Doing Research Right

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff June 15, 2006

There’s no doubt about it—A/E and environmental firms do waste money on useless research. Finding out, for example, how large the land development market is nationally, when you have a need to create work for only four people in your Little Rock office, might qualify.

That said, research projects can be worth doing, and the right research can cause you to change your business entirely. In a recent editorial in The Zweig Letter , Mark Zweig, A/E management guru and founder of ZweigWhite, offered some examples of research that firms can actually use:

1. A study of clients who used the firm once but didn’t come back. Try calling 25 of these clients from the past two to three years and ask them why they haven’t done any more business with you? Get specifics! Now is no time to be bashful. You really need this information to keep from losing hard-won clients in the future.

2. A study of employees who quit the firm on their own accord over the last five years. You will never get meaningful feedback in an exit interview about why someone really quit. They will give excuses such as ”better job” or ”more opportunity” or ”more pay.” Years later, if you go back, you can find out what really made them leave. Simply track them down and ask them. Don’t use written surveys—use the phone instead—and have someone make the call that the employee doesn’t know or hasn’t ever heard of. You need this information if you want to take the idea of building a great workplace seriously.

3. Determine who the 10 biggest potential clients are in each market you serve and get the names of decision-makers from each. A firm can’t be serious about its marketing without doing this necessary research. You cannot afford to miss out on marketing to the biggest users of services from firms such as yours. Too critical! Put someone who is smart and accurate on this task.

For the complete version of this article, contact Ed Hannan at .