of it’s practice can have significant affects on a broad range of willing and unwilling participants at the most fundamental levels of humanity: Helath, saftey, and well-being. It is the duty of the practicing Landscape Architect to protect and never compromise these values. I believe introducing certain practices of marketing and advertising may lead to the degradation in effectiveness and compromise of our often critical role in the shaping and preservation of our world and its resources.

    I think we owe it to ourselves to avoid using cheapening, materialistic ploys such as marketing reps and billboard advertisement to convey the value we already understand is innate in the practice and theory of landscape architecture. Landscape should never be equated with ‘product.’

    #176006
    nca
    Participant

    Sorry, that sounded a bit snobby..just hard gettin my point out ­čśë

    #176005
    nca
    Participant

    Chris-

    I think the OP probably realizes that there is some degree of marketing being done by all individuals at a given firm. I’ve also witnessed this as an intern at several offices myself. Although, this type of ‘marketing’ was generally referred to as ‘business development,’ not necessarily marketing, which in my mind is an entirely different animal. Coming from residential design-build and owning my own small landscape company for a season I basically agree with you that this kind of marketing or advertising will primarily lead to calls about ‘lawns and rhododendrons.’

    I think it’s imperative that landscape architects hold the line so to speak. I believe the economic situation at hand may be a blessing in disguise for the profession and practice of landscape architecture in terms of the type of projects and scope of work pursued. Cheapening the value of landscape architecture and design services through an objective marketing approach is a mistake in my humble opinion.

    #176004
    Brian Hochstein
    Participant

    It always depends on who the customer is. It is difficult to sell our product like more traditional sales services. I would think in the long run a marketing representative would not pay off. I am not saying it wouldn’t work, just that the payoff may not be that great. I think LA’s fill this role as another of the many hats that we wear. We get out to trade shows and market our firms in many of the same ways that product reps sell. It is similar to marketing directly but instead of “door to door” you are putting a face on you company to a large group of people.

    #176003

    Well thanks guys and gal, so far, for your comments on an idea we have been kicking around here at my office! The question really is not whether or not we should have a marketing rep to market our firm….the question is how do we effectively market to architects, engineers, government entities to bring in work and the work that we want to work on?

    That is what I want to know!

    Also, why not promote a firm as a brand? Let me ask you this….have you ever heard of EDAW, Sasaki and Associates, Design Workshop? I bet you have?! Why is that? Well other than the fact that they were founded by amazing landscape architects….they have grown huge and are known nationally and some world wide for their “brand” of landscape architecture……Right?

    Well I want to know…..how did they grow to the point of becoming so widely renowned and known and respected? I bet you they had some pretty awesome marketing and PR departments…….!

    I think that the great firms and successful ones are more than the traditional Landscape Architecture Firms as we tend to think of them……They have a solid foundation in business and marketing…..

    That is what I would like to zero in on is how do you market yourself to other firms that will give you their business effectively and consistently…..I understand that you have to sell yourself and give amazing service and all that but what are those qualities that are hard to quantify?

    That is why I think the light came on in our firm when we started talking about having our own marketing representative…..not a professional salesman that goes out and sells our services, but someone that can go out and spend the time it takes to develop and nurture quality relationships that all of us, well most of us, have a really hard time doing because we have so many other responsibilities in a firm to complete before we even think about marketing……The rep would be there to be a consistent presence not to meet a quota of sales for the month, but to build quality, lasting relationships with new clients and maintain consistent contact with existing ones…….And of course you would have to have the right person to present your firm in the best light and very professionally, so you wouldn’t degrade the profession in any way…….I believe that that would be a great way to consistently market your work and grow your firm……I mean, who is doing that right now? I can’t think of any firm I know that has tried such an approach……The great and successful firms in any profession think outside of the box….they zig when others are zagging……they do things differently than others……Maybe that is naive to think like that but I believe that to be successful amidst the growing and ever present competition you need to be looking outside of what you see and do and find other better ways to do things…….

    Anyway…..your thoughts?!

    #176002
    nca
    Participant

    Brandon-

    I think you’re talking about “business development.” It sounds like you’re looking for a rainmaker, not necessarily a marketing rep. I’ll default to my earlier comments here about landscape architecture as a product.

