It never gets old; with every piece of primary research we conduct at Hinge there are endless lessons to be shared. This years’ High Growth Study was no different. And today I’d like to share with you a few of the key findings from this year’s AEC research.

We started by collecting financial and operational data across our core verticals: accounting and finance, AEC, government contracting, technology and management consulting. We received participation from over 1000 firms and the research results are captured in the 2017 Hinge High Growth Study.

Subsequently, our research team isolated data for each of the respective verticals. The marketing and growth insights for architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) firms tell a tale of an industry navigating change, fighting for talent and getting savvier in its marketing.

A third of our participants were mid-size firms (37%), but large, small and micro firms were also strongly represented. The vast majority of respondents (86%) conducted business in the US only.

At a Glance

Figure 1. Architecture, Engineering and Construction firms by Size

When it comes to assessing growth, we categorized growth in the following way:

High Growth — Average yearly growth rate of at least 20%

Average Growth — Positive growth, but was less than 20%

No Growth — 0% growth, or declining revenue

Figure 2. Architecture, Engineering and Construction firms by Growth Percentage


Government Contracting and AEC Firms

It was interesting to learn that government contracting work made up less than half of revenue for more than 50% of respondents.

However, for 21% of respondents, government contracting work made up more than 50% of revenue. The balance of respondents reported doing no government contracting work.

download-AEC-ResearchFor your AEC marketing program to succeed you need a keen understanding of the decision makers and influencers involved in awarding government contracting business. After all, competition for government work isn’t getting any lighter. All signs are that it’s growing every year.

When it comes to breaking through the competitive noise and messaging clutter, differentiation continues to be a challenge for architecture, engineering and construction firms.

The more firms that “own” a particular differentiator, the harder it is for them to stand out. “If everyone else is doing it, we should too,” is not a winning differentiation strategy. We see this effect in the ranking of most commonly used differentiators (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Commonly Used Differentiators


Because so many firms are gravitating toward the same differentiators there is a tremendous opportunity for firms that do the hard work to research their target audiences and understand what will allow them to stand out and remain relevant.

Figure 4 lists some of the least used differentiators in the AEC industry. Of course, a differentiator may be rarely used for good reason.

Figure 4. Least commonly used differentiators by AEC firms

Image4Which Marketing Techniques Work Best

Many firms spend their limited marketing budgets on the wrong techniques. Our research can help AEC firms invest more wisely. According to our research findings, the most impactful AEC marketing techniques are:

Figure 5. Impactful Marketing Techniques

Image5It’s no surprise that speaking engagements top the list. Unlike simply attending a networking event, speaking to a highly targeted group cam demonstrate expertise. It’s a particularly effective way to reach a highly interested audience and position yourself as a teacher and thought leader.

These are just a handful of lessons from the 2017 AEC Research: Marketing and Growth Insights. The full report looks at other areas including:

  • Role of marketplace research in firm growth
  • New marketing metrics that matter
  • Effort vs. impact of different marketing techniques

If you have any questions on the findings, shoot me an email at [email protected]

How to Learn More:

In the coming months we will be sharing additional results and insights from this massive study. But many findings will be shared only with our clients and study participants. So if you would like to get the full story, we encourage you to participate in our next study. Here is a link to sign-up. It’s free and confidential—and you will get access to critical information not available to the public.

And in case you missed it earlier in the post, here is the link to the current research summary again. Enjoy!

How Hinge Can Help:

Nothing uncovers what motivates your audiences like brand research—and research is an integral part of Hinge’s powerful approach to marketing. Learn more about our research services or contact us to learn whether research makes sense for your professional services firm.