Take a look at successful firms, whether in the AEC industry or not. What do you see? Confusion on who is doing what? Confusion on responsibilities? Confusion on what is driving revenue? Seldom is that seen. In successful firms, it's clear on who is doing what. It's clear on accountabilities and there's a complete understanding of the activities that contribute to the firm's revenues and long-term sustainability. Their revenue generation engines are built right!
What does your revenue generation engine look like?
Some firms engage in strong marketing programs which contribute to a firm's long-term viability. Other firms put all their resources into proposals and interviews to chase the "now," while missing out on the opportunity to stir the pot of prospects for future work and build repeat clients. Some firms have informal client relations activities, but no formal program directed at building those repeat revenues.
If you want to pull full power from your revenue generation engine, it requires building your engine right. Successful revenue generation programs include three components:
Each of these components has a job to do. Marketing positions your firm to improve the acquisition of opportunities and projects. It lays the groundwork for revenue sustainability and supports your business development function. BD focuses on the actual acquisition of work and client relations helps to build those long-term relations that lead to further revenues. If you're missing out on pulling full power from any of the components, you're missing out on building stronger revenue.
Is your revenue generation engine built right?
A presentation to your team on Integrated Revenue Generation can be the key to building your revenue generation engine right! Email email@example.com for more info.
Consider this: Your AEC revenue generation program is an engine - an engine converting resources into revenue and driving the future of your firm. It's an engine with multiple moving parts that should be monitored and managed, continuously, to ensure full power is being constantly delivered. Each component is integrated with the others. If one isn't working to its full potential, the others aren't working as well. And, if performance of the engine isn’t being monitored, at all times, how do you know what is working and what isn't?
What does your firm's revenue generation engine look like?
That last point is crucial. If you can't confidently anticipate what will happen, you're left in a day-to-day position of hoping things will go your way and a lot of sleepless nights.
Why be concerned with your confidence level in your ability to reach revenue projections?
Most people associate reaching revenue projections with keeping people's jobs – it's all about resource management and project staffing. But, the next step beyond that is the long-term viability of your firm. When you're confident about the level of revenue coming in the door, you can more confidently plan and manage:
To increase your confidence in your firm's ability to pull in the level of revenue needed - in other words – How to Supercharge Your Revenue Generation Engine . . .
What can be measured, can be improved.©
We'll be writing more about the three steps in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!
For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We'll be back in a few with more insights on Integrated Revenue Generation. Stay tuned and enjoy your break!
The big focus in bringing in revenue seems to always fall onto proposals and interviews. We HAVE TO WIN is the mantra that runs up and down the halls of most firms. But, why put yourself in a do-or-die position every day?
It doesn't have to be that way if you're paying attention to ALL your sources of revenue. Wouldn't it be great to not have to chase everything that moves? To minimize the valleys of not having enough work? To capture more market share? To have more control of your firm's future?
Put your attention to all of your revenue generation drivers. Pull effectiveness from those three drivers by integrating their activities. Then, define, plan, and successfully implement a cohesive program to move your firm forward while measuring performance and continually making improvements.
Your Three Revenue Drivers
Marketing gets short shrift in most firms. There continues to be the idea that marketing doesn't really affect the bottom line in the AEC industry. H-m-m-m-m. I've had that said to me, in various forms, and each time, those individuals had to change their minds as revenues increased beyond expectations after implementing a focused, long-term integrated marketing program. Do you have that kind of program in place? Is it a strong program that:
2. Business Development
Business development gets the attention in the industry, yet it's the most expensive component of revenue generation and the one with the most uncontrollable variables that affect outcome. If your firm is only in business development mode all the time, it means you're chasing leads instead of developing opportunities. It means you're stuck trying to build relationships at the last minute and guessing at what the issues of the pending project are while cobbling together a team and proposal that might win. A strong BD program:
3. Client Relations
This last item, client relations, is the one that stumps me, over and over again. Firms tout their "repeat business" stats, but, so often, give little attention (or resources) to client relations. This is money in your hand and, so often, you only need to close your fingers to capture it. Separate from planning, designing, and constructing a successful project, a strong Client Relations program:
Do you have a complete revenue generation program that systematically derives full value from your entire revenue generation supply chain?
