6 Steps to Win on Value Instead of Price

We’ve all been there, sitting in front of that client we know we don’t want to work with. But the fear takes over. The fear of not having enough work. So we don’t walk away. We succumb to the pressure and lower our fee. Or maybe it is our best client, and he is threatening to go to one of our competitors, telling us we are too expensive. What do we say? Do we just agree and go ahead and give him a break on his estimate – know we will lose money on the job? Situations like this are happening every day and slowly killing the architecture and engineering services industry. The problem is, we really do start to believe that we can’t get the kind of fees that we need to be successful and profitable, but we still don’t know how to turn down work. It is just against our nature. As our employees navigate these difficult situations every day, small amounts of money are being given away. Rather than believe we are adding additional value to our clients’ projects, we assume we … Continued

6 Ways to Differentiate Your A&E Firm

  Are you feeling the pinch of reduced fees and increasing salaries these days? You are not alone. Pressure on profit margins is causing many architecture and engineering firms to revisit their strategy and look for ways to differentiate from their competition. Competing against 5 to 10 other firms for work with smaller margins is not what any of us envisioned when we started our businesses, and developing a strategy to combat this state of the market is paramount to developing a profitable firm. The firms demanding the highest fees are the ones being sought out by their clients rather than the typical situation where you must fight to win every job. To reach the top of the fee ladder these days takes a specific focus on creating a brand that sounds, acts, appears and IS different from everyone else. Here are six ways to start the process of reinventing your firm to be able to garner the higher fees that the most successful firms are getting:   1. Develop a New Strategy The first step in the process is to figure out who you … Continued

Leveraging the 80/20 Rule in Your Business

I recently had the privilege of spending two days strategizing with Google Adwords and 80/20 guru Perry Marshall near his home in Oak Park, IL. I was part of a 4-man intensive designed to focus Perry’s expertise in sales and marketing on how to take my business to the next level. Perry started his career as an engineer, but quickly learned that he had more value to add to business owners by helping them focus on the few things that will deliver the biggest results. Perry is an amazing coach and mentor, and I am working hard now to implement the “jewels” of knowledge I extracted from my time in the “hot seat.” I found Perry a couple years ago when I read his book 80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More. This book gave me a completely different paradigm about understanding how to target buyers that are most interested in the products and services that we are selling. Whether you are selling auto parts, NFL game tickets or professional services, there are many people that will spend a few … Continued

Why I Want My Firm to Be Like Tesla

    I started a new business last year which gave me a unique opportunity to figure out my new brand – how I wanted AEC Business Solutions to be viewed and perceived in the marketplace. It is very exciting starting a new business after 25 years doing the same thing. The new business is different, and the new image and “look and feel” of our online presence, messaging and other marketing needs to be aligned with how we want clients and potential clients to evaluate us. I gave this a lot of thought. I started with what I didn’t want: I didn’t want us to be the same as we were before I didn’t want us to look like our competitors I didn’t want to say the same old thing that everyone else is saying Then I tried to consolidate how I DID want my new firm to be branded: I want us to be relevant for the future I want us to be innovative and cool I want to offer more value and measurable results I want to have clients that are raving … Continued

{Guest Post} Develop a Competitive Edge: Bring Your Marketing Team to the Table

    Competition in the A/E/C industry is fiercer than it’s ever been. Firms have emerged from the recession leaner, meaner and laser focused on bringing the most value to their clients. It’s no longer just about the best design, quality or service – because every firm provides this (or at least promises they do). Marketing teams must dig deeper to truly discover our firms’ competitive edge. What does this mean? It means in order for marketing teams to be successful in this endeavor, they need to be linked to all aspects of firm management: financial, operations, and HR. Here’s what this looks like: Financial The marketing team needs to understand the firm’s full financial picture in order to successfully pursue the best projects. What is your firm’s profit margin on a design-build project vs. a full-service CMGC project? On a full-service project, what percentage of fee is your firm getting vs. the consultants? If you’re teaming with another firm, what’s the typical split in work and fee? Do project type and location influence these aspects of a teaming agreement? A firm’s marketing team should … Continued

New Industry Conference Launched – Aimed at Increasing Profits in Architecture & Engineering Firms

  Industry leader AEC Business Solutions, LLC is launching a new conference aimed at helping Architecture and Engineering firm leaders to improve business management practices with the primary goal of increasing profits.   The inaugural AEC Profitability Summit will take place September 24-25, 2015 in Tyson’s Corner, VA. For the first time ever, the entire conference will focus entirely on profitability in A&E firms and utilize proprietary templates and other tools to guide attendees towards development of a 12-month plan to improve their firms. A distinctive line-up of industry experts will offer fresh content and specific hands-on solutions to put participants on the road to increasing profits. “We expect this Summit to be the beginning of a one-year journey for each participant, that will allow them to learn and implement several key initiatives,” states June R. Jewell, CPA, President and best-selling author. “Our Summit is an excellent opportunity for forward thinking leaders interested in taking their firms to the next level by transforming employee behavior.” Planned sessions include: “Leveraging Your Strategic Plan for Improved Firm Performance” where Ray Kogan, AIA, and President of Kogan & Company, along … Continued

7 Video Marketing Ideas for A/E Firms

Today’s post is by our guest author Brian M. Fraley, Founder, Manager and Chief Strategist for Fraley AEC Solutions, LLC. Video is trending upward in marketing. Did you know that YouTube is the 2nd largest Internet search engine? The truth is that it was always powerful. Video offers a way to promote your business in a living, breathing multimedia format. Why the sudden spike in popularity? Video has become more affordable thanks to free software, for one. Secondly, the way we learn about brands in a society overwhelmed by information has accelerated the shift toward quick consumption methods like video. And thirdly, there are opportunities to increase your Internet search rankings and engagement by placing it on your website. Project Application Stories Project stories are powerful. Project stories in a video format can deliver even more oomph. There are many approaches, but consider a narrator to describe the project, brief interviews with key people, and footage of the work in progress. Keep it to three minutes with tight editing. Outsourcing this work is your best option since it requires a variety of shoots and professional … Continued

