Brand Constructor Blog
We’ve reviewed over 1,100 large construction company websites and noticed that many of them are making the same critical mistakes. Why is this important for you to know? Because these very mistakes could be keeping you off bid lists and costing you work. According to a recent study performed by Harvard’s Corporate Executive Board, 57% of the buying decision research for B2B (Business-to-Business) is completed before a prospect makes their first contact with your company. The scary part is that you don’t even know what you’ve missed out on.
While the overall list of mistakes is much longer, we wanted to hone in on three of the biggest mistakes so you can fix them immediately!
1. Using Flash®
Flash animations may look good, but incorporating Flash means that your mobile visitors cannot not see your website. Instead, they see this:
Statistics show that over 18% of website traffic is through a mobile device, and that number is escalating quickly. It only takes one blown opportunity to come away with a dated website that can cost you thousands of dollars. Also, Flash is difficult to update and is not search engine-friendly, which means your prospective customers will have difficulty finding your website and seeing it! Why are we talking about Flash in 2014? Because over 100 of the websites we viewed STILL use Flash, and many of them are on ENR’s Top 400 Contractors list. [How do you know if your website is using Flash? Right click the main image – if it lists any of the following options: Play, Settings, and/or About Flash Player – you have a Flash website.]
2. No Phone Number
A prospect cannot call you if you do not list your phone number. Many construction companies have a form for visitors to fill out on their contact page, which is fine, but don’t make that their only option. If you do not list your phone number because you are trying to keep salespeople at bay, you should realize that this is a small bump in the road for them, but it is a HUGE roadblock when someone is trying to give you money, like your clients and prospects.
3. No Differentiation or Soul
After viewing 1,000+ websites, there were only 15-20 of them that actually stood out to me. I realize that your prospects are not going to look at 1,000 other websites, but they will look at 7-12 of your competitors’ websites.
Try this test: Google your type of construction and one of your geographic markets, then look at the first page of every website. I’m sure at least eight of those websites will look and sound so similar to one another that they will immediately get lost in the mix. Gone are the days of “on time and on budget” being all it takes to drum up business. Today, that is merely the baseline, and you need to be stand out from the pack and be memorable in order to be successful.
If you take care of these three items, you’re already doing better than most, and the cream is what rises to the top and gets the best business.
If you’ve been reading our series “You Didn’t Lose Your Last Bid Because of Price” maybe you’re thinking that what we’ve discussed about proposals, presentations, and debriefs is nice, but only in a utopian society. Well, we have proof that we’re not crazy and, that you’re not the only one thinking this concept is too good to be true.
In a recent article in ABC’s Construction Magazine, a friend and fellow SMPS member, Sylvia Montgomery of Hinge Marketing, cites that 58% of the 500 A/E/C (Architecture/Engineering/Construction) firms polled believe cost is the most important selection criterion for their buyers. However, buyers cite reputation as their top priority (42%) with price listed as a distance second at only 28%.
The article states that most A/E/C firms say word-of-mouth is their primary method for obtaining new clients, validating the buyers’ priority on reputation. Another distinguishing characteristics of winning firms, besides reputation, is educating prospects and clients on the nuts and bolts behind the costs. Buyers want an expert and, if you present yourself like one, cost will not be the bottom line. In contrast, a similarity in the runner up firms was a low priority on education.
You need to align your priorities with your clients and prospective customers priorities. In today’s market that means reputation and education, not just price. If you are not distinguishing your firm as an expert and differentiating your firm from your competition then your prospective customers can only use price as a determining factor.
Once again, the brand triumphs over low price.
We’ve been talking about why you really lose bids and it isn’t because of price. If the prospective client says your price was too high, it means you did not explain the value and why your price is higher. People pay more for quality and ingenuity, take BMW as an example – they’re not the cheapest option.
Picture from smallbusiness-breakthrough.com
In the last two posts, we discussed bids in regards to the actual proposal and presentation; this week I want to discuss improving your process with a debrief – win or lose. I suggest having two debriefs, one internal and one with the prospect.
