One of the biggest traps within AEC marketing is the hope — and sometimes desperation — for fast and easy results.Business dries up, so you hope some advertising will attract worthy clients. Or you sign on for the leads service, thinking that if just a few of the current leads (from people or organizations who don’t know you at all) will provide you with the business you need.
Alas, these approaches generally fail. Your advertising dollars will be sucked into the publishers’ black holes, and when you call on the leads service names, or submit your RFP, even though you are technically qualified, you’ll find the competition so intense, and the story seemingly “rigged” that you get nothing but headaches for your effort.
The fact is there is only one marketing strategy that will provide quick, instant, and often highly effective results — reaching out to your current and previous clients, with additional offers, reminders, or in some cases, requests for referrals, which can lead to business when you make the referred contact.
Everything else is a longer-range game. Think months, possibly years, but certainly no less than six months from the first possible contact with a potential purchaser, until you achieve results. (Shorter time frames, of course apply for emergency repairs or certain smaller-scale residential projects, where in some cases yucky marketing techniques such as canvassing, telemarketing and intrusive advertising can work, if you have the stomach for that type of business development.)
Then, how do you get the best results for the least investment. Here, I’ll suggest some options that require some time, money or both but are relatively effective.
Use leads services intelligently
There’s nothing wrong with using leads services. They provide a wealth of information and contact data. But don’t use the leads service to chase the current job, unless perhaps, it is to be put on a prequalification list — and even for that, be careful and research the organization before submitting the documentation. Your objective is to decide of the organization would be a good fit for you, and then to figure out the best way to build the relationship so that when a future RFP comes into the picture, you’ll know about it well before it is published by the leads service.
Learn the art of proposal and business development
Matt Handal has some excellent resources; and there are other services/consultants you may find of value. Learn the ropes. The investment you make in understanding the process and development effective systems and practices is worth every cent.
Consider and get involved in relevant client-focused associations and groups
Note that the groups here should be upstream from your own trade/speciality organization. If you want to do business with schools and educational institutions, look up the appropriate organizations representing school superintendents or (better) facilities managers. Prepare to commit time, effort, and resources to the relevant associations without expectation of return — this may be a two-to-three year or even longer project.
Your best starting point, always, will be among your current clients
For example, you’ll make much more headway in the relevant association if one of your current clients helps out with introductions. This applies to everything else. This explains in part why your most effective marketing will occur in the experience you provide your current clients. If they are really impressed with your service/value, they’ll be happy to speak out for you. And that will always be the most effective approach to finding new business, fast.