Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2013

Another year has whisked by and the traditional year-end look back is upon us. Thanks to readers like you, this blog continues to attract an expanding audience. Part of that is due to the multiplying effect of social media. The posts at the top of the list below, for example, benefited from being linked to or retweeted by others on Twitter, including some who had thousands of followers.

Hopefully I can continue to publish content that others find not only worth their reading, but sharing with others. For the present, here is a second helping of my top ten most read blog posts of 2013, listed in order of popularity:

1. Common Strategic Planning Mistakes. Most A/E firms don't do strategic planning, and a majority of those who do are disappointed with the ultimate results. Perhaps that's why this post hit the mark with so many readers. But the problems with strategic planning are hardly limited to our industry. Most of those who read this post appear to have come from outside the A/E business.

2. Client-Centered Project Management. The popularity of this post came as a pleasant surprise. I've long advocated making the client experience a central element of doing project work. But I've seen very few firms build this into their project delivery process. After providing my first-ever workshop on client-centered project management to one of my clients, I wrote this summary about it and drew a much larger audience than I anticipated.

3. Understand Your Clients? New Study Casts Doubt. I'm convinced that most A/E firms overestimate how well they know their clients. That conclusion comes from working with many different firms and interviewing hundreds of their clients. This post referenced a recent study of A/E firm clients by the marketing firm Hinge, which focused specifically on the buying process. They found a number of things that contradict conventional wisdom about what clients are looking for.

4. Cultivating Creativity in Your Firm. The post-recession world is different enough to challenge any business-as-usual thinking. We need to rethink our strategy and practices in order to succeed in the years to come. Is your firm consciously promoting creative thinking to address these new realities? This post outlines some proven techniques for doing just that.

5. Creating a Rainmaking Culture. Business development has long been the domain of a select few people in most A/E firms. That needs to change as firms scramble to claim their share (or more than their share) of fewer market opportunities. This post describes some basic steps for creating a culture in which rainmaking responsibilities are more broadly shared.

6. Writing Compelling Project Descriptions. The project descriptions I read in proposals or marketing materials are generally pretty weak. They describe not a project but a scope of work—pretty boring stuff. That this post was so popular suggests that I'm not the only one who sees a problem here. 

7. Create Value by Meeting Clients' Strategic Needs. Why don't A/E firms command fees comparable to most other professional service firms? I think much of it relates to our failure to explicitly address strategic needs—those needs that pertain to the client's overall business or mission success. It's not that we can't; we just tend to focus on technical issues while largely ignoring issues of greater importance to clients.

8. Do You Really Need an Elevator Speech? Ever considered what you should say when someone asks what your firm does? First impressions do matter, but does the classic "elevator speech" really resonate with clients? I suspect not. The best approach, in my experience, is to avoid the sales hype and quickly shift the focus to the other party.

9. Can You Escape the Commoditization Trap? I hear a lot of folks in our industry complain about being perceived as commodities, but very few really are doing anything about it. This post offers some ideas for those who aren't resigned to being just another undifferentiated A/E firm.

10. Tangibilize Your Intangible Strengths. If you want to understand why the commoditization trend has overtaken us, just ask A/E firm leaders what separates their firm from their competitors. What you hear most often are traits—like responsive, high quality, trustworthy—that are difficult to demonstrate or prove to prospective clients. There are ways to tangibilize many of these intangible qualities, if you're willing to work at it.

If you've found any of the suggestions in my blog posts helpful, I'd love to hear about it. That's ultimately what this blog is about—helping firms like yours be more successful. If I can help in any way in that regard, don't hesitate to ask. I'm happy to share my insights, whether you choose to hire me or not. Best wishes for the coming new year!

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