Lead Generation - What works for M&E Businesses


There are tons of ways to win new projects available to M&E, HVAC and FM Businesses and many of them just don’t work in this industry and there are well established proven ones that do. The success of any M&E, HVAC or FM Sales & Marketing system is dependant on what you sell (Physical Products and/or services) and what stage in the Building Construction stage you should concentrate your efforts.

The purpose of this page is to identify the best ways in getting new projects for M&E Businesses – i.e. what works for M&E, HVAC, or FM Businesses, and what doesn’t so you can save a lot of time, effort and money to ensure you don’t have your Sales and Marketing wasting time on systems that are just too slow and have very little success.

However if you sell physical products then there is a good chance that you will have to build and maintain relationships with different people/departments. In the M&E world, Consultants and Contractors have their favourite suppliers, and they will receive regular visits from them to update them with new products. They also entertain new suppliers and you will often get the opportunity to quote especially if you have something unique.

As mentioned above, knowing what you sell and where in the Sales cycle they apply to, will affect the amount of time and effort you need to devote to each stage.

Product Sales

To demonstrate how this works, lets assume you sell Air Handling units, and for the purpose of the exercise that they are competitive.

Option 1.

You need to sell them to the people that can specify your products. If it is a new Building to be built, these are usually M&E Consultants etc. The problem is that this process is a slow burn as it could be many months/years before the order is placed. You would also therefore need to devote time/effort/money to the Business placing the actual order. and before that pricing the job to the various M&E Contractors tendering the work or possibly if it’s a Design/build the main M&E Contractor that gets awarded the project.

Option 2.

If the Building is going to be refurbished then there is a possibility that the Air Handling plant will be replaced/upgraded, so in this instance again the M&E Contractors are important but possibly it could be the FM/Building Services Maintenance Contractor who has been/is looking after the building, so it could be them too.

Option 3.

If you happen to offer Air Handling Unit refurbishment then you could be selling to either the M&E Contractor, the FM/Building Services Maintenance contractor or possibly the Occupier/Tenant who maybe looking for suitable suppliers.

What physical products you actually sell is irrelevant because the same principles apply. However lets now put a different spin on things. Lets assume that your potential customer is doing some research online to decide what product suppliers they want to consider for their project and they need to know as much technical information as possible so how do you ensure that you will be considered.

Bottom line? Your products have to be found on the 1st page of the search engines and your product specific web pages have to quickly and easily provide the information being searched for. Therefore not only do you need physical relationships but you need a great web presence.

Service Sales

Now lets assume you are a General HVAC Maintenance/FM service provider. You provide complete maintenance services many of which you self-deliver and the rest are sub-contracted. Who do you think are your potential customers are, and why should they choose you over any other contractor who delivers the same service as everyone else? Past performance, great reviews, well established, escalation procedure, helpdesk etc. They are all expected now from every contractor. 

Option 1. Occupiers/Tenants. 

In many cases Commercial Buildings are let on a full repairing lease whether it’s Sole or Multi-Tenanted and therefore the Occupier/Tenant has full responsibility for the upkeep of the services. It’s unlikely you will have physical relationships with the Tenants representative, and therefore any contracts for maintenance will likely be on a 3-year or longer basis. The tenants could engage some specialists (consultants) to handle the tender process for them, but it’s likely they will do some research online first to help them to decide who they would like to quote. They could then Tender a complete M&E package with the main contractor including the specialist sub-contractors within their main contract, or occasionally the Tenants will let the individual contracts to each different contractor.

Option 2. Managing Agents/Developers

Managing agents can be one of the most lucrative ways of obtaining contracts, however they are getting fewer and fewer due to the number of mergers and acquisitions, and indeed the Larger ones have even acquired their own FM Businesses and incorporated them into their Business model. i.e. (CBRE/Norland, Jll/Integral) and this may well continue, and despite what CBRE say, they will always include Norland on the tender list and favour them over any other contractor who is foolish to bother tendering in the first place.