Want to learn more? Email email@example.com.
Repeatedly, we hear, "it's all about relationships" and, yes, they are important. A strong relationship will save a project that is going south. It will help you get in the door for the second or third project. It makes a project easier to complete and more enjoyable to celebrate at the end of the day. So, how does your firm handle relationships?
From observation in the AEC industry over 30+ years, here is my perspective on relationships:
Many firms tout their "repeat client" percentage and we all know it's easier to keep a client than get a client. Yet, if relationships are hard to start, easy to maintain, and hard to re-start, why are more dollars and focus put into new business development than into existing and recent past client relations? Wouldn't a firm want a sufficient financial yield from current and recent past clients so that piles of money are no longer needed to initiate and build new relationships for new work? Maybe it's time to put a greater amount of your BD budget into keeping the good relationships you already have. It sure would be easier and a lot less stressful!
What's does your "best relationship" in business look like? Here's my definition of a great relationship, from the client's viewpoint:
Do you see anything in there that says, "big gifts or expensive outings?" No. Just as employees give, as one of their top reasons for leaving a firm, "it's the way I was treated." It's the same thing with the client – consultant relationship. It's the way they are treated.
We all want to be treated special! We're at all different levels and experiences in this world and we're all doing our best. We all need a pat-on-the-back from somewhere. And, the person who gives that pat-on-the-back is the one who will be remembered. Keep Maya Angelou's well-recognized quote in the back of your mind:
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Take the month of March and make it your firm's time to make sure your clients feel like a big dog!!
If you're looking to develop a client relations program, let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org
What real value do your clients actually see in you? Why do they select you? What draws them to you vs. another firm? Why do you stand out from the crowd?
One of the easiest, yet hardest, ways to win AEC work is to differentiate your firm. That's done through the value (both actual and perceived) that your firm delivers and it's wrapped in your firm's brand. When you have solid value differentiators in place and those are consistently communicated through your brand, it's much easier to win. The difficulty lies in accurately defining your firm's value differentiators.
The legendary comedian, Carl Reiner, said it best, recently, on a late night talk show, "What ground do I stand on that no one else stands on?" Reiner was trying to determine, as a young writer, what he should write about. The outcome of that question to himself – the iconic Dick Van Dyke Show. Can you ask your firm that same question and come up with a solid, value-differentiated answer?
Understand value and brand this way . . .
BIG NOTE HERE: Your brand doesn't lie in the hands of the marketing department. Your brand lies in the hands of your project delivery teams and management.
It has nothing to do with the logo. It has everything to do with the experience of driving their cars – the reliability, the comfort, the prestige.
It has nothing to do with the logo. It has everything to do with the experience of eating their burgers.
It has nothing to do with the logo. It has everything to do with the experience of staying at the hotel.
For these and all the other well-known brands, it's not about the logo you see; it's about the experience you have. That's your brand!
So, what real value / brand do your clients actually see?
Karen Kang, author of "Branding Pays" and personal branding expert, calls out four categories to consider in defining your brand - the value your clients, your network and the marketplace see.
How to Determine Your Firm's Value, Brand, and Differentiators
PS Your logo is not your brand. Your logo and graphic standards are a graphic representation of your firm's brand. Don't confuse the two!
Looking for more info? www.redhoundstudios.com or email email@example.com.
Whack-whack-whack – how often do you hear that sound at your firm? Where will the next project pop up? How are we going to hit it . . . at the last minute, no less?
Welcome to the POWER OF FOCUS. Focus is one of the most significant tools for an AEC firm. Focus puts you in the position of aligning your firm with the markets you want to pursue. Then, it allows you to:
Roadmap to Targeting
Rather than waiting for projects to appear, it's time to cherry-pick your targets and put your full attention to pursuing those. You don't need to be everything to everyone and you don't need to chase everything that moves. Narrow your focus with the following.
Stick to your target markets. What markets are expert in? What markets are funded? What markets are growing? If you're pursuing a dying market, time to quickly shift your focus elsewhere. Listen to economic reports, read business publications, and research what is happening out in the world, including megatrends that can provide you with a long-term outlook, i.e., population bubbles that will impact certain markets for a set period of time. Understand what types of projects may be coming.
