A La Carte, All-Inclusive or Somewhere In-Between?

June 30, 2011 at 7:34 am 1 comment

Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

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So how do you handle business development for your company? You do realize that every time you speak with a customer, you are making some sort of impression that will either make the customer: 1) want to do business with you; or 2) not. That’s business development. It’s about developing a customer and retaining them. It’s not about simply closing a sale or answering a technical question and then rushing on to the next one. Business development: it’s in your job description. Even if you are an engineer. Yes, you read me correctly.

So, how do you develop business for your company? Do you let your customers choose from an endless list of options and then add it all up? Or are you the voice of reason that stops them at a certain point and weighs the pros and cons about their choices? What directives does your company give you on how far to let the customer go before you jerk them back into reality? Or are you constantly participating in the bid process as your sole strategy for customer acquisition? You know, giving away everything for practically nothing.

If you are a “custom” company, then everything is a la carte. Cha-ching for you! How many of your customers are repeat customers as a result of this process? How many of your clients tell their friends about their experience with your company, which hopefully was positive? And does being “custom” set you above your competitors, in terms of the products, services and complete experience the customer receives from working with your company? Or are you perceived as a bunch of divas at the high end of the price-value continuum who niche market to, well, other divas? You create a great design at a high cost and people brag about how much they spent…while they complain about various aspects of their experience. It’s all part of “your” package.

OK, so you aren’t a custom shop. Perhaps semi-custom. Neither a la carte nor all-inclusive. That means you have retained customers who have provided repeat business for your company because they were happy with the products, services, price and experience you provided to them. Which means you are doing “similar but different” iterations of set pieces across the country or in various local municipalities. The customer knows what to anticipate from similar builds you’ve created either for them or other folks. You have created a great formula and understand how to build and maintain relationships starting with the person answering the phone to the person ordering materials to the individual doing the build. As far as the price-value thing goes, your customers feel they are getting a great deal (meaning a lot) for their investment because you include a bunch of practical stuff in the build package, based on your experience with other customers. It’s all part of “your” package.

Or you are known as the third bid, all-inclusive folks. The ones to whom the bid is always awarded based on price alone. That means you have a solid and successful track record of participating in public works projects and receiving the contracts on these projects. Because you possibly have turned your company into low-ball specialists. It’s all part of “your” package, which is basically 100% “their” package, anyway.

You know, there’s nothing wrong with any of these business development approaches. As long as you, your employees, and your customers “get it.” I mean, you should be focusing your marketing and sales efforts on the type of customers you prefer doing business with. Right? You just need to constantly ask yourself whether you are the a la carte folks, the folks in the middle or the all-inclusive low-ball folks. And whether you are doing business with the type of customers you actually prefer doing business with. So you understand why your customer base, and your profit margins, look the way they do.

Think about it.

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Entry filed under: civil engineering blog, Civil Engineering Issues, Dealing With Clients, Marketing.

Negotiating the Non-Sense in your Non-Compete Project/Team Communication: Make Every Word Count

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Stephen Hinton  |  July 7, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Good article. Marketing strategy has been a subject of endless debate within the AEC circles. What do you think is the best approach in this uneven market?


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