There’s a classic book relating to marketing high-tech products and services that has a message even for the lowest-technology architectural, engineering and construction business. Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers addresses the challenge that there are customers willing to risk and try new things, and others who simply won’t budge until they are comfortable that the change is good for them. Businesses can be swallowed up if they don’t succeed in “crossing the chasm”.
However, there is another aspect to this challenge, which ironically relates to Moore’s marketing-focused solutions. Most architectural, engineering and construction businesses discover a real major chasm when they cross from passive to active marketing; when they move from word-of-mouth referrals and “chasing bids” to developing a strategic, patient, and marketing oriented systems.
There is an elegantly simple reason why the chasm is so hard to cross. It relates to the incremental cost/reward of most initial marketing initiatives and the (likely bad) experiences most AEC practitioners encounter when they begin paying for marketing-related services.
After all, a passively referred lead — that is, a customer (without any prompting from you) telling someone else how good you are — is free. A repeat client, ordering more of your product/service, also is free. With enough of these wonderfully cost-effective marketing results, you don’t need to spend a cent on marketing and business development.
Good for you. And, yes, undoubtedly if you are thinking about marketing expenses, the highest and best initiative you can consider is to create such a wonderful customer experience that your clients truly are wildly enthusiastic about your business, and will refer everyone they can think to continue doing business with you. And if you have a business without an adequate amount of referral and repeat business (my data indicates this should be about 70 per cent of your overall business volume) then you should really focus primarily on fixing the problems causing the negative vibes with your existing customers.
The chasm, however, occurs when you try to solve the other 30 per cent. You may “solve” part of the numbers by chasing public bids, or using commercial leads services. You might think about advertising, but then come up short — because the ads are expensive and almost always ineffective. You throw your hands up, and say, “What should I do.”
I’ll advocate that there are some practical and cost-effective approaches to crossing the chasm. But it is unlikely you can do these alone. You’ll need a competent marketing service/consultant, and enough of a budget to allow the marketing to work effectively.
If your consultant is worth his or her fees, there should be some immediate suggestions on picking some low-hanging fruit while the bigger picture is developed. Most likely this will focus on current client communications and relevant add-on and referral services. You might co-ordinate a client appreciation event, formalize a referral program, or develop a service/add-on that you can easily offer to your existing and previous clients.
The next stage will be to build a plan to generate and manage the leads, and maintain them. This may involve online marketing, presentations and speeches, blogs and content marketing, and other tools and ideas. It will take some time.
With a plan, a budget, and some consistency and perseverance, however, you’ll cross the chasm. You’ll discover that effective marketing is an investment, not an expense.
If you would like me to help you cross the chasm, consider connecting for a thirty-minute exploratory conversation.