A-E Marketing Journal October 2014 Volume 10 Issue 10

Marketing Ideas for Architecture and Engineering Firms.
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  OCTOBER / 2014 ã  VOL / 10 ã  ISSUE / 10 WWW.PSMJ.COM IN THIS ISSUE: COMPETING WITH THE GIANTS ã  Compete with the Big Boys... and Win! A David and Goliath Story    /  1-2 ã  Eight Ways to “Discover” New Work     /  2 ã  How to Write a Terrible Federal Proposal: Five Steps to Ensure Disaster  /  3-4 ã  How to Market Before and After Selection  /  4 ã  Upcoming Events  /  4 ã  Book Review: Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Will Transform Audiences    /  5 ã  A/E Pulse Poll of the Month  /  6 ã  Communications Corner: What Is The Most Important Stuff?   /  6 ã  Urban Legends: Work Life Balance in the A/E/C Industry  /  7-8 ã  How To Win Work Now  /  7-8 ã  What A/E/C Buyers Want, What Sellers Think They Want, and How to Leverage the Difference  /  8-9 ã  Did You Know?  /  9 ã  The Mom and Pop Hardware Store /  10 ã  Are You Using the Right Communication Vehicle for Your Message?  /  11 ã  The Power of Partnerships  /  12 FEATURED ARTICLE: Publisher   Managing Editor   Graphic Designer   Published byHeadquartersTel   FaxEmailWeb Frank A. Stasiowski, FAIA Lauren K. Terry Marc Boggs PSMJ Resources, Inc. Newton, MA 617-965-0055617-965-5152  A  E MARKETING JOURNAL AE   Est. 1974 Compete with the Big Boys… and Win! A David and Goliath Story by Eric Snider, P.E. Let’s face it. Sometimes we Davids in the broad A/E/C community feel that we don’t get a fair shake when competing for work with Goliath Corporation and Goliath’s mega-sister rms. We have to recall that the big rms started small, and got large through one or more of the three “E’s”: ego, economics, and efciency. And yet the  big boys come into project proposal and presentation opportunities thinking they can dominate and win on their size. Well, there are some things we small- and mid-sized rms can do to neutralize their supposed edge. But rst let’s cover a few of the main  points that the Goliaths of the world make as they market themselves: ã Full service (also known as one-stop shopping, single point of responsibility);ã World class technical expertise (including niche service lines) and robust management systems. This is often housed under the term “capability”;ã A sufcient number of personnel available to fully execute your project. This is housed under the term “capacity”;ã Large portfolio of relevant projects. For engineers and constructors, relevant  projects are those that are as close as possible to the pending project in size and  scope. For architects and interior designers, relevant projects are those with  similar artistic and design elements yet with individual and unique aspects as well;ã Ofce locations everywhere, including one near you. So, what is there not to like about this combination? The answer may be, “nothing… I like it!” That happens when the relationship between the client and service provider is strong, the provider knows the project well, and the client has condence in Goliath.But we Davids can easily counter each of these supposed advantages espoused by Goliath. Here are “Yes, but” responses to each of these: ã You, David, will provide a single point of responsibility, just as the project  manager in Goliath does. In fact, small- and mid-sized rms are adept at assembling quality teams as needed and assuring seamless work products by the team but still with the PM as single point of contact and responsibility;ã You, David, can provide world-class expertise. Often a team hand-assembled  provides superior service to that of a monolithic Goliath, where all the disciplines “have to” come from within the ranks, eliminating the ability to custom-design the team for the specic project;ã Show the typical “going-out-of-business” curve for all departments (or even individuals) with a prominent role in the project. Show the real availability of  your staff. Be able to show how other ofces in your rm (or outside resources) can respond if needed in a crisis; u   CONTINUED  /  PAGE 2  PUSHING THE LIMITS A/E/C INDUSTRY SUMMIT DECEMBER 4-5, 2014   ã   ORLANDO / FLORIDA PSMJ Resources is bringing together the A/E/C industry’s top leaders and most successful rms to give you a glimpse into the future of our industry.   2 OCTOBER   /  2014 ã  VOL  /  10 ã  ISSUE  /  10 MARKETING JOURNAL AE ã Often it is better to choose one or two key projects you have done that align with the client’s vision and present detailed vignettes on them rather than trying to wow the client with sheer numbers. Once again, know the client and the  project well;ã Stress the importance of electronic communications and work products.  Most clients in Atlanta do not care that you have an ofce in Boston. On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to be physically located  close to the client and his project, certainly use that to your advantage (knowledge of permit requirements, local geology, etc.). So the secret to defusing the Goliaths in your life is to play to your strengths. Don’t slam Goliath up front. Instead, just show the client how his life will be easier dealing with David instead. l Eric Snider, P.E., is a Principal with SynTerra Corporation. Eric frequently writes and speaks on marketing and business development and facilitates several PSMJ bootcamps and workshops. He can be reached at Eight Ways to “Discover” New Work  If your project team is failing to regularly seek add-on contract opportunities, you could be short-circuiting your level of success. The development of new projects from your existing workload should be a foundation of your rm’s marketing program. You’ll discover these opportunities as your team learns about the client’s goals during the course of a current project. Try these eight steps to make this discovery process a routine—not random—act: 1. Set aside time for a client’s needs assessment to examine what’s new, changing, or troublesome in the client’s current operations. Conduct this assessment at quarterly points during the project’s duration, or add it as an agenda item during weekly internal project team updates. 