    The great firms you’ve mentioned, some of whom I have a very limited experience working for, in my opinion built their business on a big idea. Design Workshop has “Legacy Design” and has stamped it on everything DW. EDAW has its super-regional multi-disciplinary approach.

    I think whatever vehicle you choose to convey the value of your service should be based in a big idea from within the firm in how you can revolutionize the practice or at least offer a better than average service.

    #176001
    Stephen Gibson
    Participant

    Hey Brandon,

    I like the way you think – outside of the box, that is. And that’s certainly the way you need to approach development in a recession. I’ve had the same dilemma in my company regarding the distinction between what Nick is calling Busness Development and what you’re calling “Marketing”. One thing that I’m learning is that we can cast a broad net over our potential clients and pull them all in. The problem with this approach is you’ll end up getting a mixed bag of projects and also those that want you to come and mulch their yards – can’t tell you how many people think that (even my in-laws, but that’s another discussion!). The other approach is to be selective in your marketing to clients. This is the approach where you decide on a trajectory that you want your business to go in and then you pursue it.

    I’ve worked for small and large firms, EDAW being one of them. And I can tell you from first hand experience, that the climate within the walls of EDAW is one of a solid base – there’s a certain sense of security because you know that the jobs will keep coming in. It’s not that they march in by themselves, but you know that when EDAW walks in the room, people pay attention. I truly think that this simply comes from a long tenure in our field. EDAW has been around for some 65 years or so, people know who they are and over that 65 years, a reputation has built up. That’s how the big firms work. Smaller firms can’t hope to approach business development or marketing the same way because the tenure isn’t there.

    Let me ask you this…what is the size of your current firm? What is the target client and target project like? How do you currently go about business development or marketing such that you feel the need to try something different? I’ve been doing some extensive reading lately on marketing and development issues and approaches that I may be able to pass on to you.

    Let me know!
    Cheers!

    #176000

    We are a firm of 4…..we have just recently felt the need to expand and diversify our client base with some direct marketing efforts and are looking for a way to market to architects, developers, etc that can bring us high end residential clientele, resorts, and related work like that….we also act as owners reps once a client wants to get their project built…..

    Any suggestions are very welcome….

    #175999
    Stephen Gibson
    Participant

    Brandon,

    It sounds like you guys are on the ball – all the experts recommend actively marketing during a recession! With so many companies going under and so many lay-offs occuring, you need to present yourselves as the go-to option for clients. Diversification is also one of the best strategies for recession-proofing your business.

    I could sit here and give you suggestions of exactly what I would do, but I don’t really know your company and the people who run it. So probably the best suggestions I can give are these:

    1. Remember the four basic P’s of marketing –
    Product – make your offerings unique from those of anyone else
    Price – Keep your price competitive with incentives and creative ways of pricing that will make you seem more enticing to clients. Don’t drop your prices in a recession just to get work in – you’ll set up an industry expectation that may haunt you in the future.
    Packaging – Package and present your product in a way that makes you THE option for clients.
    People – Keep good customer relationships going, even in hard times. Make sure to rely on word of mouth. Ensure your employees are still your best PR experts for your company.

    2. Do a web search of “marketing in a recession” – this wil bring up a whole lot of articles written by experts that will give you ideas as to how to approach the current market conditions and will give you ideas of alternative ways to approach the market.

    What I ended up doing with my company was put together a marketing brochure which is being distributed to all potential clients NOW – architects, developers, etc. I’ll probably do another round of distributions when the housing market starts to ease a bit – just as a reminder. I also went through probably two dozen web articles on marketing in a recession to find creative ways of doing marketing now. The reason I didn’t include all of my solutions here is that I realized that the solutions I came up with are specific to my company and my situation, both geographically and financially. If you want some of my specific suggestions, I’d still be happy to give you some ideas, but with the understanding that they may not fit what you guys are trying to do there.

    The bottom line is that there are planty of resources on the web that can help you think creatively about marketing, especially in a recession. All it takes is one of those articles mentioning something in a certain way that clicks with your company and there you have your solution. Give it a try and let me know if you come up with enough ideas.

