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How to Communicate Thought Leadership in A/E/C

Despite an ever-intensifying competitive bid environment for architecture, engineering, and construction firms, we’ve seen the same mistake time and time again. Too often, A/E/C firms invest insufficient time and resources in developing net new business – especially compared to other professional services.

If you’re responsible for marketing A/E/C services, this is a good news/bad news situation. Bad news: you might be one of those firms who need to place more emphasis on shaping your brand and boosting your visibility. Good news: the common underinvestment in this space affords firms willing to focus on their marketing a particularly strong opportunity to command attention in the marketplace and demonstrate a firm’s authority.

The specialized leader

Say you have a lot of experience helping small colleges adapt older facilities to new green energy measures or standards. If your firm has worked on these kinds of projects many times, you’ve probably identified some common pain points, mistakes, and best practices that weren’t obvious going in. You might simply think of this as the accumulated know-how associated with a given type of job – but the fact is, you’re a topic expert. Most people don’t have your insight, and they could benefit from it.

The term “thought leadership” gets bandied about a lot, sometimes in a pretty fluffy and aspirational way. But the true meaning of the word is straightforward: a recognized authority on a given topic. Being a thought leader doesn’t mean you’re a full-time Pontificator. It means you have a unique understanding of a topic or area, people know it, and they look to you for your knowledge. This may be the case already, without you thinking of yourself in these terms – or recognizing that other people do. The key is to understand the areas where you’re either a leader or uniquely experienced. Then you have to communicate your knowledge to that targeted audience.

Sharing to lead

At first, this might seem tricky. We’ve all met self-proclaimed experts on a given subject and found that they were anything but. Direct and unsupported insistence on your own authoritative knowledge can put your audience off or even undermine your credibility. But if you have hard-earned insights grounded by experience in the A/E/C market, people are looking to learn from you. So how do you help them find you?

In short, share your knowledge. You might write a leading book on your topic or speak at conferences. One of the most effective ways for your firm to distribute your insights to a wide, relevant audience is an online content marketing strategy. This means producing educational content like blog posts, ebooks, instructional videos, webinars, and more – all aimed at teaching your audience. Through this teaching process, you are taking a much more consultative approach to business development.

This educational material does a lot of jobs all at once. It builds up a body of thought and content online that raises your profile for search engines. It helps people in your marketplace get to know you and your firm: the way you think, the way you work, your stances and particular areas of interest. But most importantly, it builds your profile and credibility, as related to issues that are relevant and of importance to them. Nothing establishes topic authority like teaching it.

By giving away useful, relevant knowledge, you demonstrate your expertise in a way that’s much more effective than asserting it. Through this educational and consultative business development process, you give people a reason to talk about you. Sharing deep, quality content that demonstrates your thought leadership creates a sort of virtuous cycle, continuously cementing your status as a leader – and thereby raising your profile even more.

To help position your firm as a thought leader, check out our Content Marketing Guide.

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Author: Sylvia Montgomery, CPSM A Senior Partner and the head of Hinge’s A/E/C practice, Sylvia collects many shoes and wears many hats. When she’s not traveling around the country for speaking engagements or client meetings, you will find Sylvia creating marketing and branding strategies for clients, supervising her A/E/C team, developing new business, or working on her personal brand. With a 20+ year career spanning visual communications, strategy, and marketing, and over a decade working in the A/E/C sector, Sylvia brings a creative, business-focused approach to her client engagements.

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