Successfully marketing your firm’s services can be a significant challenge. The balancing act of promoting your firm’s image to prospective clients while maintaining effective communication with current clients is necessary for success. In a presentation at Trimble Dimensions 2012, Richard Elgin, PhD, PE, PLS, vice president of  Elgin Surveying and Engineering Inc. highlighted some proven marketing ideas and strategies.

1. Never Underestimate the Value of Communication
Communication is one of the most important factors in business. The difference between good communication and miscommunication can be a project, job or check. ”Call them before they call you,” said Elgin. Let your client know about the progress of the project, any problems you may be facing or any changes that occurred. If they call you with a question or a problem, you’ve failed to communicate effectively, and more importantly, you’ve failed your client. Keep in mind the 10/1 rule: According to Elgin, when you offend or disappoint a client, they will tell 10 other people; do a great job, and they will tell one other person. Which one do you think is more beneficial for your firm? Many firms tend to overpromise and under-deliver, Archer-Elgin noted. If you give your client a low number for the budget then go over that number, it reflects poorly on your business. Instead, try to under-promise and over-deliver. When you exceed the client’s expectations, they’ll think highly of you and spread the word.

2. Get Your Name Out There
When it comes to your firm’s image, Elgin says a key element to remember is “people don’t contract for services with people they don’t know.” The more people that know about your firm, the better off your business will be. (Just remember you want a good reputation!). Before starting the process, ask yourself, Does my firm look professional? Is my office neat and orderly? Do we have company shirts? Are our trucks clean, with our logo and name proudly displayed? Are my employees respectable, knowledgeable and efficient? If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then you’re ready to start promoting your brand. The best way to do that is to raise the visibility of your name throughout the community. Join and participate in clubs, committees and functions. Also, speak to realtors, bank lenders and lawyer groups; being known to these groups can be extremely beneficial. To be successful, you need to know what’s going on in your area. Elgin uses a process called “The PR Run,” where he spends the afternoon  traveling the service area with the goal of meeting at least one new person. “It’s one of the most effective marketing tools I’ve used,” he says. “It’s very difficult, so convince yourself that it will pay off.”

3. Prioritize Relationships
When it comes to marketing your firm, “don’t chase prospects; build a relationship with clients,” Elgin said. Your number one priority should be taking care of your existing clients first – it doesn’t cost any money to keep an existing client, and it should be your goal to never lose a client. If you do end up losing a client, win them back. “Suck it up and go see them,” said Elgin. “Most will understand.” Sometimes your existing clients don’t know about all the services your firm offers. Explain to them your full range of services, and maybe they’ll hire you for something they didn’t know you could fulfill. Don’t forget to share your services with new clients, too, and never assume that clients know exactly what services you offer. If you prioritize relationships, you will likely discover unmet needs that your firm is able to fill, which can lead to new business opportunities.

Marketing your firm and surveying services can lead to new avenues of profitability and success. Though the process may be arduous, the benefits greatly outweigh the increased effort. And don’t be afraid to turn down a client if the project doesn’t seem like a good fit for your firm. A piece of advice from Elgin: “If he smells like a turkey and walks like a turkey – his project is going to be a turkey, too.”


9 More Tips for Business Success

Marketing is just one aspect of running a successful survey firm. These nine additional tips from Elgin can help keep your business on track.

1. Deliver on time. Fix the delivery date even if your client doesn’t care or it’s not a priority to them.
2. Stay on budget. Tell your client the cost up front and then stay under that number. Never bill them more than what you told them.
3. Keep your client informed. Give them progress reports and communicate often.
4. Go beyond surveying to determine your clients’ needs. According to Elgin, “We’re in a unique place to tell the users of the surveys things and not just hand them the plat and walk away. We’re the finders of the facts.”
5. Treat each client as your only income source. Give more than expected, and make your clients happy.
6. Return calls and emails promptly. Make sure you do this every single day. If you get a call that goes to voicemail, return it THAT day.
7. Use professional monumentation and documentation. Make sure your plats and other documents are attractive. The client will judge you by what they see: An attractive plot and field monumeutation. Also, were you finished when promised and was your bill within your estimate. Nothing else matters to most clients. Set high standards, and make sure everything meets those standards.
8. Maintain an attractive website. Don’t use an excessive amount of text. Do include pictures, project portfolios and the services your firm offers.
9. Stay true to your word. Tell your clients what you’re going to do, as well as what you’re not going to do (both are equally important). Then make sure you follow through.