Content marketing continues to grow in prominence among A/E/C firms as a marketing strategy for reaching and engaging both prospects and clients. But while content marketing is a fairly simple concept, it can prove to be very difficult to execute.
As a speaker, I’ve heard from A/E/C marketers across the country about the challenges they face implementing content marketing for their firms. And nearly all marketers who either want to, or have attempted, to implement content marketing, experience similar challenges in the process.
Here’s a look at those specific A/E/C content marketing challenges and how marketers can overcome them.
Challenge #1: Lack of buy-in for content marketing from firm leadership
From my experience, any “new” marketing concept that doesn’t specifically pertain to responding to RFPs and preparing for shortlist interviews is likely to get pushback from A/E/C firm leaders. And content marketing represents a seismic shift in thinking—moving from a philosophy of selling to a philosophy of educating. On top of that, it’s unrealistic to expect immediate results and ROI, as content marketing is more akin to farming, rather than hunting.
But content marketing is more than just the next marketing fad, and if your firm is serious about building thought leadership and pre-positioning ahead of the RFP, content marketing is essential. However, if you’re going to launch and sustain a successful content marketing program, gaining buy-in from firm leadership is absolutely crucial. So how can A/E/C marketers get buy-in for content marketing?
Educate your firm
One of your primary duties as a marketing professional is to not only stay on top of the latest trends and best practices (e.g. content marketing) in modern marketing, but to also keep your firm in the know as well:
- Schedule a meeting with firm leaders to share the basics of content marketing
- Host a series of firm-wide content marketing lunch and learns
- Provide firm leaders with copies of a book like Content Rules or Epic Content Marketing
- Forward content marketing articles and white papers to firm leaders
Make a compelling pitch
Content marketing is going to demand time, resources and budget. Making a formal pitch will go a long way in not only persuading the merits of the initiative, but also showing how much benefit marketing sees in it as well:
- Tie the objectives of content marketing to the firm’s strategic plan and goals
- Provide real-world examples of content marketing in action (inside or outside the industry)
- Make the business case for content marketing and answer the “why”
- Proactively address and diffuse objections
- Be prepared to discuss what resources, budget, staff, etc. will be needed
Challenge #2: Not enough time and/or resources to focus on content marketing
Another content marketing challenge that I hear frequently from A/E/C marketers is a lack of time and resources. Most A/E/C marketers spend the majority of their time focused on RFPs and interview support—leaving little time for marketing initiatives, let alone content marketing. But content marketing done right takes time—and lots of it! And while gaining buy-in will be absolutely essential, there are certainly other ways to help to overcome this challenge:
Make it a bigger priority
It sounds like a given, but we all know you make time for what’s important to you. If content marketing isn’t a priority for the marketing team, it’s certainly not going to be a priority for anyone else in the firm. Content marketing is a commitment, not a campaign. In order to be successful at content marketing, you have to commit to the long haul and prioritize your efforts.
Develop a roadmap
Without a plan in place, it’s easy to waste valuable (and often scarce) time spinning your wheels. So be sure that you have a documented content marketing strategy that outlines your mission, overall goals, metrics, audience profiles and content needs. You’ll also need to lay out an editorial calendar for your A/E/C blog and identify what topics you’ll be covering, who will be contributing and when it will be published.
Better time management
With limited time, you’ve got to make sure you use the time you have wisely. Obviously, it starts with prioritization and a documented roadmap, but managing each content deliverable involves setting a deadline and working backwards to ensure everyone stays on target. Time management can be accomplished using something as simple as an Excel calendar, project collaboration tools like Trello or a full-fledged content marketing platform like Kapost.
Partner with an agency
Developing an effective content marketing strategy and producing great content requires not just time, but specific capabilities as well. And not every A/E/C firm has the internal staff with the time or capabilities required to make it happen. Partnering with an experienced content marketing agency that understands the A/E/C industry at a high level can guide you along the way and be a great asset.
Challenge #3: Inability to get technical staff and subject matter experts to contribute for content creation
Getting technical staff and subject-matter experts to assist with content creation is arguably a universal challenge experienced by A/E/C marketers. Proposal content is one thing, but asking for help with blog articles, eBooks, white papers or webinars is another story. Nevertheless, in a highly technical industry like A/E/C, marketers are simply unable to create content entirely on their own and greatly rely on technical staff and internal subject–matter experts to help with the details. So how can you get these folks to contribute?
Reinforce the “why”
In the midst of content creation, it’s easy to assume that subject-matter experts fully understand (and remember) why the firm is doing content marketing in the first place. Take every opportunity to remind your firm why you’re committed to content marketing and how it helps your firm achieve strategic objectives.
Identify and build internal advocates
Look to build a small, but committed, team of experts to get your program off the ground. But don’t necessarily go straight to the senior level experts whose plates are already overflowing. Instead, consider more junior to mid-level staff who have a lot of knowledge to share and are eager to become more visible. This “beta” group will show the rest of the firm what you’re trying to accomplish and hopefully serve as a means of recruiting additional experts along the way.
Don’t give them a blank piece of paper
Asking an engineer or an architect to write you an 800-word blog article by such-and-such date may not be the most effective approach. Instead, provided them with the suggested title, intended audience, objective of the article and a brief outline of what might be covered. It’s much easier for them to build on your foundation than to start entirely from scratch.
Take a journalist’s approach
While not all subject-matter experts have time to write an article, they can all make time for a 15-20 minute interview. A savvy journalist is incredibly skilled at asking good questions, taking detailed notes, doing lots of research and then putting all that knowledge into a story. At this point, your subject-matter expert is merely editing content instead of writing it.
Repurpose existing content
Your firm’s thought leaders are already likely writing journal articles, presenting at conferences and hosting lunch and learns with clients. This content can provide an amazing basis for creating new content and can be easily repurposed into other formats.
Honorable Mention: Not knowing where or how to start
Another content marketing challenge that I regularly hear is how overwhelming getting started with content marketing can seem to marketers already strapped for time, resources and priorities. It can be a daunting task to get going and knowing where and how to start can be elusive. If this describes you, here are some tips to get you going:
Put a plan in place
You don’t start content marketing by producing content, start with a strategy.
Prioritize your blog
A thought leadership blog should be where you start and you should focus on getting that right first and then go from there.
Crawl, walk, run
You shouldn’t expect to produce a slew of eBooks, infographics, webinars, podcasts, white papers and videos out of the gate.
Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, and should be viewed as an ongoing program and not a short-term campaign. Challenges will continue to persist and there are certainly other content marketing challenges that A/E/C marketers face. But hopefully these ideas will help you in your quest for content marketing success.