Business development

Aug 08, 2021

Firms need to devote resources toward business development and ensuring a steady stream of work for the future.

For most AEC firms, things are pretty good right now. While firms are busy catching up on a flood of work, adequately staffing projects, and finding ways to keep projects on time and on budget, there isn’t a lot of time or energy left to think about how to get more business – unfortunately, this is precisely the time that firms need to be devoting resources toward ensuring a steady stream of work for the future!

Here are four common problems AEC firms have in optimizing their marketing and business development:

  1. Business development activities are not balanced with workload. Firms “turn off” business development when they are busy with work, and don’t turn it back on until it’s too late – when leads and revenue have already dipped!
  2. Firms do not provide adequate training in marketing and selling – or if they do, the wrong person is assigned to do the teaching. Only 22 percent of firms provide marketing training to all employees, most often in the areas of proposal preparation, and CRM systems use. Just 14 percent of firms provide actual sales training.
  3. Technical staff does not have the time for marketing and sales activities. Utilization is the main performance metric tracked and emphasized.
  4. The organization is siloed and marketing operates as a separate “support” entity from business development and project management. In order to effectively sell the firm and its services, these departments need to be tied in with the operation and culture of the rest of the firm.

Firms that understand the importance of good marketing and business development are undertaking important actions daily – both in good times and bad! Here are four areas successful firms shine in marketing and business development:

  1. They know how to cross-sell effectively and maintain good relationships with current clients.
  2. They understand the market and have a large, well-detailed degree of information on past, present, and potential future clients. Just over half of all firms (52 percent) maintain a centralized file of data on their clients (that’s not enough). Eighty-three percent of firms have a CRM system, with an average of 9,023 names in it.
  3. Successful firms begin with the end in mind – they understand revenue numbers, have sales goals, and also understand what activities will help them get projects.
  4. They know their marketing metrics and use them to help predict the future. Examples include the number of website views, the number of inquiries, proposal volume, hit rate, dollar value of new project opportunities identified, and so much more!

If your firm is buried in work and not doing enough business development, it’s not too late – start now! Zweig Group also has a number of resources dedicated to helping firms with their marketing and business development. Check out our advisory services, this online seminar, and the soon to be released 2021 Marketing Survey Report.

Christina Zweig Niehues is Zweig Group’s director of research and e-commerce. She can be reached at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.