Monday, August 27, 2012

PSMJ Tips: The Latest Trend: QR Codes in Proposals

QR codes offer a quick link to the virtual world. Their possibilities are endless. A QR (Quick Response) Code is a two-dimensional barcode designed to carry significantly more data than a normal barcode, and can be scanned both horizontally and vertically. Originating in Japan in the early 90s, the QR was used as a tracking system for automotive components. Today, these codes appear everywhere: on billboards, food packaging, newspapers, magazines, and even airline tickets.

The primary purpose of the QR code is to provide a quick link to text or URL. A cell phone camera is needed to read the information and a web-based link is needed to provide the information. Applications are available for download on mobile devices. The QR codes are generally free and can be generated from various sources such as:

While the QR code can link to text, for A/E proposals, that application seems redundant. Where QR codes can really set the proposal apart is in linking to the web for a YouTube video, website, or landing page. The benefit is that you can expand your information beyond the basic proposal, adding another layer to your “full package.”

QR codes add a dimension to a proposal that cannot be accomplished easily through other means. It is recommended that you provide the URL below the code just in case you have a curious client that does not have the technology needed to read the code. You might also consider providing instructions on downloading a code reader application.

The code itself can be used throughout a proposal, depending on what you want it to link to. Here are a few examples:

• Put a QR code in your cover letter. This is a great technique for emphasizing the key points that you want the reader to walk away with. Some of these things may be client testimonials. Link to videos of clients espousing all of the great reasons they use your firm.

• Use a QR code for the firm portfolio. You want your prospective client to learn more about similar projects that you have worked on, so the QR code could link them to a landing page that you have developed that provides images and narratives bringing your projects to life.

• Include a QR code with team resumes. In the resumes, include a link to YouTube videos of your project manager, director of design, or key project principals explaining their project philosophies, experience and/or how they would manage this project.

• Place a QR code on the proposal cover. If you’re a novice, you can always start with having a link to your website.

The best part is that you can actually see how effective your efforts are. Our firm recently created an in-house landing page to link from a QR code for a specific proposal. Using Google analytic statistics, we were able to see when the landing page was viewed. We won the project because we were able to provide information above and beyond our competition.

The beauty of the QR code is that it costs nothing to generate. With a well thought through marketing campaign, you can build your communication repertoire so that you have the opportunity to link to almost anything. And the price? Nothing. For more vital information on how to effectivly approach business development, register for PSMJ’s Win Work Now: Three 1-Day Business Development Programs.This fall, PSMJ is providing 5 locations all across North America and Canada to give your whole firm the tools and confidence you need to succeed in bringing in more work for the firm. Register today!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

PSMJ Tips: The Best Marketers: Powerhouse PMs

Project managers are the leaders on the front line, and are often the best, most effective marketers. By fostering strong relationships with existing clients, and knowing how to creatively “talk shop,” you can generate work from repeat customers, and often learn about new opportunities (before they become public knowledge).

Included in his list of 21 Traits of Powerhouse PMs, Frank Stasiowski, FAIA, outlines five attributes that successful managers must possess in order to also be successful marketers. They are:

• Believe each client is a friend, and the project is a stop along the way in that long-term relationship. These Powerhouse PMs send cards for clients’ anniversaries and their kids’ graduations.

• Possess curiosity about the details of your clients’ business. This goes beyond the call of duty. Powerhouse PMs want to know what it takes to get the client to move ahead. They learn the clients’ business, their needs, and goals. This is all part of building that long-term friendship.

• Work hard to make clients look good. A project manager’s job is to lead the client through the maze of project changes. The project manager who can do this by giving the client credit for successes, involving the client in decisions, and keeping up strong communication with the client, will win both herself and the firm a friend for life.

• Synthesize new work. This means that great project managers create work out of nothing. An average PM may bring in work through a public listing. A powerhouse PM is always looking for new work and opportunities for the firm in everything he does, and everywhere he goes.

