Find Out What People Really THINK – Part 1

September 28, 2017

Discovering Your Brand Through Perception Surveys

It’s important to know where you stand with your customers and prospects in the marketplace. As an architect, engineer, or contractor, you work with owners that may only build once or twice during their lifetime. That means you only have one chance to make that first impression. It’s important to know what other people think outside of your own firm. This is known as branding.

Through market research, you can learn what the marketplace perceives as your brand. That’s because you don’t determine your brand — your customers and prospects do! (With that said, your firm can and does have impact on your brand, which must be very intentional.)

There are some simple ways to help you determine your firm’s brand perception and direct your marketing dollars to make the most impact. Conducting brand perception surveys is one of the easiest ways to find out what customers, prospects, industry partners, and vendors/suppliers think about your firm. It does take a little time and money, but it’s well worth the investment. This primary research allows you to determine what each segment perceives as your firm’s brand.

It’s much easier to have someone that isn’t directly involved either in the operations of your firm or in a particular project, so utilize your marketing department or find an outside consultant to conduct these surveys. It’s also recommended you keep the individual answers anonymous, so you’ll receive honest feedback.

The first step to completing these brand perception surveys is to make a target list. This should include 10-40 contacts throughout your marketplace. (If you have multiple locations, then do this for each office location.) The breakdown of your list should be:

  • 20% current customers
  • 30% prospects
  • 30% past customers
  • 10% industry partners
  • 10% vendors/suppliers

This range will give you valid information about your firm that will help you market and sell your services. Prospects will be the most difficult to get to respond, which is why I recommend hiring an outside consultant to complete these perception surveys. Alongside the consultant, make your list which will take some time but this list will come in handy for multiple things. Keep in mind some of your prospects should NOT be familiar with your firm or even know your firm exists. These would be your dream clients.

The questions you assemble will be different for each segment, because they all have a different relationship with your firm. It’s important to have a well-rounded idea of what each segment experiences, because you may have a good perception from your vendors/suppliers but a weaker one with past customers. It’s important to know the perception from all parties that interact and engage with your firm.

Formulating the questions needs to be a strategic process, because you want to ask questions that are leading. Remember, your goal is to obtain as much information about your firm as possible. The survey is not meant to be interrogating but conversational in nature. The questions for each segment are going to be different. 25%-40% of the questions will be the same for all segments but the others will need to be modified appropriately. 75% of the questions should be open-ended while the others can be yes/no, ranking, or rating. Open-ended questions give you helpful insights to make real changes within your firm. The close-ended questions don’t provide as much information to learn from.

Perception surveys should be conducted face-to-face or over the phone. For the customers, industry partners, and vendors/suppliers, they’ll see this as your firm making the investment to conduct these surveys — therefore feeling that you genuinely cares about their opinion. It’s advised to NOT conduct online, web-based surveys, because you aren’t going to get a lot of useful information. It’s more difficult to get people to type detailed information instead of verbally communicate with someone. It’s great to say, “Our firm received 5 stars on our customer service,” but that doesn’t help you confirm your brand, does it?

Read Part 2 of “Find Out What People Really THIN” to learn the next steps to completing these brand perception surveys.