This is the first article in a new series detailing Modern Marketing in the AEC Industry. Learn how to use the tools that will make your marketing more effective without wasting your time.
The Achilles’ Heel of the AEC Industry is marketing. Many firms do absolutely no marketing. A lot of the firms that do some marketing work struggle to use the tools they have effectively to build their brand. Firm leaders say that they rely on “word of mouth.” Many firms are filled with people who want to keep “doing it how it has always been done,” but that is the surefire way of failing.
I do understand that many firms are seller/doers that don’t have a dedicated marketing staff, and all the staff at these firms have billable work to do. They don’t have time for marketing, which is rarely billable. However, the longevity of a business depends on people letting go of the “maximize utilization” mentality. As entrepreneur and investor Paul Graham routinely mentions, growth depends on “doing things that don’t scale.”
It is difficult to track the ROI of marketing at times. Not only is the payoff of a marketing campaign hard to measure financially, but it can also take months or years before the payoff occurs. However, building brand equity through marketing provides lasting value. It could also be the difference between life and death for your firm. Here is a good illustration.
When a firm launches, everyone is excited and eager to get the word out. However, work starts coming in, people get busy, and the marketing slows and in many cases, stops entirely. Market forces (similar to the conditions we are currently experiencing in the industry) drive business. Everyone seems to be doing well, even without the marketing. Then the market matures or crashes, the volume of work gets dramatically cut, and everyone sits around wondering what to do. How does your firm survive a crash? By building brand equity through marketing.
If you spend a significant amount of time, energy and money establishing your presence in the marketplace while you enjoy good market conditions and growth, your firm will be well-known by the time market conditions turn sour. Rather than coming up to a recession being unknown or under-appreciated in the marketplace and having to cut prices heavily in order to fight for work, you could be the first choice for a client who needs your expertise. Even if the market conditions stay healthy, putting marketing effort in early and consistently will help you build a reputation as an industry/subject-matter expert. Experts, as we all know, get paid a lot more than non-experts. Once the initial momentum is built, maintaining it becomes a lot easier. The early marketing efforts that did not scale stop working and leave room for marketing efforts that do scale now.
Marketing is an exercise in delayed gratification. It is important that you are patient and put in the work early and consistently in order to receive that gratification. Little marketing efforts add up over time and could be the difference between your firm being a really good business or being an empire.
There are a variety of tools and best practices that we at Zweig Group recommend for our clients. In the coming articles, we will provide the specifics you need to effectively market your AEC firm.
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Sanjay Jenkins is the Marketing + E-Commerce Specialist at Zweig Group. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.