The A/E/C Industries & the Art of Giving Away Free Advice

William Gislason
Posted by William Gislason on April 24, 2015


For most architecture, engineering, and construction firms (the so-called A/E/C industry), industry expertise and sector-specific skill comprises about 80% of what they sell. Their deliverables come mostly in the form of services or abilities their customers don't have. And while many engineering firms also sell products, and architecture firms do create tangible plans for a cost, the bulk of their value is in the knowledgeable human capital they provide. Unfortunately, what we've noticed is that A/E/C companies often fail to transform this valuable expertise into highly effective marketing efforts.

Few industries rival the competition found in the A/E/C industry. Every customer and project are hard-fought: the victories are sweet and the losses are crushing. Your firm's reputation needs to include expertise, innovation, and cost-efficiency. To even be considered for the next big project, you can't just attract leads that want your services now; generate trust with prospects for the longterm.

The A/E/C marketer's role is to ensure your team receives RFPs, or if possible, avoids a proposal all-together by positioning the company as the clear leader. Branding is, of course, an important part of this process. Strategically-placed advertisements might also help. However, from our experience working with A/E/C firms, content marketing is the most under-utilized and highest-return marketing strategy for your A/E/C firm. 

Now that nearly 50% of B2B purchase researchers are digital natives, buyers in sectors like A/E/C are actively looking for answers online. These young professionals are less likely to trust industry reputation, and instead, they want proof of your company's legitimacy and skill. Their impression of your firm will not be based on interpersonal relationships  but rather on the quality of your website and the information it holds. Consider the scenario in which a major equipment manufacturing company looks to build a new plant for the first time in 25 years. The CEO pulls together the heads of HR, operations, and business development. As they look to build the new plant, only one of the primary influencers has ever been involved in a building project of this size before. None are experts in how to choose strong design and construction partners. Where do you think, they'll start researching? Online.

In order for your company to compete for this project, your website needs to demonstrate your experience and expertise, and it needs to provide quality content that meets the prospects' needs. In other words, A/E/C companies need (and I mean need) to start attracting leads by giving away the expertise that makes them effective businesses.

Marketing "Secrets of the Trade"

While the time you've spent earning experience and expertise is indeed your business's greatest asset, this asset will only grow your business if you promote it.

Consider the young professional who's been charged with the task of selecting 5-7 firms who will meet with their boss about that new plant. Chances are, he or she will have never heard of your architectural group, nor your competitors. They search "manufacturing plant construction achitects" in Google and are presented with a plethora of options. This researcher can flip through website after website and look through portfolio after portfolio, but they won't have any criteria for their reccomendation other than which firm can take a prettier picture of a hospital entrance they designed.

But what if, while the young professional was searching through these websites, they came across a firm with a downloaded ebook entitled "How to Select the Perfect Architect." For a free download, they receive a guide filled with insights about finding reviews of firms, reaching out to past clients, and seperating the experienced professionals (like yourself) away from the untested abecedarians

Of course, anyone can provide this information, but if you do, then suddenly, you're on the short list. You have the prospect's attention; they'll far more likely to remember your name. With an inbound marketing approach, the goal would be to have them come back to your site for more information. On their next visit, what if they saw a video of your top drafting designer discussing their process and how they work with clients to create the perfect building.

In the video, your company receives a face and a history. Now the pictures of a paper manufacturing plant has a story, and the researcher can imagine a future in which they are working with your designers to renovate the headquarters. This researcher leaves your site having learned about the process of working with an architectural firm and the quality of service they would receive working with your firm.

Have you given your competitors an inside look at your processes? Sure. Have you given your leads the ability to throughly vet your firm prior to the meeting? Sure. Have you offered information and asked for nothing in return? Sure. BUT you've also given your leads reasons to remember your firm and to include it on the short list they give to their boss.

"Giving It Away" as a Strategy

Give your leads something of value and they'll consider your company for their next project. That's the secret of content marketing. Word-of-mouth and traditional networking only go so far in our fast-paced digital world. Helpful content with industry insights will have much broader reach.

The A/E/C industry has been slow to adopt content marketing strategies which means if your content will have a higher value for the leads desperate for insightful content. Many A/E/C marketing teams think they are too small to produce content. However, if they reinvest their time away from traditional tactics and towards content, they can get 3x as many leads.

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Topics: Content Marketing

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