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Overcoming the Skills Gap in AEC Marketing, with Judy Sparks and Katie Cash

Episode 6:

About Judy Sparks

Judy is the founder, CEO, and President of Smartegies LLC. Founded in 2008, Smartegies is a specialty marketing agency that has helped more than 150 companies across North America build stronger brands, implement effective communications, and develop winning strategies and proposals. Judy has worked in B2B marketing and sales roles exclusively since 1993, specializing in the AEC industry. Judy is a true expert in AEC marketing and has a proven record of success across her 25 years in the field.

About Katie Cash

Katie is an architecture, engineering, and construction marketer with over 15 years of experience serving the AEC industry. Katie is an expert strategist who helps her clients win big projects through creative marketing methods. Katie believes in thinking outside the box and has a gift for tackling challenges by using innovative and unconventional solutions. Today, Katie serves as the Vice President of Smartegies, working alongside Judy to help clients achieve maximum impact in their marketing efforts.

In this episode of AEC Marketing for Principals, Judy and Katie discuss the marketing skill gap present in so many AEC firms, where that skill gap came from, and methods to overcome the gap and better market your firm.

What You Will Learn:

  • Judy explains why the skills gap exists, especially within architectural firms where, until fairly recently, marketing was illegal. Katie explains that clients are often surprised to learn this fact, even though it has created a pervasive stigma.
  • Judy discusses the stigma that has persisted around marketing for architectural firms, even after the ban was lifted.
  • Judy explains that traditional relationship-building and networking have been the primary avenues for generating new business for firms.
  • Katie shares how clients are slowly embracing AEC marketing principles as digital media creates a highly connected environment.
  • Judy explains the difference between marketing and sales/business development.
  • Judy explains why the cost of client acquisition under traditional methods has gotten out of control, highlighting the heavy expenses in order to be considered for a project.
  • Judy discusses in-house AEC marketing professionals and the challenges they face in doing their jobs. She explains why the industry at large hasn’t done much to empower in-house marketers or create robust teams and how firms can support those teams through tools, training, and outsourced help.
  • Judy shares the advantage of asking: “should the way we have always done our marketing evolve to meet the evolving landscape?”

Overcoming the Skills Gap in AEC Marketing

This episode of AEC for Marketing Principals features a conversation between Judy Sparks and Katie Cash of Smartegies LLC, a specialty marketing agency that works with clients in AEC and the built environment to build a stronger brand, develop winning strategies, communicate their story, implement effective social/digital campaigns, and produce winning proposals. For this episode, we discuss the skills gap found in AEC marketing, its causes, and the problems it creates. We also discuss ways to close the skills gap, the value of setting realistic expectations of your in-house team, supporting your team with various resources, and the changing AEC environment that is altering the effectiveness of networking and other “traditional” methods of AEC marketing.

Unfortunately, there is a pervasive stigma against modern marketing practices within the industry, particularly within many architectural firms. In fact, architectural marketing is a relatively new space that didn’t exist until around 30 years ago. Prior to that time, marketing for architectural firms was, in fact, illegal. Even after the ban was lifted, most firms were hesitant to embrace marketing efforts as they were more comfortable doing things “as usual.” However, today’s environment has rapidly shifted, and firms need to be able to evolve their marketing efforts to keep up with these changes.

A Connected World

Things have changed a lot in three decades for the built environment, and for the world at large. The internet has been the great disruptor, shaking up everything about how we do business in today’s society. In years past, most deals were struck at expensive dinners or on the golf course. These days, however, the internet has eliminated much of this “it’s who you know” style of AEC marketing and opened the door for many new methods of project procurement.

The trouble is that many firms are struggling to keep up with and adapt to these changes. There is often an attitude of “why change the way we’ve always done things?” The answer is because the world itself has changed, and competition in the built environment is fiercer than ever. The good news is that adapting now will allow you to get ahead of the competition.

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