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The Shortlist Episode 50: What Marketing and BD Need from Each Other




In the AEC industry, Marketing and Business Development activities are tightly linked. Since marketing plans implement the business and sales goals of the company, a successful execution of strategy demands that marketing and "BD" are in alignment and constantly communicating.


In Episode 50 of The Shortlist, Middle of Six Principals Wendy Simmons, Melissa Richey, and Allison Tivnon discuss how these two critical business building areas interact and define their bodies of work within a firm. Our conversation will equip you with a deeper understanding of the responsibilities and strengths of each group to help build the foundation of a supportive, strategic, and satisfying work environment for both Marketing and BD.


CPSM CEU Credits: 0.5 | Domain: 3


Podcast Transcript


Welcome to The Shortlist.


We're exploring all things AEC marketing to help your firm win The Shortlist.


I'm your host, Wendy Simmons, and each episode, I'll be joined by one of my team members from Middle of Six to answer your questions.


Today, we're talking with Melissa Richey and Allison Tivnon to discuss what business development and marketing need from each other.


Hey, Melissa, hey, Allison.


Hi there.


Hey there, Wendy.


Hello, hello, thank you for being here.


I love this topic.


I, you know, kind of perusing the notes of where we're going to go.


And I think there's a lot of really great stories and lessons learned from our past experience, you know, being part of marketing departments and coordinating with business developers.


So thank you for, I think, Melissa, you were probably the one who said we should dig into this topic.


Is that right?


Am I getting that right?


Probably, maybe, I don't know.


Is this just another brainstorm?


Brainstorm when you're like, raise my hand, I've got a lot to share in that area.


Well, good, I'm glad that we get to get some time on the mic to talk about best practices or what we've learned from ourselves, going through this, the experiences we've had.


I'm sure that they will resonate with some of our listeners out there.


And before we get started, I wondered if you would both be willing to share something from your past lives or maybe a story that you've heard out there, but something from your past lives of a successful marketing and BD collaboration.


There's one that immediately springs to mind for me in the long ago at a separate firm that was just starting to dabble into getting extremely proactive about planning for the year ahead.


And we knew that we wanted to interact more meaningfully with the different organizations and affiliations that the company was spending money on, both in terms of like memberships and sponsorships and attending events.


And instead of it just being this kind of mad dash scramble when an event popped up on our calendar a couple of days in advance, we wanted to basically wrap our arms around the entire year and think about it as strategically as we could in terms of what events we were gonna go to, who was going to attend them, what guests we would have at tables we were purchasing, what types of speaking opportunities we wanted to explore and really plan for.


And that kind of work is best suited for marketing to step in and do the heavy lifting of research and adjusting calendars and just providing all of the intelligence that you need to make really good decisions.


And that's exactly what we did.


We started with a budget and we worked our way backward thinking through each of the organizations.


We teed up the different speakers, the different attendees, and business development was the one that would kind of hold their hands in terms of talking points and who to interact with and what were the biggest goals for each of the events.


And what it ended up resulting in was not only meaningful attendance and participation at these events, but people were eager to share feedback with the team afterwards.


So it created this feedback loop and just more of a pulled together contextual understanding of what the importance is at events like that.


What truly is the marketing return on investment?


And it was the first time the firm did it.


And I think it has happened every single year since then.


They've just continued to dial it in.


They've thrown more resources at it.


There's been an uptick in the number of folks that now speak at events and present at different conferences.


And I think you can trace it back to that first initial meeting of trying to figure out how to create better collaboration between business development, the doers, and marketing.


That's a really good example.


And what I picked out of sort of in the middle there was that you actually had something to measure success against, which sometimes, you know, we have a win rate or, you know, other areas of marketing that we have.


We can measure success.


But if you're thinking about your business development efforts or putting a lot of energy into preparing for conferences or events like that, how do you measure what success looks like?


So that seems like that would be a satisfying element for the marketing team to come away with.


Melissa, do you have a story from your past life?


Or current life?


I'm thinking of one from when I was in-house, and we had opened an office in another market and were kind of seen as an outsider.


And once we finally hired a local person, it was really invigorating to team with that person and show like, well, here's what we've been doing before.


And him being able to say, you're never going to win projects in this city by using projects from the other side of the state.


So kind of working together and being willing to hear from him what's going to work there.


You know, we doing public records requests, seeing what other firms we're putting forth.


I'm talking about different professional associations or these public agency staff will be and kind of really putting into place a plan and executing on it and teaming together to do a really effective project approach and the pursuit after having gone and met with the client and hearing what was important to them and figuring out how past experience demonstrated that.


