87: Marketing a Global Brand with HOK Marketing Principal, Sarah Keane

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In this episode of Design Development, hosted by Rens Hayes of H+O Structural Engineering, we dive deep into the intricacies of marketing within the architecture and engineering sector, featuring Sarah Keane, Marketing Principal at HOK. HOK is a world-renowned architecture, engineering, and planning firm. Established in 1955, HOK distinguishes itself with a workforce of over 1700 across 26 offices on three continents. As Sarah shares her wealth of experience, we explore how a company of this size and prestige handles its marketing efforts, offers strategic insights, and leverages its brand reputation to maintain competitive advantage.

Sarah delves into the unique aspects of marketing in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. She discusses the parallels and differences between marketing professional services and products in other sectors like tech and SaaS. The conversation touches upon the importance of pre-positioning, utilizing a diversified marketing approach, and ensuring that every client interaction aligns with the brand's values. Sarah emphasizes HOK's decentralized marketing model, how the firm tailors its strategies to fit various market sectors, and the significant role of internal clients—an often-overlooked aspect of marketing.

Key Takeaways:

  • Client Relationships: Building and maintaining strong client relationships is paramount, as repeat business often requires less marketing spend and offers higher returns on investment.
  • Strategic Planning: Pre-positioning and early engagement in the pursuit process help ensure success, with marketing teams getting involved long before an RFP is released.
  • Balanced Marketing Approach: Leveraging multiple marketing channels and digital platforms ensures comprehensive client engagement and maximum outreach.
  • Internal and External Marketing: Marketing in the AEC industry involves significant internal coordination and aligning all employees with the brand's ethos and client service standards.
  • Importance of Authenticity: Genuine connections and authentic client interactions are critical, as they build trust and can often be the deciding factor in winning projects.


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