Four Marketing Challenges for You

Wally Hise
Posted on: 11/02/16
Written by: Wally Hise

Marketing leaders need to set the tone for their functional area.  

lighthouse blues-258856-edited.jpgWhile attending a conference recently,
I listened to several speakers talk about leadership in their technical areas. This got me thinking about the immense pressures we face on a weekly basis as marketing leaders in our firms. I put forward four key challenges to myself, and now to my peers, as we move through the remainder of this year.

Be the expert. This may sound obvious. Executives in our architecture and engineering firms look to us for guidance and leadership on topics ranging from marketing campaigns to client strategies. But consider that an expert is defined as one who has “comprehensive and authoritative knowledge” in his field.

This definition speaks to the necessity of possessing two key attributes: expertise and confidence. Expertise comes with experience gained over time, and is reinforced by staying abreast of current approaches using research and continuing education. These are required to become an expert, and to stay an expert. No matter how good you are, you can’t afford to lose your edge, or your firm may suffer. Confidence is demonstrated by your ability to be
assertive in applying your expertise. Confidence will be seen in your writing, heard in your words, and felt in your tone.

Stay in your lane. We interface with leaders in other functional areas—operations, finance, and technical—on a daily basis. I bring an engineering degree, technical background, and project management experience to
the table; those are some of the things that make me credible as a marketing executive. But that broad background brings the inevitable desire to contribute to areas outside of my current function.

If you are like me, there is a strong temptation to voice your opinion on many topics. During management meetings there will be discussions on financial metrics, project execution, and recruiting and staffing. I try to resist expressing my viewpoint on every topic; that’s what I mean by stay in your lane. Of course, discussions related to acquisitions and strategic planning, as examples, warrant my active participation.

Collaborate at all costs.  We live in a connected world where information and people are available to us almost any time of the day or night. There’s no reason to operate in a silo when communication is so easy.
I am currently involved in hiring the leader for one of our strategic business areas. The top candidate is a business
acquaintance who I’ve known for nearly a decade, so I am in the middle of many discussions related to filling this position.

During a recent coaching session with the candidate, I described our matrix management system and corporate
culture as “hyper-collaborative.” We communicate, and then communicate some more. This is reinforced by our
extensive hiring process where we interview, and then interview some more. The approach forces us to make
the best decision possible, which brings me to my final challenge.

Make the decision. The first three challenges can be met head on, and you may still come up short of great results. That is, unless you can muster the courage to make hard decisions. This week I’ll have to decide which contracts to pursue (or not), what projects to include in our re-compete proposal, and how to structure our pricing for a new contract.

We have plenty of opportunities to show our mettle in our roles as marketing leaders. My four challenges
will come into play as you collect data, evaluate options, and choose the best course of action. There are no
guarantees of success. But I’m a firm believer in the notion that “when we know for certain, it’s too late.” 

About the Author: Wally Hise is vice president of federal marketing for HDR Engineering, Inc. (Omaha, NE). Contact him at


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