Marketing Challenges and Opportunities for Today‘s A&E Firm – Part 6

This post is the last of a 6-part series analyzing marketing trends, technology, and the role of the marketer in an A&E firm. The previous 5 posts looked at the culture of an A&E firm and how it affects marketing success, trends in marketing and where A&E firms are struggling to keep up, how technology can be a competitive advantage, how marketing should be viewed as a strategic investment, and how to measure the success of marketing efforts. Today I hope to inspire the A&E firm marketer to look at their role differently. With the cultural issues that I wrote about, causing a failure to view marketing as a strategic investment, the A&E firm marketer has some real challenges to overcome. We will look at some things you can do right away to increase your contribution to your firm’s success, and hopefully change the mindset of your principals around the value investing in marketing resources. Be strategic, not tactical With a lack of investment in resources, and sometimes respect for the importance of their role, a marketing manager, coordinator, or even director needs to take … Continued

Marketing Challenges and Opportunities for Today’s A&E Firm – Part 5

This post is part 5 of a 6-part series analyzing marketing trends, technology, and the role of the marketer in an A&E firm. The previous 4 posts looked at the culture of an A&E firm and how it affects marketing success, trends in marketing and where A&E firms are struggling to keep up, how technology can be a competitive advantage, and how marketing should be viewed as a strategic investment. Stay Focused on Your Win Rate In this post, I urge A&E firm marketers to stay focused on the prize – their win rate. Nothing else really matters if you are not winning new projects. It is great to brand your firm, get PR, and have a beautiful web site, but it doesn’t bring revenue in the door or help your firm succeed unless it is contributing towards getting new jobs. The main metric that needs to be focused on in an A&E firm is the win rate. This is calculated by taking the number of projects that you have won divided by the number of proposals you have submitted. If you are using a … Continued

How To Gain A Competitive Advantage in Your AEE Firm – Part 4

This post is part 4 of a 6-part series analyzing marketing trends, technology, and the role of the marketer in an A&E firm. The previous three posts looked at the culture of an A&E firm and how it affects marketing success, trends in marketing and where A&E firms are struggling to keep up, and how technology can help you gain a competitive advantage. One of the aspects of the A&E culture that I write about in my recently published book, “Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Firms,” is the disappointing way that marketing is looked at in the A&E firm. Rather than taking a strategic view of marketing expenses, and how they can help to grow the business, many firms view marketing expenses, and their marketing resources as a necessary cost of doing business. According to the Zweig White (now Zweig Group) 2012 Annual Marketing Survey of A&E Firms, the top performing firms spend between 12% to 15% of their revenue on marketing, yet the average firm spends 7% or less of their revenue on marketing, and during … Continued

Improve Marketing Results with Marketing Technology – Part 3

This week’s post is focused on marketing technology as a way to improve marketing results and the win rate in A&E firms. In Part 1 of this 6-part series, I wrote about the culture in A&E firms that does not value marketing resources, and in Part 2 we looked at trends in marketing driven by economics and technology. In this post, we will look specifically at technology as a driving force in A&E marketing, and how it can be used as a competitive advantage. With the cultural issues we identified, it is easy to see that there is much room for improvement, and even more room for firms that are more advanced to take the lead in their specific areas. The trend towards global competition means that you now have to be smarter, and more technically capable than firms all over the world, not just in your back yard. Client Relationship Management (CRM) By now most of you have heard of CRM systems, and according to the ZweigWhite 2012 Annual Marketing Survey, many of you (69%) are using some form of it, and 53% of … Continued

Trends Shaping the Marketing Efforts for A&E Firms Today – Part 2

In Part 1 of this 6-part series, I wrote about the culture in A&E firms that does not value marketing resources, and how that mindset negatively impacts the success of the marketing staff, and ultimately the firm. In this post, we will look at current trends in marketing, and the impact of slow adoption to change in the A&E industry. In my last article, I discussed the lack of understanding of the value of branding, social media and inbound marketing at a high level. It is important to realize the importance of these three areas of marketing, how most A&E firms stack up today, and what impact that is having on their growth. Social Media With a culture that does not understand the value of social media, it is no wonder that the majority of A&E firms have limited exposure on social media. In searching for many of my clients on Twitter, I find that even those that are on it are not really active. But companies, individuals, and sports teams are announcing important news on Twitter!  For example, back in October, 2012 when RGIII … Continued

Marketing Challenges and Opportunities for Today‘s A&E Firm – Part 1

I was recently quite surprised when reviewing the Zweig Group 2012 Marketing Survey, to learn that a majority of A&E firms surveyed do not prepare a marketing budget, and another 40% don’t include their marketing staff in their strategic planning process. In preparing for a SMPS speech this week, I decided to try to summarize my observations and advice to marketers in the A&E industry, as they work towards helping their firms grow. My question is, as a marketer today, how can you be successful if your firm does not value your input? I decided to take good hard look at why this situation exists, and then try to develop some valuable steps that A&E firm marketers can take to have more positive influence in their companies. Overcoming the firm culture that does not value marketing resources The first step in understanding the role of marketers in the A&E firm is to look at the culture. Over the years I have seen many patterns where marketing resources are undervalued, this happens for a number of reasons, such as: First, most A&E firm owners’ lack of expertise in … Continued