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Market/Client Research

Curating conversations: how one firm took a nontraditional approach to market positioning

In the years that Friedman & Partners has been in business, we have again and again seen the power of successful thought leadership efforts to ignite business. And yet, there are still many firms that get stuck in effectively adapting this proven marketing strategy and implementing it consistently.

That’s why, in this issue of The Friedman File, we’re sharing how one firm has taken a creative approach to becoming a trusted advisor in a niche market. Here’s what 120-person A/E firm GLMVArchitecture (Wichita, KS) did in their zoos and aquariums practice, and what they’ve learned along the way.

“In many industries, we become insular in the way that we think,” says organizational development consultant and self-proclaimed zoo nerd Michael Clifford, GLMV’s Curator of Innovation and Partnerships, who runs the firm’s ECHO Initiative. “Zoos are established organizations, often run by municipalities and private 503(c)3s, and are not […]

How strong are your client relationships? Here’s how to make them even better.

Many times, when AEC and environmental consulting firms think about business development, they’re focused on bringing in new clients and expanding their reach. While this is an incredibly important part of your business growth, what’s equally important is building your relationships with the clients that you already have.

This month in The Friedman File, we’re focusing on how you can—and must— actively strengthen your relationships with existing clients on an ongoing basis. It can be easy to fall into the trap of putting this type of engagement on autopilot, especially when you’re managing a heavy workload. But having solid client relationship management practices in place can streamline the process and help to protect your firm from changing economic or market cycles.

Not only is it more cost-effective and easier to sell more work to your existing clients (and have them refer you) than to continually […]

By |2019-04-04T14:41:32-04:00April 2019|Business Development, Market/Client Research|

Market research words to the wise

In this issue of The Friedman File, business partner Jerry Guerra of The JAGG Group shares his candid thoughts and advice on the much-debated topic of market research. Jerry is a skilled researcher, writer, and PR/communications specialist who has collaborated with me on many projects for architects, engineers and environmental consultants. —Rich Friedman.

In many A/E/C firms, market research is a wasted activity driven by ignorance, cursed by laziness and devoid of any understanding of where its true value lies. The inevitable result is a massive gap between the promise of an intelligent market research program that helps a firm succeed and grow, and the futility of the actual market research efforts that far too many firms pursue.

We pay for expensive online services, scour the business papers and trade journals for long-range leads, hire ex-government employees to identify and harvest opportunities, sit through economic […]

Value: the A/E/C industry’s biggest blind spot?

The Friedman File readers know the importance I place on asking clients and prospects probing questions — whether it’s to:

  • Learn more about their organization and role, their greatest challenges, and trends and drivers impacting their success
  • Determine how they define and measure value from a firm like yours
  • Identify who they view as your most potent competitors and why
  • Assess how you’re performing on a project
  • Better understand why you won or lost a recent project pursuit

In this issue, I want to focus on a key area — eliciting client feedback to enable your firm to assess the value you bring to the table. As a strategy consultant to the A/E/C industry, I see far too many firms struggle with determining and articulating their differentiators, benefits (not features!), and value. All too often, expensive off-sites are held where principals, marketing staff, and […]

You lost. Find out why!

In the business development realm, it can literally be the $1 million question: “Why did we lose this project?”

“We’ve been scoping the opportunity well in advance of the RFP, and we thought we were well positioned.”

“We knew the competition and thought we’d answered the questions, ‘Why us? What value do we confer?’

“We thought our presentation was solid.”

To learn more about why you lost, you attempt to gather feedback from your prospective client. And that’s where the wheels come off for the majority of A/E/C firms that don’t have a steady stream of sole-source work.

Anyone who’s conducted a loss debrief knows how difficult and inherently awkward they can be — for you and for the prospective client — if not done well.

Why Debrief After a Loss?

I’d like to think that firms attempt to conduct loss debriefs at every opportunity. However, this is not the […]

Market research: war stories from the front lines

Hi everyone. To close out my series on market and client research, I want to share with you one case study and two anecdotes that, over the course of my career, have left an indelible mark on me.

Case Study: Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back

We’ve all heard this platitude during infomercials for the latest skillet that makes 500 different meals in a jiffy. But should this apply to professional services? I recently conducted a phone interview on behalf of an ENR 100 firm. The interview — with one of their key clients, a Fortune 500 company — was conducted to elicit opinions on a number of topics and assess their satisfaction with my client. The interview did not go as my client expected, as their client was quite displeased with both the quality of services provided and value imparted. It was clear that […]

Client research: an underutilized BD tool

Welcome to the second of my four-part series of The Friedman File articles on client and market research. My last article discussed how to use powerful open-ended questions in the business development process. Today, I’m addressing client research — arguably one of the most misunderstood and underutilized tools in a firm’s practice management arsenal.


“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” This truism is applicable to business development, and it’s particularly relevant in client research. There’s so much valuable information to gather, yet asking the right questions, of the right people, at the right time requires a specific skill set. There are three primary types of client research:

  1. Client/prospect perception studies
    Typically conducted every 2–3 years, often as a precursor to a strategic planning and/or marketing/business development planning session
  2. Continuous client monitoring
    Ongoing brief interviews of current clients, via phone or in-person, that are used to […]

Ask, don’t talk: using probing questions to pursue and win work

I’m excited to launch the first of a four-part series of The Friedman File articles on client and market research — a topic near and dear to my heart. Those of you who know me and/or have worked with me also know that I love asking questions, especially open-ended ones. Do you know what an open-ended question is? (Hint: it’s not the type of question I just asked.)

Asking questions, and even more to the point, having your primary motivator be curiosity rather than a specific outcome, is the lifeblood of development — be it personal, professional, career, market, or business development. Any “Business Development 101” class has, at its foundation, the value of asking probing questions rather than talking. As Steven Covey writes in his widely read book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “seek first to understand, then be understood.”

In my upcoming […]