Internal bid debriefs – You probably don’t do these and, if you do, you may not call it a debrief. We like to meet the morning after a proposal goes out and after the presentation to discuss one thing – what can we do better? This is about the process and system. If the printer jammed at the last minute, you need an alternative option (and start printing earlier in the process). It can be small things like blocking off more time in the conference room to practice your presentation or something larger like hiring a presentation coach to improve the team’s speaking skills. Whatever it is, get it out while it’s fresh in your mind, but I do find it is best to do it the next day so ideas are fresh in everyone’s mind and emotions can calm down.
It is one thing to make a mistake, but you don’t want to make the same mistake twice. Continually, improving upon your systems of delivery will increase your accuracy, efficiency, and win ratio.
Debriefing the Prospective Client – This is the better known version of the debrief and seldom used when it isn’t a tight race. Usually a debrief is only requested when the runner up feels something isn’t right. Regardless how you place (if that is even known), it is always good to do a debrief, but you have to stay focused on why you are there. You can not go into a debrief and attack the lost client because you will never change their mind and you’ll only hurt yourself in future bids.
Accept that the bid is done and look to the future. Ask open ended questions like: What made the winning bid stand out? What was your favorite part of the winning team’s presentation? What could we have done better to win this bid? What suggestions do you have for us for future bids with you?
Also, many companies do not do internal or client debriefs when they win because they naively see everything as perfect and are too excited about moving forward on the project. You may only win a bid because you were the best of a lot of bad options (hopefully this isn’t the case). If you don’t ask similar questions when you win, you’ll never know. Ask your new client: What made you select our team? Do you have any suggestions for us on future bids with you? Usually clients are much more open with the winners and willing to talk about the bid, even if it is informally throughout the process of the project.
Remember to continually improve because your competitors are improving, which means they will either catch up and pass you by one day or they’ll get so far ahead of you that you’ll have to settle for their leftover low-bid work.
When you lose a bid, the first reason most people think of is the price. In a best value bid, you don’t lose because you were not the lowest price. Even if the prospective client says it was because of price, it is actually because you did not explain your value (aka price) to them well enough to overcome a lower bid.
In construction, most companies do not differentiate themselves well, which leaves the client confused. When all of the bidders look and sound the same, the only differentiator becomes the price – low bid always wins in this case.
Here are 6 ways to LOSE a bid with your proposal:
- Not Following the RFP’s Rules - This sounds like a no brainer, but many RFPs are confusing or at least lengthy. You can’t go rogue and make your own rules because it shows the prospective client that you do not follow directions and will be difficult to work with on the job. Consider the proposal your first test. Also, you must keep in mind that the selection committee is reading more than just your proposal. They are reading 10, 20, maybe 50 proposals. They want to be fair and grade them evenly and keeping things in their order and using their guidelines helps them.
- Not Showing Your Related Experience - The client wants a sure thing. They are spending a lot of money and in construction, this can be a career decision that they have to live with for decades. In other words, they can’t get it wrong. They want a team that knows what they are doing and has experience doing it. Many times construction companies assume selection committees know their experience and do not connect the dots that a hospital is similar to a dormitory or hotel because of the multiple rooms aspect.
- Overwhelming the Selection Committee – You have to be careful not to load up the proposal with everything. Yes, you need to cover the bases of each requirement and showcase your experience, but you can’t give them a 100-page booklet with every project you’ve ever completed. Most proposals have a page count because a company did this to them before. Remember, they’re reading dozens of proposals. Be concise and to the point.
- Hard to Read - The design of the RFP matters because it needs to be easy to read. When you jam too much text on a page or have complicated graphics, it makes it hard to read, which can subconsciously make the reader think you are difficult to work with on the job site. A well-designed proposal communicates the information in a pleasing way and spotlights the key elements. I’ve seen a page with text running side-to-side with hardly a margin in all bold fonts in a small size – it screamed, DON’T READ ME!
- No Differentiation - Why should they select your company? Numerous qualified companies are on the table, but what makes you any different from them. If you say, “On time and on budget,” then you’re just at the baseline. Think about your unique experience, equipment, and innovative methods. If you don’t have an edge over the rest of the companies, then you shouldn’t apply.
