Case study: Using Tough Times to Grow a Stronger Business
Bruce LaFetra
Bruce LaFetra

XL Construction


Shortly after adopting a Business Plan that called for doubling revenue over five years, a well-regarded construction services firm found themselves working harder to win fewer projects. Corporate objectives for year-over-year revenue and profitability growth were at risk. Frustratingly, the firm continued to have little trouble being selected as a finalist while winning fewer than their historic share of contracts. This was worrying.

Suddenly, worry turned to real concern as the situation grew much worse. An economic downturn saw them facing a much more competitive market with additional competitors eyeing their niche. Wanting to grow transformed into not wanting to retrench.

While the firm’s Principals didn’t know all the implications, they recognized that even once the economy recovered, their market would be forever changed and they needed to adapt. Rather than engage an agency to revise and fresh their marketing, they elected to re-think their marketing strategy.


The firm faced several challenges in developing and implementing a more effective marketing strategy.

1. Didn’t like Marketing. The firm’s highly technical principals generally found “marketing” beneath them.

2. Individual relationships. Clients had stronger relationships with individuals than the firm. This limited the firm in many ways as clients often insisted on only working with specific individuals.

3. Weak differentiation. The firm differentiated itself largely by the specialized markets it served, so the firm was highly regarded, yet poorly differentiated. The firm’s principals felt “excellent work” was a market differentiator.

4. Few referrals. Despite many extremely happy clients, the firm generated little new business via referrals. As it turned out, existing clients had far less knowledge of the firms’ broader capabilities than thought.

Client interviews were used to develop powerful, yet crisp positioning focused on the reasons clients selected the firm over other choices in the market. The resulting company-wide clarity created a common focus and aligned priorities.

For the first time, leadership embraced marketing and the key role it plays even in technical fields.


Firm leadership came away with a completely new view of marketing, and the broad role it plays in their business.
• The Strategic Marketing Plan provided detailed and prioritized guidance for the corporate website, collateral, events, campaigns, social media, proposal generation and recruiting. The collaborative development process created the confidence needed to completely halt low-performing activities. They are well on their way to doubling revenue with a plan that stays within their resources while offering the flexibility to adapt to a changing market.

What they didn’t expect was the impact their new strategic marketing plan would have beyond Marketing.

• Positioned for next downturn. Construction is a boom or bust market. Leadership feels well-prepared to thrive in future downturns.
• Transformed management. Recognizing how the firm’s positioning creates natural alignment across all functions and the way the firm is managed, all new management employees attend marketing training.
• More attractive career path for up-and-coming talent compared to competitive firms. Universally understood positioning reduces the risk of putting less senior staff in front of clients and at industry events in place of senior staff.