The Business Side: Marketing in the 21st Century
My goal is always to bring the reader information that is helpful in the business side of being a professional surveyor. We are going to address an old topic that is changing with new technology but is most affected by changes in society. That subject is marketing, the backbone of growing and maintaining any professional company.
This will be a two part series, with the first part reviewing basic marketing principles and determining what old marketing strategies still apply and what needs to be discarded. The next column will focus on marketing with the modern technology such as the Internet and social media.
There are many new people in our business segment that need to have a better understanding of basic business principles and marketing as part of their business strategy.
Why do I need to market? Some things to consider.
Markets May Change
If you were heavily invested in the oil or gas work, you have seen a slowdown in work. Changes in federal or state laws may affect your markets. In most real estate closings, a survey is not required. A new company in your area may have come in with strong marketing and is taking away market share.
Opportunity for Key People
If you want to stay small, your recently licensed employees will need to leave your company to find work, most likely as a competitor. Who is going to be your successor if not your own employees? You need to attract good talent.
Afford Basic Services
You are always faced with increased costs of doing business. The most common increase is wages. Most employees want some increase each year if for no other reason than to keep up with inflation. Insurance cost is an item almost always increasing. As we all know, medical insurance cost almost has a life of its own. To keep quality employees, you need to provide medical insurance or help toward medical insurance.
As most people in business know, technology is a major part of our business. Keeping up with new technology is not a choice but a requirement. If you skip upgrades of software, when you do upgrade they will require you to pay for the skipped versions. You need to keep business coming in so you can afford these things.
Growth by expanding into new fields, expanding into a larger geographic area, improving your technical capabilities and opening new offices in good market areas are but a few ways to grow. This provides opportunity for key personnel and existing employees.
Factors Needed for Company Growth
The first part of growth is to have a company plan containing one- and five-year goals. You need to establish a marketing budget. Marketing should be a legitimate activity. The way you accomplish this is to have a job number for marketing that authorized employees can charge time against. Many companies just bury marketing costs in job accounting numbers that skew job profitability. A committee established to keep marketing activities on track is always a good idea.
Never offer services you can’t provide within budget and meeting the client’s timeframe. Use historical documentation to establish yearly goals. Be reasonable, ten or 15 percent per year growth is reasonable and obtainable. Always strive to have a return client to new client ratio that meets your marketing plan goal.
Sustained Marketing Effort
You must have some meetings to review and track the success or failure of your marketing effort. Assign employees duties related to your marketing effort. Have monthly follow-up with clients. This follow-up can be done in many different ways (we will address this next month). Periodic review of marketing efforts is a very important part of any marketing strategy. Don’t be afraid to adjust goals and methods.
Methods of Achieving Growth
Increase existing services you offer with marketing to help capture a larger portion of your existing markets. Expand geographically, providing the same services over a larger area. A good example would be a call about an ALTA survey; ask how many the prospect has to contract and offer to provide all the ALTA surveys in your state. Branch out into other services such as underground utilities location (may require some new equipment but may be well worth the investment).
New Services You Could Offer
There are plenty of new services you can offer: aerial mapping, aerial photos, planning, hydrographic surveys, architectural surveys, city or town maps, accident site surveys, recreational maps, construction stakeout, pipeline surveys, oil well locations, cell tower locations, telephone company survey work, gas company survey work, subdivision layout, expert witness and boundary disputes, ALTA surveys, hazardous waste site surveys (with proper training), topographical mapping, flood study surveys, LIS/GIS services, GPS control, wetland delineation, subsidence surveys, water title boundaries, mining lease surveys, special surveys for permitting.
Do you get the idea? Note I did not include land surveying because in many cases this is our only focus. Many unlicensed companies are already providing the above services. Win this work back to where it belongs with the licensed professional.
What Still Works
Client contact has always been important and always will be. What has changed is how we maintain contact. This will be addressed in detail in the next installment.
The world is working overtime to make the professional surveyor irrelevant. At every turn we are losing our beloved profession. It is not going to be up to men of my age to save the profession, but the college graduate that has the next 40 years at stake. Let me inform you of two of the latest attacks against the professional surveyor. Just because this is not happening in your state now, don’t believe for a minute it isn’t coming your way. We have let non- licensed people provide many of the services that only a licensed surveyor used to provide.
The first situation is in a state that I am licensed as a surveyor. This is a state that has recording of plats. Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, a county official has to approve the plat before recording. So now we will have a non-licensed person making decisions on the worthiness of our survey work. This is already happening in some western states where the local government offical makes a field check of the survey.
The second situation is where they want to require a two-person crew on all construction stakeout work for safety reasons. Does this also mean that two doctors have to treat you for safety reasons? We are standing by and letting the world dictate how our work is done and by whom.
The worst survey of a licensed surveyor is far better than any survey of a non-licensed person!
• Marketing Professional Services for the Land Surveyors by Milton Denny, PLS 1992