Perryn Olsen has made some interesting and important points in this posting: Learn what clients want — straight from the source.
He described his role in moderating a SMPS Louisiana chapter panel discussion. In that discussion, the owner/clients expressed three themes: about their priorities: Concise, relevant and relationships.
Concise, Olsen reported, means, keep the proposal size under control
Each panelist stated that they never want to see a 2″ or 3” binder ever again. They want brevity because they are busy, and most of the “padding” in those larger proposals is just fluff to boost the firm’s egos. The private developer praised two construction firms specifically for always producing concise 30-page proposals regardless the project size. He said these concise proposals have all the information he needs to make his decision without the useless, superficial information like the CEO’s volunteering efforts or hobbies.
Relevant goes naturally with concise. Proposal recipients don’t want to wade through a laundry list of content that doesn’t specifically address their concerns.
Relationships may seem obvious to anyone in the business, but Olsen indicates the nature of relationship expectations has shifted.
To the surprise of many audience members, the two public sector panelists said they want to know your firm, even though they each use a state-required point system. The panelists noted the point system gets them down to their top three candidates and personal relationships reassure them that the selected firm can complete the project without many issues. The panelists even gave out their contact information, business cards, and their preferred method of meeting new firms. Neither want lunch; they want you to schedule a meeting at their office to introduce your firm.
Their responses did not surprise me because this is a shift we’ve seen throughout the AEC industry nationally, a move away from wining-and-dining clients on the golf course and toward true relationships between client and the AEC firms that understand them and provide relevant services.
There are a few other points beneath the surface here, however. Where did Olsen gather his insights? He had a role in developing a panel discussion involving owners/decision-makers at a relevant association (SMPS Louisiana) where he had a leadership role. This of course is a great environment for building relationships for the business where he works, which provides marketing services to the AEC and other industries.
Effective relationship building requires quite a bit more than just calling on owners and decision-makers; we need to have a point or points of connection and communication where we can build respect for our abilities and competences and the capacity to deliver value to the clients. While undoubtedly online marketing has value, as — done right — conventional print media, at some point we need to make the connection between building our image and building the one-on-one relationships that lead to actual business. I believe, increasingly, the best places to do this are within client focused associations and through effective community service, and these elements should be the number one priority in your marketing and business development strategies.
Please feel free to share your observations about these ideas, especially how you apply and implement association participation. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.