In this, the third part of the Building Insights series brought to you by Construction Data Company (www.cdcnews.com) in cooperation with the Stevens Construction Institute, (www.stevensci.com), we address the marketing and selling of your firm.
As with Part I & II, this is not meant to be a step-by-step instructional guide; but rather, a conversational piece designed to assist your firms in winning more bids by presenting several thought provoking ideas.
As we saw in the first part of this series, winning more bids is not simply a function of bidding more. Winning more bids requires an investment in time and resources. Part of this investment includes conducting a proper market analysis which will lead companies to determine the right kind of work they should be bidding on and negotiating for.
Once the right type of work is determined, a firm must market and sell themselves to prospective clients – owners, developers, architects, engineers, and general contractors. This marketing and selling of one’s firm is the focus of this executive brief.
Marketing & Selling
Marketing and selling, though on the same spectrum, are not one and the same. In order to successfully acquire more work – and, more specifically, more profitable work – firms must become disciplined enough to employ the marketing-selling process across the entire spectrum. Although a firm can still acquire work by shortcutting the process, they will acquire less than “perfect” work – i.e., work that does not meet the newly defined “perfect” clients, work types, and locations.
As a firm moves across the marketing-selling spectrum, the processes utilized include:
1. Market research to determine the firm’s best geography, client, and work type. This involves determining the best business/project situation and planning accordingly. For more information on this process, see Bidding Insights – Part I: Finding the Right Work & Part II: Selecting the Right Work.
2. Discovery of prospects. Firms must use all avenues such as project leads services, the Internet, attending conferences, etc.
3. Indirect communication to prospects. This includes letters, phone calls, advertisements, conventions/trade shows, etc. directed toward a target audience.
4. Direct communication to the prospect’s decision maker. This involves directly meeting with the prospect’s leadership, presenting to them, and then following up.
Many construction firm owners and senior level executives begin the process with step #4. Often this is through happenstance rather than planned action – construction executives meet potential clients at local business functions or while travelling and, naturally, strike up a conversation. Unfortunately, by shortcutting the marketing-selling process, these firms find themselves performing work at a loss or with a client that is far from the firm’s defined “perfect” client. Construction firm executives who find themselves in contact with prospective clients should redefine this fortuitous encounter in terms of the marketing-selling spectrum.
“Marketing and selling, though on the same spectrum, are not one and the same. In order to successfully acquire more work – and, more specifically, more profitable work – firms must become disciplined enough to employ the marketing-selling process across the entire spectrum.”
After the encounter, and upon further evaluation, if the prospective client is one which fits the firm’s “perfect” location, client type, and work type, then the “lead” should continue through the marketing-selling spectrum, albeit at a high priority.
Construction Data Company can assist firms through the marketing-selling spectrum. As discussed in Part I & II of this series, both CDCNews’ products and local regional offices can be used as a resource to help determine a firm’s best geography, client, and work types. In addition, CDC can assist in the discovery of, and communication with, prospects. Not only do subscribers find project leads, but also a wealth of contact information. CDCNews’ reports contain contact information, including contact persons’ names and email addresses (the latter is available if a firm subscribes to Lead Manager, CDCNews’ online product.) Lead Manager subscribers also have access to hyper-linked company names which show other projects with which those companies are involved.
Prospective clients who do not meet the “perfect” definition should not be ignored or discarded. Follow-up is still required, even if it is to decline the opportunity to pursue work with their organization and express appreciation for their consideration. This is difficult to do, but it is a necessary process if firms are to ensure that they are only pursuing projects with their ideal clients. Failure to do so will result in both a client and a contractor who are unhappy. In addition, following up in a professional manner, your firm leaves open the possibility of work in the future. As a firm grows, its definition of “perfect” location, client, and work type changes. File this under never burning a bridge.
Several key things to remember concerning the marketing-sales spectrum:
A break in the process slows or stops it. Firms must stick to the process and don’t allow any discontinuity.
Discovering prospects is the most cost intensive portion of the spectrum. Although costly, it is necessary for the continued growth of the firm.
All company activities communicate something about the firm. Everyone in the firm should be made aware of this. A company truck that drives recklessly on the highway or is seen parked outside of a “gentleman’s club” sends a message about the firm.
When it comes to direct communication, preparation is the key. Firms should be certain to rehearse their presentation, have answers for anticipated questions, and have enough material to distribute to each participant in the meeting.
Firms should be as diligent in their follow up after a meeting as in their attempts to get the meeting.
- Firms should be aware not to sell when they should be marketing.