No doubt about it— A/E and environmental firms do waste money on useless research. Finding out, for example, how large the land development market is nationally, when you have a need to create work for four people in your Little Rock office. That said, research projects can be worth doing, and the right research can cause you to change your business entirely. Here are some examples of research that firms can actually use:A study of clients who used the firm once but didn’t come back. Try calling 25 of these clients from the past two to three years and ask them why they haven’t done any more business with you? Has something changed at their end? Or, did your firm do something that told them they’d never want to work with you again? Get specifics! Now is no time to be bashful. You really need this information to keep from losing hard-won clients in the future. A study of employees who quit the firm on their own accord over the last five years. You will never get meaningful feedback in an exit interview about why someone really quit. They will give excuses such as “better job” or “more opportunity” or “more pay.” Years later, if you go back, you can find out what really made them leave. Simply track them down and ask them. Don’t use written surveys— use the phone instead— and have someone make the call that the employee doesn’t know or hasn’t ever heard of. You need this information if you want to take the idea of building a great workplace seriously. Determine who the 10 biggest potential clients are in each market you serve and get the names of decision-makers from each. I don’t see how any firm can be serious about its marketing without doing this necessary research. You cannot afford to miss out on marketing to the biggest users of services from firms such as yours. Too critical! Put someone who is smart and accurate on this task.Determine who your top five competitors are in each market you serve. Build a file on each. Every time you see anything about them in the paper or a professional publication, put it in. When you hear about a job won or lost, add that to the file. When you see they hired someone you know, get that information in the file. If you really want to be brazen, set up a lunch with the president or office manager of each of these competitors. Tell them that, although you are competitors, you’d like to work together. Try to find niches you can each pursue without tripping over each other Determine who three additional suppliers are for everything you buy and get quotes from them. I am talking about legal services, accounting services, recruitment services, PR services, insurance, office supplies, printing, and more. You never know when you are going to be let down by a bad provider— be ready with their replacement. And, by simply talking with each one of these suppliers, you may find new ideas for saving money or doing things better. Find the names of 300 people who could print one of your press releases. Most firms have press lists that are too small and out-of-date. Do the research required to beef this list up, and you will get better results with your releases. Include publications from professional societies, trade journals, local papers, and more— even TheWall Street Journal and Time or Newsweek. Get multiple editors from each— who says only one person in these publications would be interested in printing your stuff?Originally published 3/27/2006
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.
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