5 Ways Content Marketing Can Support A/E/C Business Development Efforts

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More than just a buzzword and rapidly growing marketing trend, content marketing is an indispensable component of modern marketing. When properly planned and executed, content marketing can give a boost to the business development efforts of A/E/C firms.

Content marketing aligns with your firm’s overall marketing objectives

While specific marketing goals vary from firm to firm, the overarching objectives of marketing and business development are consistent throughout the A/E/C industry: build awareness of the firm; stand out from the pack of similar, qualified competitors; position the firm as a thought leader and subject-matter expert in its verticals and service areas; build and nurture relationships with prospects and clients; and help the firm close more deals.

While those objectives collectively can prove to be a difficult task for many firms, content marketing delivers an ideal conduit to help firms support those objectives. Here are 5 ways content marketing can help A/E/C firm’s meet their business development and marketing objectives:

1. Build awareness and credibility with new audiences

We hear a lot of A/E/C firm leaders express their desire for their marketing to introduce the firm to new audiences and build awareness with potential clients with whom they don’t currently have a relationship. Similarly, we often hear from marketing directors that they want to increase their web traffic, decrease bounce rates and boost key website engagement metrics such as session duration and pages per session. A content marketing program can help a firm realize all of these goals.

The right kind of content can allow your firm to be found by potential clients who have little or no knowledge of your firm and start to build awareness and credibility with them. These prospects aren’t searching for your firm, so content marketing provides the thought leadership content that prospects are seeking. Think of content marketing as a magnet that draws people in, as opposed to a bullhorn that may cause them to plug their ears. Content that visitors find relevant and helpful will not just drive website traffic, it will also keep them on your website and start to establish credibility.

2. Showcase your firm’s subject-matter experts

Thought leadership, while an often-overused term in the industry, is undoubtedly a top priority for most A/E/C firms. It makes perfect sense, as clients are essentially hiring the intellectual capital of a professional services firm—the people that will be planning, designing, engineering and constructing their project. And if you were to ask most any A/E/C firms what differentiates them from the competition, most would say their people are the differentiator. In many cases this may be true, but unless you are an existing client who has previously worked with a firm’s subject matter experts, all a prospect has to go on is a bio, project experience and list of registrations and affiliations.

Content marketing allows firms to put their subject-matter experts—and their thoughts, ideas and insights—on display. Through educational blog articles, white papers, webinars, videos and conference presentations, prospects are provided a window into the proficiency of individual experts and prospects will take notice. After all, today’s buyers often research extensively before making a selection decision and content marketing provides them even more due diligence research than what they’re able to glean from your proposal and interview.

3. Pre-position your firm before the RFP is issued

Research from McKinsey & Company has found that two-thirds of business-to-business deals are lost before a formal RFP process even begins. Today’s A/E/C buyers are going online to find and vet potential firms, and in many cases they are pre-qualifying firms before ever issuing an RFP.  Certainly they are forming opinions based on a firm’s reputation and previous experience, but they’re also taking into consideration what they know of you from your website, blog and other content.

This is where content marketing—that permeates your website, blog, white papers, webinars and all other forms of content—can help a firm pre-position themselves in advance of the RFP. The right kind of content can boost your position as it relates to selection criteria and pre-qualification shortlists by demonstrating your expertise.

4. Nurture relationships throughout the long buying cycle

The average sales cycle for the A/E/C industry can be anywhere from several months to several years. And a new client win is often the result of an extended period of time, many different touch points and interactions and a great deal of intentional relationship building. But the marketing efforts of a typical A/E/C firm tend to focus on the evaluation/selection stage (through proposals and interview preparation) of the buying cycle. The preceding interest and consideration stage of the buying cycle can often be more extended than the other stages and plays a critical role in the subsequent stage.

Content marketing offers a way to support business development efforts throughout a long sales cycle. Your content should identify and address the problems, challenges, questions and information gaps prospects might have and provide them with valuable information to inform their due diligence process.  This will position your firm and keep you top of mind when the prospect has a need or is ready to make a selection decision.

5. Differentiate by doing, not just saying

In an industry where thought leadership is so important and where differentiation can be quite difficult, content marketing can help A/E/C firms (and their people) stand out from the competition. On the surface, many firms are virtually indistinguishable—offering the same basic list of services, similar project experience and the same typical firm overview that boasts of being the best at what they do.

It’s one thing to say your firm is the best and the leading firm in your market or service, it’s another thing to prove it. Content marketing can help firms demonstrate their expertise, instead of simply claiming it in marketing messages. Robert Rose of Content Marketing Institute says it this way: “Marketing is telling the world you’re a rock star. Content marketing is showing the world that you are one.” By providing prospects with helpful insights that are uniquely and authentically yours, you have the chance to stand out in a crowded market.

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Prospects are not looking for a sales pitch from your marketing activities or your business development staff. They’re looking for you to answer their questions, solve their problems and establish credibility, which in turn builds trust and nurtures the relationship. With the right strategy and plan in place, content marketing can provide the ideal way for A/E/C firms to differentiate themselves and support their business development efforts in greater ways than ever before.

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Vice President & Director Of Digital Innovation

Tim is a syndicated blogger and sought-after national speaker, providing keen insights on modern marketing and an uncommon perspective gleaned from more than 15 years of B2B and A/E/C experience.