Friday, 27 February 2009

The archaeological marketplace

In times like these, effective marketing can make all the difference between survival and closure. Does your current strategy deliver business? Or are you wasting time and money?

If you're relying on repeat business from your existing developers, you will starve

There were 4,500 developer-funded reports per year sent to HERs in England before the credit crunch (source: Archaeological Investigations Project)
There were 500,000 planning applications per year (source: Planning Portal)

So, on average, 1 in 100 planning applications leads to archaeological work of some sort. So even if a developer is highly active and submits a lot of applications, they are unlikely to need archaeological assistance more than once in a blue moon.*

If you're relying on word-of-mouth you will starve

Developers don't talk to each other very much, and certainly don't share their commercial secrets. They won't recommend you to their competitors. And in any case, given the low incidence of archaeology, it won't be often that someone who has had a problem meets someone who has got one at the moment.

If you're relying on your reputation you will starve

You can't rest on your laurels and wait for work to turn up based on your reputation. The only archaeologists likely to be recognised outside the archaeological community are Time Team (and maybe Bonekickers).

Every project is a first date

You need to make a good first impression. It's no good muddling along and then producing the best report in the world at the end: they won't hang around. But managing that impression is difficult.

What will be noticed
Answering emails and phone calls quickly and politely
Having professional-looking stationery, staff and premises
Professional and quality accreditation
Friendliness, enthusiasm and efficiency
What curators say about you

What won't be noticed
Academic credibility
Specialist knowledge
Previous experience
What past customers say about you

I man ways, this is depressing, since it means that the qulaities we value highest are least effective. But it's probably better to realise that, I think.

* Environmental Assessments are different: developers for types of development that require these *will* be repeat customers and *will* know about archaeology.

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