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.

More Than “Just Marketing”

sara_gammillIn the December edition of SMPS Marketer Sara Gammill of EDI Architecture writes a great article about how to position your marketing department as a strategic partner inside your company. You would think that marketing would always be a strategic partner yet many companies, especially those in the service industry, struggle to understand the importance of marketing in a successful business. Here are a couple of my favorite recomendations from the article:

Educate others about what marketing is.
Most technical staff don’t realize what marketing is or how they benefit the company beyond proposal writing. Make it your mission to educate others about how everyone is involved in marketing and how your department benefits the bottom line.

Don’t be afraid to innovate.
You are never too junior or too senior to generate new proposal processes, to spearhead programs that will save your company money or raise morale, or to draw attention to your firm by shining in a professional organization. Don’t settle for, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Sara also identifies “act like a leader” as another of her ten keys. I couldn’t agree more, when you act like a leader most often it is followed by being viewed as a leader. Thanks for the great article Sara!

How to Market in a Recession

Focus on your 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 to enter the market and money: 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 (that is people you have already sold to previously, or others in the same 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, set-up your current marketing: When faced with the possibility of a recession 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 your industry in an effort to build your backlog going into the recession.
  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 what others will think. Simply put, get over it. I have found that 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 (with-in reason) and give all of your clients 1,000 reasons why they should never even consider another firm. Ask my favorite question “What can I do to help this person” and add on the end “that is above and beyond what they hired me to do.”
  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 federal and higher education 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.
  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.

For some foundational truths on your marketing budget in a market downturn, check out the article Marketing Engineering Services in a Market Downturn. Also, remember what Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”

Marketing vs. Business Development

‘Marketing’ and ‘Business Development’ are often used interchangeably in the business community because many people struggle to understand the difference between the two terms. The reality is that Marketing and Business Development have two distinct yet interrelated roles in the sales process. Most businesses define the roles and responsibilities of the two business functions as:

Marketing develops assets and materials that facilitate the foundation for business and relationships.

Business Development focuses on the development of relationships through direct communication channels.

I recognize that this is an oversimplified view of two complex aspects of the sales process, but I have also found that the reason many people misunderstand the difference between the two terms, is because of the drawn-out definitions that we often use to explain their functions. If you are a Marketing or Business Development professional that has a hard time educating staff on these functions then start with these simple definitions and expand on their intricacies after this foundation is understood.

Roll with the Changes

In his recent post Roll with the Changes on PSMJ Resources Ed Hannan addresses the ever changing face of marketing. I especially like his thoughts on LinkedIn in the last four paragraphs. Namely, he and I agree that LinkedIn has become the business networking site of choice in the United States today. If you haven’t visited the PSMJ Resources blog recently it is well worth taking the time to explore. Also, Bruce posted a great blog today on the same site that will help you determine if you are a seagull manager. Thanks Ed and Bruce!

Google PageRank: How Do You Rank?

Ever wonder what Google thinks about your website? Ever want to compare your website’s ranking to that of your competitors? The secret to knowing your website’s ranking on the World Wide Web (at least in the eyes of the world’s largest search engine) is your website’s PageRank.

The description of a PageRank according to Google
“PageRank reflects our (Google’s) view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results. PageRank also considers the importance of each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value.”

If you didn’t catch that, here is the layman’s version: Websites with a higher PageRank (a value between 1 and 10) will be more prominent in Google search results while websites with a lower PageRank will be lower in Google search results.

Find Your Google PageRank
Two websites that you can use to find your Google PageRank are and Please note that their servers often get slowed down so you may have to try a couple of times. I have listed several websites below with their PageRanks, including this one, to give you a better sense of how you are doing. A better measure of how you are doing is to look-up your competitors’ PageRanks and see how you are doing in comparison.

PageRank 10:
PageRank 8:
PageRank 7:
PageRank 5: 
PageRank 4: 
PageRank 2:
PageRank 0:

Increasing your PageRank
The last sentence in the quote from Google above points to the easiest way to can increase your PageRank: get websites with higher PageRanks to link to your website. In other words, it is not the number of links you have (although that doesn’t hurt), it is the PageRank of the pages that link to your site that helps move you up to the next PageRank. This is truly the tip of the iceberg in search engine optimization, but it is a great tool to help you understand where you are today, and how to improve your search engine results.

Note: PageRankTMis a registered trademark of Google Inc.

Networking, Marketing, and Business Development Resources

I am excited to announce the addition of a new “Resources” tab/page to this blog. This new page is designed to contain a variety of free resources on training in the areas of Networking, Marketing, and Business Development. 

Of all of my speaking engagements my favorite topic has always been networking.  As such, I thought it would be appropriate to make the first resources on this page two of my presentations on Networking: Rethink Networking and Networking: From Theory to Reality. The Power Point presenations contained on this new page are fully editable and downloadable .ppt files (not .pdf copies) that you are welcome to edit and reuse for training at your company. I can’t embed my stories and personal touch, but I am certain that you will find the slides beneficial.  As always, please provide credit where appropriate. 

