Building a Design Firm'€™s Professional Development Program - Business Development

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You can refer to this section as business development or client facing skills since few firm leaders consider that they include their in-house professional development programs as a part of their marketing and promotion efforts. Professional development within A/E firms has evolved during the past decade and it is time to re-think how A/E firms share and distribute their intellectual property with professional associations and clients. For those firms that already have in-house programs you likely already have components in place. I offered several suggestions last November in my blog Overlooked Internal Training Sources for A/E Firms.

Business development (marketing and promotion) is a critical element of every firm. If your professional development program is intended for internal use, then be sure that your marketing plan relates to the needs assessment of your staff and client'€™s knowledge needs. If the firm includes education as a part of external marketing efforts be sure that it is also included within the firm'€™s strategic plan for educating target audiences. A staff presentation at an industry conference is a good example. You may have the world'€™s most knowledgeable subject matter expert (SME), designed an interesting presentation, and even offered the program using an innovative delivery format. However, if the intended audience is not aware that course is being offered then be surprised at a low turnout. Those who rely solely on the firm'€™s reputation to spread the word will frequently fail. You must adequately promote and advertise each of your courses. Budget accordingly.

Continuing in part six of this eight part series I have assembled requirements from several prestigious organizational award programs that appear with consistency. The self-assessment presented in this piece are intended to assist those individuals who are responsible for shaping and managing the organizational structure of an Architectural/Engineering Design and Consulting Firms'€™ professional education department. This assessment tool is not intended for the design or development of any individual course, certification, skill, or professional program.

KEY 5: Business Development (Marketing and Promotion)

Key 5 examines the firm'€™s business development structure that includes marketing and promotion of the educational courses and programs. This section provides recommendations for how the firm should address both internal and external marketing and promotion or their education courses and programs.
1. There is an established long-term educational marketing plan in place that includes: budget and pricing; projected incomes (including internal between departments); registration and enrollment procedures; number of classes and class sizes per session; cancellation policies; fees (ex: staff, instructor, course development expenses; course materials, equipment, technical considerations, facilities).
2. There is a separate One-Year marketing plan.
3. Print and social media promotional and advertising methods are used to support the marketing strategy that includes related expenses.
4. Other promotional activities include publicity, advertising, open houses, press releases, etc. to clients supporting speakers at professional conferences.
5. Quantitative metrics are in places that measure indicators and provide current levels, trends, and any appropriate comparative data.
6. There is a process for projecting new educational activities.
7. The marketing plan and promotion efforts are evaluated for effectiveness annually.
8. A process for researching the regulatory standards and legal and ethical requirements that should be addressed through professional development.
9. A process for ensuring that the firm addresses its responsibilities to the client, the profession, and the community through community outreach through education and training.

Using the Baldrige National Quality Award and IACET as models, a special task force created the AIA/CES Award for Excellence for The American Institute of Architects, Continuing Education System. This program was used as a cornerstone for building a national continuing education program that shaped education offered in the design industry. Today, other learning and development award programs such as the ASTD-Awards/Best-Awards and the Chief Learning Officer, CLOmedia Awards are also being used to elevate the practice of learning and development.