So it was just really great from banging your head against the wall for what had been years, trying to open this new office and not being very successful with public work to getting the right person in the seat who was willing to be a real collaborative partner and setting a plan in place and seeing those wins.


So that's one of my favorite memories of back being in house.


And it's hard opening in a new office, a new market.


So having that partner who was willing to be a real collaborative force together was really rewarding.


Sometimes there can be a little bit of mystery between marketing BD.


What are you doing?


How can I get the information, the intel, so that the marketing job can be more focused and strategic?


So that would be really satisfying to have a partner that's building those relationships and doing the work that is more challenging from the marketing perspective when you're really focused on proposals and websites and communications and events.


Yeah, just having someone who was really all-in and was like, you know what, they're going to be updating this big stormwater manual.


They're looking for a committee.


Why don't you get on the committee?


And he's like, okay, let me do that.


You know, just someone who had the energy and enthusiasm to try the things that you do to build that relationship so you can win the work down the road.


Oh, that's great.


Well, that's a good warm up for our conversation.


And before we dig into much more about what BD and marketing need from each other, let's start off with our little trivia question.


This is a big question, so I don't know that either of you are going to be able to really guess the answer here, but we'll give it a go, right?


My question for you all is how large is the US construction industry?


And this is according to the AGC, Associated General Contractors of America, like end of 2023 study.


So it's pretty current.


Is this like dollars of volume of projects?


Is that the measure?


Sure.


I have a dollar of revenue of construction projects, and I also have a people number of people employee.


Oh, my goodness.


Well, dollar value.


I'm like, it's got to be in the trillions, like, doesn't it?


Like, I don't know.


I'm going with three trillion.


That's my guess.


Trillion.


I don't know.


It's got to be huge.


I need to be writing these answers down, by the way, which I never do.


So again, I'm going to make a note there.


Three trillion.


That's Melissa.


She's on the record.


This is like the price is right.


I'm going to say it's in the billions, but even just California, I know, is like, like, I don't know, tens of billions of dollars.


I'm going to say it's hundreds of billions of dollars approaching one trillion.


Let's say 800 billion.


Let's just throw that out there.


That's why I figured I'm like, just knowing the project values for the West Coast.


Oh, I know.


Yeah, it's pretty amazing.


The California university system has billions of dollars of projects in that.


It's just mind boggling.


All right, well, cool.


We'll come back to that at the end of the conversation.


The reason why I picked that, obviously, is that just knowing how much opportunity, how big our industry is, I think it's a common phrase we will say out there.


We are working in the smallest, biggest industry, the biggest, smallest industry however you want to say it, right?


Where it's a close, tight-knit community.


A lot of people know each other, your reputation as whatever your firm is and individually really matters.


And that is amazing when we are working in a huge industry that's employing millions and millions of people and all of that stuff.


So we'll get to those numbers later.


But thanks for being my guinea pigs and guessing.


It's always fun.


Well, let's start off with the why.


That's where we always start.


Why do we feel like this topic is important to our listeners?


Why will they be interested and what might they take away here?


I think if you're newer to the industry and you're on the marketing side, you might just be churning away on proposals and not really getting a full picture of what's going on.


So one thing to point out is that business development is another word for sales for some reason in the AEC industry.


People don't like word sales.


I don't know if it conjures up stereotypes of used car salespeople or something like that.


But when you're thinking from a business perspective, the marketing plan implements the business plan.


The business plan is going to have sales goals.


So marketing is what's implementing the strategy, the tactics to win the work in the revenue goals.


So it's kind of this holistic system that maybe if you're just in one little piece, you're just doing communications or you're just doing proposals, you might not be thinking of it from that broader perspective.


And so to be successful, you all need to be talking and knowing what one another are up to.


Yeah, and business development has all the intelligence that's driving the responses.


If it's proposals that you're focusing on or social media platforms and the messaging that you're putting out into the world, you can think of the business developers as the ones that are going out there that are doing that high touch relationship building and pulling in all of the information that you need to thoughtfully respond and chase the work.


And so it's like on the one side, you have this really proactive, almost visionary in your approach kind of guessing, throwing those darts at the dartboard approach to business development.


And then marketing is in there, like you said, implementing and really dialing things in and being precise and surgical and how they're using their time and responding to all of the opportunities that you're hopefully generating with your business development activities.


Yeah, I heard we're a team, we're on the same team, you know, in different words, that's how you were both kind of describing this.


We need to know what the other team players are doing.


And then I was thinking a little bit about this of just also understanding and having empathy, right?


I think under stressful times, when things are getting piled up, whether on the marketing side, and you do not want to go for another proposal without knowing the strategy behind it or having it on the radar, or if you're on the BD side, feeling like maybe the support, depending on what is on marketing's plate, can wax and wane.