• Bring opportunities to their clients. Clients don’t forget a project manager who has facilitated a partnering arrangement with another firm or put together financing opportunities.

To learn more tips and techniques you can use to become a better and more successful project manager, check out PSMJ’s Ultimate Project Management Manual.

PSMJ’s Ultimate Project Management Manual can instantly and dramatically improve your ability to manage projects for quality, speed, and profitability. Click here to order, e-mail, or call PSMJ customer service at (800) 537-7765.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Final Countdown to Principal: Advice for Up and Comers

Agreeing to become a Principal (equity owner) in an A/E/C firm has lasting consequences. Don’t leap for the power and prestige without considering the deeper responsibilities and challenges.

Do Your Due Diligence. Study your firm as the prospective purchaser you are. Assess the financials of the firm like an investment. Would you invest in this company as a stockholder? Consider what customers, stakeholders, and competitors say about the firm. Choose your fellow Principals wisely. You will be “married” to them for the next 20 years or more. Get to know their visions, biases, and foibles. Do as much research as possible by yourself, but be sure to include the counsel of knowledgeable experts that you hire, in addition to those provided by the firm.

Learn How the Business Really Works. Enlist the support of a willing, able, and trustworthy Partner to be your transition guide or coach. They have information and perspective only an insider can provide. Start by examining the firm’s succession plan for you. Does it identify a cadre of future leaders including several likely to be your successor? If not, leadership development is a serious issue that needs immediate attention; and the viability of you own transition plan may need reconsideration. Speak openly with fellow Principals on matters of succession, money, raises, bonuses, promotions, hiring/firing, and policy while assessing how decisions are made and the role you play.

Understand the Deal. Read closely all documents related to becoming a Principal such as the Shareholder Agreement, Deferred Compensation Agreement, Buy-Sell agreement, Company By-Laws, Articles of Incorporation, Board Minutes, Budgets, business plans, strategic plans, and Annual Reports from the past several years. Keep a file of corporate documents current. Develop a thorough understanding of the authority, legal responsibilities, and financial liabilities you may have, including as a member of the Board of Directors or Executive Committee. Know – don’t assume – what power you will have. Documentation of how and how well the firm has performed in the past is the best available indicator (but no guarantee) of future performance. Study performance trends, and especially those that impact your compensation, such as salary, bonus, stock valuation, and dividends.

Test Your Understanding. Listen closely to people outside of your echo chamber, especially past, present, and prospective principals. Push a few buttons (advisedly) on important issues you would like to change. As a Principal it is important to know you can speak your mind comfortably. If frank conversation is not well received before you sign on, it is unlikely to change afterwards. Spend time inside the “sausage factory” of an executive level committee. Get a realistic understanding of the role into which you will be stepping. Is it more like an influential partner or simply a stockholding employee? Clearly understand any non-compete restrictions imposed once you leave the firm; these may act as “Golden Handcuffs.” If there are deferred compensation provisions, have them carefully checked by a knowledgeable tax adviser. Be respectfully skeptical of all firm valuations. Valuation methods (e. g. multiples of earnings or sales) tend to get frozen to filter out short-term noise and protect longer-term stockholders. Over time industry and firm specific trends can diverge creating large anomalies.

Search Your Soul, with Support from Your Family. Make sure you will enjoy the entire experience, accepting longer hours and sleepless nights, not just financial rewards. Only you can know for sure how you would handle a serious business downturn that resulted in no bonus being paid, or worse, a “cash call.” Although this may seem unlikely, you must be willing to take the risk. Lastly, if you cannot fully explain what it means to be a Principal to your spouse or best friend, then you do not understand the deal well enough.

Being a Principal is not for everyone. Make sure it is right for you. Yes, you can say no. Senior Project Manager or non-equity Associate is not a bad career.

PSMJ has been addressing the issue of design firm ownership transition for 34 years and is holding a Ownership and Leadership Transition Roundtable for the leaders of today's A/E/C practices just like yours – October 23-24 in Atlanta, GA. 

