Is Your Business a Turnstile?

Photo from haywardturnstiles.com

I’m sure you never thought of your company as a turnstile before now, but stop and think about it. Are you just going through the motions with the current clients you have? Are you treating them on an as needed basis rather than proactively offering your services?

If you answered YES! – then read further for some tips on getting more business from your existing clients.

If you answered Sometimes – then you may be on the verge of becoming a turnstile. Read on for ways to better your approach to getting new business out of existing clients.

If you answered NO! – then congrats! But, what are you going to do when one of your customers isn’t around anymore or no longer needs you?

We’ve all heard the old adage that it takes seven times more work to get a new customer than it does to keep a current customer. That being said, it definitely pays to keep your current customers happy. Many times in the A/E/C world, jobs are won through low bids—not necessarily relationships. Good news is that you can still have repeat customers in a low bid world.

What about client turnover? It’s actually good to have turnover with clients—a good client today may not be a good client next year if they’re growing at the same rate as yourself. Also, it is good to keep those hunting skills fresh. How good of a hunter can a hand-fed lion be?

Here are a few suggestions to keep you from becoming a turnstile company:

- Do a Good Job: No form of advertising or ingenious marketing can overcome poor performance. Your team needs to ensure they’re putting out their best effort to make you look your best. Think about the last time you saw a great ad for a restaurant only to be disappointed when you arrived to try the food. Now multiply that $25 meal by a few million because in the A/E/C world, you work with clients for years—not minutes.

- Have a Niche: If you do the same type of work for a specific industry (e.g. levee work for the Corps of Engineers or roadwork for the DOTD) you get to know their team and the ins-and-outs of the bidding process. Many projects, including government projects, are moving away from low-bid to best-value evaluations. Having a niche will move you to the top of the list and your customers will choose you because you’re the expert.

- Ask for More Work: With private work, just staying on top of the next project is key. When a project is 80-90% complete, ask them what other projects are next. Also, keep an ear open during meetings and conversations, you may hear about more work coming down the pipeline. If you’re working with the Corps now, you probably know the next few projects to be bid just from your daily interactions. Ask them if you can help them write the RFP using your expertise (your niche). When you have a hand in writing the RFP, make sure it demonstrates your strengths and positions you above your competitors weaknesses.

- Stay in Touch: This should be a no brainer for anyone in marketing or business development, but is overlooked far to often. Don’t expect a call from your customer. Even if a client has been out of touch for awhile because they haven’t needed any help, keep in touch to remind them you’re there to help. They can easily forget all that you’ve done in the past and go with a new company that happens to be in front of them. At a minimum, send a monthly email to all of your customers, vendors, and employees with a spotlight of recent work and even some educational tidbits. As I continually say, remind them of your greatness.

- Vendor Group/Alliance: Honestly, this one takes a while to develop, but is invaluable once in place. You probably do business with some of the same vendors & subs for most of your projects. Creating an efficient and effective team of subs & vendors offers your clients a one-stop shop and puts them at ease knowing you can all work well together. Also, your group can let you know about future projects with shared clients that may be out of your sphere of influence. It’s obvious that you and me combined know more people than I know by myself. Finally, if there is a problem with a shared client, they may share it with a group member instead of you which gives you an opportunity to proactively attack the problem instead of letting it fester.

You think you can stop being a turnstile company now? Not so hard is it? What do you do to get customers to keep coming back to you each time?