A Candid Case for Marketing Managers Leading CX in A/E/C

A Candid Case for Marketing Managers Leading CX in A/E/C

Marketing Managers in architecture, engineering, and construction firms ought to be leading CX (client experience) initiatives. Regardless of unique firm characteristics, the same truths and objectives play themselves out every time; Marketing Managers in AEC are perhaps the most under-utilized talent in AEC firms. The bottom-line rationale for this in a few words is, “EMPATHY,” “WILLINGNESS,” and “REORIENTATION.”

It’s time for firm leaders to rethink the role of Marketing Manager and enable them to own the responsibility and opportunity CX offers to turn your prospects into clients, your clients into raving fans and your firm’s cost center into a profit center.

Let’s break this down into a few things you can STOP doing tomorrow.

(NOTE: One of our nifty little CX transformation hacks is to help people learn what to stop doing as opposed to start doing. We’ve learned it’s far easier to stop a work habit than to start one. Try it.)

STOP USING WHAT GOT YOU INTO THIS PREDICAMENT TO TRY GET OUT OF IT

If you look at the average AEC firm today, they all seem to be grappling with roughly the same objectives:

  • competitively differentiate the firm
  • improve their bid-to-win ratio
  • decrease the costs of marketing (and acquisition)
  • decrease the rate of client churn
  • increase revenue/profit/margin
  • rebrand as being more experientially oriented
  • improve recruiting and staff longevity through employee engagement
  • instill greater empathy into the business development function
  • amplify the firm’s thought leadership around core expertise
  • instill stronger accountability down into the leadership and front lines

While firms are battling some combination of the objectives listed above, they seem to be struggling to get out of their own way—while rigidly designing, engineering or constructing solutions to modern people problems with old tools from the wrong toolbox. In most cases we see the HIPPO’s (highest paid person’s opinion) winning the argument for the firm’s approach (or lack of approach) while, sadly, losing the battle of outcomes—when it comes to harnessing the power of CX for the betterment of the firm. This is more common than we care to acknowledge. Why is this happening? Because there is a lack of trust in new ideas from new sources of talent.  If any of these challenges has confounded the firm for more than a couple of years, stop trying to solve them using the same methods and means you’ve been using without success. If you happen to be the HIPPO in the firm, surprise everyone by experimenting with enablement, macro-management, trust, faith, and respect. If you’re at all like any of our clients, you’ll very likely be amazed at what can happen and wish you’d done it earlier.

STOP BELIEVING IN THE LEGACY OF YESTERDAY’S JOB DESCRIPTIONS

When we begin a CX dialog with these firms, it’s typically the Marketing Manager with the most relevant foresight and ideas despite the fact that they are normally one of the few in the firm without the tenure, gender and/or core credentials to be heard and respected as a leader of something new like their firm’s CX. I know that is hard to hear for many, but it has far more truth than we’d like and it’s worth calling out. Central to this issue is generally the lack of knowledge for what the modern Marketing Manager role should encompass today. In fact, when we ask firm principles what the Marketing Manager does, we are often surprised by the lack of alignment between what the Marketing Manager actually does and what the firm principles believe they are doing. In most cases, that lack of alignment results in surprise when we (an outside CX transformation firm) recommend taking a fresh look at the Marketing Manager’s entire range of accountabilities to determine fitness to lead the firm’s CX management program—or at the very least, incorporate their talents in the firm’s CX program.

The misalignment is rarely contentious. It is generally a firm principle or managing partner who isn’t sure about the total range of responsibilities of the Marketing Manager. In one case, when we asked the MP what he thought the Marketing Manager did, he responded, “You know, I am not sure. I know she gets our business cards printed and helps occasionally with the website. Other than that, I cannot really tell you.”

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking wow, that’s bad but that’s not me or us, our firm is totally on top of it. If that’s the case, fantastic, I have yet to meet you but I am happy you got there. I am, however, curious if your Marketing Manager agrees with you.

