Client Targeting for AEC Firm Growth
Earlier this year, Scott Butcher and I discussed using Trendspotting to plan for and develop a successful growth strategy for your design or construction firm. Using such anticipatory thinking, you can determine the markets, submarkets, and opportunity types your firm should target based on hard trends – not on your “gut feelings.” However, high-performing AEC firms know that this type of growth strategy must include a specific focus on client targeting.
By concentrating efforts on your target accounts – both existing and new – design and construction firms will increase revenues and reduce marketing and business development expenses while improving the firm’s overall win rate. Once your strategy is visualized to reach that goal, three additional steps can guide you toward obtaining these desired results.
Step #1: Target Your Clients
Once a market is determined, you need to classify your prospects as Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary Clients – or, alternatively, not a target within that market. To determine this, a firm needs to compare potential clients to the firm’s optimum criteria within four different categories.
- Range of Success – Where does the firm typically perform well? In what geographies? In what sub-sectors of the market?
- Profitability Impact – What contract financial/payment terms are desirable? What is/are the typical funding source(s) for this client’s projects? What is the fee potential?
- Client Preferences – Does the potential client utilize delivery methods that allow the firm to perform best? What are their preconceived thoughts about our competitors or us?
- Opportunities – What is a typical project size? How many opportunities might they provide the firm within a pre-determined time frame? How many competitors do they typically invite to propose on projects?
Once the optimum criteria are determined, the next step is to filter potential clients through this evaluation to determine the classification, with Primary Clients being the initial targets for the firm.
It’s important to note that this analysis must evaluate both existing and new clients since existing clients need to be confirmed as target accounts due to any changes that might have caused them to no longer be a target. Once those accounts are established as targets, existing clients have the advantage of not needing to go through the entire Sales Cycle. Name recognition and credibility establishment have already occurred with that account, thus reducing the time of the Sales Cycle and the marketing expenses typically associated with those initial steps.
Step #2: Develop Account Plans for Your Target Clients
Whether an existing client or a new prospect, an Account Plan needs to be developed for each Primary and Secondary Client identified. Although Account Plans involve collecting and organizing data about the potential client, the real success of an Account Plan is derived from the uncovered nuances.
While, you may know the names of many contacts, the formal and informal reporting structure must be determined and understood. There is rarely a solo decision-maker at most corporations or institutions, so it’s crucial to identify all multiple decision-makers. Your firm’s differentiators can significantly impact the various decision-makers. Therefore those differentiators should be identified and leveraged as part of the plan.
Finally, it is beneficial to be aware of competitors’ roles in the decision-making process.
Step #3: Leverage Relationships with Target Clients
The final step in the Sales Cycle is the actual buying process based on establishing trust between the client and the firm. Trust is a personal, one-on-one trait between a decision-maker at the account and an individual with the AEC firm. These relationships may be linked by knowledge, skill set, interests, style, or experiences, which you can leverage to build trust between the two individuals.
Targeting individuals within the account by one or more personnel at the firm is the third and final target-based activity in the process. Whether initially establishing these connections with a new client or cross-selling and up-selling an established relationship at an existing account, the key is the personal link between these two individuals.
Using this three-step process, you can successfully go from anticipatory strategy to successful implementation. To learn more about the implementation process that should be employed and receive the tools required to implement such a focused approach, join me for my upcoming webinar, Account-Based Strategies for High-Performance AEC Firms.
During the webinar, I’ll provide further insight into the techniques we’ve reviewed above and share how I’ve successfully implemented the methods at multiple AEC firms.