You have a variety of things that you might expect from them.


We need to have some empathy for those teams working out there.


And we'll probably also get to a point in our conversation where we talk a little bit about how marketing and BD is integrated.


What if you don't have a designated BD person?


What does that mean for that marketing team?


So really about understanding what everyone is doing, what is the strategy, where they can both best be focused, and what they need from each other to do the best work out there to be efficient.


Let's start off with marketing.


What does marketing need from the BD group to do a great job?


Quite a bit.


Everything.


I think some top level things.


When do you set the goals for the company, or what are the revenue models if your business development team is making a list of must-win projects?


Kind of all that information, that long-range planning.


When does that happen?


Is it happening in the summer, in the fall, at the beginning of the year?


Just kind of understanding that whole ecosystem of when that planning happens, and then when do the business development teams get together and discuss those opportunities, and what is the tool used to track that information?


Do you have a CRM?


Do you have an Excel spreadsheet?


Just so you can kind of get an understanding of what's going on in the business development world so marketing can be planning around that so that you can help support those goals.


And then there's the more nuanced relationship aspect of it, that really good, rich, contextual understanding of the clients and who works at your clients' agencies or organizations, and what are the backstories behind the projects that you're likely going to be chasing.


I mean, we're hoping that our business developers that are in those positions to go out into the world of AEC and engage and throw out those tethers that are creating new relationships are going to bring back the stories and the context that's going to help us craft those responses, that's going to help us shape how we're putting ourselves out there into the world positioning our firm.


It's all got to be based on real world input.


And I've always thought of the business developers as the ones that are carrying that information back to marketers so that they can respond intelligently.


Right.


At the most basic level, give me enough information so I can write and craft a compelling cover letter.


Bare minimum, yes.


But Melissa, going back to your point about the understanding the goals and responsibilities, I mean, I would assume a lot of business development people, whether they're principles and leaders or owners in the company or they have a designated role, I mean, some of their compensation might be tied to these goals, these company revenue goals, or even if it's not compensation just in general, like we all win together, right?


We're part of an ESOP or this is how our bonuses are done.


We want to be a strong, successful company picking the right project.


So is that kind of what you were talking about, about the when and what the goals are?


Yeah, absolutely.


If we've got to make this much revenue, where is that going to come from?


You know, you probably know a certain percentage is going to come from repeat work or work that doesn't require much from marketing.


Say if you're working in the private sector and there's developers that just always come to you versus if you're in the public sector and there's capital budgets you can be tracking and knowing when these projects are going to come out.


So kind of just understanding the lay of the land there.


Right.


And if they've set a target based on past performance and what the outlook is ahead, then they're going to be pretty focused on it.


I'm sure they're accountable to someone and then marketing can help support by feeding information or doing research or preparing to help them achieve those goals.


So I'm sure they'd be very happy to have that.


Yeah, like what conferences are you going to go to if you're going to be pursuing federal work?


There's different conferences you're going to go to if you're going to do infrastructure work.


So it's kind of all of that goes into what marketing is going to plan out for the year.


I mentioned a kind of a laundry list of people who might be doing business development.


It sort of falls under different models.


Either of you want to kind of go into that.


I'm sure a lot of our listeners are aware of it, but maybe some people might like a refresher.


Yeah, I can touch on that.


So there's a few different models.


One you might hear seller, doer or doer-seller model.


That is the folks that are doing the work.


So if it's the architect, the engineer, the builder, so they are doing a job in the company, executing the work, designing the work, and then they are also, quote, unquote, selling the work.


So in the course of doing the projects, doing a good job, they're asking the client what's coming up.


So that's kill what you eat is one way I've heard it stated.


Some firms have seller, doer, so you have those principals, project managers that are doing the work and getting the work and then might be supported with business development professionals.


And then some firms have marketing and business development combined into a single department, single people.


They have responsibilities for both the marketing and the business development or sales aspect.


Yeah, and they all have their pluses and minuses.


I think with the seller, doer model, the relationship can get a little siloed away from marketing, which is a miss because just because you're a seller and a doer doesn't mean that you have those innate skills at communication, which I'd say that the vast majority of marketers have an innate ability to communicate effectively, which is probably what draws them to this work in the first place.


If you're a subject matter expert, you might be able to speak intelligently to what you do, but can you build relationships?


Those two things are not mutually exclusive and they're not one-to-one either.


So leaning on your marketing department to help you kind of hone your skills at developing relationships, I think is the key to establishing a really successful seller-doer model.


In the one where you see the seller-doer go from doing to becoming full-on just business development is a really interesting one.


