Trying to allocate both time and resources to new A/E/C marketing initiatives, while dealing with ongoing proposal demands, can be an arduous task for marketers.  And perhaps the greatest challenge is gaining buy-in from firm principals and executive management.

But gaining buy-in from firm leadership is absolutely critical to the success of any A/E/C marketing initiative, as most initiatives will likely require an investment of budget, as well as time from both marketing and technical staff.  So what are some ways to get firm leadership on board with new marketing initiatives? Here are a few thoughts.

1. Educate firm leadership

Peter Drucker, the well-known management authority, once described learning as “a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change.” And I would argue that one of a marketer’s primary objectives is to keep themselves on top and in front of the latest trends, techniques and best practices in modern marketing. But marketers also have a responsibility to keep their firm leaders in the know as well and encourage a culture of perpetual learning firm wide.

So what are some easy ways to do that? Try bringing your CEO to an SMPS education event, encourage them to read a book on modern marketing, have them sit in on a webinar and regularly send them articles that will keep them in the know of where marketing is headed.  And it shouldn’t stop with C-suite either; consider hosting regular lunch-and-learns with firm leadership to showcase the latest best practices.

2. Make a compelling pitch

For any initiative that’s going to require significant time and/or money, making a strong business case to senior leadership is key. While in some cases a simple conversation may suffice, putting in the effort to make a more formal pitch will go a long way in not only persuading the merits of the initiative, but also showing how much benefit marketing sees in it as well.

Take the time to craft a presentation that provides leadership with a convincing argument for supporting the initiative. Be sure to provide real-world examples, research and statistics and a well thought-through plan for execution. And as you build your pitch, consider any and all potential objections and proactively diffuse them throughout your pitch.  More than likely, you’re well aware of what’s going to receive pushback so don’t wait for the Q&A to address it!

3. Tie everything to the firm’s strategic plan and goals

Marketing isn’t a hobby, so anything that’s going to demand staff time and firm dollars should be ultimately tied to helping the firm achieve their strategic objectives. Think about it—it’s much more difficult to argue against an initiative that is tied back to the firm’s strategic business plan and overall business goals.  So one of the most compelling reasons that the marketing team can give principals and firm leaders to accept a new marketing initiative is to show them how the plan works to specifically address a particular goal(s) or strategic objective.

And this emphasis on strategic alignment should become a part of the marketing department’s DNA. Because it’s important for everyone in the firm, at each and every level and department, to understand the “why” behind anything that marketing (and business development for that matter) is doing.  Whether a new idea or a long-standing staple, if a particular marketing activity can’t be strategically connected to the firm’s goals, it shouldn’t happen.

4. Show results (and admit failure)

While the conversation around return-on-investment for marketing can be challenging in any industry, the unique nature of the A/E/C industry makes proving ROI—at least in the truest sense of the term—exceptionally difficult. But firm leaders understand that marketing AND business development activities can’t always be tied directly to a particular project win or bottom-line revenue. Revenue and new business is almost always the result of a multitude of touch points, efforts, conversations and interactions over an extended period of time. But showing results—how a particular marketing initiative is performing according to pre-defined goals and metrics­—is critical for the credibility of the initiative and the marketing department as well.

One of the best ways marketers can get principal buy-in is to build credibility and trust. And you do that by being accountable, making sure firm leaders are fully aware of the ongoing successes (and failures) of any and all marketing initiatives. The truth is, not every initiative is going to be a home run, but just as it’s important to demonstrate wins, it’s equally important not to conceal the losses.  And along with that, firm principals should have a clear understanding of the various factors and reason behind the results and the lessons learned along the way.

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Obtaining principal approval for new A/E/C marketing initiatives can prove to be a challenge for many marketers. But with the right approach, and a sound strategic rationale, it can certainly be achieved.  Hopefully these ideas will be helpful.