2. Track the nature and frequency of issues that crop up over the course of the project.   Is a trend surfacing? Is one area of the client’s operations in greater need of  proactive help? 3. Compare needs that are surfacing in each of the rm’s projects.  Look for similarities, differences, trends. 4. Brainstorm with the project team, and across project teams, to identify strategies for working with recurring issues or ideas. Consider how to educate both project team members and the client concerning the issue or idea. 5. Compare ideas and strategies across project teams. Determine any general movement in client services on which you should act. Think about assembling a special technical team to work on the emerging issue. 6. Set the best ideas in motion. Fully include your client in developing the ideas and action plans. 7. Compare results across project teams. Determine which strategies appealed to clients and what rollout plan worked  best. Integrate the ideas into your service and product lines. 8. Continue the needs assessment process cycle. Remember: From a marketing standpoint, your current clients are your best clients. l Write for PSMJ Do you have some new, innovative tips to share with others about running an A/E frm? Do you have interesting stories about: ã Making prots;ã Ownership transition;ã Human resources; or ã The future of A/E? PSMJ is looking for great writers and stories for Professional Services Management  Journal! Writing for PSMJ is a remarkable opportunity to enhance your authority, add to your professional resume, bring name recognition to your company, and see your name and contact info in print in a prestigious and highly regarded journal.If you’re interested in writing for us or have a story idea for an upcoming issue, please write to Lauren Terry, PSMJ’s Managing Editor, at Compete with the Big Boys... (continued from page 1)  3 OCTOBER   /  2014 ã  VOL  /  10 ã  ISSUE  /  10 WWW.PSMJ.COM Writing a winning proposal in response to a federal RFP is grueling. The proposal manager has to juggle dozens of issues and keep a constant eye to how the  proposal can be further improved. Under the pressure of tight deadlines, even experienced proposal managers can forget to be vigilant in guarding against downside risks, and can allow strategic or tactical mistakes to occur. In our experience, making any of the following ve errors will guarantee the failure of your proposal. 1. Criticize the RFP.   Early in my career, I worked for a large and successful consulting rm. My boss assigned me to proofread a soon-to-be submitted proposal. The rst paragraph sported a footnote. This struck me as odd,  because my instinct was that footnotes are for term papers, not proposals. The RFP is organized incorrectly, the footnote asserted, and our proposal would present material in a different, and “better,” order. To underscore our obviously superior knowledge of how to structure a proposal, the footnote included a helpful matrix. Clearly the panel would see that our bold, new approach reected creativity on our part—“out of the box” thinking. Out of the box, indeed. After reading the footnote, each member of the evaluation  panel probably wrote us off as either arrogant or naïve. After we lost, my boss was humbled.  “I blew it,”  he conceded. “We shouldn’t have started the proposal by kicking them.” How many times have we all seen an RFP that was poorly organized—with duplicative, overlapping, or even contradictory instructions? To be successful, we have to nd a way to respond to the RFP’s instructions without complaints and in a way that does not translate on paper into the equivalent of a  patronizing sigh. 2. Assume the RFP is fresh and on target. Many proposal writing teams fatally assume that the RFP is fresh, up-to-date, and will reect the client organization’s current priorities and needs. Here’s why it generally won’t: 1. A federal RFP usually is drafted long before it is issued to accommodate the government’s long internal approval process. 2. An RFP typically is written  piecemeal by many separate agency  staff members, and is stitched together at the last minute. Cohesion  suffers accordingly. 3. Persons assigned to write an RFP often take shortcuts— for example, by cutting and pasting material from an old RFP. Do not rely on the RFP for an accurate, up-to-date depiction of the problems to be solved. A savvy rm does its homework, gains a strong sense of the client organization’s current, most pressing issues, and reects that understanding throughout the proposal. 3. Assume your client references will be stellar.  Proposal managers can be tempted to skip the vetting of client references due to time pressures. He or she may list an “Old Faithful” group of client references. Then the nightmare occurs: it turns out that some of these references are no longer enamored with the rm.We tell our clients to vet their references—each time, for each  proposal. If necessary, we’ll do the checking for them. Here are some of the responses we’ve received. (We’ll refer to this client as “Acme.”): “I would never do business with  Acme again. Their current project with me has gone south.”“Yeah, Acme does a workmanlike job.  Frankly, we typically pick Acme for our less complex jobs, because we know that they will give us a really low price.  