I've seen that on occasion.


They truly are unicorns.


They're people that, like a water hydrologist at a large engineering firm that worked their way up to becoming a principal in their firm and helping to develop business and just realized that they really loved that part and were kind of done with the in the weeds doing the technical work.


So they transitioned to just being in business development.


That's a really interesting one where they're bringing in all that subject matter expertise, but they are truly focused on just building the business.


And I think there's a lot of really good opportunities there to entwine that role with marketing, but sometimes that doesn't happen.


And then you mentioned where marketing and business development are truly combined into one big cohesive department, which I don't know if I'm speaking just for myself here.


I think that is probably the most ideal out of all of those different scenarios or makeups.


What you described of the doer becoming exclusively marketing or BD, that's who I came up under in this industry.


That's where I learned everything from, was someone who had been a facilities planner and ultimately came to the firm I was at as the marketing director, but that title was a bit of a misnomer because he did marketing and business development.


So I was always, I was learning it all at the same time.


So that's who I came up under.


And I think maybe that's why I tend to want to know more about the technical to understand how to win the project.


Yeah, I see that for sure.


You've got a strong...


Hmm, what is the right analogy?


Inquisitiveness.


You know, I just think you have a natural strength in business development because you're focused on like solving problems and really interested in having enough information, you know, so a lot of like research and reading and staying on top of things, which is very much how a BD person, they're kind of always scanning the horizon, seeing what's going on, understanding connections, who's moving around, what's happening here, where the funding go.


So that's...


I see that a lot from you for sure.


I was just going to say, I really have worked with a lot of companies since before starting Middle of Six and then now, of course, after.


And I like that seller-doer model with a BD professional sort of at the top level too.


I feel like you can do a lot with that.


It's nice to have a person just like a marketing director.


It's so nice to have a person who can see the whole landscape and direct the marketing team where they can be, you know, best use and the best use of their skills.


I think a BD leader who can even oversee those seller-doers can be really valuable.


So that might be, you know, you have a BD person who is organizing BD meetings and bringing in the principals and anyone who might be leading like a special projects group or, you know, different divisions within your group.


But to have one point person who's like, here's our goals, this is what we're doing, and that they are in charge of looking at all of that.


That can even sometimes happen, land on marketing's plate, and that's totally fine depending on how your group is set up and the size of your company.


But I've seen a lot of success with that.


Large firms, lots of seller-doers, and a BD professional at the helm to keep things under control.


Yeah, well, I think the other thing that happens in the seller-doer model is some project heats up or maybe something goes sideways on a project and then all of their time is focused on project work.


And so those BD things kind of fall by the wayside a little bit.


So when you have a BD professional, they keep that moving forward.


The other benefit I see with the BD professional is there's a big coaching aspect.


New project managers, the way to advance in your career, if you're a technical person, is to bring in work.


They're ultimately going to get you promoted, maybe one day to be a principal.


So that BD person can help you learn how to have these conversations, how to enter a conversation, how to exit a conversation, what to do with the information once you get it.


So that's, I think, a real advantage for advancing the careers of the professional staff.


I never thought of that before, the exiting a conversation.


It's not my strong suit.


How do I politely get to the next person I want to visit with and not make anyone feel hurt or hurt feelings?


I was going to mention, Melissa, that one of the firms I worked at, we had BD 101, and then we had regular, like almost all hands, but it was for project engineers and project managers.


Obviously, senior PMs could join too, but they could come in, and it was a very focused BD training session.


The business development director created the agenda, found guest speakers to come in.


It always ended with wine and cheese, which drew a lot of people to come and attend, including our guest speakers.


So it was actually BD happening, but also learning about BD, that was pretty great.


So that's an experience from my past life to either of you have some, like what models did you work with in your firms or any kind of detail about what experiences worked or didn't work?


Yeah, I came from, I think I mentioned seller-doer model, and then we had marketing and BD responsibilities within the department.


We conducted training, we did a BD 101 series, one-on-one coaching.


I know, Allison, kind of back to your point about sometimes people that are really strong technically may not be the strongest communicators or they are so focused on getting information about the project.


They are not asking the more touchy-feely questions.


So we kind of had this edict of the best meeting is where one of the principals or project managers goes with someone from marketing.


So marketing would be asking a certain type of question, more those types of needs, fears, motivators type of questions where the technical person would be asking more about the like, well, how much stormwater are you treating?


And those types of more technical questions.


And then you leave that meeting, and you've kind of got the best of both worlds of all the information you're going to need to eventually put together a compelling proposal.


The way I started was a little different in that we did have a seller-doer model, but marketing was completely dependent on the seller-doers transmitting back good intel to us.


