None of these is a panacea. All of these things do, however, have the potential to bring you new clients, opportunities, and projects.
This is one of those times that some companies in the A/E business need to pull out all the stops to find some new clients and new projects.
Yes – most companies in this business have a long sales cycle. From the time they have any kind of lead until closing a new project they can actually bill the client for, there is a lag of anywhere from a few months to a few years. So if you are concerned about your workload, you can’t waste any time doing things that could increase it.
There probably is no “magic bullet” you can use to get the work you need. You will have to do MANY things to bring in new clients and/or new projects. Some of these may seem small and insignificant, but together they can make a difference.
- Benchmark the current status of your marketing and BD programs. First things first, put all your marketing metrics in one report. Number of opportunities that week, number and value of proposals sent, number and value of contracts signed, dollar value of backlog, number of names in the database, numbers of follows and interactions on all social media, web hits, time spent on the website, etc. Getting a baseline on all of these and tracking it weekly will show whether or not any of these other things that follow are working. And share this report widely to get everyone tuned in.
- Fill the holes in your client and potential client list. Whatever your target markets are, do not assume you have ALL of the organizations or people in those organizations who could hire your firm or influence the decision to hire your firm. There are always gaps and companies/organizations and key people you want to know who you are are not there. Fill those gaps.
- Get on social media and make new connections with people in your targeted client organizations. It’s so easy. For example, if you work for higher ed institutions, go to LinkedIn and look up any specific university you want to target and then “connect” with all the people there who could possibly be involved in a decision to use your firm. The university president or chancellor, university architect, head of the physical plant, dean of students, board members, deans, etc. Once you do this for all of your targeted clients see if they are on Twitter and follow them there. They may very well follow you back then. This is how you intelligently expand your social media networks.
- Change the nature of your social media to make your posts either more entertaining or more useful or helpful to your client base. Original research data, interesting tidbits on your key people, obstacles overcome in projects, and much much more are all things you’ve got available to you. Employee pets, home work spaces, or social distancing message are all passé at this point.
- Solicit firm-wide support for your new social media program so everyone in the firm follows you and your company, and likes, comments, and shares your posts. Send a message to all employees. Talk about this. Get them all involved and using their personal networks to expand the reach of your social media posts.
- Develop “project success stories” or cases that you can share. These can be used as stand-alone pieces, referenced in social media, or highlighted on your website. They may also come in handy with your project specific pursuits. Get the facts. Have testimonials. Show challenges overcome. Use the project success metrics that reflect your clients’ priorities.
- Organize online discussion groups of clients and potential clients in each of your target market sectors. If you are the organizers of these kinds of forums you can learn so much! And they will help establish your firm as a resource to their “industry.” I don’t know why more firms in our business don’t try to do this. Seems like nearly free marketing.
- Build a new press list and start sending out press releases. You need a lot of names of editors in all types of media. General news media, client sector specific media, and design industry media. Press lists of 30 people won’t cut it. You need 300 or 600 or 1,000 names to increase the probabilities of getting what you send them in print. It’s a numbers game. And make what you send them more interesting than a braggartly, cliche-filled project description!
- Hold a BD training session and include anyone who could potentially be calling or meeting with clients and potential clients. Talk about matters such as what to say the first time you call a client, how to ask for a meeting, when to pass off the baton to someone else in your firm, and more. And be sure to include some of the younger people who have expressed an interest in marketing and business development. It’s important to them and they could actually be helping generate project leads.
Again – none of these is a panacea. All of these things do, however, have the potential to bring you new clients, opportunities, and projects. So let’s try them out!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.