"Great information, puts me in a position to start the process right, should have done this 5 years ago!"

-Kim Lobdell, President, KL Engineering, Inc.

Designed for both current and prospective Principals, we'll walk through a structured, logical approach to developing practical planning tools for your firm's Ownership Transition. Click here to register now!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Using Video For Marketing A/E Services

Why is it that an industry of professionals who understand better than most the need to visualize and demonstrate are not embracing the newest generation of visually rich, digital communications tools? When it comes to social media marketing, the A/E/C industry lags behind other professions. Perhaps it’s a case of not knowing enough about it, or an assumption that the cost of video is prohibitive.

These obstacles can be easily resolved by speaking with professional content development and production companies. Prices are down and most quality production organizations are more than happy to educate you as part of their engagement. The industry is based on very specific, detailed cost management and comparative pricing that is shared with the client up front. This allows you to really understand where and how your marketing dollars are being spent.

Video marketing allows every firm to create an online presence that animates your unique projects, personnel and thought leadership. You may automatically imagine a “talking heads” interview with your reluctant CEO or award-winning partner. Ho hum, but OK. Interviews make fine videos and a professional interviewer can make any subject feel comfortable in front of the camera. It works well and is done often, but video can add an element of richness and depth beyond the normal “blah, blah, blah” of why your firm is so great.

One alternative is to let your satisfied clients do the talking for you. Let your hundreds of professional project photographs talk as well. Video embraces multiple techniques like motion graphics, kinetic text, white board animation, and voice-overs to tell your story, so viewers are both educated and entertained. Here are 7 practical tips to leveraging video marketing and online digital content:

Keep them hooked! Viewers give a video 20 seconds on average before turning away. So make sure that first 20 seconds pops, and try to keep the same momentum going throughout.
Use strong visuals. If your team has great hand or computer generated renderings to sell your firm’s ideas, show them! If you have fly-through videos of projects, use them, too! Photographs of projects (no more than three seconds per shot) look great in videos.
Talking heads are (relatively) boring. You won’t be able to eliminate them totally from your video. (We all want to meet the people behind the company we are doing business with.) But don’t over-rely on them if you have other, more visually compelling content to include. Putting your CEO on camera may create familiarity. It may build comfort. It may also bore your viewers.
Ditch the scripts - Scripts and prepared remarks are the death of many a promising video. A simple two-sentence paragraph takes 15 seconds or more to read. That three page diatribe from your brochure would be longer than Avatar! So go for authenticity and be unscripted. Anyone on the video should be natural and authentic. Hire a good director to make sure that you get the best out of everyone. Some of those back room colleagues are the most interesting assets you have - leverage them, script free.
Don’t be afraid to experiment - You have control over the message and what goes out. So unplug and relax as you describe how you work, what makes you tick and what your firm brings to the table that is unique. You have a firm full of creative people, so take advantage of them to experiment in a safe way. Anything you don’t like can be edited, rearranged or eliminated altogether. Remember, it’s a visual medium and that’s your specialty.
YouTube is for you - Many organizations still don’t understand how powerful a YouTube channel can be for both promoting services, creating in-bound interest, and delivering free HD videos on a website.
If it’s your first time, look for a guide - The world of online communications change is the norm. Don’t go it alone or hire cousin Joe’s nephew. This is your firm and your online reputation we are talking about here. So use a professio nal production company. 

Bottom line – your firm can stand out from the crowd, show off your team and projects, and be a leader in your space, using online videos. Social media can be a powerful new business development tool. Online videos are just one platform your company can use to connect your business to an almost unending stream of new and interested prospects.

For more vital information on how to effectivly approach business development, register for PSMJ’s Win Work Now: Three 1-Day Business Development Programs.This fall, PSMJ is providing 5 locations all across North America and Canada to give your whole firm the tools and confidence you need to succeed in bringing in more work for the firm. Register today!
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