That would inform the way we were crafting marketing materials, going after proposals, preparing for events or conferences.


And I remember this was back in 2008, Dell Tech CRM, which was very expensive, was being adopted by different companies within the industry at different paces and at different levels of, I guess, like weaving it into your actual true systems.


And so I think the term was garbage in, garbage out.


I heard a lot of people say that.


And really it was like nothing in.


Once it got set up, that was kind of it.


Like accounting used it.


We'd open codes in it for proposals.


The ones we won would get converted into billable numbers.


And that was kind of it.


There would maybe be a point of contact put in there, but there was no true Intel, which was the big promise of CRM, that it was almost going to make your job easier by just with a click of a button, you can find out all of this great intelligence that the folks that are out there developing the business have been inputting directly after their meeting.


They come right back to their computer and they download everything from their brains.


And now we know the marketing strategy of the CRM companies.


I'm sure that there are firms out there where they had not only buy-in, but true execution, and they have gotten really, really good at putting this information back into the system.


But in my experience, it just didn't happen.


It didn't happen.


Maybe it had one person who was really good at it, but 100% not now.


So it was on the business developers to really prioritize pulling marketing into the fold and letting them know, boots on the ground, here is what's happening right now out there in our marketplace.


And that is only as good as the opportunities that you put in place to transmit that information.


So if it's just you're waiting for the information to come to you, that person comes in in the morning, they get to their desk, they drink their coffee, they're answering emails, when is it going to occur to them to tell you any new information that they've gotten?


That is not a reliable way to create a systematic approach to information sharing.


If you have a set meeting, that is great, but then you got to have a good agenda.


You got to make sure you stay on target and that you're focusing on the true point of the meeting.


And that can kind of get lost over time, where it's just the BD meeting.


And after a few months of doing that, you lose a little bit of your momentum.


And so it was always kind of clunky, it was like driving down the road with a flat tire.


Marketing really did have to be proactive in asking, but a lot of times we'd find ourselves with a, hey, this RFP is going to be out any day now.


And that was the first time we'd heard about it.


And it wasn't the first time that our seller-doers had heard about it.


They just hadn't been keeping us looped in along the way.


And you kind of start with your arm, one arm tied behind your back.


It doesn't take full advantage of all of those efforts that they're out there to create those relationships and gather that information.


So that was my entry into this.


And there was a lot of lessons learned from that, which as I was able to advance in my career and have a little bit more of a, I don't know, positional power or whatever you want to call it, more voice in the room and in the decision making, was able to tilt our way out of that ad hoc way of doing it into something that felt more intentional and focused.


That brings us like full circle, right?


Where we started at the top of this one, which is what does marketing need from BD?


So we had talked about knowing what the BD responsibilities are and what their goals are, but then you've just added another piece of it is communicating, giving a heads up about what is coming up.


I mean, Melissa already mentioned, when you know that ahead, you can plan on conferences, you can make recommendations and that sort of thing.


But it sounds like whether it's a complex or, I don't know, a CRM tool that hopefully people use or just a really good agenda with good meeting management, something to help make sure that marketing is informed pretty frequently.


Yeah, I got to the point where people would just come by my office after they had a meeting and just give me the download.


I'm like, cool, I'll take notes.


I will make record of this.


And whatever is going to get you to do the brain dump the quickest, if it means literally walk back in the office and you come to me, that works.


That's a hot tip, right?


Because I think that the sitting down and typing out an email or entering it into a CRM or something, it feels like a chore, but having a conversation and feeding off of someone and then again, the rest of your team might make connections for you and say, did you know about this?


Let me tell you about that part.


They can provide information at their fingertips because they have brochures on these types of things or whatever it might be.


Like that conversation, super valuable.


Yeah, and I think a lot of times what would happen with that is that I would then ask something that they didn't think to ask.


So then when they had a chance to follow up and tell them thank you for meeting with me and then asking that other key question like, so when is the RFP going to drop?


Or if it was that tactical or something else.


But it often led to that conversation, led to something else we realized we should have found out about.


And then they gave them a reason to check back in.


And technology has come a long way as well.


Like the example I gave earlier was in 2008, which was, it doesn't feel that long ago to me personally, but that was a long time ago.


And back then you really were relying on Word, Excel, and the CRM if you had one, there weren't a whole lot of places to gather information that didn't somehow end up siloed into a folder somewhere on your server.


Very, very hard to make centralized locations that could really help you disseminate information, collect information, intuitively know where to go for things.


And I don't know what the rate is of firms in our industry that have adopted Microsoft Teams, but I think it's pretty high.


