Improve your AEC Firm’s Marketing—without Spending a Lot of $$$

Do you view marketing as an afterthought or a necessity? For small- to mid-sized architecture, engineering, and construction firms, the jury may  still be out. That’s understandable, considering many growing AEC firms have a hard time tracking the ROI of their B2B marketing spend. 

Make the Commitment

When the priority is delivering projects on-time and under-budget and resources are scarce, it’s hard to green light proactive marketing tactics. But here’s the good news: there are some quick, low-cost marketing strategies you can employ to boost your profile and generate more leads. Here are six ideas to get you started. 

1. Rethink the Ubiquitous Project List

Every AEC firm needs a ready-to-go project list to respond to RFPs and partnership proposals. Just because your project sheet has to be consistent and coherent does not mean it can’t also be compelling. Use active summaries and headlines to capture attention. For example, “Major Port Rehabilitation & Expansion” could become “Smooth Sailing Ahead for Port Authority After Rehab & Expansion.” 

Also, make sure you don’t only cover the nuts and bolts of the engagement. Highlight special circumstances or contributions, such as working in a live healthcare or airport facility or in very confined spaces; using innovative practices to reduce project costs or schedule; or customizing reports for the owner’s executive board. 

2. Get Organized

Make it easy for agencies and partners to answer the question, “Can this firm do the project?” Your project list should be readily sortable by industry, service area, and geography. Consider a map of completed projects for better data visualization, or an infographic that combines data and visuals (you’ll find some great examples at GenieBelt). 

3. Start from the Top

Make sure your leadership team is fully engaged, both on business-friendly platforms like LinkedIn and on industry-specific forums. That can be as simple as posting comments on articles shared by partners and peers and as thoughtful as creating custom content on industry trends and topics. There’s plenty of room for personal perspectives within a professional context, such as reflecting on lessons learned or breaking down how you approach a challenge. 

4. Capitalize on Conferences

Industry conferences are a great way to build visibility and connections, even without investing in a presence on the tradeshow floor. Take advantage of social media by posting live tweet quotes from interesting panels and making sure to tag the speakers. Use the hashtags provided by the conference and show your team having a great time to generate interest and engagement. 

When networking at events, don’t have loose “Let’s have coffee” conversations with potential influencers; pull out your phone and schedule an appointment then and there. Consider posting a blog after the event with your top ten takeaways so others in your network see the value of attending the event.  

In addition to these tried-and-true social media methods, make room for more creative approaches that set your firm’s online presence apart. Go beyond Throwback Thursdays to showcase your firm’s personality using different tools and techniques.

5. Tell a Story through Video

Video is more accessible and cost-effective than ever, and it makes a huge impact on your interest quotient. Construction projects are perfectly suited for time-lapse videos like these or for a more straightforward synopsis of capabilities. Drones are becoming more and more common at job sites, so you can use short clips from your drone’s video to add depth and expertise to your message. Your case studies come to life when you add video, and it doesn’t take much more technical expertise than an iPhone and easy-to-use editing software.  

6. Curate your Culture

AEC firms aren’t necessarily known for being flashy and fun, but photo-forward social platforms can help set your business apart. Before and after scenes—from groundbreaking to ribbon cuttings—make for eventful posts, as do up-close-and-personal stories from the front lines of team-building and charitable events. 

Pinterest may be best known for recipes and crafts, but smart brands are using it to promote their products and services in a less contrived interface. Get inspired at Interesting Engineering’s board to build a company board… maybe it’s your favorite architecture, sunrise shots at your construction sites, or even DIY suggestions from your firm’s engineers. 

While the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of gross revenue for marketing and advertising, it can be difficult to prioritize marketing spend within the day-to-day running of your business. Chances are, though, your team possesses some latent creativity that just needs the right environment to flourish. Give it a try and you may be surprised! I’d love to see what you come up with. Connect with me on LinkedIn to share your ideas.