No time to hide
Renewed business development efforts are key to surviving difficult times
In a flash, the construction industry embraced telework and virtual collaboration; implemented new protocols for cleaning and social distancing on job sites; and dug into the challenges of deciphering federal aid programs and rapidly shifting construction schedules.
Now 2.5 months into the coronavirus crisis, the industry is developing additional, altered, core business practices that companies will need to succeed in our ‘new normal.’
“While we might be at the height of the medical crisis…we are at the beginning of what will be the economic crisis,” said Tim Bojanowski, President of Zest Social Media Solutions. “This will be the greatest market correction of our lifetimes. There will be a lot of big businesses that get smaller, small businesses that get bigger, and businesses that go away… There has not been a more important time in modern history for American businesses to think about what your business is going to look like coming out of this period.”
To navigate the challenging months ahead, companies will have to evaluate how their core strengths will mesh with changing market conditions. They will need to develop and consistently execute a robust and adaptable marketing/business development plan. And they will need to achieve all that outreach during a period when crab feasts, project tours and other networking events are suspended.
In a spot poll conducted during a BC&E webinar last week, participants reported major changes in their business development plans. While 64 percent of respondents reported relying heavily on face-to-face meetings for business development in the past, just 20 percent said in-person meetings will be a major part of their efforts going forward. Similarly, 61 percent said they relied heavily on networking events in the past and just 13 percent expect events to be a major business tool in the future. Survey participants expected to rely much less on word-of-mouth referrals in future – down to seven percent from 42 percent previously. Instead, respondents expect to rely much more on electronic communications – up from 22 percent in the past to 47 percent in future. Respondents also expected to make slightly more use of phone calls, direct mail and advertising.
In light of the sea change in business-development processes and in the midst of a sharp economic downturn, how can you successfully do business development? Experts from our webinar and our membership offer some suggestions.
Referrals are one of the most effective ways to develop your business. Yet many companies neglect this simple process and ready opportunity, said John Dinkel, Principal of Dinkel Business Development.
An effective referral strategy involves two steps.
First, make a specific ask. Don’t ask a client to refer you to someone at a particular company. Instead, can your clients’ or colleagues’ connections on LinkedIn until you find a listing for an individual in a key position in a target organization, then ask to be introduced to that person.
Second, write the introduction yourself.
“I want to make it easy on the person I am asking, so I send them the e-mail that I want them to send out introducing me,” Dinkel said.
That tactic also enables you to deliver exactly the message you want that target audience to hear.
Nothing about coronavirus restrictions prevents companies from building partnerships or strategic alliances. Annette Walter — President and CEO of Timber Industries and Founder of iEvolve Consulting, a business coaching service — has been organizing virtual “lunch and learns.” In them, a small group from Timber Industries connects online with a small group from a general contractor for 30 minutes to learn more about each other’s business.
“They have been wonderfully productive,” Walter said. “We got one bid right at the end of one call and that was with an organization that was completely new to us.”
Whether it’s through online meetings, individual e-mails or old-school phone calls, companies can make thoughtful efforts to connect with organizations that could help grow their business, including GCs, architects, engineers, building owners, minority-owned businesses or specialty subcontractors.
With most people spending more time in front of screens currently, it’s a prime time to execute a content strategy. Through social media posts, blog posts or a company newsletter, companies have opportunities to pump out content that delivers valuable information to clients and business associates and shows the strengths your company can bring to a project, Dinkel said. If workdays are slow currently, use that time to create a backlog of content that you can post three months from now when you’re too busy to write, he added.
It is a great time to dig into those “rainy day” business development projects, such as designing a new website, updating your online graphics or project images, or optimizing your CRM platform, Bojanowski said.
It is also a critical time to develop a clear, strategic plan for your company’s marketing and business development that aligns with your core strengths and long-term goals. Company leaders should also work to get widespread buy-in from staff so that every employee can help advance business development.
Companies, however, will also need contingency plans to adjust their business development efforts to meet changing market conditions in a yet unpredictable economy, Bojanowski warned. “Certainly in the chaos we are operating in, you are doing to see good plans go to waste… So it will be important to have a plan B, a plan C, a plan D.”
The advice clearly resonated with participants in the BC&E webinar. In a follow-up survey, participants’ list of biggest take-aways included:
- “Companies must be adaptive in their marketing strategies to cope with the societal changes brought about by Covid-19.”
- “The importance of pivoting and working to build the center of influence marketing throughout this unique time.”
- “Diversify ways to engage and communicate with clients.”
- “Plan. Plan. Plan.”