Win More Projects Matching Your Firm’s Engineering Skills with our Marketing Process
Marketing is basically a matching game. You have services you want to sell at a certain price, and you seek clients that want to buy services like those you offer at the price you want to charge.
Simple, right? The concept is simple; however there are many things that must come together to market successfully. Just as with engineering, there are many potential pitfalls unless you are knowledgeable and aware of possible issues. Below are some guidelines to help you efficiently and effectively find clients that are a good match for your services.
The comparison below shows typical characteristics of clients who are a good fit for your services and of those who are not. Note that having clients who are a good fit impacts not only the current project, but your ongoing business in many areas such as profitability, quality, efficiency, and employee morale.
Watch for these Indicators
Clients who are a good fit for your services typically:
- Are satisfied with your services because they get their needs fulfilled
- Are willing to pay your asking price because they comprehend the full value of your services and need your firm’s key strengths to complete their projects successfully
- Will offer repeat business
- Will refer other companies to you
- Describe your firm with phrases like “highly qualified,” “really know their stuff” and possibly “they are expensive, but you definitely get your money’s worth”
- Will act as a reference if prospects want to call and ask about your services
Clients who are not a good fit for your services typically:
- Think they are paying too much because they only need part of what you offer (e.g., they need a generalist and do not need or want to pay for your highly specialized expertise)
- Are frustrated because they are not getting what they need
- Seem resentful, as if you are trying to overcharge or “gouge” them
- Describe your firm with phrases like “what they offer is overkill for us,” or “they try to sell us services we don’t need,” or “they are very pricey”
- Will not offer repeat business and may make negative comments about your services to others
Note that the negative feedback about your services in these cases may be largely unrelated to the services you provided. In other words, you provided quality services but they were not a close enough match to the services the client needed at the price they wanted to pay so they were not satisfied.
Why the Steps are Important
The following steps will help you identify the types of clients and projects that are the BEST fit for your services. Figuring this out is VERY important as having a high percentage of clients that are a good fit can transform your business.
To clarify the steps we’ll use a fishing analogy as it is a scenario to which most people can relate. Successful marketing relationships, however, are mutually beneficial to the vendor and the client. The fishing analogy is only mutually beneficial if the fish WANT to become someone’s dinner!
Identify your company’s key strengths that are difficult for competitors to duplicate (also called core competencies) and make sure the services you offer fully leverage those strengths. Doing so will:
- Make you more competitive since you’ll bid for projects based on your strengths and unique skills
- Enable you to more easily command the price you want as your value will be more obvious
- Increase the success rate of your projects, satisfying clients and increasing repeat business.
Determine the types of projects that need your firm’s key strengths as a critical element. In other words, the things your firm is best at are very important factors in ensuring these types of projects succeed. Pinpointing these project types will help your firm focus on projects you are most likely to deliver successfully.
Find out where groups of your ideal projects exist in the market and research those areas to make sure there is enough business in each area to make it worth pursuing. This will allow you to increase the number of ideal projects you win by aiming your marketing programs at those specific areas.
Identify your competitors in your key market areas and compare what they offer prospective clients with your offering. Understanding your competition will help you focus efforts on projects you have a high likelihood of winning, and reduce efforts spent on those that will most likely be awarded to another firm.
Develop or refine your value proposition – a simple statement that tells prospects how your services solve a business problem or benefit their business in some way. State your value proposition so it compels them to engage with you rather than engaging with a competitor or simply doing nothing.
Create or update marketing materials such as a website, sales sheets, e-mail messages, proposal content and social media content. Use your knowledge of which clients are a good fit along with your value proposition to capture prospects’ attention in your key market areas. For example, your website should be set up to actively support your business goals and help move prospects through the buying process so they want to contact you to arrange a meeting.
The following 3 steps should always take place; however, the timing will depend on the strengths and culture of your firm as well as your level of experience with marketing and finance. They may occur in parallel with other steps, they may only need minor work if your firm already has systems in place, or they may occur much later than the other steps if your firm must put other pieces in place before completing the steps.
Design a method of prioritizing opportunities to make sure you are spending sales and design resources on proposals that 1) will most benefit your firm and 2) you are likely to win. The system should rank factors such as whether the job matches your ideal project profile, project size, future potential, client’s outsourcing experience, your relationship with the client, competitors’ positions, project requirements status, schedule, and expected price.
Develop advanced marketing tools to further support your business and increase the efficiency of your sales process. Creating project case studies, engineering process handouts, client requirements templates and project delivery report cards to give to prospects and put on your website instantly enhances your credibility by showing proof that you deliver what you promise. For example, case studies are based on real projects and present the client’s problem, how you helped them resolve it, and the results produced by your solution.
Review the financials for a sampling of your projects to find areas in which you can improve profitability. Typical areas of focus include tightening project requirements, improving project financial tracking, eliminating scope creep, raising project prices, and more proactively managing client expectations. Establishing a baseline for project financials helps you clearly see improvements as your business changes. Typically your “ideal projects” will be the most profitable, and as you increase your firm’s percentage of those projects, your overall profitability will increase as well.
In this step you are analyzing how much it costs you to catch your fish and determining whether you could catch more fish (or more efficiently catch the same number of fish) by making some adjustments.
If you would like to read the next article in this series, see “Beyond the ‘Fluff’ Step 1: Pinpoint Your Firm’s Core Competencies.”