Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why Did We Win?

by David Whitemyer, AIA
As we begin 2014, take a moment to assess what your firm has done RIGHT.

It’s fairly common practice for A/E firms to request a debriefing from potential clients after submitting a losing proposal. This makes sense. The debriefing lets you know about the weaknesses and errors in your proposal and/or interview so that you don’t make the same mistakes in future efforts. But doesn’t it make even more sense, after winning a project, to find out what the strengths and highlights were in your proposal, so that you can repeat them?

Another reason to find out exactly why you won is to ensure that you manage the client’s expectations and keep them happy during the project. You’ll want to deliver on the promises in your proposal – especially if that’s what sold them! – and to enhance your strengths.

Most clients won’t turn down an opportunity to give you a debriefing – whether for a lose or win. In fact, with federal government clients, they’re required to give you a debriefing if you ask. FAR 15.506 states that if you make a request within three days of the win or lose notification, the client must provide formal feedback on your proposal.

There’s no trick to figuring out what to ask the client after you’ve won. The questions are almost the same as when getting feedback after a loss. “What were our strengths?” What were our weaknesses?” Here are a few suggestions for what to ask after you’ve won a project.

     What was the main thing about our proposal that made our firm stand out?

     Did we have the lowest price? If not, how did our price compare with other proposals?

     Did our proposal adequately respond to everything in the RFP?

     Was there anything about our project team that gave you comfort or concern?

     Did the proposal’s writing style or visual quality stand out in any way?

     Did our proposal include any fluff or boilerplate language that we should’ve left out?

     Even though we won, do you have any recommendations of things we could’ve done differently?

     Are the other upcoming opportunities for which we could submit another proposal?

After getting a debriefing from the client, it’s essential to share the feedback with your firm. Share it with those in the marketing and business development teams, of course, but also make sure that you share it with the team and project manager who will be the client’s primary face and contact with your firm throughout the project.

David Whitemyer, AIA, is a Contributing Editor at PSMJ Resources, Inc., a licensed architect, and project manager at a Boston-area design firm. He can be reached at dwhitemyer@psmj.com.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Does Your Firm Lack Social Media Smarts?

How big of a role do social media play in your firm?  If your answer is a frustrated “I don’t know!” or a tentative “Um, not very much,” don’t worry—you’re not alone.

In a new survey by A/E/C industry publisher Info link, it was discovered that, while firms in the building, architecture, and design trades believe the use of social media is more important to their success than a year ago, a large percentage of those same firms have a less secure grasp on just how to use social media to benefit themselves.

In addition to each of the trades—building, architecture, and design—recognizing the importance of social media, each had a higher profile on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+ than they had the previous year; yet, the befuddlement with how to best use the three top social media outlets remained. 

In building, the percentage of those saying they did not know how to use social media doubled to 36 percent over last year’s 18 percent. For architects, it nearly tripled—48 percent from 18 percent.  And for design firms, it more than tripled, to 36 percent from 11 percent.

What’s the cause for all this confusion?

According to Infolink sales manager Adrian Wilson, as reported by Michael Bleby, many businesses have given up on social media after being unable to measure a solid ROI. Says Wilson: “To generate regular content, creative content, and thought leadership—that takes time. Most people look at it and think—it’s too hard.”  

Yet, statistics don’t lie—we know that businesses that use social media (inbound marketing in particular) have higher lead generation and higher profits (according to Hubspot, 41% of marketers say inbound marketing produced measurable ROI in 2013. Clearly, we feel this is true: after all, the survey did acknowledge that our industry sees value in social media—we just don’t know how to use it!

So, what’s the answer?  What can you do as an A/E marketer to effectively weave social media into your firm’s marketing strategy?

• Start small. Stop looking at LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ like the behemoths they seem to be.  Stop Googling “Social Media Marketing Techniques” and becoming overwhelmed by the thousands of pages that pop up.  Start small.  Resist the temptation to allow yourself to get overwhelmed.

• No, really.  I mean it.  I wasn’t kidding.  Start really, really small.  I mean, 5-10 minutes a day small.  You know that really great blog that you read once a week?  Or that website you ran across?  Or that app your grandson just told you about?  Or that interesting e-mail forward from Flipboard someone sent you?  Post it on Facebook.  Post it on LinkedIn.  Make a comment about it.  That’s it.

• Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. You spend a lot of time in meetings.  You have a lot of ideas—some of them that go against the grain.  You know, the ones that you ramble to your spouse about.  Write them down:  I’m not talking prose, I’m talking bullet points.  The next day, put a few of those bullet points into sentences.  Then post it on your company’s blog site.  And most important—say at the end of the blog post that you’ll be posting another one next week.  Promises made to the world wide web are often ones we keep.

• Tweet us what you learned.  Next time you go to a conference, keep a running tab of points and tips you learned.  And tweet them!  Tweet the tips along with a few pics of the conference.  It’s a great way to keep people engaged, let people in the industry know you’re staying relevant, and reap some potential re-tweet love.

Most important, don’t let yourself become a statistic next year—set a goal to be a company that not just knows it needs social media, but knows how to use it.
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