When we ask about past firm efforts in CX and the role of marketing, here is what we’ve heard:

  • Fewer than 20% of firms to engage us are even considering social media as an overall component of their CX strategies. Why? Because in most cases, those in control underestimate the power of social or flat out don’t understand what it can help the firm accomplish when done effectively. Generally, Marketing Managers manage all of the firm’s social media outside of any CX considerations.
  • Fewer than 35% have enabled their firm’s marketing staff to begin planning how to integrate CX.
  • More than 70% of firms diving into CX have excluded the participation of their Marketing Manager—citing “other responsibilities to focus on” as the main reason.
  • Most CX programs inside of architecture firms aren’t led by marketing but instead are led by junior architects or project management leaders.
  • Most CX programs inside of engineering firms are led by project managers or corporate communications (PR) leaders.  
  • Of the firms employing CX, almost 100% are focusing a majority of their effort in managing an NPS ranking. In about 50% of the cases, a marketing person is in charge of those efforts. 

The modern firm Marketing Manager role (and job description) needs to be redesigned to incorporate more up-to-date methods of engagement. At the very least firms need to let Marketing Managers run measured experiments over a long enough timeframe to prove it out.

In the case of measured client experiences, there is no better potential leader than someone who is both willing to take this on and who understands more of the emotional side of engagement—especially when firms learn about the power of managing the buyer’s experience (that stage before prospect becomes a paying client), which in most cases, firms call this ‘marketing.’

STOP BELIEVING CX IS LIMITED TO EXISTING CLIENTS

One of the biggest mistakes firms make when developing their CX strategy is forgetting about the client before they become a client. We call this the buyer experience.

In one mid-sized architecture firm who engaged us to help build out their client segments and map those segment journeys, it was the Marketing Manager who spoke up before our consulting team could even mention, “Hey what about the people who haven’t hired us, yet? Why aren’t we talking about them? Aren’t they a segment we should map?” We were energized that she beat us to the punch. What’s interesting is that as a marketer in the firm, she was the only one stretching the firm’s concern past the experience existing, paying clients were having with the firm—which the common keyhole through which most firms view CX.

The response to her intelligent question was met with contempt, “Shelly, how do you suppose we measure the NPS of someone we don’t even know who is considering us? The fact is, we can’t. And by the way, this is called client experience, not window shopper experience. The word client infers we’re talking about clients.”  

This response from one of the leaders in the firm was a bit harsh and sounded like it was tuned to shut the Marketing Manager out. We responded like this, “Hold on a second, Daryll, Shelly is actually right. How many of your top ten objectives involve marketing? I believe it was seven out of ten. That’s 70%. Do you mean to tell me that if we’re going to harness CX to solve your ten biggest objectives, and 70% of them point directly to the prospect who is not yet an existing client, that Shelly isn’t on to something important and big?”

As Shelly leaned forward with a tiny smile in rare validation, Daryll leaned back crossing his arms and conceded that he may have been confused about what CX was and was supposed to accomplish. 

The point to all this, is that CX isn’t just for paying clients anymore. In fact, if CX were an iceberg, the experiences of your existing, paying clients would be the small part above the water’s surface. The experience prospects have researching, finding a list of options, RFI/RFQ/RFPing, interviewing and all the other activities before the contract is signed, would be the bulk of it hidden under the surface. This is really difficult for most firms to understand and accept and there is disagreement in the CX industry about this, but we feel strongly about it.

Managing the experiences existing clients have with the firm is the easy part. Managing the experience your prospects (real and potential) have with the firm is the hard part and where CX can have the biggest impact. For this reason, it makes a lot of sense to domicile your firm’s CX inside marketing and begin harnessing the skills that team possesses. If your firm is beginning CX with a mind to prospects, the longer-term work of isolating friction and innovation along your service lines will be ten times easier.

For most firms this may require some reorientation. Accept that and do it now while it’s a lower impact challenge because it’s only a matter of time before this will become standard in CX. Luckily, due to the perpetual reinvention of digital marketing, social, mobile at the intersection of attention and experience, your Marketing Manager is far more able to handle the change than anyone in the firm.

So, give this some deeper thought. We can confirm that CX, done effectively, is extending your work out to the prospect and buyer and ensuring their experience is positive, useful and memorable. Once they start paying you, thank your Marketing Manager, who should now be leading the full-spectrum CX effort. They do a lot more than you may think and with the right degree of trust and enablement, they can help address 70% of the most common business challenges within the realm of your firm’s broader-spectrum CX.   

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