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Creating a Digital Marketing Strategy for Your A/E/C Firm: Why It’s Critical

For many professional services firms, a digital marketing strategy has become an indispensible part of their marketing toolkit. But our research shows the A/E/C industry to be the slowest of all the professional services in adopting online marketing techniques. The Internet and social media have forever changed the way that clients of A/E/C services are researching firms and buying services, and a huge opportunity is left sitting on the table. The few A/E/C firms that have capitalized on the potential of online marketing are attracting new leads and building a tangible competitive advantage. Here’s why.

Digital Marketing Strategy = Higher Growth + Profitability

In our recent study on professional services firms and online marketing, we found that A/E/C firms that generate leads online grow faster and are more profitable than their counterparts. We even identified a magic number for growth: 40%. If a firm can generate 40% or more of its leads from online sources, it launches itself into a high growth category, growing 5X faster than firms generating fewer of their leads online. Remarkably, A/E/C companies that passed this 40% threshold enjoyed a median 2-year growth rate of 100% – even as the industry weathered a difficult economic climate.

But our research also revealed an alarming finding. When we dug deeper, we found that only 6.2% of A/E/C firms studied were hitting this 40% lead generation threshold. Even worse, nearly 30% of A/E/C firms were not generating any online leads at all.

To put it plainly, our study clearly showed a handful of A/E/C firms galloping away from the herd, in both growth and profitability. And those high growth firms were the ones using a digital marketing strategy to cultivate online prospects.

Seizing the Opportunities of a Digital Marketing Strategy

What does this mean for your firm? Well for 94% of A/E/C firms, there is a great need to widen the scope beyond traditional marketing roles, with the strong focus on proposals, collateral, and marketing visits, to include new marketing roles created by the digital age. Marketers need to think in terms of prepositioning their firms for success by mastering online marketing techniques. Done correctly and consistently, these techniques result in highly effective online lead generation.

Why does digital marketing lead to greater growth and profit than traditional marketing methods? A digital marketing strategy offers many advantages, including lower costs, greater geographic reach, and the power to keep working over time.

Consider this: it’s cheaper to write a blog post than to attend a conference or networking event. The blog post has the potential to reach thousands of consumers – especially when combined with search engine optimization (SEO) and social media tactics, and the blog post continues to attract leads months, or even years, after it has been written.

These benefits make it an attractive alternative to the labor-intensive and often expensive techniques of the past. Moreover, today’s digitally savvy buyers increasingly turn to the web and social media to find and vet potential A/E/C firms for projects and teaming opportunities.

But online lead generation doesn’t happen by accident. It is the result of a robust online presence, built by a series of activities performed at least several times a week, every week. Many firms falsely believe that having a strong online presence means simply sprucing up their website and calling it a day. In fact, building your online presence will be an ongoing investment of time and resources. You will need team members committed to posting articles to your firm’s blog, managing your social media channels, and creating rich, long-lasting content, such as whitepapers, case studies, guides, and webinars.

Other staff will need to make sure your posts are reaching the widest possible target audience by utilizing SEO techniques and measuring their effectiveness with Google Analytics or other analytical dashboards. Firms that dedicate themselves to these activities will soon find themselves nurturing leads and launching themselves into higher growth and profit.

For more information on building your online marketing skills, download our free book, Online Marketing for Professional Services.

Author: Katie Sanner Katie’s professional background is as wide as her smile. From advertising and design to professional AEC marketing experience, she has experienced marketing from both sides of the table. Katie has worked at Arnold Worldwide, where she was a Creative Manager for clients such as Amtrak, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Choice Hotels. Later, she spent several years in the AEC industry, including Deltek and marketing a Washington DC Top 25 Engineering Firm.

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