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The Need to Quantify (and Dollarize) the Intangibles

What is most important to any client that we might work for? Certainly quality of work and/or aesthetics is key, but those characteristics are not really quantifiable.
Assuming a basic level of functionality and code-worthiness is achieved, what all businesses (even non-profits) want to do is to SAVE MONEY AND/OR SAVE TIME. We all know the old cliché that “time is money,” so truly what all our clients or prospects are looking for is to simply save money.

Most reasonable AEC firms are not promoting a race to the bottom, as far as being the “cheapest” option out there as an A/E firm or a GC or even a subcontractor. For the most part, we need to be market competitive, but most owners do not simply choose the bare-bones “cheapest” bidder. In marketing, we often promote various intangible values that we would bring to our prospect. The issue is that, aside from sounding good in an interview or in a RFP response, it is hard for the prospect to gather and compare what that really means to them. This is why I think it would be prudent for companies to better attempt to quantify (and assign dollar amounts) to what they boast about in terms of the intangible value they bring.

A simple example goes back to the “time = money” thought. Many projects have liquidated damages per day if the project is not completed by a certain date. Perhaps it is $5,000 per day. If a GC can finish a project 10 days ahead of schedule, they could claim that they “saved” the owner/client $50,000. This is something that the GC could later promote and advertise, regardless of if there was a clear bonus paid to the GC for in fact finishing early.

In my line of work, we offer several scopes of work to GCs or clients, as we are a commercial subcontractor. Many times we promote the fact that if a GC or OPM firm hires us out with all the divisions/scopes that we offer, we are making it easier for their project managers and their admin staff. That sounds nice, but we should put a $$ amount to that. If we can estimate that our internal coordination efforts and likely saving some punchlist work saved the PM staff 20 hours of work over the course of a project, the math might be as follows.

20 hours saved x $100/ hour (billable) = $2,000 that we indirectly saved the GC or OPM company.

That’s not a lot, but at least it is something “real” and something we can define.

An architect might be able to assign a dollar amount to less punchlist time on site, less Day 2 reconfiguration, or possibly less 3rd party consulting engineering fees. These are likely items that the design firm is promoting, so why not put some estimated dollars behind the facts?

All companies are in business to make money and/or save money; that is their bottom line. We need to better match our marketing efforts to this longstanding corporate fact.


Ken is a Director of Industry Development and Technical Services at the International Masonry Institute. Some of his writings have been featured in ARCHITECT magazine,, and for U.S. Building News. He can be reached at

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