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The 3 D’s of Brand Building In AEC

Here’s something to think about for all the AEC firms who think brand building isn’t important: if your firm had no branding, how would you differentiate yourself from other AEC firms?  And if you couldn’t differentiate yourself, how would you expect to see long-term growth and profitability?  You would look like every other shop on the block, and we definitely don’t want that!

Now you may be familiar with the 5 P’s of marketing (Price, Promotion, People, Place and Product) and how they can help you market your services.  But I bet you haven’t heard about the 3 D’s of branding (and that’s primarily because I just coined the phrase!).

So let me introduce you to the 3 D’s of branding:  Differentiate, Demonstrate and Dominate.

Differentiate Your Brand

Many AEC firms fall into the trap of providing everything to everyone because they believe it’s going to produce the best and most results.  When in reality, it’s quite the opposite.  When a firm is able to clearly and succinctly explain what makes them unique, clients and prospects take notice.  For example, which firm would you look into, or even hire, based on their ‘About’ statement you might find on their website:

Firm A: We provide our clients with civil engineering, mechanical/electrical/plumbing engineering, structural engineering, architecture, and construction services and specialize in recreational, residential, commercial, mixed-use and transportation design.

Firm B: Over our 50-year history of providing clients with outstanding structural engineering and architectural expertise, we have evolved to become one of the industry leaders in sustainable stadium design across the globe.

B, right?  Now you might be saying to yourself, “you have pigeon holed yourself into only providing architecture and structural engineering services on sustainable stadium design projects.” Wrong.

Your differentiator should be what your firm hangs it hat on. It’s not to say that Firm B doesn’t also have civil engineering and construction service offerings.  Instead, they want to be known in the marketplace for sustainable stadium design because they know that’s what makes them great and what brings them the type of work that will grow their business.

So whatever way you want to slice it, the first step in successful brand building is to stand out and have a clear focus on what makes your firm unique. This should be a part of your firm’s architecture marketing strategy.

Demonstrate Your Brand

When I say demonstrate, I’m not talking about flipping through an RFP response and looking at resumes and project pages.  No, those are your qualifications.  Demonstrate your brand refers to the branding tools that can help boost your firm’s visibility with your clients and prospects. Because if they don’t know you, how can they hire you?

Here are a few tools to consider.

Logo: Your logo needs to be memorable and easily recognizable by your target audience.  Some AEC firms chose to have a symbol, while others don’t.  It’s not a must, but again, can help distinguish you easier from the rest of the pack.

Marketing Collateral: One point I want to drive home when demonstrating your brand is consistency. It doesn’t work to only have your brand in a few places. It needs to be everywhere! Infuse your brand’s message and image throughout your stationary, email templates, brochures, PowerPoint templates, and proposal templates too. And to maintain consistency across all your marketing items, creating a set of brand guidelines is probably not a bad idea.

Dominate The Space

So you have your message ironed out, your logo created and your collateral ready to go –brand visibility…check!  Now let’s turn our focus to your brand’s reputation.  To achieve success here, you’re going to have to be in it for the long run.  You can tarnish your reputation in an instant, but to positively build your brand’s reputation you’ll need time, a Visible Expert℠ or two, patience and commitment.  And over time – and using your differentiators as your guide – you will be well on your way to dominating the AEC space!

So what kinds of things can help bolster your reputation? Let’s take a look at a few:

Industry Research: Help your clients and prospects answer big questions in the AEC space through research. Once you uncover the truths, widely share your results online. And once the word gets around that you have conducted this research, your clients and prospects will begin to turn to you for answers.

Write the Book: Although this can be a time consuming activity, if you have a Visible Expert in your office who is willing to write a book on a topic centered around your differentiators, by all means have them do it! The next step is then to publicize, publicize, publicize.  The more articles, guest blog posts, speaking engagements, and webinars you can get, the better. You’ll soon be thought of as an expert in your field.

Blog About It:  Use a company blog as a platform to voice your opinions on your firm’s field of expertise. By incorporating SEO principles into your strategy, you’ll be found online by readers who don’t already know your firm.  And always be consistent with posts. Blogs take effort and you may be faced with resistance to start one because of lack of resources, but I’m here to tell you they work.  You’re reading this post, aren’t you?

Website: Buyers are searching online more than ever for professional services, so make sure your website is not just full of pretty pictures.  More and more AEC firms are rehauling their websites to turn them into lead generating machines. All of your content will be housed on your website, so when clients or prospects are looking for information, they will easily be able find your site and will begin to view your firm as the leading industry expert.

A Strong Brand

I didn’t want to throw math into the equation early on, so here is a final thought I’ll leave you with:

Visibility x Reputation = Brand Strength

It’s not complex math (the higher the visibility and the higher the reputation, the stronger the brand), but it’s a formula nonetheless.  And as Hinge is living proof, this brand building formula works!

Don’t just take my word for it either. Download our latest book where we go Inside the Buyer’s Brain and shed light on the qualities that clients look for in professional services.

On Twitter or Facebook? Follow us @hingemarketing and join us on Facebook.

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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