    Good Luck!
    Steve

    #175998
    J. Waldron, RLA
    Participant

    Brandon,

    I’ve been thinking along the same lines you have in recent weeks. One thing we are doing in our firm is creating project specific portfolios that may be geared for any one particular type of project (ie streetscapes, civil eng, utility infrastructure, planning, etc.) We are actively submitting these project sample portfolios for numerous public projects that are coming up. If anything, it gets us in touch with the public purchasing officials that award such jobs. I believe we will see much more public infrastructure work on the horizon as Mr. Obama may look for a new deal type of strategy to get us out of this recession.

    I am on the cusp of implementing such a strategy for local architects, as that seems to be the market base that we have not relied on in the past. We simply had to pick up the phone when previous clients called. Our involvement directly with architects was limited. In this tightly gripped, bank controlled economy, we need these architects (first contact for an owner) to know who we are, what we provide and how we provide it.

    the problem i see with a “marketing rep” is that they really need to know the ins and outs of the profession and should be able to discuss specifics. From a financial standpoint, they really need to be able to perform the tasks they are marketing. A small firm will get covered up by a single marketing rep, working effectively.

    #175997
    Arwen Otwell
    Participant

    I’d like to preface with the fact that I don’t do much of the face-to-face marketing for my firm, but I do have a lot to do with the materials preparations and I talk a lot with our marketing team. I work for a big multi-discipline civil engineering firm (it’s a lot more fun than it sounds) and we get a lot of our work through marketing our other disciplines to a client we are already doing some work for. Since that’s not a viable option for smaller firms, and since you all already know about pumping acquaintances for information, I can only offer the advice I got this morning…never underestimate the power of a cold call. Call anybody and everybody who might know anybody or anything having to do with work. Keep calling on a semi-regular basis, just try to stay on the good side of the eager/annoying line. Keep up-to-date on local RFPs (especially since government work is usually safer in trying times). And come up with some really great marketing materials and send them to all those people you called.

    Now, back to the question at hand. Unless you’re a large firm that can absorb the cost of a marketing person/team, all of these things can be done by people you already have. I’ll agree with an earlier post that this is usually done by the partner/owner/head honcho who tends to have a lot of experience at this, but even the lowest person on the totem pole (me!) can provide leads and/or support.

    And good luck to everybody…I’m thankful every morning I wake up with a job to go to that day!

    #175996

    EDAW, Sasaki, EDSA, etc. Are known brands by the products they have put out. They are award winning firms with high profile projects. Once you get your firm established, with a quality reputation more project awards will be coming your way. I work for a large, nationwide multidisciplinary firm. We do have a marketing representative but his role is mainly to assist in representing the firm in a consistent way between all offices. When we put together an RFP or RFQ we (discipline managers) bring together all of the necessary information regarding our particular discipline (landscape architecture, architecture, civil engineering etc) and then he molds it into a package so that it looks as if one voice is doing the talking.

    It’s our Business Development that brings us the opportunities before we have the PR guy get involved. Much like EDAW and Sasaki etc., we get most of our opportunities because we have a strong reputation, with a quality body of work which is known throughout the industry we serve which brings clients in and keeps our current clients very happy. Business Development usually means attending conferences (not just landscape related), trade shows and good old fashioned networking.

    I have also worked in a small office like yours where chasing new clients is always a challenge. On some levels, although internally, you feel you can compete with the “big boys” it may be difficult to convince a new client. We were most successful when we teamed with other quality firms (architecture, construction). The firm I was with has been in business for over 45 years so it is possible to find that niche. I don’t think you want to blanket your services to every architeture or civil engineering firm in your area. Find firms of common interest and team with them to create a quality project. That in turn will bring more and future work.

    #175995
    Jason Isaks
    Participant

    Sorry people, I only just joined Land8Lounge so I’m a little late into this conversation, (Probably to late) but I was lured to this topic with a great deal of interest. I think that LA’s are constantly advertising their firms through being involved in Institutes of LA’s and design competitions etc etc. Even collaborating with other bigger Design firms or Engineering firms is a means of getting your name out there. So in short firms are actually doing what the reps are doing, but in a less formal manner.
    It would also be a terrible day to see LA firms employing reps to promote for them, surely we are a far more creative bunch than that.

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