Define the geographic reach you want your firm to have. Yes, travel can be, for the most part, reimbursable, but it also takes considerable time out of a project team's work week and billable time. Will that geographic reach be a three-hour car drive from any given office? Or, perhaps, limited to a three-hour flight? Don't whack at everything by pursuing a project that is outside of your preferred geographic reach where you have no relationships.
No firm can effectively be all things to all people. And, no one can be an expert in everything. Carve out two to three areas of expertise and wrap your messaging around those. Highlight those specialties and build your thought leadership to draw prospects to you for that expertise. Don't whack at a project that isn't a good fit for your expert services.
A "Preferred Profile" describes the type of client and project that best fit your firm. It's your firm's "sweet spot" – that place where your operational capabilities, firm expertise, profitability objectives, company culture, corporate brand, and growth and firm sustainability goals align with the client. It keeps you from whacking at anything and everything.
Here's an example of a Preferred Profile:
ACE Engineering, a mechanical and electrical engineering firm, pursues the healthcare, mixed-use, and multi-family markets. Our work:
Once you have the above items in place, it's time to cherry-pick, ahead of time, the accounts that best fit your Profile and that you want to pursue for the long-term. Once selected, put a full-throttle business development and marketing campaign together to get in front of them, stay in front of them, and build those solid relationships.
WHY? Because, the stronger your relationship, the more pre-notice and inside information you'll receive and you'll receive it ahead of the competition. No more whack-a-mole for you!
For more info, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Without measurement, there is no gauge to know whether you're doing well or not. Golfers, engineers, contractors, architects, runners, Fortune 500™ companies, hospitals – all measure what they're doing in order to improve. Guessing or "a gut feeling" just doesn't cut it when they want to improve their performance.
More importantly, none of those professions or companies waits until the end to measure their performance. Golfers measure stroke-by-stroke and hole-by-hole so they know what to improve before they hit the final hole. Architects and engineers measure project completion via defined phases of a project. Runners measure by the mile, quarter mile, speed out-of-the- block, early performance vs. late-in-the-race performance and so on. They all measure their performance by the phase rather than by a single and final metric of the entire process.
"It is easier to tell where you will end up if you know where you're going along the way“
Paul Selden, Sales Process Engineering
A lot of AEC firms only document the number of proposals they've submitted and how many they've won. That approach assumes that there is only one measuring point in the process and that is whether the project is won or lost. However, in AEC sales, marketing, and client relations it's possible (and valuable) to evaluate multiple points throughout the process to make sure your firm is on track for success and, subsequently, make the needed adjustments before arriving at the end point.
When beginning a program of measurement, a lot of firms dive right into the weeds. Everyone becomes very busy discussing what metrics to use without deciding what part of their business performance they think they need to improve. The first step in measurement is to define what part of your business performance you want to measure and, subsequently, improve. Then, decide what metric(s) will best measure that performance.
Here are some ideas of business planning and performance you may want to measure:
What you can measure, you can improve.©
Looking for more info. Email email@example.com.
How many times have you heard that statement? So often, it seems, the AEC industry approaches revenue generation from an experimental viewpoint. Does it really need to be that way?
Last week, we talked about structure and introduced the three AEC revenue generators. Now, that you're thinking about structure and the inter-relationships among marketing, business development, and client relations, it's time to stop experimenting and strap on some proven, repeatable processes to your revenue generation.
When you use proven, repeatable processes, it takes individual preferences and trial guesses out of the picture. It also means the process can be used by more than one individual and is trainable to others. No more "I have some ideas of how to do things" or "let's try this idea and see how it works." Those shots in the dark of what works and what doesn't are replaced with proven strategies and processes.
Consider it this way:
So why have defined processes?
When people use proven, repeatable processes, the predictability of the outcome increases. That's why Fortune 500 companies and so many other successful firms, whether they're in the AEC industry or not, have proven, repeatable processes for almost all aspects of their operations. The processes work!
What functions in your firm's revenue generation should have formalized processes?
