The Art of the Pitch: AEC Marketing Strategies for Better Presentations, with Judy Sparks and Katie Cash

Episode 3:

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 strategies 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.

What You Will Learn:

  • Judy explains why many people within the industry struggle with and dislike giving presentations, since many of them were not taught this skill when they were learning their business.
  • Judy discusses the process the Smartegies team uses to help clients produce winning presentations. She explains why the key is to tell an authentic, compelling story about the firm through presentations that inform, influence, and entertain.
  • Judy and Katie talk about why understanding what the customer wants is the key to differentiating from competitors. Judy provides specific examples of how doing research on customers and telling stories can help win bids.
  • Judy shares why a pitch memo (a storyboard) is a valuable tool for a presentation, outlining the steps to take during the presentation meeting. She shares why it is important to do this early in the process, well in advance of the pitch.
  • Judy explains why presentations are becoming more expensive as competition has increased. She shares why it is important that firms be intentional in their presentations to win as often as possible and justify the costs.


The Art of the Pitch: AEC Marketing Strategies for Better Presentations

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 the AEC industry to build a stronger brand, develop winning strategies, communicate their story, implement effective social/digital campaigns, and produce winning proposals. For this episode, they discuss the all-important presentation, and they share how to tell a compelling story that gets results and differentiates firms from the competitors.

Many AEC firms aren’t comfortable with practicing their pitch. But there are key steps that will make the process smoother, easier, and more effective. During this episode of the podcast, Judy and Katie discuss the strategies they, and the team at Smartegies, employ to help firms maximize their win rates. They also share the common mistakes firms make that can cost them business.


A Pitch Should Tell the Story of an AEC Firm

One of the most important points that Judy outlines in the discussion is that a pitch should tell a compelling story. No one at the meeting is going to remember all the facts and numbers, but they will remember a story that informs, influences, and entertains. These three secret-sauce ingredients will help a firm stand out from the crowd. The truth is, no firm’s pitch is going to be that special; everyone touches upon the same points of collaboration: on-time and on-budget work, past experience with similar projects, etc. That’s why presenters must differentiate their firms with memorable, authentic, and engaging stories.

Another key strategy the Smartegies team employs is researching the customer and finding out what they want in detail. During the episode, Judy shared case studies of a firm who was able to win by understanding what the customer wanted. They could then tailor the presentation to illustrate how they could meet the customer’s wants and needs.


Practice and Preparation Make Perfect

Often, firms will try to wing their presentations on the spot. While many people are comfortable with stream-of-consciousness presenting, it can be awkward or even confusing for the listener. Preparing a presentation well in advance and practicing it several times before the meeting can help keep the presentation on-topic, relevant, and interesting. It also helps the presenters, as each will know what specific subject they are addressing and will know what the other speakers will be covering. Any complete AEC marketing strategies plan that forgets about pitching and practicing those pitches is bound to have trouble.

Foresight and planning will also allow a firm to identify problems in their presentation and find contradictions that could hurt their chances of giving a winning proposal. Practice helps speakers feel more comfortable with their delivery. Not everyone is comfortable speaking in front of an audience, however, and that’s where Judy recommends people practice speaking through organizations designed for that purpose. Toastmasters is available in most cities, and the group can offer valuable experience in speaking to an audience that can help anyone become a more effective and confident presenter.

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