Last week’s blog centered on the art of marketing to create perception or branding strategy. After a meeting this morning with an engineering prospect who sought me out to help him develop a strategy to create inroads into the AEC environment, I thought that I would expand further on the topic of creating perception in today’s blog.

If you only had 60 seconds to make an impression, could you? Would you know what to say, do? Would you trust those 60 seconds to just anyone? How about to your project manager or estimator? Create your own 60-second commercial.

Sixty seconds is not a long time. Yet, it takes less than 4 seconds for a prospect to gain a quick perception of you or your firm. This perception then becomes a reality to the prospect, subject to further scrutiny. All of this happens in less than seconds. That does not leave much room for error now does it?

If we know it only takes that amount of time to get our foot in the door, it stands to reason that we should control that time better? Right? What can you do to make the most impact possible in the shortest amount of time? What can you do to help your employees embrace making a positive impact?

A firm’s culture and subsequent perception within the marketplace is set in motion the second you, an employee or even an existing client interacts on your behalf with another individual. How you control the message that is relayed is all part of a marketing strategy that should be part of the foundation of the firm.

These first 60 seconds are only one small part of the overall client relationship approach. You can make a killer first impression and totally loose that initial perception at the very next follow up meeting, or at the shortlist presentation.

You can subsequently lose that first impression by just NOT following up in a timely manner. Every client interface must strategically build upon the other. Every individual must be able to portray the same professional impression that maintains and supports that first perception.

A client’s first and subsequent perception should mirror your firm’s brand or image. It is a reflection of your established business discipline for building and growing client relationships. It is the process set in place to reinforce company values, and to gain credit for all the things the corporation does right.

Branding describes the total experience of having a relationship with you. This is true for you as a person and also for your company. You already have a brand, as does your company. Your brand is a reflection of who you are and what you believe and value. The key is, does everyone within the firm understand or share those same beliefs and values?

My lesson today is to take stock to ensure that the message you want to be relayed to the public is the actual message getting out across the board. What many individuals do not realize is that their body language can communicate an entirely different message than the face or words reveal. If you have designers or field personnel interacting directly with existing clients, by all means make sure they are sold on the firm’s culture and message. Make sure they know how to address issues without alienating the client. Make sure they communicate regularly between executives and other decision-makers to solve the issues before they become out of control.

I don’t know about you, but I have to BELIEVE in what I am selling to effectively deliver a product or service. Do your employees believe in the firm and its ability to provide the highest quality product or service? If not, then you have a communication issue that could result in losing a valued client. My recommendation is to periodically hold internal sessions to reinforce the corporate message and help the employee understand his or her value within the firm. A happy employee is the best salesman or woman any firm could have.

Please, I welcome ideas or suggestions on topics that you would like see. If I don’t have answers, I know I can research and pull something together. I would like to hear from anyone.

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