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Fewer Proposals, More Wins by Finding True North

XL Construction, a well-established specialty builder, noticed a disturbing trend in the number of lost proposals. Timing was especially poor as the firm was preparing to expand into new metro areas. Project performance was outstanding and existing clients were exceptionally loyal, so the two founders expected a marketing tune-up and tweaks would quickly put them back on track.

In the end, what they got was much, much more, and drove changes well beyond marketing. Within months, XL Construction was submitting fewer resource-sapping proposals, while adding more Best Clients.

Caught in a Changing Market

A more competitive market—and the firm’s own past success—attracted new competitors eyeing the firm’s niche serving specialized markets, including healthcare, bio-pharmaceuticals, and education.

XL’s leadership team was passionate about their craft, and assumed clients cared about the same things they did. XL was highly regarded, yet defined itself as simply a “technical builder.”  Past clients kept coming back, but winning new clients was challenging.

As with most professionals, the lesson that competence and experience is important for getting considered, but plays a smaller role in getting selected, was a hard one to accept.

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“Your research on our business and careful questioning of our partners provided a great marketing plan broad with initiatives, but scalable to match our needs and capacity.”

Mario Wijtman, EVP, XL Construction

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Leveraging Their Strengths

My in-depth interviews of their Best Clients and partners revealed a genuine appreciation and respect for the way XL handled highly technical and business-critical projects. The executive team was shocked to hear of over-the-top happy clients who nonetheless turned to competitors because they were unaware of some of XL’s capabilities.

XL’s Best Clients didn’t talk in terms of buildings; they spoke about revenue-generating business assets: a bio-tech product development laboratory, a data center, or even a school. For these projects, not getting details perfect the first time, or even small delays impose unusually large consequences for the client.

Not surprisingly, XL’s culture, organization, and management style developed to “over-manage” these very demanding projects. While this worked exceptionally well for the highly complex projects where they thrived, it presented a challenge for other types of less-demanding work that was more price-sensitive.

Vulnerability Hiding Behind Strength

The stockholders wanted XL to grow, and planned to take the conventional route of expanding the range of projects they sought. I recommended an alternate course focusing on their Best Clients and the types of projects where XL brought a real advantage. This approach promised to be more profitable and easier for the company to execute. Framed like that—and with the firm’s strong culture—the choice was easy.

Fewer Proposals. More wins.

The company culture quickly embraced thinking LIKE their Best Clients. The business development team talked of adding capabilities to the client’s business. Positive feedback came immediately; they found it surprisingly easy to demonstrate to potential clients why they were the best choice. Soon, they stopped pursuing projects where they were merely one of several good choices. They focused on proposals for great clients where projects matched XL’s sweet spot.

The better thought-out proposals won consistently. Despite submitting fewer proposals, overall revenue grew.

Breaking the Boom & Bust Mentality

With a Strategic Marketing Plan providing detailed—and prioritized—guidance, the corporate website, collateral, events and campaigns, social media, proposal generation, and recruiting all began to operate in tight alignment. Recognizing an opportunity to transform their firm, the two founders boldly decided to send all new management employees—including those working primarily on job sites—to a half day of marketing training.

Looking forward, the executive team seized the opportunity to break with the boom or bust construction mentality. Determined to be the strongest player in their segments, a consistent and focused strategy positioned XL not just to survive, but to gain competitively the next time boom turned to bust.

Turn your Marketing into a Virtuous Cycle of Best Clients.

When you know Why You Win,
you Win more often.


Your Best Clients have shorter sales cycles, bring you better projects,
and are happy to pay what you’re worth.
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