By Rachael Higginbotham
I didn’t know until recently that you have to select plumbing fixtures for a new house before the slab is even poured. Why is this important? Because bathtub faucets have different specifications, and the plumber needs the right valve for the rough-in.
To be honest, I didn’t even know what a rough-in was, which is why I hired a contractor to guide me through the process. I could look at a set of plans and say, “I want this house,” but I had very little idea of how to turn that plan into a reality. If it had been up to me, I would have probably selected my floors before my plumbing fixtures, because visually it seems that flooring is installed before faucets.
Through the process of building a home, I’ve come to realize that marketers are very similar to general contractors. We (usually) don’t have the right technical skills to execute the jobs (i.e., we aren’t going to prepare a tax return, like the GC isn’t going to wire the house for electricity), but we know the process for marketing and selling our services. My GC guides me through the home building process, bringing his experience, resources, and advice along the way.
Marketers can guide the growth process, and help our team members build things too–things like relationships, brands, pipelines, and revenue.
So what can we, as marketers, learn from a great general contractor?
All GCs understand the home building process, but most homeowners don’t. A good GC walks you through the process instead of just letting you navigate it yourself.
As marketers, we understand the buyers’ journey and can help our doer-sellers identify the right tools to use along the path. We give insight into the industry, and we help provide order and knowledge (i.e., create a relationship first, send a proposal later, just like you select plumbing fixtures first, pour slab later). Having that guide gives critical advice and provides a level of comfort, especially to those who haven’t built things before, whether it be a home or a book of business.
Budgets & Timelines
A good GC ensures that expectations, including budgets and timelines, are well-established and vetted. No one likes surprises. If you’ve worked in an accounting firm for any period of time, you know that CPAs like surprises (especially financial ones), even less. That’s why it’s critical to know not only how much you are spending, but WHY you are spending it. What does that $5,000 sponsorship get you? Does it create direct opportunities/leads? Does it make your “doer-seller” team more effective? Is there a better way to spend it? I don’t want my GC to say “whatever you want,” and our firms don’t want us to go along with the path of least resistance either. It’s our jobs to recommend the right budgets, with the right investments, and to manage them according to the right timeline.
A good GC has resources at their disposal. One of the most stressful parts of building is selecting finishes (flooring, paint, windows, doors, cabinets….ALL THE THINGS). A good contractor has great vendors—people who can guide you and advise you about their specialty. A good marketer also has resources who can advise our firms. Whether your firm needs a graphic designer, videographer, web designer, business development trainer, or other type of specialty, having marketers with relationships outside of their firms is critical to success. As an example, we have found great resources in the Leading Edge Alliance, the Association for Accounting Marketing, the Rainmaker Companies, and others.
A GC simply can’t be good at his/her job if they are not good communicators. Poor communication is how balls get dropped, mistakes get made, budgets get blown, and people freak out (not speaking from experience, of course ;)). As marketers, the baseline of our jobs is communication—business development is 100% letting our clients and prospects know how we can help them and why they should choose us. Marketers have tons of resources to help us be proactive communicators…content calendars, tools to help us schedule emails and other communications in advance, social media management tools, etc. But because we are all so busy, responsive communications sometimes suffer.
How many times have you been asked to provide materials to help a doer-seller with a prospect, and you’ve taken longer than you wanted to because you had to dig for it, update it, or worse, write it from scratch? Having professional, organized, searchable materials ready to go are a big part of making sure our sales teams are prepared to meet with clients. And you get bonus points if the doer-sellers all have access and can put packets together with the click of a button.
One thing I really like about my GC is that he uses a communication tool where everything I need is at my fingertips. He doesn’t have to stop what he’s doing to answer my question about the specs for my light fixtures, the date a selection is due, or who to contact for my countertops. It’s all readily accessible in my self-service app, which makes him more efficient because he doesn’t have to spoon-feed me information upon demand.
From laying the groundwork to delivering the keys to the new owners, general contractors own the building process. Great general contractors don’t just deliver a quality home, they make the process easier for the homeowners. As marketers, it’s not just about delivering growth results. Great marketers make the process easier and more effective for our doer-sellers too.
Rachael Higginbotham is the Marketing Director for Postlethwaite & Netterville. With over 15 years of marketing and consulting experience—including a decade in the world of accounting marketing—her strengths include marketing strategy, business development coaching and support, ROI development, brand management and strategic corporate projects.