Top Bloggers in the A/E/C Industry

On several occasions I have been asked for a list of the top marketing blogs in the A/E/C industry. Below is a list of the blogs and bloggers that I believe lead the industry.  I hope that many of these bloggers likewise consider Cofebuz an industry leader, yet as this blog is also read extensively outside of the A/E/C industry, I will leave that call to someone else.  In addition to being industry leaders in Web 2.0, these bloggers are on my “must read” list each week. I encourage you to check them out also:

Construction Marketing Ideas by Mark Buckshon

E-Quipblog by Mel Lester

Harding & Company by Ford Harding

PSMJ Resources by Ed Hannan (and others at PSMJ Resources)

Let me also add Help Everybody Everyday by Matt Handall. This is a new blog for the A/E/C industry, but on that I believe deserves placement in this list due to Matt’s success with Construction Netcast and his long history of excellent writing for Marketer and A/E Rainmaker.

A Final Note:

I don’t want to downplay some of the other great blogs in our industry.  Note that the list above was for marketing blogs. I also recommend checking out the SullivanKreiss blog, and I always enjoy the unique and fun SEI Design Group Blog.

The Digital Crutch

crutchesOn Wednesday this past week Ford Harding (the author of one of my favorite books “Rain Making” and the Harding & Company blog) spoke at the DC chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. As we sat prior to Ford’s talk, I was amazed at the group that had gathered at the head table. In addition to Ford, multiple Web 2.0 experts from the industry, including Mark Buckshon (Construction Marketing Ideas) and Matt Handal (Construction Netcast and Help Everybody Everyday) were engaged in conversation.

I couldn’t help but note how interesting it was that Mark and Matt had taken the time to attend the event in Washington, D.C. Mark had flown in from Ontario Canada and Matt had taken the train from Philadelphia that morning. Each of them showed the importance they place on in-person communication in order to make their businesses succeed, even in light of their prominence in the Web 2.0 world.

The Digital Crutch

Many people I know use technology as a crutch, rather than a tool to build relationships. It is an easy and important form of communication, but what we can’t do is use digital communication to replace human interaction. Even the leading Web 2.0 experts in our industry know that in order to keep their relationships strong, nothing can replace in-person communication.

Are you limping?

Are you limping by with e-mails and a linkedIn account that isn’t focusing on the development of relationships? Perhaps it is time for you to step away from the computer and focus on in-person communication this week.

Setting Team Rules

Building BlocksOur department works on a simple set of team rules that ensure credibility and respect are maintained in our team. These rules were adapted from the ground rules teachers used at Ivymount School when my wife was on staff. Ivymount is a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence that serves students with serious developmental delays, learning disabilities, communication disorders, autism, and/or multiple handicaps.

The teachers at Ivymount run some of the most effective and efficient teams you can imagine. They put themselves aside daily for the betterment of others, a testament to what makes a successful team. Rick Milter of the Carey School of Business likes to refer to these teams as ‘High Performance Teams’. I hope that you find these rules as beneficial for your team as I have for mine:

What is expected from a TEAM LEADER

  • The Team Leader will regularly sit down as a team and develop SMART goals with the team, developing Individual Responsibilities with Group Accountability
  • The Team Leader will ensure the team has full support to achieve its goals, obtaining help when needed and taking responsibility when things go wrong
  • The Team Leader will address team members directly regarding any interpersonal issues and/or problems
  • The Team Leader will work hard to have fun, and to make certain the team members feel accomplished every day

What is expected from TEAM MEMBERS

  • The Team Members are expected to share ideas openly and be prepared to follow through
  • The Team Members are expected to address team members directly and immediately regarding any interpersonal issues and/or problems. (That’s right, no going to the team leader unless it can’t be solved)
  • The Team Members agree to never “bad mouth” another team member
  • The Team Members will work hard to enjoy what they do and have fun

Anyone can network

social-networking1I believe that anyone can succeed at Networking. I often find it interesting, however, that many people think they don’t have the correct personality to network effectively. After reading a multitude of marketing and networking books I think I know why: most writers denote networking as a sales process.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of sales I think of someone I want to avoid (I’m allowed to say this since I am in marketing and business development, two euphemism for sales). Because of this incorrect association between sales and networking we have created the primary issue that keeps people from networking today. The good news is that networking is not a part of the sales process. Let me explain why anyone can succeed at networking:

 Social Networking Theory/Thesis:

  1. Relationships are the foundation of Networking. Most everyone agrees that relationships are the foundation of networking. What is exciting is that this is the basic reality that serves as the foundation for why anyone can succeed at building a strong network.
  2. Everyone has a God-given instinct to develop relationships. Did you know that everyone on this planet has both a desire and a need to build relationships? My oldest son could be easily classified as an introvert, yet I distinctly remember when he was in preschool how he wanted so badly to make friends with others in his class. This same instinct applies to everyone, even you.
  3. Most people find networking to be difficult. How is it that if networking is all about relationships and everyone has a God-given instinct to develop relationships, that most people have only experienced failure when networking?
  4. The SYSTEM most people think of when they think of “Networking” is flawed. Networking is actually much easier than most people think. It is about building relationships the way we designed to build relationships, simply by focusing on helping one another.
  5. If you simply understand the correct SYSTEM for networking it is easy. Networking is not sales, it is simply a focus on building mutually beneficial relationships. Here in lies the true key to succeeding at networking: when you focus on helping others you will gain the rewards of a network that wants to help you in return.

Networking is about building relationships, something that, as I noted above, we all have a desire and need to do anyway. When most people think about networking at an event they think about “working the room.” When I attend a networking event I instead focus on helping every person that I meet. I make introductions, I give information, and I laugh with friends. Simply put, I focus on building relationships instead of focusing on myself.

