I recently was engaged by a well-established, top 200 contractor. They were great builders, but when they hired a firm to get the pulse of owners in the area, the results were surprising to them. All owners admitted that they thought that this company built great buildings, communicated well, and were technically excellent. They also stated that this company wasn’t as good with relationships, were difficult to work with at times, were not as fun to work with as their competitors, and the owners rarely heard from them between projects. They now are strategically focusing on the human side of this equation and teaching their employees basic emotional intelligence and relationship principles.
A couple of the top managers from this company awaited the return of one of their executives from a meeting with a potential client. When they asked him how it went, he replied, “We Brent Darnell’d ‘em”. In other words, he used all of the principles we talked about and applied them to this client meeting. He made it all about them and did not tout schedule, price, or quality. It went very well. They tell me that now BD doesn’t stand for business development. It stands for Brent Darnell. They have found out two very important things:
- Every company comes to the table with schedule, price, and quality. It is not really a competitive advantage. It is the price of entry.
- When you compete on price alone, you become a commodity, but if you create a positive experience for that client and really pay attention to your customer service, they are much more likely to choose you, even if you are not the lowest bidder.
This company is a believer. They implemented these concepts recently on a $45 million project that they were chasing. They were third on price, so they went into the presentation focusing on connecting with the selection committee. They must have done a pretty good job because they were awarded the project. Since then, they have created such close connections with the company that they have been awarded a total of almost $80 million worth of work without bidding.
Explore how to create a positive emotional experience instead of a reliable transaction. Think about all of the ways that you can create these experiences. Tap into the intangible, emotional side of business to make your company stand out. Of course, your people will have to be trained on how to carry this initiative out. They must hone their empathy skills so that they can truly understand what is important to the project stakeholders. But once they start taking this concept and running with it, you will start to see miraculous changes internally and externally.
You will find that you are no longer competing on price alone because there are more criteria to choose from. Why do you think some owners choose on price alone? It’s because they think that you every contractor there will be the same pain in the ass as any other contractor. But what if they loved you? What if they couldn’t imagine their lives without you? That is another criterion, and the short list for those projects are very small.
So, if you want to differentiate yourself, if you want to make your competition irrelevant, then pay attention to the emotional side of marketing.