IF YOU’RE A PROJECT manager, you might not think you actively engage in marketing your company to the outside world, but you do. Every single action and everything that you fail to do while performing your project management duties markets your company in ways that print and electronic media advertising cannot begin to touch. Your actions create word-of-mouth project stories that are the most powerful marketing tools of all.
When a community of peers is as small as it is within the mechanical contracting industry, the reputations of both you and your firm are critical. As long as it’s the truth, it’s OK to repeat stories of past disasters by your competition. Just be sure that what you say is 100% accurate, or you’ll look like a childish, lying idiot when a client finds out you weren’t telling the truth about the boys across town, and your own reputation will rightly suffer. Such is the power of word-of-mouth, both positive and negative.
But marketing your company doesn’t involve just running off at the mouth over lunch to a salesman or over a beer at the 19th hole to potential clients. Marketing, as opposed to selling, involves understanding upper management’s business philosophy, mission statement and core competencies.
If your company tries to create perceived value by being the lowest price contractor in the area while still maintaining minimum code-level-only quality (which is what many clients want nowadays), then you’d be foolish to try to tell stories of enhancing value-adds on past jobs where price to the owner wasn’t as important as the superior quality that you gave them.
If your company specializes in quality production work for single-family tract houses and large multi-family complexes, then you’d look like an idiot bragging on and on about the one or two large new public school jobs that you did.
Know the client you’re talking to, marketing to, and project managing for, and don’t bore them with details and facts that aren’t important to them.
Selling, on the other hand, can be just as important for PMs, depending on your job description. While marketing strategy is determined by upper management, selling can be and often is done by middle managers such as PMs. Even the field guys can sell if they have direct client contact, some authority to generate leads and help set small individual job prices, such as on quickie changeouts.
Marketing strategy is always macro in the sense that it encompasses the company’s past, present and future efforts to obtain business. Selling, however, is always micro because it involves turning a real-time opportunity that’s in front of you into immediate cash flow.
For example, making an existing client happy by doing your job really well and keeping his project on budget and on schedule is marketing. Seizing an opportunity to push through a quick value-added change order that will generate $25,000 in net income for your company on next month’s billing for the same job is selling.
Joining professional and civic organizations to generate potential contacts for new work in the future is marketing. Selectively putting business cards in the hands of those who have the authority to award you work and then responding immediately when they call for a price is selling.
Appearing on a local TV news show as an expert on heating and cooling systems for a on-air segment about getting ready for the seasonal changeover is marketing. Making a polite comment to the station manager about the presence of obvious fan noise coming from the TV station’s HVAC system, which could be heard in the background on the set, and saying, “I’ll be happy to send someone out tomorrow to check it for you, gratis,” is selling, especially if you suspect that that the station’s entire rooftop system might need replacing because of age and lack of preventive maintenance.
Always be aware that you’re constantly marketing yourself and your company. Always jump at the chance to actually sell a little something too.
Kent Craig is a second-generation mechanical contractor and project manager with unlimited Master’s licenses in boilers, air conditioning, heating and plumbing. He may be reached by calling 919/851-3985, or via e-mail at [email protected].