Architecture or engineering firm’s can use their unique skills for new market entry and penetration. Many companies have leverage points within their technical and operations platforms. These may exist as skill sets (personnel expertise), processes (proprietary or advanced ways to accomplish work), or entire practices (teams of people dedicated to a service area). Often these are underutilized, not exploited for their full marketing benefit.
The real estate and right-of-way practice is an example of a service my firm offers that provides such leverage. This capability was brought into the firm via acquisition, and found a home in our transportation business. With solid credentials, outstanding staff, and strong leadership, the practice grew, and over time expanded to serve other market sectors and clients.
Think about it — utility providers, oil and gas companies, and even federal agencies use real estate services. The need is not confined to transportation clients. It’s really easy to say “leverage unique skills,” but hard to actually do it. Here are some steps to promote innovation as a component of your firm’s growth strategy.
Identify ‘innovation cells’ – The foundation can be built around people, processes, or practices. Look for areas that generate excitement in your firm, and focus your attention there to find the innovation sparks. Our real estate services team has a true passion for solving clients’ problems.
Determine market compatibility – Every exciting area in your firm won’t generate revenue and fuel growth. Filter the universe of possibilities to find the intersection of your unique offering with a defined market need. Ask: “What constrains my clients’ rate of growth?” We found that our real estate services help clients identify and secure the best places to build their new and expanded infrastructure, while meeting increasingly complex state and federal regulations.
Generate quick wins – Test the offering by going to your best clients, those trusted partners who will give you a chance to try something new. Find a platform or two to test your ideas. You don’t have to be perfect in the early stages; just get market traction and feedback from end users. Remember the old adage: success breeds success.
Market internally and externally – With a few early successes under your belt, it’s time to go to press. Use internal newsletters, postings on your web site, speaking opportunities at conferences, press releases, and other avenues to spread the word. Create a wildfire blazing out of control.
Take market share – The original excitement has now turned into a frenzy. Market your service offering to existing clients to expand your relationships and reputation. Use it as a door opener for new clients. Capitalize on every opportunity to sell your innovative service. And don’t forget to recruit bench strength in technical staff so operations can keep pace with your marketing. We refer to the real estate and right of-way offering as a "cross sector service.’"Our President recently commented that this practice “dwarfs that of any of our competitors and is a significant source of growing fees. It has created a strategic advantage that many other parts of our firm can bring to their clients."
Through this service we now have a platform to grow across other market sectors. Simply put, cross sector services are deliberately deployed to strengthen client relationships and position us to win more work. We have other technical practices that use thought leadership to promote our brand in the marketplace. Most notably, our healthcare design is among the best in the industry. An example of our innovation in this market was sponsoring a recent colloquium on key issues driving change in healthcare systems. This forum gathered thought leaders, practitioners, and clients to discuss leading edge, future ideas.
Here’s a final word about deploying innovation in your firm: Focus on the areas where you have, or can generate, a competitive advantage. Remember that ‘unique’ means only you can do. That's rae in our industry. So strive for ‘relatively unique,’ meaning a skill that very few firms possess and that you perform better than most others. That will provide a leverage point to exploit for future growth.
About the Author: Wally Hise is vice president of federal marketing for HDR Engineering, Inc. (Omaha, NE). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
You know your firm, but do your clients really understand what makes your firm the low-risk choice? You know who your prospects are, but do they know who you are? You know who your competitors are, but is the only way to compete based on undercutting their fees? This is exactly what was at the front of our minds when we created The Ultimate A/E/C Business Development Manual. Here, you get must-use strategies that get results in virtually every facet of business development.
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