So, you’ve started your own civil-engineering enterprise. Congratulations! Starting an engineering company is a feat on its own, and you should be proud. Now that the business is off the ground, though, what’s the best way to draw in new customers? Perhaps you’ve established a steady client base already, or are bringing in business through references and word of mouth.
This is effective, of course, but unfortunately, it’s not enough. If a civil-engineering firm wants to succeed, they’ll have to keep up with small-business trends, engage in client interactions and begin thinking like a marketing pro. Without the training and background of an advertiser, many civil-engineering technicians aren’t sure where to begin when trying to brand their business. Hope is not lost, though—with just a few tips and some guidance, civil engineers can learn to successfully market their brands.
1. Identify a Target Audience.
The first step in developing a compelling marketing campaign begins well before cold calling and reaching out to old clients. A civil engineer should first ask him- or herself: What can I bring to the business that competitors lack? What new innovations in civil engineering can my firm use to differentiate itself?
Civil engineers can carry out business with a wide variety of clients, providing necessary services that make cities run smoothly and keep buildings upright. This puts civil engineers in high demand, but can also leave small-business owners unfocused and spreading themselves too thin while trying to wrangle clients from every sector.
As a business owner, start small. Civil engineers can target real estate firms, construction companies, and local governments, for example. Architecture companies also often require the work of civil engineers, as do contractors, city governments, and regular consumers.
Trying to hit each and every one of these sectors will not only overwhelm you, but will also yield less-than-ideal results. When any worker—including civil engineers—are spread too thin, they may make errors. With civil engineering, though, errors can have dangerous consequences.
Instead, identify a few regions or economic markets you’d like to tap into, ones in which you can build your brand and business into a powerhouse. If you have experience with real estate firms and city governments, begin by marketing your services to these groups. Make cold calls, send out emails to previous clients asking for references, and keep up with local news and government plans for projects to get in on the ground floor with a bid.
Remember: It’s better to do one project right than to attempt several with mixed results.
2. Get Online.
It’s vital for a new and modern civil-engineering firm to have a great website. This means plenty of content, dynamic graphics, and a focus on why your business in particular is the one to choose for planning services, building design, and public-works projects.
If you’re not a civil engineer by day and a web-designing genius by night, you may want to consider outsourcing website production to a graphic designer or web developer. Yes, this is an added expense, but it’s worth it—when potential clients visit your site, they’ll find a professional design. Civil engineers are trusted with important tasks that affect countless people; clients want to know with certainty that they can put their faith in a company.
While the web design is being handled by a pro, focus on content. Include detailed information on company founders, including education and level of experience. Use high-resolution photos of completed projects or other renderings to show off your accomplishments and explain why your company is the right choice over a competitor.
Think of a website as a storefront or exhibition of your business. You would never leave a storefront’s windows unwashed, with peeling paint on the door. Treat a company website with that same level of respect and dedication if you want to attract business.
Speaking of websites, another way to impress clients is to use AutoCAD 360 Mobile on your tablet or smartphone and Web Beta on any web-connected computer to view, edit, and share CAD files. The mobile app allows you to review drawings onsite and in the field, and the web app allows you to collaborate with other users on drawings in real time. Both apps are free and a great way to demonstrate professionalism to clients.
3. Build Strong Relationships.
Everyone has their favorite shops, restaurants, and movie theaters—one of the main reasons customers remain loyal to an organization is an overall positive experience. This is no different with civil-engineering firms.
Construction companies are constantly in demand to build new projects, especially so as the economy rebounds and federal and local governments invest more funds in airports, utility districts, and municipal facilities. If a civil engineer develops a strong relationship with a construction firm, they have a much higher chance of getting their business again in the future. Build partnerships through client-relationship management that exceeds expectations.
If a customer asks a question via email, respond promptly. You should also give regular project updates, ask for client feedback, and even when a client is being difficult, you should always treat them with kindness and consideration. After a project has been completed, contact clients to ask them how they feel about the outcome and if you can do anything more to help. Civil engineering consulting firms who maintain meaningful relationships with their clients are the ones who make a name for themselves.
In business, it’s the small touches that make a big difference.