You are an A/E/C professional marketer. Has your company pressured you to develop a proposal for a project you knew was un-winable? It is frustrating to put time, creativity, and effort into what you know will be an un-winable proposal. Yet, most of us do it regularly. But you do not have to stay in this rut!
For A/E design and construction companies, it's crucial to determine if a project is win-able. But how can you gauge whether a project is truly "win-able?" Let's delve into the key factors that help answer this question.
Established Relationships Matter:
One of the first signs that a project might be win-able is if the project owner is familiar with your firm. Have they talked to one of your firm leaders or project managers recently? By recently, I mean within the past 6 months. Having a good initial connection or ongoing dialogue can lead to a successful collaboration. To increase the odds of winning, start by communicating well and building relationships.
Track Record of Success:
To determine if your firm can win a project, consider if you've completed a similar project for the same owner in the past five years. This showcases your ability to meet their expectations and deliver on your promises. A successful track record can instill confidence in the project owner that your firm is a reliable choice.
Alignment of Expertise:
Does your firm have the skills and expertise that align with the requirements of the project? If the answer is yes, it enhances your chances of winning the project. Just because your people say they "can" does not mean they "should." To stand out, it's important to demonstrate your knowledge and abilities with similar projects.
The Preferred Company:
Sometimes, project owners may have a preferred firm in mind. To decide if your firm can win, we need to discover good reasons for the owner to think about other options. This could be due to cost, unique expertise, or a specific aspect of your proposal that sets you apart. Identifying and addressing these factors can tilt the odds in your favor. But you have to be able to do something the preferred company cannot do or prove you do it better!
Understanding the Purpose:
In addition to technical qualifications, it's important to understand the project's driving forces and purpose. To increase your chances of winning the project, your firm needs to meet its requirements and objectives. Understanding the purpose of the project means going beyond the technical. It means answering the "why." Why is the owner doing this project?
In summary, determining the win-ability of a project involves several factors. Build relationships. Demonstrate past success. Prove your expertise. Communicate your differentiators. Understand and communicate the project's purpose. Evaluate these factors carefully when making a project pursuit decision. If you can execute on these factors, your project win-ability dramatically increases.
AEC marketers face many common challenges. Problems may vary depending on the organization and market conditions. However, the following five issues seem to be the most common:
1. Differentiation and Competitive Advantage.
AEC firms often struggle to differentiate themselves. The industry is highly competitive, yet most firms copy each other in marketing language and presentation. This is where AEC marketers need to help their firms find unique selling propositions. Once established, these unique propositions need to be communicated effectively to the right audience. Places to search for unique selling propositions exist in levels of expertise, project experience, innovation, and sustainable practices.
2. Targeting and Reaching the Right Audience.
Once unique propositions are identified AEC marketers must target the right audience. Most firms struggle to properly identify the appropriate audience. This is crucial for marketing messages to succeed. The AEC industry has diverse market segments with diverse stakeholders. Marketing messages must be tailored for clients, contractors, architects, government agencies, and end-users. Marketers are always refining their targeting strategies to effectively communicate their value propositions to the right audience.
3. Technical Complexity and Communication.
AEC projects often involve intricate technical details and specialized knowledge. Great marketers translate challenging technical concepts into compelling and understandable messages. This requires time and intention to study your firm's technical capabilities. Communicating the benefits and value of AEC services in a clear, concise, and engaging manner is essential.
4. Long Sales Cycles and Relationship Building.
The AEC industry involves long sales cycles due to projects' complexity and high-value nature. Therefore, client relationships are the backbone of winning work. Marketers and technical professionals must build strong relationships with clients and prospective clients. Marketers and technical professionals must nurture leads. On-going engagement is crucial with active projects and when clients are slow. Being top-of-mind throughout the decision-making process is essential. This is accomplished through effective relationship-building, relevant content, and consistent engagement.
5. Limited Marketing Budgets
AEC firms often allocate limited budgets for marketing activities compared to other industries. Marketers must maximize the impact of the efforts with limited resources. To do this, marketers prioritize their initiatives, leverage cost-effective channels, and show return-on-investment (ROI).
There are many factors that dictate the unique challenges of each AEC marketer;
Avoid Being Treated Like a Commodity
Are you tired of clients who see your engineering or architecture work as just another commodity? Do you feel like a soup can on a grocery store shelf? It's time to say no to low-bid work and stop being treated like a necessary evil. Saying no to clients who only want low-bid work is a good marketing move. Do not allow commoditization of your expertise.
Say Goodbye to Scope Creep
Do you have clients who love scope creep? You know, the ones who add task after task without expecting to pay for the extra work. You do not have to work on projects that lose you money. Saying no to scope creep without compensation is good marketing. Avoid working on projects that lose you money.
Be Honest About Timelines and Budgets
Do you sometimes feel like you can't make a client's timeline or stay within their budget? Be honest about what you can and cannot do. Being honest with clients upfront is good marketing strategy. Let clients decide if they still want to hire you.
Stick to What You're Good At
Do you have clients who want you to take on projects that are outside of your area of expertise? Good marketing with an eye to the long game is helping them find the right consultant for the job. Helping clients find the right consultant earns you the role of trusted advisor. Stick to what you're good at and complete profitable projects.
In conclusion, saying no to certain clients and projects is a good marketing move. It's time to stop being treated like a commodity. You can avoid scope creep and projects that lose you money. Be honest about what you can and cannot do and stick to what you're good at. By doing so, you can complete profitable projects and get paid for your expertise.
Gabe Lett, FSMPS, CPSM, LPC