The Result

What I have always found amazing it that this type of networking is far more successful than showing up to “work the room.” The people that I would have targeted previously are now introduced to me by friends that I have helped previously. The result is a warm contact that I can follow-up with over time and build a relationship with.

How about you, are your networking relationships about helping other people, or helping yourself? If you are ready to build a network that in truly interested in seeing you succeed, you can start today by helping others to succeed.

It’s Back to the BD Basics

itsbacktothebdbasicsRecessions have a tendency to remind us about business fundamentals. It is through the refinement of a recession that wasteful spending is eliminated and that we again focus on the core capabilities that make our companies successful. It is also recessions that remind us that marketing and business development are not the functions of just one or two departments. When company backlogs decrease we recapture the essence of our mutual corporate responsibility to bring new projects in the door. 

Focusing on existing clients and services
It is easy to want to expand into new markets during a recession. The problem is that during a recession work is much harder to come by, both in the markets you currently serve as well as in markets that you don’t serve. Expanding into a new market requires both time and money to enter the market – two things that are not readily available during a recession. As a result, a recession is not the time to expand into new markets, but rather it is the time to focus on your existing clients and services.

The goal during a recession is to focus on bringing work in the door immediately. Most marketers will tell you that the fastest, least expensive, and easiest way to bring in new work is to focus on your existing clientele. This includes people you have sold to previously and others in the industry that are familiar with your work. So what can you do? Here are several things that you can do during a recession that will position you to succeed: 

  1. Don’t Wait, step-up your current marketing: When faced with the possibility of a decline in your workload initiate action immediately. Often when the slowdown reaches your doorstep firms find themselves among a large group of competitors that are competing for work. The idea is to immediately step-up the everyday marketing efforts that you have found to be successful in an effort to build your backlog going into the recession. In our industry this usually includes follow-up on outstanding proposals, using qualifications to bolster the effectiveness of your fee proposals, and pre-marketing RFPs.
  2. Call your existing clients: Especially at service firms, the “last line of defense” when you are in need of work is to pick up the phone and call your best clients to ask for work. Firms often hesitate making these calls because they are afraid of what others will think. Simply put, get over it! Calling your existing clients and asking for work is the most effective way to get work in the door in a down market.
  3. Focus on being the best: Now is the time to set-aside change orders and additional work authorizations (within reason) and give all of your clients 1,000 reasons why they should never even consider another firm. Begin by asking yourself, “What can I do to help this person that is above and beyond what they hired me to do?” Remember that focusing on being the best isn’t something that just one person or a group of people can do, it is a company-wide focus that requires buy-in to be successful.
  4. Diversify within your current markets: Pursue relationships and work in market sectors in which you are currently working that are stable. Generally in a downturn these markets include the federal and healthcare markets. As discussed above, now is not the time to pursue new sectors, but it is a great time to place emphasis on some of your markets that will handle the downturn better. This does not mean that you should simply respond to more RFPs, rather initiate new relationships and build inroads that will position you to win.
  5. Be Patient: Markets change. Just when you think you will run out of work the markets will start moving again. Firms that survive this economic cycle will again experience an upswing as industry and opportunity prevail in the free market.

Building your Marketing Culture

In marketing and business, recessions provide us the opportunity to unite our companies for future growth. The proceeding actions are just a handful of things that can be done to empower everyone in your company to be a part of the sales process. In addition to these, think about how you can leverage today’s challenges to develop a culture that embraces marketing and business development. Firms that succeed in building this culture today will reap the rewards of growth in the future.

It’s Back to the BD Basics by Tim Klabunde was published in the February 2009 edition of Marketer.

SMPS VA – Rainmakers

smps-virginia-logoOn February 16th and 17th I will be Keynote speaker at the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) Virginia Annual conference in Charlottesville, Virginia. I will be speaking on the topic Creating a Culture of Rainmakers and will be joined in the afternoon of the 17th by a panel of Rainmakers from the Virginia market. If you want to find out more about what others have said about Creating a Culture of Rainmakers click here or check out the SMPS VA website for more information.

Proposal Debrief

studiomengstrazzaraI received an e-mail from Mark Wainwright of studio Meng Strazzara in Seattle, WA this past week asking me for some thoughts on debriefing after submitting on a proposal: “I’ve done many of these in the past with no specific formula and mixed results, so I’m looking to tighten things up and create a much more successful process.” Thanks for the great question Mark, let me share with you my personal philosophy on proposal debriefs. In addition, I hope that others will feel free to jump in with any of your “lessons learned” in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Proposal Debrief Philosophy

I am not a fan of proposal debriefs. I work in an industry where it is common place to ask potential clients to rethink and reiterate why they didn’t select your firm for a particular project. I personally believe that interaction with potential clients should always be about building a relationship, and the way that most firms approach debriefs is counter productive to that end goal. With that basis, let me share with you two great ways to debrief with a client after you have submitted a proposal:

The First Right Way to Debrief

Debrief on a project that you were just awarded. This gets at the question of “We know why we think you should have hired us, but why did you hire us?” The post-award debrief serves two main objectives: 1) it shows you what factors will help you win your next proposal and 2) it helps you understand your clients’ expectations for you going into the project. In my opinion the second of these is even more important than the first, as repeat clientele and client referrals account for the majority of work in many firms.

The Second Right Way to Debrief

Debrief by focusing on your relationship with the potential client. Never walk into a debriefing with the goal of finding out what you did wrong. Rather a debriefing should focus on understanding their needs rather than how they interpreted your proposal submission or interview. It is by showing a potential client that you are truly interested in them that you will win them over for the next project.

Should you debrief?

If you can’t debrief in a way that builds your relationship with the potential client, do not debrief.