The heart of effective business development (BD) lies in the pursuit of trust-based relationships. Unlike many other industries, BD for professional services is not about selling your firm's features. It is not about aligning with specific projects. It is not taking a shot in the dark with a canned message. Instead, it's a structured process encompassing Research, Discovery, Pursuit, Initiation, and Nurturing.
Research – The Foundation
Every successful BD journey begins with research. Attempting other BD tasks without thorough research is counterproductive. While you might envision BD professionals as outgoing extroverts, meticulous researchers are the best. They align the firm's technical capabilities with the prospect's needs. They delve deep into the prospect's organization and culture before attempting to sell anything.
Discovery – Building Connections
Once you identify a promising prospect, BD professionals initiate contact. The "discovery" meeting serves to gauge the prospect's awareness of your firm and the reputation you hold with them. It's about establishing a personal connection and demonstrating genuine interest. BD professionals emphasize the seriousness of the firm's intent.
Pursuit – Building Relationships
BD is akin to dating – you spend time together to explore mutual attraction. It's essential to realize that BD professionals don't chase projects; they pursue relationships. The focus shifts to building connections between your technical team and the prospect's decision-makers. BD professionals serve as liaisons in the pursuit process.
Initiation – The First Project
Once a mutual attraction is evident, it's time for initiation. BD professionals and technical staff embark on the first project assignment from the client. This step is pivotal because it represents a significant leap of faith from the client. It's your first opportunity to prove the client's decision was the right one. While BD professionals play a reduced role during this phase, they continue to manage the relationship behind the scenes. They ensure open communication and perform regular check-ins.
Nurturing – Sustaining the Relationship
After a successful initial project and client appreciation, it's time to nurture the relationship. The primary responsibility falls on the technical professionals delivering the work. BD professionals offer support. They collaborate with the technical team to ensure consistent client care. This is particularly true when there are no active projects. Good nurturing means continuous research and discovery. A client's organization can change personnel, budget priorities, and infrastructure plans.
Maintaining BD efforts is crucial, even during busy project phases and backlog periods. Ideally, BD professionals research and discover future clients 18 to 24 months before they order any work. Firms that understand and prioritize effective BD maintain a healthy backlog, even during economic downturns.
The essence of successful BD in professional services lies in the cultivation of trust-based relationships. This includes meticulous research and a commitment to nurturing connections over time. This structured approach ensures that your firm thrives, regardless of economic fluctuations.
As a professional services marketer in the A|E|C industry, your workweek is an assault on your brain, body, and spirit. The demands of your job are fast-paced. Expectations of staying ever-connected, always available, and an organization ninja are completely unrealistic. It's no surprise that personal wellness seems unachievable. Many of us struggle to balance our work demands, technological distractions, and healthy lifestyle choices. To shed light on these challenges, I conducted a personal wellness survey. The results were eye-opening, yet instructive. In this post, we will delve into the survey data and provide practical recommendations to improve your well-being and lead a more balanced life.
1. Disconnect to Reconnect - Sleep!
The survey revealed that 4 out of 10 marketers often or regularly have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep is crucial for overall health and productivity. Poor sleep patterns can have adverse effects on both mental and physical well-being.
2. Fuel Your Day Right
Surprisingly, 45% of respondents do not eat breakfast regularly, or their breakfast diet is imbalanced. Breakfast is often considered the most important meal of the day as it kickstarts your metabolism and provides essential nutrients.
3. Work Overload
Over half (54%) of the respondents often or regularly reported having more work than what is possible within a 40-hour week. Work overload can lead to burnout, reduced productivity, and increased stress levels.
4. The Power of Saying "No"
On a positive note, 59% of respondents felt comfortable saying "No" to their supervisors when necessary. This assertiveness is essential in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
5. Successful People Delegate
Shockingly, only 19% of respondents had the option to delegate tasks to others. This suggests potential understaffing issues or inefficient workflow practices.
6. Make Exercise a Routine
More than half (53%) of the respondents admitted to rarely or sometimes getting 30 minutes of daily exercise. Regular physical activity is crucial for overall well-being and can significantly impact productivity and mental clarity.
7. Digital Detox
Worryingly, only 30% of respondents felt they could ignore their phones, emails, and texts when needed. This indicates a growing trend of difficulty in managing online habits.
The personal wellness survey highlights the challenges many of us face in maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. These recommendations are a start. If you are serious about changing your habits create accountability. This may mean hiring a life coach or going to a few counseling sessions with a therapist. Investing in your well-being improves your productivity, creativity, and overall quality of life. Make a commitment to yourself and take the first steps towards a healthier, more fulfilling existence. Your well-being is worth it!
Take the 3-Minute Personal Wellness Survey HERE!
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;
Gabe Lett, FSMPS, CPSM, LPC