But we can’t vouch for their abilities on a large, complex project.”“Acme was great in the old days. But their recent work has been subpar, and we just red the guy at our company who was our liaison with them. He wasn’t being candid about how bad things were getting.” 4. Brag—and use clichés while  you’re at it.  Nobody likes a braggart. Don’t waste the evaluation panel’s time by making vacuous statements such as: “Our rm is world-class.”“We have a unique combination of  skills that cannot be matched by any other competitor.” “Our proposed lead technical person is the best in her eld.” If your proposal employs such clichés, evaluation panel members will invariably roll their eyes. Even worse, some members of the panel might prefer to do the work in-house. They may view the RFP as necessary only because the agency is understaffed, not because their colleagues lack the required expertise. Any bragging can be taken as a subtle dig at the agency’s own personnel. So accentuate the positive, but do so with cold, hard facts that document your rm’s capabilities, strengths, and experience. Include examples of tangible results you have achieved for clients. If there is any cheerleading to be done, let it be displayed in excerpts from client testimonials. But don’t brag on your own account. 5. Lie.  Do not doom your proposal by How to Write a Terrible Federal Proposal: Five Steps to Ensure Disaster by Dave Alexander u   CONTINUED  /  PAGE 4  4 OCTOBER   /  2014 ã  VOL  /  10 ã  ISSUE  /  10 MARKETING JOURNAL AE How to Market Before and After Selection by Eric Snider, P.E. A state agency with which my rm does lots of work has begun using a (for them) new contracting mechanism. And its use causes consultants, including yours truly, to rethink the traditional business development model.Here is the old contracting mechanism. In the past the agency would advertise for full proposals for a three-year, indenite delivery or blanket contract using a  broadly written scope. Agency selection committee personnel reviewed all proposals submitted and, using an objective ranking system, a limited number (typically ve or six) of winners were chosen. The BD manager’s job in a successful consultancy was fairly simple. Market to the appropriate agency personnel before the RFP was released, submit a dynamite proposal, and wait to be selected. Then show up in person at the agency’s ofce to keep the ”face time” aspect alive. Obviously, there are more steps but this is the essence.  Now here is the new model. The agency put out a Request for Qualications for a similar three-year contract. However, respondents were allowed only two pages of quals per topic (there were nine subject topics in the scope.) One page covered experience and the second covered staff quals. Simple and direct. What have you done in this area and who did it? The difference is in the selection process. All 38 respondents were reviewed and almost all were deemed ‘qualied’ in one or more topic areas. For any task under the mechanism, the agency will enter discussions with three of the rms qualied in the topic area and will select based on best value for the agency.  My question to the department manager at the agency was, “How and how often do you want to have us visiting or otherwise contacting you? With 38 rms you could have one staff member occupied full-time with visiting consultants!” Her answer? “We know your rm and its staff already… some of the rms deemed “qualied” are almost unknown to us. As one of those we know already, your name will bubble to the top when we start asking for specic task proposals.”The answer was pretty clear. Had we not done our homework early and spent lots of time in the agency BEFORE the RFQ was released, we would be in the second tier. But that investment of time is going to pay off for us. The same is true for you and everyone in our business. Select your client targets well, know what they have coming up, and be sure they know you as well as you know them. l   Eric Snider, P.E., is a Principal with SynTerra Corporation. Eric frequently writes and speaks on marketing and business development and facilitates several PSMJ bootcamps and workshops. He can be reached at Do you want to be a stronger rm leader or owner? PSMJ can help. Don’t miss your opportunity to attend these events: PSMJ’s 2014 A/E SENIOR EXECUTIVE WORKSHOP SERIES: MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS  WORKSHOP AUGUST 26-27, 2014 / LAS VEGAS, NVSEPTEMBER 9-10, 2014 / BALTIMORE, MD EMERGING LEADERS  WORKSHOP SEPTEMBER 25-26, 2014 / BOSTON, MAOCTOBER 2-3, 2014 / DENVER, COOCTOBER 30-31, 2014 / SAN FRANCISCO, CA OWNERSHIP & LEADERSHIP TRANSITION  WORKSHOP OCTOBER 7-8, 2014 / NEWPORT BEACH, CAOCTOBER 14-15, 2014 / CHICAGO, IL BRANCH OFFICE OPTIMIZATION STRATEGIES  WORKSHOP OCTOBER 14-15, 2014 / NEWPORT BEACH, CA 2015 A/E/C INDUSTRY HR SUMMIT APRIL 1-2, 2015 / BOSTON, MA REGISTER NOW!   visit or call (617) 965-0055   UPCOMING EVENTS telling outright lies about your rm, its experience, or the credentials of your staff members. You will not be able to keep these bs straight, and evaluation panel members have an amazing propensity for ferreting out inconsistencies. If by some miracle you slip by and win the competition—good luck getting sleep for the next 10 years. It’s not nice to lie to the federal government. Proposal discrepancies can quickly lead into the realm of civil or criminal investigations. Do the right thing: tell the truth in your  proposals. l Dave Alexander is principal at Lincoln Strategies. You can reach him at dave How to Write a Terrible Federal Proposal... (continued from page 3)
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