Marketing 101: Writing Your Strategic Plan

Event: Strategic Planning for the Intrepid Architect
Location: Center for Architecture, 07.09.09
Speakers: Frances Gretes — Founder & Principal, Gretes Research Services; Kirsten Sibilia, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP — Chief Marketing Officer, JCJ Architecture
Organizer: AIANY Marketing & Public Relations Committee

With increasing economic pressure on marketing acumen, there is no time like downtime to develop a sound strategy. Addressing firm principals, studio leaders, and marketing directors/managers, Fran Gretes, principal of Gretes Research Services, and Kirsten Sibilia, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, chief marketing officer of JCJ Architecture, discussed how to develop a workable strategic plan for an architecture practice.

A strategic plan conveys the mission and vision of the firm, while a business plan addresses the financial and operational aspects of the practice, such as staff and resources. Sibilia believes that the strategic plan should be developed before both the business and marketing plans. The first step, Gretes suggests, is to create an inventory of a firm’s strengths and weaknesses and then the planning process may begin.

Sibilia and Gretes agreed that it is best to use active verbs and simple language when writing a strategic plan. They suggested reading examples of plans by other firms, which are often summarized in the form of mission statements on websites. Ultimately, it is a document specific to each firm and should inspire employees and remind them why they chose to work there. Sibilia noted that “the plan is a living document,” but there is a point in time when revisions should stop and the plan put into action.

Once implemented, strategic plans should be reviewed more often than annually. Sibilia recommended quarterly review, in some cases, and Gretes suggested that firms maintain a flexible perspective: “Don’t get overwhelmed by data, and be receptive to new ideas.” Most importantly, firms should anticipate current and future clients’ needs by stepping into their position.

In closing, Sibilia assured the audience that they should not be afraid of developing a strategic plan. “A lot of this is common sense,” Gretes said. But “if you don’t know who you are and don’t have a plan for where you’re going… then you have a problem.”