What differentiates you from the other firms?

Nov 28, 2016

We are all a part of a very mature AEC industry. That means the market is huge but supply has long caught up with demand. When that happens, certain other things happen. These include:

  1. Clients become a whole lot more concerned about price.
  2. Clients become a whole lot more concerned about schedule.
  3. Location/proximity to the client and project may be more critical.
  4. Differentiating your firm from others that provide the same service becomes paramount.

It’s this last point I want to talk about today. Too many AEC firms look like each other. The lack of meaningful differentiation means that if the markets they serve are doing well, the AEC firms will do well. If the market has any kind of decline, most firms serving it decline also. The only way to avoid this scenario – other than cutting costs, doing the impossible schedule-wise, or starting a new office every time the client expects it, is to be different. How can you be different? Here are some thoughts:

  • Name. These days, why is everyone named “ABC, Inc.,” or some alphabet-soup variation on it? Boring name means boring company – one no one remembers. A good example of a good name that isn’t boring is Big Red Dog in Austin. People will remember the company’s name – for better or worse – and that will help reduce the risk of hiring them in the eyes of their clients.
  • Responsiveness. Why does it take so long for people to return phone calls and emails? Be the fastest and your clients will remember you and prefer you because of this one differentiator alone.
  • Phone answering. Why do so many people rely on auto-attendants and complex menus? Be the firm that has a live person answer your phone – better yet, an intelligent and service-oriented one – and you will no doubt differentiate yourself from your competitors.
  • Website. Why do so many firms have out-of-date and ugly websites? Be differentiated by having a site that changes daily and provides valuable content to all visitors. Look alive! Look better and more up-to-date than everyone else you compete with.
  • People. Why is it OK to have people who are technically competent but have anything but a sparkling personality? Differentiate yourself by having better looking, better communicating people who are passionate about what they do. Be super selective. Invest in training.

I could go on and on. Look for ways to be different – there are a million of them. Otherwise you’ll be lost in the pack. And that’s bad in a mature market!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s founder and CEO. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

This article is from issue 1175 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here to subscribe or get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

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.