Every firm will be a bit different, but below is a sampling of a few proven processes to consider incorporating into your Integrated Revenue Generation℠ program. Some probably already exist in your firm. If they do, ask your team, "How can these processes be improved so everyone knows about them, understands them, and can successfully implement them on a repeated basis?"
Here, again, is the Three Key Revenue Generators infographic from last week for your reference.
Marketing Component of Integrated Revenue Generation℠
Align, Research, Integrate
Business Development Component of Integrated Revenue Generation℠
The biggest, overall process that your entire revenue generation team should know is your firm's proven business development process. Everyone should understand the multiple doors through which a lead can enter your firm. And, they must know how that lead is to be handled when it enters the firm and throughout its life within your firm. That's a tall order, but one we'll be introducing in the coming months as part of introducing Red Hound Studios' Integrated Revenue Generation℠ program.
Within the Business Development component of your revenue generation, here are some processes to consider:
And, last, but not least, some process ideas for your Client Relations program:
Client Relations Component of Integrated Revenue Generation℠
PS You know what's really interesting?? When there's a failure in a process, around 80% of the time, it's in the process and not the people, per Paul Selden, author of Sales Process Engineering. So, stop wringing your hands about staff failures for problems that are built into the system, not the people..
Looking for more info? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Wow, those silos are hard to look at! Sterile, separated, isolated. Are your AEC BD, marketing, and client relations programs silo'd? Is there an understanding, across your firm, of the value of each individual discipline? Or how those three functions can and should work together? Do you start to hear the word "synergy?"
In a silo'd firm, functions are separated and communications struggle to get across barriers. Marketing may be relegated to creating brochures that someone wants immediately while having to push too many unfocused proposals out the door, i.e. task-focused. Business development may be designated as the "real" creator of revenue with not much else monitored or measured in the BD discipline except for the number of projects won. The term "client relations" hardly reaches anyone's radar so there is no formal structure or process for creating stellar client relations in order to ensure projects go smoothly, clients are happy, and the best clients are retained.
It's time! Time to move forward and bring all of these disciplines into a highly functioning, integrated unit. Generating AEC revenue is a team effort and it requires the expertise and value of all three of those disciplines.
So, what does your firm's business development, marketing, and client relations activities look like? Is it silo'd like the graphic above. Or does it look like a stirred up pot of activity, as shown below, where one hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing and no one has a clear picture of what produces results or how everyone should work together.
Does your firm view revenue generation like this . . .
When, in reality, it looks like this . . .
In their purest forms, here is what each of your firm's AEC revenue generation functions should do:
Marketing's prime functions: Drive effective planning in conjunction with BD; align revenue generation programs with firm branding, mission, vision, values; conduct market research to confirm program directions; develop, implement, and measure an integrated communications program including activities driving lead generation.
Business development's prime functions: Provide consistent, qualified lead generation; plan and implement targeted pre-positioning for key targeted opportunities; develop best-in-class proposals; plan and implement best-in-class interview presentations; monitor and measure multiple points in the BD function and implement improvements where needed.
Client relations' prime functions: Ensure quality service and client satisfaction; maintain close relationships with key client contacts; and obtain repeat and referred opportunities.
Are you ready to move to a more structure program and proven processes? It's a valuable move because structure and process lead to the ability to test, measure, repeat, and improve what you're doing . . . "What can be measured, can be improved©."
And, once you have great structure, process, and measurement in place, it's about super-charging your firm's three revenue generators so they all work together to lift revenue outcomes.
Questions to consider:
Added note: A lot of firms don't view marketing as a revenue generator or disregard the value of having a formal client relations program – the big focus is on BD. I've heard those comments before, and $12 million later in revenues, it became obvious that marketing was a clear player in revenue generation and client relations was important to focus on. Time to wake up and smell the coffee because in today's online, digital, and highly competitive world, your marketing and client relations programs have a tremendous capacity to drive revenue.
Want to learn more? Email email@example.com
Friday Chow is posted weekly, or thereabouts, to provide you with insights and considerations for AEC sales and marketing. Good stuff to feed your revenue engine!
When you're ready to improve your business development, marketing, and client relations programs, contact Red Hound Studios at firstname.lastname@example.org