Word of mouth

Apr 01, 2019

Add value, share work, respond quickly, and be open about your process to get more business and increase revenue without spending more.

How do we get more business and increase revenues? I often hear this question asked by either a fellow engineer or a young project manager. The most common answer I hear from senior leaders and business owners is word of mouth.

Yes, you read that right. Many small engineering firm owners indicate that their marketing budget is minimal, and yet, despite not spending much money on marketing and advertising they stay busy and profitable. How is this possible?

I’ve worked for small, medium, and large firms, and have had oversight of marketing budgets ranging from single digits to six figures. I started working at my current firm about a year and a half ago, and I’m proud to say I was able to double revenues without drastically increasing the expenditure. Here’s how we did it:

  1. Add value to the project. Whether you add value to the project by reducing costs with your creative design or saving time with quick project completion and approval, adding value is essential for client retention. For example, I worked on a project where the initial set of drawings were done by another engineering firm but they were brought to us because the client wasn’t satisfied with the other engineer’s responsiveness to urgent issues. After reviewing the plans, I modified the design so it resulted in more residential/developable lots with lower construction costs. After a year, this client is now one of our top sources of revenue.
  2. Sharing is caring. This practice works best for business development. What I mean by sharing is to give some components of a project your firm doesn’t handle to another firm. For example, we are a civil engineering firm. When I’m on a project, I’ll share tasks such as survey, architectural design, geotech, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, landscape, structural and traffic analysis, construction management, and construction work with outside firms. This grows my network and in turn, we get the favor returned with new referrals from these firms. Don’t be afraid to share.
  3. Response time. I know you’re busy with designing, answering reviewers, mentoring, managing your accounting team, attending meetings, and so many other things. Despite all this, make a habit of responding to clients as soon as possible. Remember, time is money. In the early stages of my project manager career, I was working on a small project for a client. An issue came up, and the client needed an immediate answer, but I couldn’t get back to him until the next day. Unfortunately, I learned that he resolved the issue by hiring another project manager.
  4. Transparency. Get your client involved in every step of the process. This way your client knows exactly what is going on and what to expect next in the approval/review process, eliminating any confusion or misunderstanding and increasing client satisfaction. High client satisfaction means more business.

These are the practices I follow every day, and they’ve worked for our firm. To sum it up: Make your clients happy and get them talking. Client satisfaction is the key to the success of any business.

Naveen Khammampati, P.E., CFM is a senior project manager at Greg Edwards Engineering Services, Inc. Contact him at naveen@gees.us.

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.