- No Personality - The selection committee is looking for a team they can easily work with and one that matches their own culture and personality. Showing your company’s personality will help attract clients to you. Even if you repel a few companies, others will engage with your team even more. It is better to have 25 clients that adore you than to have 50 companies that are neutral toward you. Passionate clients refer you to other business while neutral businesses move from construction company to construction company.
The only way to overcome these downfalls is with a lower price and none of us want to work for the least amount of money. Read our next post on losing bids because of Presentations.
Last week we discussed why you lose a bid during the proposal phase and it isn’t about the price. This week we’re discussing the presentation round. We tapped the brain of our presentation coach, the founder of Speak Simple and writer of the book Speak Simple – Stop Presenting, Start Interpreting, Erica Olson, to give us insight into the presentation round.
Many companies attribute the loss of a bid to something that was beyond their control, like politics, the economy, or their price not being right. If your scope and budget numbers were good enough to get you shortlisted to the presentation round, then the numbers are not the reason the bid was lost. In most cases, it’s the presentation that kills the bid and it’s the presentation that is overlooked as being the true problem. Here are the most common reasons I see why construction companies lose bids in the presentation round:
- Recite the Proposal - Much time and effort was put into making sure the paper bid was well put together, not missing information, and easily readable. The chronic problem with bid-related presentations is the lack of effort in preparing, causing a tendency to simply recite the proposal.
Since the proposal was submitted weeks if not months ago, it has been thoroughly examined enough to be shortlisted, means your credentials have also been reviewed. Reciting the proposal during your presentation and focusing on yourself doesn’t add any information about why you should be chosen winner — instead, it shows laziness and a lack of effort. Each bid is a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase your passion and credibility and how you will help others. The selection committee wants to see why you have an intriguing approach to this project. In other words, the selection committee wants to know how you will help them, they already know enough about you.
- Talking in Code - Regardless of what you think or suspect, there is bound to be at least one person on the selection committee who doesn’t know what they are getting into and doesn’t understand the jargon. This person is scared to ask anything, but make sure you don’t leave that person behind. Many construction companies continue to rattle off code that the industry or company uses. Telling the selection committee that ABC fits into KFG doesn’t help me understand, instead the audience is more confused than ever. To ensure that absolutely everyone understands means you have to cover the basics and focus on the information, not the jargon. The selection committee doesn’t even want to know what ABC means, they only want to know the end result.
- The Team Doesn’t Look Like a Team – Notification about being shortlisted is oftentimes a shock that doesn’t have much time for celebration. The subs have already been chosen so you should know who will be involved in the presentation. A major mistake that team presenters make is preparing separately and throwing it all together the night before or even the morning of the presentation. Attempting to combine several individual presentations doesn’t make a team presentation and it’s painfully obvious that the team isn’t a team at all. The entire presentation team must prepare for and create a presentation together for the end result to feel like a team. A team that practices their presentation will appear more cohesive than a team that works in the field together.
- Team Members Speak Over Each Other - It may seem like a good idea at the time to add just a little bit of information to what the other is saying. To the audience it looks like the team is in disagreement and arguing to set the records straight. This is especially true for the Questions & Answers portion of the presentation. It is important to identify who will be the ring master and direct the question to the right team member. To avoid taking all credibility away from other team members, only one person should answer a question (after the ring leader) because with each additional person’s input, the credibility of the team lessens.
- Poor Mechanics – The selection committee does not expect anyone to be a seasoned speaker like Steve Jobs, but listening to your team should not be a chore either. Make sure each speaker looks and sounds professional, speaks up and clearly. Many people talk fast when nervous and this makes it difficult for the selection committee to follow. Awareness and practice can improve every speaker’s mechanics.
I’m sure you’ve seen bad presentations before. Practice will help overcome 80% of stage fright and ensure your company is represented in the best light.
Image from blog.raincastle.com
Our parent company, Design the Planet, recently received two of the worst RFPs I’ve ever seen. Because Brand Constructors is focused on the construction industry, we are used to working with RFPs and I have attended numerous SMPS events regarding winning RFPs, so they will often consult with me on any RFP’s they receive.