I hope that you will find this new page as a valuable resource.  As always, I welcome your feedback and additions to this blog. – Tim Klabunde

A Values Based Business Marketing Approach

I have seen the remergence of a refreshing way of doing business that is nothing less than exciting.  It is the idea that being simply honest with your clients is no longer enough to separate you in the crowded marketplace.  Rather companies are beginning to embrace the idea of ‘going the extra mile’ for their clients, the concept that I like to refer to as Values Based Business.  The exciting thing about a Values Based Business approach is that it generates a marketing mechanism that cannot be stopped.  I have seen companies that use a Values Based Business Marketing Approach enjoy rich profits, extremely loyal clientele, and a satisfaction that only doing a great job can give.

So, what is a Values Based Business Marketing Approach

A Values Based Business marketing approach is running your company not to make money or to grow, but specifically to help other people.  It is the idea that, by running your business with integrity and honesty, faithfully serving your customer instead of your wallet or your own interests, you will experience true success.  Let me clarify true success here: more profit, less hassle, a peaceful satisfaction every day on your way home from work, and a good nights sleep (this last one is for all the business owners that haven’t had a good night of sleep in years).

What it looks like

Values Based Businesses do several things that most profit and growth oriented businesses have a hard time swallowing.  Here are just a few examples:

  1. They always do something extra for free:  I used to go to an auto shop that would always do something unexpected for me free of charge.  They rotated my tires, replaced light bulbs, oiled squeaky doors; the list goes on and on.  In return can you guess what I did?  I never had my vehicle serviced at another shop and told everyone I knew to take his or her cars there.
  2. Take on pro-bono work: Vales Based Businesses help out non-for-profits, low-income families, and even their everyday clients.  They do it because it is right and because they really care.  Finally, when they do it, they treat the non-paying client just as good as the paying client.
  3. They treat every client like a first class client: Taking calls and returning e-mails promptly is just the tip of the iceberg. Values Based Businesses see what their clients need and help them to achieve it, even if it is out of their scope of work.   

The Result

By putting others first you are beginning the process of controlling your own destiny.  Values Based Businesses leverage their entire business as a marketing tool that uses referrals, recommendations, references, and relationships as their primary marketing vehicle. This allows a company to increase profitability and to grow far beyond that of a typical money and growth focused company.

Firms that practice this philosophy have strong client bonds based on trust and respect.  They have a client base that refuses to work with anyone else because it is a known fact that you will always go the extra mile and never compromise the customer relationship. They have employees that are excited about coming to work to do something good. They have managers that choose what work they want to do and who they want to work for.  Perhaps developing your company as a Values Based Business, focusing on others first, will allow you to achieve the success you have always hoped for.

A final note: Isn’t it amazing that when you change your focus to people instead of the bottom line, you begin to experience the success that you were looking for when you were focused on the bottom line.

Web 2.0 From Marketing Theory to Reality

I had a great conversation with Matt Handal of Trauner Consulting Services yesterday regarding Web 2.0.  Many of us have read about marketing using Web 2.0, but most people struggle to understand how to add value to their company and build a strong return on investment (ROI) for their online efforts. 
Let me propose that Matt’s website Construction Netcast is a great example of what a successful Web 2.0 effort can look like.  Matt is succeeding by focusing on helping other people and in return reaping the benefits of increased name recognition and market positioning as an industry leader.  Note that Web 2.0 requires that you add value to others lives, if you don’t add value you will simply be skipped over.
At the end of our conversation I sent Matt several links to blogs that (in my opinion) are successfully integrating into the new web.  Below are several of the links (plus one or two more) that I sent him. There are some great things being written on each of these blogs, but probably of more interest might be the great ideas these blogs are themselves.  If you are looking to expand your Web 2.0 presence start by looking at Construction Netcast and these blogs for some ideas:
Duane Craig’s Construction Informer
Ruairi Glynn’s Interactive Architecture


Marketing in a Recession – Part 2

“Over two-thirds (72 per cent) of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are now expecting a recession. However, under one third (28 per cent) have rewritten or adapted their marketing plan to prepare for it, according to research from marketing company New Brand Vision.

Ben Harris, MD of New Brand Vision, says: ‘Many SMEs were not in business during the last recession and won’t anticipate how they could be affected. It’s worrying that, with so many firms expecting a downturn, so few are actually taking steps to plan for it.'”

 Growth Business

How is it that so many firms believe we are headed for (or are currently in) a recession, yet so few are willing to adapt their marketing plans to effectively manage their future?  The reality is that most firms choose to “hold on tight” through a recession rather than proactively adapt to the changing market.  In my last post on Marketing in a Recession we discussed the ways that a firm can refine and reshape their marketing program.  I received numerous e-mails and calls from many of you discussing how you have effectively refined and reshaped your business (or plan to now) to meet the changing market.  Based on these discussions I wanted to pass along some additional resources that I hope you will find helpful: 

Marketing in a Recession: Additional Resources

The Canadian Marketing Association has a great post entitled: Recession-Proof Your Business: Focus on Current Customers

Ivan Misner in his blog Networking Now has a must read post entitled I Refuse to Participate in a Recession.

I like Wendi McGowan‘s 5-steps in her post on Recession Proof Your Business

Mark Riffey has a post from this morning on his blog Business is Personal relating to developing a plan for your business

For those of you in the A/E/C industry, let me refer you to Construction Marketing Ideas where Mark Buckshon continues to post relevant posts everyday on marketing