That still leaves plenty of other potentials, but as you can imagine, every M&E, Building Services/FM Contractor in Christendom is beating down the same door, so naturally they put gatekeepers in place to stop you all taking up their entire day! The key here is establishing and maintaining a regular relationship as they tend to have preferred suppliers either locally or nationally. Again most contracts are let on a 3-or 5-year basis, so there is no point in annoying them every 3 months or so.

But again lets assume you don’t have any form of relationship, so how are you going to get noticed and stand-out from the competition?

As before in the equipment Sales example you need to be found on the 1st page of the search engines and your service specific web pages have to quickly and easily provide the information being searched for. Therefore not only do you need physical relationships but you need a great web presence too.

Customers like to take their time and carry out their research at a time and place to suit them and they will start that process around 6-months before the end of their current contract. Customers also want to know that you are capable of doing a great job, therefore social proof is a great way of doing that and if you have demonstrated how you have overcome other customers problems then that builds trust in your expertise. Therefore put that information up onto your website and syndicate it via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Option 3. FM Providers

The huge International outfits that regularly grace the trade magazines always seem to be the ones winning the major Total FM contracts. The ones that include M&E, Cleaning, Security, Catering etc. etc. These companies include Mitie, ISS, Servest, Spie, Cofely (Engie), NG Bailey etc. Some self-deliver M&E but many sub-contract that element out. Again everything that has been said above applies here too. They also have preferred suppliers so relationships are important. These Total FM providers also like to do their research so if you can demonstrate your expertise in a particular area then that will help.

However trying to get on to an ever increasing list of approved suppliers via their Purchasing departments is not for the faint hearted. It can take many months – even years and still there is no guarantee of work. Many others also state that they are not looking to add to their list of suppliers. Furthermore some even invite people to price who are on their preferred list only – despite also being on the main suppliers list. 

If you are a sub-contracted service specialist – Lifts, Chillers, UPS, Fire, Water Treatment, Controls/BMS etc. then you would need to make sure that you contact every part of the supply chain. i.e. Who will place the order for your service? So relationships with Contract managers, Purchasing, Estimators, BDM’s as well as ensuring a great web presence are critical. If you aren’t on Page 1 then your’e done!

Social Media, LinkedIn, Blogging, Email Marketing, TeleMarketing, SEO, PPC, Trade PR. What Does/Doesn’t Work?

So many of the “marketing techniques” put out there supposedly for M&E, HVAC and FM Businesses seem to be almost from a different planet and run opposite to the working practices of a successful M&E Business mainly because several of them just don’t work – yet. So which of these works best and should I do any of them? Well yes some of them but not all. Most of these cost money. Some are one off costs only, whereas others are ongoing. 

We have a written a scale of 1-10 of whether something should be considered (Low being don’t bother, to High being Must do) and the impact on short/long term lead generation as well a the Cost Implications.

1. Website – Having a website and therefore getting it found by the search engines is an absolute must, so if you haven’t got one yet, then it’s something you just must do. No point having a great Business if you don’t have a Brochure or Business Card! A website is a great way to showcase your products/services.

Should I Consider it – Yes 10.
Costs £800 – £3000. One Off.
Lead Generation Potential – Immediate and Ongoing

2. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Website Optimised for Search.

Your potential customers will want to check your Business out online to determine at the very least whether you should be considered for inclusion on potential tender lists and therefore there is a good chance you will have to complete a PQQ.

However, you won’t even get considered for either without a website that delivers what your customer is searching for. In other words, don’t try to promote something that no one is searching for. Each page of your website must match what issues your potential customer is having or/could be up against.
There are two separate costs to be considered – On Page. This is a one off fix to put in place the Titles, Descriptions, Image Descriptions and Keywords on to every page. Off Page monthly ongoing Link Building. i.e. Having backlinks from other websites that are Related to what you offer.

Should I Consider it – Yes 10.
On Page Costs £150 – £300. One Off.
Off Page £150 – £300 Monthly Ongoing
Lead Generation Potential – Immediate and Ongoing.