The first one looked thorough and the prospect, a local non-profit, listed out their requirements for website design. As I read through it, I started to create a mental scope and list a few questions (like many of you probably do). As the scope continued to increase, I started wondering how this small non-profit could afford all this work. Towards the end of the proposal, they listed their current predicament. They had nearly completed a website with a freelance web developer, things had stalled and they were in negotiations to end the contract. Ouch! Unfortunately, we see this often in the web world. I flipped the page and saw their budget – $2,000. I know we’re not the cheapest firm because of the quality of work we develop, but I had already estimated this project in my head to be around $25,000-30,000. It was obvious that someone had not done their homework and this prospect had an unreal expectation in regards to the gap between their scope and their budget. Unfortunately, they were headed into another precarious business alliance with a very small budget and a rather large scope.
The second RFP looked great at first glance – a well-known, high-profile public/private organization that needed a full rebrand with new marketing materials, logo, website, brochure, signage, press kit, and much more. Because I was heading to a conference, I held off on the RFP until I got back. While I was there, the prospect sent an email to us asking if we were going to respond to their “invitation to donate a valuable service”. I could not believe what I’d read. We regularly donate our services to worthy causes and organizations, but this was the first time I’d ever been asked to submit an RFP to donate something. As most of you know, responding to an RFP is a time-consuming process and one that would have taken hours of my team’s time just to submit, not to mention the interview and presentation to follow – all for a chance to donate my services.
We politely declined each of these projects and gave each organization our reasons, including educating them about the cost of an RFP. We suggested they research firms before contacting them and then contact only those firms they feel would be a good fit for their project and their budget. Also, making a phone call to talk to a firm about their donating practices saves both parties from wasting their time.
What are the worst RFPs that you’ve seen? Did you have to pursue them? What is your advice to companies whose budget is too small to meet their scope?
LinkedIn shared an article from one of their influencers, Linda Coles, that had a great caricature that personified the problem with most construction companies’ marketing plans. No good comes from mere wishful thinking.
Image from www.bigisthenewsmall.com
A few weeks ago Geoff Coats with Line 58 presented at the SMPS Southeast Louisiana‘s Annual Marketing Workshop about what kills a design project / what causes friction between your internal marketing team and the consulting marketing & design firm that you hired. I couldn’t wait to see it because Geoff & I see eye-to-eye on many things professionally and this is obviously an issue for every marketing & design firm. (Although on paper, Geoff’s firm is a competitor, our firms have different artistic styles, his firm is more architectural and we obviously focus on construction, we respect each firm’s work, and we’ve become friends over the years.)
The presentation included Chaos, Unclear Objectives, New Players & Gatekeepers, and Micromanaging as things that kill creative projects, but the two that really resonated with me are things our team has been trying to overcome for years, but aggressively so lately. They include:
- Lack of Momentum – When a new client and/or project, our entire team lights up like a kid on Christmas morning. We’re excited about the potential of the project, getting to know that client, and pushing ourselves further. That excitement continues until a client throws us a road block. The road block is the project dies off and is not a priority any more. The once eager creative team now sits and waits for the opportunity to arise again, but the more time passes the less excitement is there. Creatives can handle long-term projects that have smaller benchmarks, but they can not thrive when a project goes dormant for months or years.
Even small things like sending content in bits & pieces over weeks and expecting a sample with every addition just wears on the team and is inefficient because it requires 15 minutes here and there instead of a excited chunk of time, not to mention all the rework that happens are the content changes.
- Lack of Trust - You hired us for a reason, trust us. But it goes much further than that to the extent that my team is trying removing the wall between client & vendor. At the beginning of 2014, we started using the term “Core Partner” to describe what most would consider a “Client”. Clients keep us in a box, don’t let us see their secrets (aka real problems), and are always territorial. We do our best work when we can get to the root of the problems, are pushed to maximize our expertise and skills, and are not confined to a rigid expectation of a narrow scope. When our Core Partners let us in by tearing down that wall, they get much more than scoped and their vulnerability allows us to make real change and be honest with them, even if it may hurt at first.
Geoff told the audience a secret that could hurt all creatives, but it will make creatives much happier too. A creative person will work hundreds of hours on their own time on a twenty hour project if they are passionate and excited about it. Keeping the momentum going and trusting your marketing and creative partner will ensure you get the most out of them and way more than your contract promised.