In Part 1 of this 6-part series, I wrote about the culture in A&E firms that does not value marketing resources, and how that mindset negatively impacts the success of the marketing staff, and ultimately the firm.
In this post, we will look at current trends in marketing, and the impact of slow adoption to change in the A&E industry. In my last article, I discussed the lack of understanding of the value of branding, social media and inbound marketing at a high level. It is important to realize the importance of these three areas of marketing, how most A&E firms stack up today, and what impact that is having on their growth.
With a culture that does not understand the value of social media, it is no wonder that the majority of A&E firms have limited exposure on social media. In searching for many of my clients on Twitter, I find that even those that are on it are not really active.
But companies, individuals, and sports teams are announcing important news on Twitter! For example, back in October, 2012 when RGIII was injured, Redskins fans (like me) were anxiously awaiting news about whether he would play on the following Sunday. The Redskins decided to make the announcement that he would not play on Twitter before they announced it on traditional news sources. If you are not on Twitter then you may not be getting your news as quickly, and certainly not able to see the real-time reaction of “fans” all over the world to news announcements. Twitter is a great place to announce your firm’s project wins, and present your firm’s brand image as being technologically up-to-date.
In fact, I am getting the majority of news about people I care about on social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I found out about the Boston Marathon bombing on Facebook, and sadly learned that Whitney Houston had died on Twitter.
If you are not active on social media, your firm is losing a great opportunity to get the word out, and build a loyal following. Just look at the huge success of the Design and Construction Network group on LinkedIn. Started by Marketing Director Tim Klabunde of the Timmons Group in Richmond, Virginia, it now boasts over 48,000 members and growing daily. This group has connected many people online and in person who would otherwise have never met.
Social media needs to be a big part of your strategy if you are going to attempt to engage in an inbound marketing campaign. Inbound marketing is a multi-part process which involves developing valuable content for your target audience that will attract readers to your blog on your web site, and then promoting this content through keyword optimization for organic search as well as email marketing and an aggressive social media activity.
Today’s buyers of services are researching potential service providers online. Inbound marketing can provide new leads to your business, but requires a different approach, and is a slow steady process that pays off over time as you build a following of interested readers. The key is targeted, original content that is interesting and valuable to your readers.
“Like most of things that are good for us in life, SEO requires work and patience before it will payback. So it can be tempting to take shortcuts, and just use SEM (paid search ads). However if it is done right, the results will continue to build, and you will start to build your own audience, and own your own traffic.”
My recommendation is to take a good look at what your firm is really good at and write about it. You can also interview your clients, and promote their success, discuss your projects in detail and the value that you brought to your clients, and tips and advice for solving challenges to your industry that your potential clients may be searching for online.
It is important to make sure that you are optimizing all of your content for Search Engine Optimization – this means that you are using keywords and phrases in your blog articles that your target audience may be searching on. This is an area that, as a marketer, you can add more value to your firm by ensuring your content gets found online and shows up on the first page of Google for all of your primary keywords.
In addition to followers online, what all of this buys you is thought leadership. This is critical today in a world where there are so many firms competing for the same work, and now competing against firms across the country and even from overseas. By distinguishing your firm as an expert in some key areas, you can get recognition in your niche industry which will help you to stand out in a world where many firms are being commoditized. Thought leadership alone is a worthy goal for your firm’s leaders, and a necessary step in the process of competing on real qualifications instead of price.
Because of global economic problems and increased competition in the A&E space, it is critical to run your business better. This means that you need to do more with less, and increase the efficiency of your employees and your marketing team. Improve your marketing automation systems through inbound marketing with tools like Hubspot, or utilize a CRM system such as Deltek CRM, which is purpose-built for A&E marketing. These systems can help you to increase efficiency, remove bottlenecks in your sales process, and provide better data for important strategic decisions.
You also need to pick better projects. Critical to this effort is a good Go/No-Go process that will help you evaluate your project pursuits in terms of the probability that you will win the project. You should only be going after projects that you have at least a 50% chance of winning. Some criteria to consider in the Go/No-go process include your relationship with the client, who the competition is (and how many), whether you can be competitive on the project based and price, and can make money on it, and whether your firm and team is the best qualified team that will have the best chance of winning. Too much money is tied up in losing projects, and this hurts your firm’s ability to be successful. Focusing on increasing your win rate and only bidding on the projects you are most likely to win is critical to both short and long-term success.
By taking a look at the trends in the A&E industry, and utilizing the latest technology to elevate your firm’s prominence among potential buyers, both online and in your project pursuits, you will be able to differentiate your firm and no longer have to compete with dozens of companies on price alone.
Check out the other posts in this series –
In Part 1 – We look at the culture challenges for A&E firms today.
In Part 2 – We look at the trends that are shaping the marketing efforts for A&E firm marketers today.
In Part 3 – We look at how technology can help marketers to increase the firm’s win rate
In Part 4 – We discuss the benefits of viewing marketing as a strategic investment
In Part 5 – We look at how to measure the return on investment from marketing efforts
In Part 6 – We give some tips for marketers on how to add more value to their firm’s success.