Many AEC firms appreciate that their website is an important marketing tool. They understand that it should be a reflection of their business: professional, informative, and easy to navigate. And results from our recent study of over 500 professional services firms back up that idea. The data showed that today, most firms are using their website for at least basic online marketing purposes: last year, 46% of firms redesigned their websites, 77% generated at least some of their leads online, and 66% plan to expand their online marketing budgets next year.
But in the AEC space, fewer firms seem to realize that a website can go much farther than that, helping to drive real growth by consistently generating qualified inbound leads. To achieve this high growth status, however, your website must be optimized for online lead generation, acting as an anchor for the rest of your online activities and initiatives. Let’s explore how and why.
Why invest in a lead generating website?
Your bottom line is the most compelling reason to turn your website into a lead generation machine. Let’s look at the facts. In the same study, we learned that firms that met the criteria of a “high growth firm” obtained 63% of their leads online, while average growth firms obtained only 12% of their leads online.
This means that high growth firms use their websites to generate five times as many online leads as average growth firms! What were those firms doing differently? To find out, let’s dissect a lead generating website to reveal what’s inside.
Elements of a lead generating website
Think of a blog as the display window in a store—it changes frequently in order to attract more customers into the store itself (your website). Like that display window, blogs offer a place to demonstrate your very best thought leadership. Whereas the rest of your website is largely static, with content that rarely changes, your blog is flexible and changing. And since it’s endless and searchable, a blog is a place to archive all of your earlier work, as well. Content in blogs also help cast the widest net – attracting prospects early in the buying cycle looking for educational information such as trends, best practices or latest regulations.
Besides offering you a place to highlight and archive all of your thought leadership, blogs are important for two other important reasons:
- Blogs are often the way that new clients find you. Why? Simple—a new client uses a search engine (like Google) to search for a term, and your blog post on the same topic pops up. They click on the blog post and voila! They are now on your website. And since all of the blog posts are archived, a blog post written three years ago can still attract new clients. So it keeps working, over time.
- Blogs give your website greater influence with Google, meaning that you will rank higher on search findings. Because blogs offer a place to display fresh content, which Google ranks higher, having a blog equates to more traffic to your website, and a higher page authority overtime. All of this helps your website ranking on Google’s search engine while continuing to strengthen your reputation.
- Stock content
Besides a blog, a lead generating website also includes valuable stock content. Stock content is the term for heavier pieces of content that remain evergreen over time: whitepapers, guides, ebooks, webinars, research reports, and more. Many firms already have this content hiding somewhere on their website. But the secret is in knowing how to leverage it.
Leveraging stock content means “locking” a few of the most valuable pieces of content behind email registry. In other words, a consumer must register his email to download the content. Offers for this “locked content” are then promoted on other blog posts and on other parts of the website. This allows prospects to take the next step of engagement with you—and now you have their email address and can email them with more relevant and valuable information and offers. Stock content can be a powerful tool for nurturing prospects and drawing them into an active conversation and consideration of your firm’s services.
Registering a prospect’s email is a strong signal that he or she is interested in your services. Important note: the content still remains free and available to anyone (you are only asking for an email in exchange), and you should only do this with a few—not all—of the most valuable pieces.
- Email marketing
Email remains the most powerful channel for reaching a large number of prospects in a short period of time. And while email marketing is not a part of your website, it works hand-in-hand with your website to accomplish online lead generation.
In other words, you are letting people know about the important whitepapers, webinars, interviews, and blog posts (not every one), that you produce. You are adding value by letting prospects know when something has been produced that they will consider helpful or important. You can also optimize email marketing by adding valuable offers and discounts to your emails.
- Social channels
Similar to email marketing, social channels should be seen as an extension of your website optimization efforts. An easy way to generate buzz about your content and extend the reach of your thought leadership—whether it be a blog post, whitepaper, or video—is to promote it on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or Facebook. Additionally, staff members who regularly use those channels should be recruited to share important messaging to their own audiences.
The beauty of a lead generating website is that leads qualify themselves through self-selection. If you are smart about targeting your audience correctly and creating content that appeals to them, only the prospects who are highly interested in your services will digest that content and continue to engage with you. By the time these prospects contact you:
1) you already have established trust through your valuable content,
2) they already have been educated on your service and your company, and so
3) they are primed to take the next step.
Ready to move your AEC firm into high growth? Consider reinvesting in your website as part of your architecture and construction marketing plan, and watch what happens. Download the Lead Generation Website Guide for more information.