Every business has to keep generating work to survive, even if you want to stay more or less the same size. Work generation is one of those subjects that scares some and excites others (the buzz of winning new orders!). 

In our previous blogs, we have talked about setting strategy, leadership and building high performance teams. All of these activities relate very closely to the art of winning business, in that you need a defined plan, clear leadership/direction for your  marketing plan, and to build relationships with clients who provide the best fit with your company values, high quality people/teams to source, bid and convert opportunities.

In this blog, we will discuss 4 key things about work generation:

  • Who is responsible for it?
  • What activities are necessary?
  • How do you go about it efficiently?-
  • How do you keep it going when you get busy?-
Our experience of work generation is that it is not as daunting as it is often perceived to be and by implementing carefully planned activities on a consistent and regular basis you can achieve your aims without the need for an expensive marketing budget. So, let us start by asking the following important question:

1. Who is responsible for generating work?

Having worked with a wide range of SME business owners associated with the construction industry over the last 30 years, many started out as a group of friends or business associates from an existing business, who fancied the idea of being their own bosses. As they commenced this journey, the owners had to find the work, convert it into an order, deliver the work and get paid for doing it.

As the business grew, new people were needed to fulfil technical roles such as design or cost planning becoming involved more in the actual delivery of projects. The focal point for the business owners remained the generation of new orders. What would have been sensible in hindsight was for the owners to invest in equipping new entrants into the company with work winning skills, but instead the priority was to embed technical training. Furthermore, an opportunity was missed to engage staff in the wider business strategy and direction of travel. This would have had a number of benefits:

  • Staff would be more likely to stay with the business because they felt part of it.
  • It would have been of great value in preparing people to succeed the current business owners.
  • It would provide people with the opportunity to build their own profiles in the market place with clients and members of their peer group.
Years down the line, a lot of time is spent ‘retro-fitting’ a work winning mindset and toolkit to people who have up to this point fulfilled largely a technical role and don’t naturally view work generation as part of their remit, don’t like the idea of doing it or simply lack the confidence and skills. There are of course exceptions to this and these are the people that you really want to become leaders of your teams.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing believes that one of the key future tasks of dedicated marketers is to coach others in the business to become better at and fulfil marketing activities. As businesses grow and becomes a larger mouth to feed more, more people are needed to put their shoulder to the wheel to help win work, otherwise the existing work winners cannot cover all the necessary bases. In essence therefore, work generation is a collective responsibility. So, what is the formula for winning work?

2. What activities are necessary?

It is really important that the efforts required to generate work are not underestimated.
Changes to procurement, bid writing skills, the need to undertake strategic market research and the advent of social media platforms, means that you have to be very skilled in all aspects of marketing. 

Businesses need people who are skilled marketers, have appropriate marketing qualifications and a good understanding of the construction industry. It is interesting that the Chartered Institute of Marketing has recently launched a marketing qualification dedicated to the construction industry. This reflects the growing need for effective marketing in the industry. The Work Generation Cycle below depicts the full range of skills that are necessary both back and front office to succeed in an increasingly sophisticated and complex environment.

WORK GENERATION CYCLEWhilst much of this activity is the territory of qualified marketers, there are many things that technical staff can assist with.

For example, it is often the case that technical staff actually spend more time with the client than your marketing manager/director. How is this possible: well think about the fact that on most projects, monthly meetings take place to review the progress of the project with the client and the rest of the team involved.

What tends to happen is that the project in hand is discussed at length and people return to the office to get on with the day job. If they spent time talking to the client and wider team about future opportunities they could as a minimum bring new leads/market intelligence back into the business which can be acted upon. This is not selling, which many people have a problem with: it is relationship building and it is about securing more work from existing clients, an almost universally recognised productive way of generating new orders.

New business from existing customers can be assisted by this type of activity alone, whilst the people who occupy dedicated marketing functions hunt for new work from new sources as well as themselves generating more from existing sources: in other words, sharing the load.

3. How do you generate work efficiently?

It goes without saying that you need a methodology for generating work efficiently.

The more time spent creating a methodology the less money it costs to implement it. How can this be the case? It is because you think things through and don’t make knee jerk reactions or waste money by going off at tangents. Here is a method below that we use very successfully and we call it the Extended Network Principle.

There is often an obsession about creating brand new clients and business from scratch. This draws people into time consuming and expensive cold calling. Even if you have a compelling value proposition for your service offering, the likelihood of getting past the ‘gatekeeper’ to the person you need to speak to is very hit and miss. This is where the Extended Network Principle comes into its own. Think of all the people in your current network. The networks they have, and the networks beyond them and so on are infinite.

So as well as  speaking to your contacts about a particular project at hand, open the conversation up to see who else is in their network, where you may have the opportunity to get a ‘warm’ introduction to someone you think would be a good fit with your business strategy. Not only may you get an endorsement from the person who is making the introduction for you, but your value proposition will so much better received. This can and should work in reverse, so that you make introductions for people into your network, creating a true collaborative working relationship.

Another key tip to working efficiently regarding B2B meetings with clients is to work out how many appointments you can sensibly undertake in a year. Let’s imagine that you or with a combination of colleagues in your business, has the capacity to undertake 8 B2B meetings a week. Taking out holiday time and working on a 48 week year, that is 384 slots a year. Sounds great on the face of it does it not? This is until you factor in that if you need to meet your key contacts 5 times a year that amounts to 77 people. Most people’s networks are much larger than this, so what do you do: how do you prioritise who you meet.

The answer lies in the following key points:

  • You have to build relationships and generate work from people/organisations that meet the aspirations of your business and marketing plans
  • You have to work time smart: this means that for clients with a large number of people to see you either set up group B2B’s or you have to split responsibility across colleagues in your business in some way, whether by market sector, type of framework or type of service
  • Operational people have to play a greater role in at least maintaining contact with existing clients.

You have to think more strategically about who you need to see and also have a greater focus on the results emanating from your efforts, so that the time you apply provides the best returns possible. This leads onto the next challenge when you have got all this stuff working.

4. How do you keep generating work when you’re busy?

The temptation when you get busy is to reduce the marketing/work generation effort. This is a big mistake. Once you dip below the radar you fall down the pecking order pretty quickly. Work generation is not a tap to be played with, turning it up and down. Yes, you can be more selective if you wish, although this has to be managed carefully, but diminishing visibility in all forms of communication, particular face to face is damaging. Even if you are creaking at the seams with work, the cyclical nature of the construction industry means that work streams can fall away quickly and if you have let the pace drop too much, it is much harder to build it back up and be taken seriously again.

In the end it all boils down to relationship maintenance and development. You need to have a pipeline of work at all times and a model that you work to, that keeps the throughput of activity rolling through. Our Pipeline Strategy Model emphasises the relationship building that needs to be established and maintained, the work generation stages and outputs, together with all the support activities that are necessary.

Download your FREE copy of our ‘Pipeline Strategy Model’ now.

For more information about what we do and how we may be able to help you, please contact us.