A lot of the interactions I've had with our clients at Middle of Six, they send invites, most of them are through Teams.


We still get Zoom from some clients who have decided not to use that platform, but a lot do, and there's so much integration in that type of a platform where you've got the ability to have these internal conversations that are tied to one specific client with a quote unquote notebook where you can keep running notes, you can add new ones for every interaction.


It is like a CRM, except it's one that everyone's actually using all the time.


That is a really good point.


I feel like we've talked about OneNote on the podcast many times, it comes up, our stuff is in OneNote.


We are converts to that for sure because there's transparency all over the place and you can see what people are working on and what their notes are and that is really helpful.


So that works for us.


We have clients that work all in Google Docs and then they use Google Meet.


Since we are not in that all the time, of course we can use it, but it's not our platform.


I think they're doing a lot of sharing and collaboration as well.


But hopefully we are moving away from the days of everything, being in an unlinked Word document or Excel file, or on someone's desktop, not in the cloud, you can't get to it.


Pretty much as a best practice, we have everything shared at Middle of Six, and I think that would help.


If you don't have, if you haven't made the investment in the training and the preparation to move over to a big CRM, which might not be the right size for your firm or the right thing for that number of people.


Plug in to the systems your team is already using, if it's Teams, if it's Slack, something that's collaborative like that.


If that's where people are already pinging you to ask you to do something, then adding in what you heard at a client meeting is not a big leap, and it's searchable.


Mm-hmm.


Game changer.


Yes.


It's a lifesaver.


Well, then let's talk a little bit about what BD needs from marketing.


I think we all have thoughts on that as the people who are probably responding to those requests.


Any thoughts on what that list looks like?


It used to be, I need a brochure.


Yes, now.


Because I'm walking, I'm going to a lunch maybe.


And can it be tailored to this thing and this thing?


So, brochures used to be a big thing, not as much anymore.


I don't know if people wave printed brochures around quite as much as they used to.


So, but the newsletter, that's another one.


We need a newsletter.


Heard that one quite a lot.


So there were these tangible marketing assets or collateral that you hear a lot about that are more last minute or they're really highly involved and tying them, tethering them directly to project opportunities is not exactly a straight line.


But then you've got other requests, like can you pull down the latest information on that ballot measure that might pass later this year?


Or can you do a public records request to get all of the grant applications through this big government organization?


Things like that, that are way more strategic and can reveal way more valuable information are requests that I think are starting to increase.


And even can you pull down the winning proposal from that last effort that we went after?


Can you do a deep dive analysis into it?


So I think requests like that are popping up more and more and more, or they should be.


Sometimes the go-no-go form has an area that marketing should be filling in, like what has been our success rate on past pursuits with this client, or just a place to input.


They have an opportunity to share past experience and provide an overview for the team, or maybe just fill in doing that research and filling in the blanks with stuff that might be new to the group.


There's probably going to be a need for some relevant project experience highlighted.


I can't tell you how many times is the marketing coordinator or manager, the first time you've ever heard of this project, that is exactly the same as at the kickoff meeting or the review meeting where they're like, why are such and such project cool, I've never heard that one before.


So, you know, if you know, this is a must win pursuit, thinking ahead a little bit mapping that out.


Hey, do you have a write up on this project?


You know, how many times have you heard, oh, I know, I've seen it before.


A little bit of that understanding what projects might need to be written up or case study, or maybe you haven't written up, but it's not that compelling to why it's relevant for this particular pursuit.


Well, and that that you just made me think of something by saying that there's a lot of leapfrogging that happens.


I think you'd mention like getting a specialist or a ringer in to open up a new marketplace, which you get the right person, it blows the doors off of that effort and is such a rewarding experience.


But they also don't have the historical or institutional knowledge if they're new.


And we do have a lot of folks that make the transition into their companies at higher levels of responsibility and business development being one of them.


Sometimes they're hired specifically because of their experience or their past qualifications to help open up a new service area sometimes, but they don't have that institutional knowledge.


And if they're going out to visit with a client to talk about an upcoming project with a community college, maybe they don't know that your firm did work with that client 10 years ago on an extremely important project or some other little piece of Intel.


And maybe the client doesn't know that either because there's churn over there.


And marketing is often the keepers of that kind of information or at least the one that knows how to find it.


Yeah, I think that's a good plug for having collaborative meetings between marketing and BD and knowing that they're about to go meet with XYZ University and marketing can be like, oh, did you know we did all of these projects?


I can think of times where someone new came along and was kind of just off doing their thing to bring in work but didn't know the company portfolio and that knowledge is there in marketing.


I mean, you could probably just go and they could rattle it off the top of their head.


