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The Most Important Factor for AEC Firms to Win New Clients

The other day, I was speaking to a president of a construction firm about growing his company. He grew his company over the past dozen years from nothing to $29 million gross revenue last year (according to ENR’s rankings).

He asked to speak with me because he’d done all that he could to get his company to its current level and wanted to grow further. He is at a crossroads where he can either stay put or go full throttle to seriously grow the firm.

Although a successful entrepreneur to many, he lamented that he has not been able to do this and that, and he does not have the skill set personally or in-house to continue to move forward. I reminded him that the most important thing he built over the past decade is a strong brand reputation.

Free Guide: Brand Building Guide for Professional Services Firms

To further build the company, he needs a strong foundation, which is that reputation. Many contractors try to take short cuts to make a dollar today, especially in the beginning years of their firms. These shortcuts only undercut the company's brand. Reputation is vital in an industry built on relationships.

A Focus on Reputation and Visibility

Remember that your brand is the combination of two factors: your reputation and your visibility.

Our team at Hinge can bring lots of visibility to your company, but you still largely control the reputation side of the equation. Performing quality work, offering timely service, having open communications, and genuinely caring about your clients, team members, and vendors builds your reputation.

If you’re not ready for the increased visibility that great marketing can bring to your firm, a weak foundation (your brand) will easily crumble. Also, it is extremely difficult and costly to turn a poor reputation around. Fixing a bad reputation quickly gets even more expensive. We have good reason to focus so much on your reputation.

What AEC Buyers Care About Today

In our research, buyers tell us that a good reputation is their top selection criteria when considering an AEC firm to work with. A good reputation is also the biggest element that “tips the scale” when picking the winning firm over the runner-up.

Usually, the top firms short-listed for any project are all technically qualified, so it comes down to culture, fit, and reputation. As a buyer, a strong reputation means your company is in it for the long haul and you are worth investing their money and time in to get the project done.

In a separate study regarding referrals, the lifeblood of the AEC industry, we found 80% of professional service firms get referrals from people they have not worked with before. From these non-client referrals, 95% of them came from people that never met the person/company they referred. How is that? It’s simple. They are aware of your firm’s reputation in the marketplace. We call these reputation-based referrals.

SEE ALSO: Prove It: Building Credibility and Increasing Clarity in AEC Marketing

This is also where the visibility side of the brand equation kicks in. The people that refer you that have not worked with you directly know you from your blog, hearing you speak, following you on social media, seeing your articles in industry publications, and just hearing your name from others in the industry.

They will refer you by saying something like, “I haven’t worked with Hinge personally, but I’ve read their books and have been following their blog for years. You’d be crazy not to talk to them about rebranding your construction company.”

In the AEC industry, you have resources that aid your brand’s visibility that most B2B companies in other industries do not have, including job site signage, vehicle graphics, and employee uniforms. These items are all elements of your marketing toolkit that make your company more visible, but there is a catch.

You need to perpetuate that strong reputation and great visibility by consistently performing and keeping your clients and partners happy. Those visible assets can become liabilities on a project gone awry, from a disheveled employee, or in the hands of a rude driver of a company vehicle.

Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes. What would you think if you drove by three job sites with your sign on the fence or if you saw one of your company vehicles in traffic?

Additional Resources

How Hinge Can Help

Increase the brand reputation of your firm with Hinge's Branding Program, designed to help your firm stand out from the competition and build a brand that drives sustained growth. 

Free Brand Building Guide for Professional Services

Perryn Olson Perryn is an Account Director with experience working in many industries and a special focus in AEC. Based in New Orleans, he is a certified marketer with the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) and the Construction Marketing Association. Perryn is president of SMPS Southeast Louisiana and past president of Executive Connections, a business networking organization in New Orleans.

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