3. LinkedIn

Your target customers (those mentioned above) will without a doubt have a profile on LinkedIn and so should you. Your customers will check out your profile to see if you could be a good fit for what you do and what they need. You can easily raise your profile (and therefore your company) by seeing what you Post/Comment about. You need to join those groups where your customers are – not the ones that your colleagues are in. Costs. If you are a DIY-er then the cost is Free. If you pay someone to fix your profile and carry out the Post writing/Comment then ongoing.

Should I Consider it – Yes 9.
£150 – £300 Monthly Ongoing
Lead Generation Potential – Longer Term.

4. Blogging

Write a great post about something that is not self-promoting. i.e. Write about how you recently saw how another (non competing) company overcame a particular problem and you thought it was interesting. It’s is a great way to raise your profile, as the entire Group membership will see what you write/comment. Costs. If you are a DIY-er then the cost is Free. If you pay someone to fix your profile and carry out the Post writing/Comment then ongoing.

Should I Consider it – Yes 8.
£150 – £300 Monthly Ongoing
Lead Generation Potential – Longer Term

5. Social Media

Twitter and Facebook Both of these platforms should be considered for Posting/Commenting. As with LinkedIn above (which technically is Social Media for Business) you should put Regular Tweets about particular issues i.e. Regulatory, technically challenging, New Products you have identified and tried etc. They must not be self-promoting. Your Customers will tune those out as blatant Sales messages.

Should I Consider it – Yes 8.
£150 – £300 Monthly Ongoing
Lead Generation Potential – Longer Term

6. Email Marketing.

Probably the most successful of all Outbound Marketing methods. Even though we all get bombarded with Non-Relevant Sales Crap, those Businesses that have great Subject lines, a great offer (after all you have to promote something) can enjoy a great return especially if you are offering something not available anywhere else.

Should I Consider it – Yes 7.
£150 – £300 Monthly Ongoing
Lead Generation Potential – Short Term

7. PPC (Pay Per Click)

All the Social Media Platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook) as well as Google and Bing all offer Paid advertising, however in our experience M&E, HVAC and FM Businesses have had very limited success using the paid for model. Costs can be expensive and you should consider using a specialist who will advise you on whether to use it or not.

Should I Consider it – No 3.
£100 – £500 Monthly Ongoing
Lead Generation Potential – Short Term

8. Trade Magazines

PR Trade Magazines exist across all parts of the M&E/FM spectrum. Many of them are well established and respected and have high levels of subscribers. There is a very good chance that your Customers will receive one or more of them every month. However, the magazines have to earn their money from somewhere and Advertising is expensive and has little impact so the magazines look to other ways to offer you ways to get your messages across.
A one-off campaign is almost wasted as customers regularly expect to know about you so you have to look forward to submitting regular newsworthy features possibly alongside getting the magazine to feature your products/services on their online version, their own email blast (promoting your product) or through charging you for enclosing a picture to print in the magazine. There can be some great results but a long-term approach should be taken.

Should I Consider it – Yes 7.
£150 – £300 Monthly Ongoing
Lead Generation Potential – Longer Term.

9. Telemarketing or Telesales

This can be one of the most lucrative ways of generating Sales Leads and quickly. The key to the success of any outbound Telemarketing campaign is having great quality accurate data of who to contact. i.e. The Name of the Business, The Name(s) of the decision makers in those businesses and of course their Contact information. specifically Phone Number and Email addresses.

The next stage and very importantly then is in having someone who has experience in selling to your target clients – this doesn’t necessarily have to be exactly in your specialist product or service but at least know how to sell to the customer types and be able to speak with some prior knowledge.

Should I Consider it – Yes 7.
£100 – £500 Monthly Ongoing
Lead Generation Potential – Short Term


There are many routes to market and some better than others, however word of mouth and trusted past experiences still play a big part when choosing suitable suppliers so tap into your contacts whenever you can. There is a huge shortage of skilled labour so those that do a great job time and time again will continue to win those lucrative contracts. However, those that don’t perform are at peril of losing out to newer leaner Businesses.

Many more Businesses don’t have the resources to employ either BDM’s or Marketers so outsourcing is another viable alternative. Let us know if you are considering Lead Generation and need some help.

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