We've mentioned BD meetings, which might be more focused on clients and pursuits and revenue targets and backlog or whatever else you want to talk about in that meeting.


Do you think that differs from a BD marketing meeting?


Do you have any thoughts, suggestions of like how frequently BD and marketing should be meeting in an organized way as opposed to the ad hoc, hey, guess what, I learned this information that feels a little bit different than the structured kind of sales type meeting?


Well, my thoughts on this are that quarterly feels too far away.


Like there's too much time that passes and weekly feels onerous.


I'd say on a monthly basis, having a check in that's an hour long where you've got a running list of items that you keep adding to and keep updating is probably a good pace for most firms.


And in four weeks is enough to you can plot that out with a certain level of certainty in terms of your workload to make some informed decisions on how to use the time between the meetings.


So I think monthly would be a good pace.


Yeah.


And way I've tackled in the past where if you have a lot of different departments and you're in a lot of markets, the first half of the meeting was more the day to day like marketing pursuits, who's going to what event and then the second half of the meeting was specific to a certain market.


So this first Wednesday of the month is K-12.


The second Wednesday of the month is Public Works.


So then people can opt in to the ones that are important to them or if they've got some burning thing they know, this is when we're going to meet on that particular market.


That is a very smart way to keep Beattie always looped in with marketing.


I like that cadence a lot.


For Middle of Six, we have a monthly business development meeting and it's just nice to know that it's there and it gives me sort of, you know, I might be doing business development like activities all month long and then about a week before, I just know it's coming up, I can update everything.


I think we all kind of end up working that way.


But having that set time where it's not getting moved and, you know, is something that people can rely on.


And with that set agenda, they can be, you know, have to make all of your updates live in the meeting.


You can talk about decisions that should come from everything that people have input into that agenda.


And then we have a business development teams channel and then things that happen throughout the month might get posted there.


There's a certain amount of accountability that comes with it, too, of the, oh, yeah, I said I was going to do that.


You know, best laid plans sometimes go awry.


So it allows you to check in on that.


Sometimes things get stuck because it's transactional in nature.


Sometimes you're waiting for something external to your company to happen or someone to get back to you or something got postponed or you're waiting for a date to get announced.


So there's a lot of these things that you're really just you have to keep them front and center or they're going to fall off the radar completely.


And then it's going to become a reactive thing when it drops.


But that accountability piece is is a real thing because especially when you just put a deadline to bed or you happen to have a somewhat light day, you can commit to all sorts of things.


But the actual doing of them, especially if a deadline comes out of nowhere, a proposal drop so that you have to concentrate on completely those those things can just like butterflies just float away and you don't even remember that you agreed to do them.


So having that running list, having a place that you can come back and you can keep it fresh and updated and and have a room together where you can just say, okay, what's the latest on this?


Not in a why didn't you, but what's the latest on this?


So a very collaborative environment, I found is especially for me personally, is absolutely vital to staying on top of business development because especially in the seller do or model, if you don't have that level of accountability, it is really easy to lose your way and forget about the tactical decisions that you've made even a month prior to that because of the frenetic pace of the work that we do.


And there can be big, scary, it doesn't have to be dangerous, but there can be big issues happening out in the real world that is different than the marketing and BD world.


And so if the seller doer needs to deal with a big decision or an issue on a project or teaming stuff, I mean, all of that is going to be prioritized, but it's nice to bring them back and say, well, where are we on this?


And then acknowledging if it's not going to move forward, do we need to find someone else to do it or can it be taken off the list?


I think we're all ambitious, right?


We all think we can do everything and we want to do everything, but sometimes just seeing it sit there for too long is a great time to reevaluate and say, maybe this doesn't need to be done.


Should we use our resources somewhere else or move it to someone else's plate who can take it on?


So accountability on both sides, so officially from the marketing side, I always feel I'm accountable, but I know how it can be tricky with all of the irons in the fire on the beady side.


There's a lot going on in that area and I think it can help the marketing team feel like the partnership is more successful when there's accountability on both sides.


And the buffet phenomenon where you get your little plate and you go over and you load it up and then you get back to actually eat it and there's no way.


I think there's also that you have to prune too much on my plate.


Well, I'll open it up.


Is there anything else that was on your mind related to this topic that you want to hit on?


And I just don't want to miss anything that you're like, Oh yeah, and this little thing, this part, I would say in this, I'm hoping is not as common as it used to be.


But in my experience, marketing and business development can get siloed away from each other and almost put into camps where they are encouraged not to interact with each other.


And it's almost as though one is seen as proactive and the other is seen as reactive, and that's fine.


