Editorial: Clean sheet marketing

Jun 19, 2013

Mark Zweig lists five questions you need to ask before tackling your next opportunity.

Attention all readers in the A/E/P business – you have got to make some BIG changes to the way you’re marketing and selling! It’s time for “clean sheet marketing!” By “clean sheet marketing” I’m talking about looking at every single project opportunity you get with fresh eyes; not using any of your standard language for anything – not even the transmittal letter. All of your “standards” are absolutely killing your effectiveness. You need to focus on the client and project opportunity in front of you NOW. These questions MUST be addressed:
  1. What is the client’s specific situation – i.e., their problem or opportunity – that would make them seek outside assistance from a firm like yours? This need has to be restated and addressed by you. It shows you listen and understand.
  2. What would define “success” for this project in the eyes of the client? What are the metrics that would be used to define that success? How will they gather this information to determine ultimate success? How can you possibly pursue a project with a client when you don’t understand this?
  3. What is happening with the client’s business or organization? Is it healthy? Is it growing? Is it succeeding in its mission? Why or why not? Knowing this information is crucial to you and can radically affect their decision on what firm to hire and the ultimate success or failure of your relationship with them.
  4. What are the drivers that will affect their decision on what firm to hire? What are the MOST IMPORTANT things this A/E/P firm must do to address the real needs of the client from the client’s perspective?
  5. Who is the client? Who in their organization is going to be making the determination on what firm to hire? Do you really know and understand this person or these people such that you can predict their response to your proposal? You need to!
Once you know the answers to these and other questions, you can get out a clean sheet of paper to write your cover letter, proposal, and presentation. Dump the “as per your requests and enclosed herewith” language. Dump the wordy and awkwardly written project descriptions, the too-long résumés on key people, and the bullshit quality process write-ups and write some new stuff that addresses the real needs of the client. If the information you’re providing doesn’t help the client make a real decision, dump it. More is NOT better. More is potentially obscuring what they really need to see/hear/know about you. Try answering these questions on a current project opportunity, and dump all your canned response stuff to do something new. Then tell me what happened. While I can’t predict 100 percent success, I will predict a higher hit rate when this process is used consistently over time. Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com. This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1013, originally published 6/24/2013. Copyright© 2013, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.

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.