Is it time to start selecting your own clients?

Will 2014 be the year that design firms start selecting the clients they want rather than getting in line with competitors to respond to RFPs? That’s the question posed by a recent thought-provoking article.
March 19, 2014 |
Steven Burns

Photo: imagerymajestic via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Will 2014 be the year that design firms start selecting the clients they want rather than getting in line with competitors to respond to RFPs?

That’s the question posed by a recent thought-provoking article in the DesignIntelligence journal.  

Author Doug Parker, managing principal of the Greenway Group, cites the “treadmill of hope” that many firms found themselves running on in a desperate attempt to distinguish themselves during the recent economic downturn. 

Although a reactive marketing strategy may have been an adequate choice for short-term survival, he says, it comes at a high long-term cost. That’s because the RFP system is inherently stacked and allows the client to make a decision based on price rather than value of design services.

“With the economy looking up for the design market, firms have the opportunity to step off the treadmill of hope onto firmer ground,” he writes. “Designers can cultivate the clients and markets they want to serve rather than using the majority of their marketing and business development resources in responding to the market.” 

This doesn’t mean firms will abandon RFP pursuits altogether, but rather, will invert their budgets and spend more resources on branding, marketing and developing relationships.

The key to selecting clients rather than being selected by them, Parker writes, is the development of an integrated brand, marketing and business development plan as well as a target account plan. 

“A target account plan establishes the strategic and project goals, key decision makers, and actions that a firm will use for each client or project opportunity,” he writes. “It documents what you currently know about each opportunity and outlines a step-by-step plan on how to gather missing information or expand your relationship with the client.” 

Parker continues, “Target account planning requires the courage to play the long game. Firms may need to say no to accounts that may be winnable but will not help to define the future they want.”

Read more from DesignIntelligence.

Editor's note: This is sponsored content. The text was provided by the sponsor company.

Steven Burns | The Business Behind Design

Steven Burns, FAIA, spent 14 years managing the firm Burns + Beyerl Architects, during that time the firm’s earnings grew at an average rate of 24% per year. After creating ArchiOffice®, the intelligent office, project management and time tracking solution for architectural firms, Steve took his management expertise to BQE Software, where he is refining their business strategy and product development.

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