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re: marketing

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Sorry this got long!
 
Bill,
I am as green to the small business ownership as anyone, but I can give you a few suggestions that so far are working or seem that they will work for me. I will leave out the most obvious ones.. Sorry this got so long.
 
First, I don't know your age exactly but you seem to have quite a bit of experience and have been around the block once or twice. Do you now work in the same geographic area as you have been the past few years? You should know, at least by name, lots of architects, contractors, and engineers (non-structural).
 
Bigger SE firms cannot compete on smaller projects and do not want to, they usually do them for clients as a favor. Market yourself to your architectural contacts for these smaller projects, what I call scraps, which can be quite filling for a single consultant. Put together a one page marketing sheet and business cards and go meet with your former clients and tell them what you are doing now and what you can do for them. Give them something they can have for quick reference and give to a friend. Tell them you gladly reward references,and if you get work, send them a nice Thank You card with a gift certificate to a good restaurant, it is tax deductable. They all have friends and acquantainces who are architects too, and your name can info can get passed around that way too. Ask them to reccomend you to them.
 
Mechancial and electrical engineers CAN give you work from time to time. I just got a job designing light pole foundations from an old EE friend of mine. Joists need to be checked when changing RTUs. Chilling towers need screen walls and slabs. Civil engineers need misc stuff like retaining walls designed, which are perfect for a one man outfit because usually you need one sheet with your typical detail, maybe a schedule and notes.
 
I have gotten quite a bit of work with bigger GCs doing repair work on their screw ups. Savvy SE companies will not fix all of a GC's problems, especially when they are just plain in the field errors that require new design or calcs. That will eat up their C.A. admin time quick as can be, and they will sometimes demand the GC submit a signed and sealed fix. That is where I come in. I can go to the site the same day they call me and the next day they have a S & S fix in their hand, keeps them moving, and they love it. NO waiting a week for a big firm to come out. Market these services to the SE firm (tell them you are a small fish and have no desire to compete). In fact, my last company has sent quite a bit of this stuff my way. Also market that to the GC and architects, as well as specialty engineering like canopies, metal stud , etc.
 
Smaller GCs may need you for renovation jobs, as well as new designs of add-on and all new buildings.
 
Fabricators and other specialty companies may need someone to do contract work from time to time. I am sure Scott could tell you about what he does PT and how it helps fill up his schedule. I do contract forensic work and then fill up the rest of my time doing side design jobs. I have also offered larger companies, whom I have no plans on competing with, to come in and do hourly work for them when they are overloaded, and that has some possibilities.
 
Finally, and the one I am the most excited about, form a partnership (non binding, no incorporation) with like minded small consultants and find a good GC. Team up with a good licensed architect. You have automatically quadrupled your marketing effort. Get together and form a strategy, and talk about what you can do together. Offer turn-key projects to people, all the design and construction included in one price. This would be especially effective if you wanted to do residential and residential add-ons, as well as small commercial. By meeting together before you start designing a project you can all have the input up front and be more cost effective without hurting anyone. None of this , "Hey, let's make changes post-design to save money."  If you have some assets of your own or some rich relatives/friends or anything scope out land on your own and sky is the limit.
 
Just some ideas. I try to think way outside the box to see what is out there, and what I want to do, not what I have to do. Also, the development side of it could lead to much bigger windfalls then design fees alone. Plus your business partners will be thankful you are bringing new work to the table.
 
Finally, try your best to always do what you say you will do. Meet your deadlines at all costs. Market the quality of your work, don't let people price you out. Never sacrifice the quality of your work or your ethics for a couple bucks. Tell them why you may be more expensive then the next guy, but what you will save them in the long run is well worth it. Treat people the way you would want to be treated, be friendly, talk about sports and fishing and other non-biz stuff. Remember who helps you and try to pay them back.
 
 These are just some things I have picked up that I think are effective strategies. If you still feel like you need someone to help you with your marketing, talk to the person who does marketing at your old company or another company you are friendly with, and ask to buy them dinner and pick their brain. Maybe they would help put together a package for you on the weekend or at night for some extra bucks. They can also keep their ears open for jobs that do not fit what their company does, and they can mention you.
 
Good luck, and I would like to hear other ideas from small SE start ups... I almost feel guilty saying all this stuff with my age and my experience, I know others on this list have taught me a lot and can teach me much more.
 
Andrew Kester, PE
Lake Mary, FL