It's true: the best time to start thinking and planning for the next year is at the end of one before. For a marketing planning and budgeting process, I like to get started in the fall, so that we have a plan in place once the beginning of the year comes around. But what if you had a busy fall that spun into an even busier winter and then the holidays came and went—and you are still without a plan, or even a marketing budget for 2017? It’s ok. It’s never too late for a marketing plan.
Whether it’s today, tomorrow, in two months, or in six, it’s always the right time to start your marketing planning process. Your firm still needs goals, plans and strategies to get you to those goals, and a budget against which to measure your return on investment. Those needs will never go away—even if you ignore them and function just fine without them.
I once met a small architecture firm owner at a SCUP conference who told me that he had never done any marketing—and had no need for it—since he had had always been busy with work. In some ways, he was right. If you live by referrals and are willing to let whoever is on the end of your ringing phone dictate the direction of your business, you don’t need proactive marketing. If you are willing to be at the mercy of economic cycles, you don’t need proactive marketing. However, most business owners have more ambition than that. The rest of us need vision.
If you’ve started an office, whether it was one year ago or twenty years ago, it’s likely that you have ideas about the kinds of work you’d like to be doing. That’s where a marketing plan comes in.
When you undertake a marketing plan process as a business owner, be prepared for soul-searching—especially if this is your first marketing plan. Be prepared to tap into the excitement and entrepreneurial instinct that inspired you to start a firm in the first place.
As you embark on the marketing planning process, here are a just a few questions you should ask yourself, as well as the people around you—including your partners, your project managers, your designers, your financial team, your marketers, your office manager, and, as a small business owner, probably even your spouse:
What was your original vision for the firm? How has it evolved?
What has the firm accomplished?
What kinds of work do you want to do more of? Less of?
What is your dream project?
What would you like accomplish in the next year? The next five years? The next twenty?
How do you want people to describe the firm?
What is the firm’s biggest business challenge?
What could change within the office or within your process to make your life easier?
What gaps are there to fill (in experience, expertise, reputation, staffing, etc.)?
These are just a few of the questions that can help shape the direction of an architecture firm—whether the office is five people or five hundred. Once you have a clear picture of your vision for the future, then the next step is to develop the architectural marketing, business development, and public relations strategies that can help you get there, and to undertake market and competitor research—which is where Turquoise Marketing comes in. Whether you’re ready to get started or just mulling over your marketing planning challenges, I’d love to hear from you.
It’s never too late for a marketing plan!