And not only are you not maximizing the skills, the opportunities, and the efforts and the time and the resources by linking them together, but marketers get into this industry because of their core set of skills in communication, oftentimes also in writing, oftentimes also in graphic designer layout.


Those are their innate skills that they're bringing to the table.


Business developers don't necessarily come into this because of those innate skills.


Sometimes they develop them over time, but they get into it because of the technical subject matter expertise and the relationships that they've developed that now puts them in a position to capitalize on it.


So hinging those two things together creates probably the strongest potential marketing and business development growth within the firm and siloing them cuts that cord.


And in doing that, you are potentially leaving behind a lot of opportunity to grow your business, to win more work, to amplify your brand.


So for any of those marketers out there that feel that sense of tension, make your bosses listen to this podcast.


That's a really good point to end on there, Allison.


We started with we want we are a team, we're on the same team, and teams don't work very well when they are siloed individuals not getting to hear and benefit from the experience or the knowledge of the other group.


So yeah, share this podcast with someone who might benefit from it.


Let's wrap up with the high level tips that we have for this just to put this in a nutshell.


What would you both recommend?


Kind of understanding the overall goals of the company, the ecosystem, who's responsible for bringing in the work, doing the work, and then collaborating together to make a plan so you're effective together.


Charlie agrees.


Okay, in addition to that, I think that having a place, an actual true central nervous system for all of your intelligence and planning is vital to this.


We talked a lot about CRM, we've talked about the pros and cons of it, we've talked about the pros, I don't see any cons, of a platform like Teams or Slack or Google, where it's truly integrated, it's very user-friendly.


There's a low barrier.


They're not as expensive and really getting as much value out of that as you possibly can.


It would be a tip that any firm of any size can prioritize and start building out and see the value of it probably turn around very quickly.


Within weeks or months, you're gonna start to see that it really will make a difference when you are all collaborating together and tracking things together.


You both covered both end of the spectrum, right?


The big picture, understanding each other's goals, being on the same team, communicating, sort of that philosophical approach to business development and marketing, and then the nitty gritty of communicating on the daily, whether it's a quick chat or getting it into the agenda or just having this place to check in so that everyone can remain informed.


It feels like as you work with individuals in that group, you will work out what you need from each other and be vocal and put it as part of your planning at the start of the year or however your group comes together to figure out what they're going to focus on and make it a priority, because really, it's both groups, it's their main job.


We should work out the kinks and figure out what will work for your team so that you can be more successful and win better work and enjoy the process and feel like we're the unbeatable team because you have so much intel and you're so aligned on how to show that off or how to position, have those projects show up in your marketing communications.


All of that stuff makes the game of what we do so much more enjoyable.


Well, before we wrap up, I will give you the answer to our big trivia question here, which was, how large is the US construction industry according to the AGC of America?


And this was mid 2023 data.


So maybe they didn't specify, but maybe it was looking back at 2022.


So the answer is, is that the US construction industry employs 8 million people and creates $2.1 trillion of structures.


And then I was looking around, I was trying to find something to compare.


I'm just reading these websites, grabbing some fun facts, and found some other information, and it was really quite close.


I did find some numbers that was a bigger range of employees, like 8 million to 11 million, but the dollar value was pretty close.


I think it was like 1.9 trillion to 2.6 trillion.


So somewhere in that area in 2022, and probably kind of continuing on, we're kind of in that area.


So there's a lot of work out there to win, and there's a lot of people doing it, and hopefully your company is getting their piece of the pie through all this.


So Melissa and Allison, thank you for being here.


Really appreciate talking to you.


Have a good rest of your day, everyone out there.


Have a good rest of your day.


Thank you.


Thanks so much, Wendy.


The Shortlist is presented by Middle of Six and hosted by me, Wendy Simmons, Principal Marketing Strategist.


Our producer is Kyle Davis, with digital marketing and graphic design by the team at Middle of Six.


We wanna hear from you.


If you have a question or a topic you'd like us to discuss, send an email or voice memo to theshortlistatmiddleofsix.com.


If you're looking for past episodes or more info, check out our podcast page at middleofsix.com/theshortlist.


You can follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram at middleofsix.


Thanks so much for listening.


We hope you'll tell your friends and colleagues about the show and be sure to subscribe so you don't miss any of our upcoming episodes.


Until next time, keep on hustling.


See you later.



The Shortlist is a podcast that explores all things AEC marketing. Hosted by Middle of Six Principal, Wendy Simmons, each episode features members of the MOS team, where we take a deep dive on a wide range of topics related to AEC marketing including: proposal development, strategy, team building, business development, branding, digital marketing, and more. You can listen to our full archive of episodes here.

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