5 Reasons Why Your Talented Internal Design and Marketing Team Isn’t Producing GREAT Results

think-outside-the-boxConstruction companies having internal design and marketing teams is on the rise. So, for the first time ever (maybe) your company has hired a few people with various skill sets to develop branding and marketing solutions. Maybe you have a clearly defined strategic plan in place to guide them… maybe you don’t. Either way, given the huge investment in personnel, equipment, software, and benefits, you just don’t feel like they are producing the results you expected from them. Can you realistically expect 2 or 3 people (maybe two designers and one writer) to have the skills, talents and capabilities of “marketing firm” of seasoned professionals? Probably not! So what can you do? Don’t cut them loose just yet. First, let’s discuss the five top reasons why your internal team isn’t living up to expectations. I’ll even throw in some things you can do to fix it.

1. No-one’s steering the Ship.
Many construction company marketing department internal teams have 1-3 designers, some not-too-long-outta-school. Let’s assume you have hired the most talented people available. They are hired. The marketing team lead asks Designer 1 to create folders and brochures for the different SBUs or divisions, and maybe Designer 2 workers on a PowerPoint or two for proposal submittal presentations. When the Business Developers or Sales Team receives the materials they think “this is good stuff” and they use it. Later, another need arises… they need a new trade show display – so they go through the same process: “Hey, Designer 3 – design us a great display” and the designer produces something new. So a few weeks later, the BDs are at the trade show working to represent and sell a powerful and cohesive brand, but what the visitors see is disjointed. The cool display doesn’t match the brochures, and the powerpoint they are showing doesn’t match anything else. Theme, tone, message, look-and-feel… all different. Whaaaat? This is a sure sign that no-one is steering the ship.
Check it out: Go and look at ALL of the work from each of the designers/locations, and if they don’t all match the same “tool box,” then you need someone to take the helm. Your marketing materials should all complement and unite the brand. Most of the time, it appears as though each piece was designed in a bubble, and no one paid attention to the other materials before starting the next job, so they created what they wanted… to the best of their abilities.
The crazy thing is that it isn’t even the designers fault. The designers are designing… But, if they are doing so without some serious branding guidelines, OR without an acting art director to keep things consistent, then the branding will disconnect, and you’ll have a brand marketing toolkit that doesn’t match and doesn’t work.

2. They lack established processes for getting it done.
WE have established processes for most major work-flows, because we develop and build similar materials and tools for many similar, but different, companies. However, most companies we audit don’t have these processes in place for marketing, because they really don’t need them. Or they don’t need them for EVERYTHING. This is often because much of the work the marketing team produces are one-time-projects.

Let me explain: Let’s say you need a new brochure for your industrial division. If you know you are only going to develop one brochure for the division and then you won’t need another for years you wouldn’t invest the time creating a process for that brochure because you build them so infrequently. On the flip side – if you are going to develop a series of brochures, knowing that there will be more brochures to be developed in the future, it would make sense to create a process or work-flow for the brochure development.

What we have experienced within construction companies, is that the marketing team members approach each project as they see fit. So, you will see some team members rushing through projects resulting in concepts that don’t have much depth, OR you may have a team member who has created a long development process that will take days to work through for projects they receive. If nothing else – see who’s process delivers the best results in the least amount of time, and have others work from that process. Or, for one-time-projects, hire an outside professional team (subcontractors) that has the experience and resources to produce quality marketing tools that will save you money in the long run because they stand the test of time. After all, isn’t that how your construction teams build right?

3. They’re faced with unrealistic timeframes and/or deadlines.
The fastest way to get mediocre results, even from the most talented designer or marketing team, is to give them too-little time to do a good job. I’m not saying you need a month turnaround for every project, but you do need something realistic.
If your team is working on a project that is reoccurring or very repetitive, or even if it’s something customized off of your current branding, they may only need half a day from start to finish. Sure… reformatting an ad should only be .5-1 hour project, including proofing time. But, where I see companies really cheating themselves is on a project that is NEW to them. A new ad campaign, for instance, should take a few weeks of “on-and-off work,” and a new/revised logo (especially if it is important and highly visible) could be anywhere from 1-month to 6-months to get the best results. There are many ways to minimize/reduce timelines, but you still shouldn’t plan on creating a new “important” brand-marketing tool in two days. It may look good in two days, but will it work over the long-haul and successfully with your entire brand-marketing toolkit? Take some time to develop the best results!

4. They lack the skills/knowledge/expertise/resources to do “that” in-house.
Here’s the one that helps us justify our existence: Just because you have a “Designer” (or maybe three) in-house, it doesn’t mean they know how to design everything you need in your marketing toolkit. Companies sometimes over-hire when they have lots of project needs, then wind up having too many designers on staff. Since they made the investment of time and money on these designers, they now expect them do all of the design work needed by the company even when they have zero experience in specific areas. AND, there are a few projects that should probably never be handled by your internal designers, and those are: Identity design/redesign, Trade Show Display design, Website Design, and Website Coding.

I’ll explain a couple of these:
Trade Show Displays: There are too many important issues that come into play when developing a Trade Show Display, and if you do it wrong, the price to re-design and re-plan the display can be very expensive. More importantly for consideration, is that a lack-luster trade show display can work as an anti-sales device on the Trade Show floor. If you want to double your branding problems, have a entry level designer working on a project like Trade Show Display design and planning, and only give them a few days to do it (see #3 above).
Website Planning and Design: The other project I would never give to an internal designer (unless they have a specialization in web dev and planning) is website planning, development and coding. Websites are probably more challenging than Trade Show Displays because of the rapidly changing technology and science involved. While almost any designer exiting a good design curriculum can “make” a website (normally by borrowing a template), they don’t necessarily understand the strategy of website development, or the tools that are needed to build a sophisticated B-to-B style site. Building in functionality such as Marketing Tools, Traffic-flow strategy, Marketing Automation, secure areas, etc. require specialized knowledge and on-going continuing ed to maximize its effectiveness. Let someone with limited website building knowledge at your site, and you will end up with a shallow website that might look good, but probably won’t have the marketing oomph needed to attract new business or achieve marketing goals.

5. Communication among departments is weak or completely non-existent.
If your teams are divided into silos, it is time to connect them (at the least, require them to have check-in meetings). Most internal marketing/design teams that produce good results belong to marketing-centric construction companies. By definition, if a company is marketing-centric, then it must have strong internal communications. If your company doesn’t have a well-developed internal marketing system that guides strong internal communication among departments, then this is when having strong branding standards really pays-off. Either that, or you’ll need one person (a brand manager) who oversees all branding coming out of all departments. Larger construction companies have recently begun to understand how vital internal marketing and communications is to maintaining their culture across locations, their branding consistency across all their operations, and even to their all-important safety record. Want something to come out right? Then talk about it!

Bottom line: Make someone in your organization accountable for the brand, make sure your team can actually do the work, and give them the right amount of time to produce the best results if possible. Oh, and just like you do when an important construction project that could make or break your reputation requires specialized skills and techniques, consider bringing in some marketing subcontractors for those “once-in-a-blue-moon” marketing projects. Of course you’ll want to vet their qualifications and real experience, but getting your internal team some help occasionally, so they don’t lose their minds (or worse) produce mediocre solutions, may be the best thing you can do to ensure they meet your expectations.