Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Time to Rethink Your BD Strategy?

Recent economic forecasts seem a little more optimistic. Should we be? One thing that tempers my outlook is that these are the same economists who failed to predict this recession in the first place. Can we now trust their predictions regarding the end of the downturn? I'm not so sure.

Another thing that has me wondering is the feedback I'm getting from owners. I've been conducting a series of interviews this month with owners--mostly local governments and utilities--for one of my clients. The common theme is a lack of funding for new capital projects in the next few years.

Even the most optimistic forecasts speak of a slow, prolonged recovery. High unemployment will likely persist. Credit will be tight. Companies flush with cash will be reluctant to spend it for a while. Construction may pick up, but far below pre-recession levels.

So what is your firm's business development strategy for the next year or two? Are you considering doing things radically different from what you've been doing? Will anything less suffice?

Among the firms I've talked to during the recession, I've seen little significant shift in strategy. The prevailing theme seems to be more "let's pick up the pace" than "let's change course." Perhaps that works as survival strategy, but I don't think it will produce the growth that many firms still crave and are built for.

Until the economy caved, the vast majority of A/E firms relied on what I call a "growth share" strategy. That is, they staked out their claim in the marketplace, held their own, and enjoyed a period of substantial growth because the market was growing. Maybe that growth led many firm executives to mistakenly conclude that their BD approach was effective. So when the market shrank, the response was basically "keep at it, but work harder now."

But I want to suggest that there's a fundamental difference between succeeding in a growth share market and the current one that we're going to be in for a while. Firms wanting to grow now are going to have to take market share from their competitors, not simply ride the wave upward. That's a huge shift for most firms.

Some firms have continued to grow through the recession by buying market share. But most firms can't afford that approach. If they're going to grow, they're going to have to take market share. That's not business as usual, even on steroids. It's a wholly different approach.

Almost two years ago, I outlined ten steps towards a radically different approach to business development in a blog post entitled "The Extreme Marketing Makeover." I also shared this approach at several conferences. These steps are uncommon but not untested. I and others have successfully implemented these approaches. I'm convinced they have the potential for helping you increase your firm's market share.

I've elaborated on all of these steps in various other posts. If you want more information, use the search bar on the right to look for related posts. Or send me an email; I'd be happy to answer specific questions or point you to other resources.

Perhaps you have some better ideas. I'd love to hear them. But what obviously really matters is what your firm is doing. Is it more of the same or something different? Is your firm satisfied to ride the now flattened wave or do you want to gain a larger share of the pie? If the latter, there's a good chance it's time to rethink your BD strategy.

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