Guidance for AEC Industry Marketing Coordinators
Market research can feel like busywork, but it makes all the difference in a firm’s strategic marketing efforts. Without knowing the greater market, marketers and leadership are merely using educated guesswork to get their best results. Marketing is a much smoother process with market research and, more specifically, provides a solid plan that can be executed by marketing coordinators.
For public clients, the primary approach looks at approved budgets, which may have different names depending on the organization or agency. K-12 and Higher Education clients might have a bond program or facilities budget. Public agencies have CIPs or Capital Improvement Plans. Whatever the name, most public clients will have a working blueprint for community planning and fiscal management. These documents will list planned improvement projects, their scope of work, justification, location, cost, schedule, and more. Obtaining these documents is one major leg up in market research, and well worth the effort to obtain them.
Finding a budget is most beneficial right after it has been approved, before the start of the municipality’s fiscal year. There is no standard fiscal year start date for agencies, so keeping a log of each targeted client’s observed calendar will streamline the process and ensure you pursue budgets at the correct time.
The public entity’s official site is the first place to look for approved budgets. Some municipalities or departments don’t post their budgets, so if you don’t find what you are looking for online, reach out to the finance/administrative officer or the department relevant to your work. Staff are typically friendly and helpful.
Once the budget is in hand, look for a list of upcoming projects or budget items—ranked, detailed, and priced. If the items do not include an amount enough for design and construction, there may not be a project planned for the upcoming year. Municipalities may section their projects differently, providing a general list or divvying them up across applicable departments.
Look for the entire life of the project you find. If funds have already been spent, you may conclude a project is already in process and a firm could be working on the project. If the funds spent are small enough to leave room for doubt on whether the project has been awarded yet, ask the relevant official; it is better to know than assume.
The end goal is finding which projects the client will be issuing RFPs for (versus being done in-house) in order to incorporate a target project list into your strategic plan, or at the minimum have an internal discussion of which ones to track. Part of determining which projects to pursue should include meeting with clients to discuss more information needed and later determine if your firm is the best fit for the project. With approval and an identified plan, you can then do as much research on your targeted projects in advance so that proposals have a better chance of getting short-listed. Obtaining market research allows your firm to better position itself for winning work!