If you have this nagging sense that your architecture, engineering or construction (A/E/C) firm's website could be more than an online brochure, you’re right. The modern website doesn’t sit idle waiting for the arrival of a visitor to simply confirm what they’ve already heard about your firm. When combined with narrow positioning and content/inbound marketing, a good website becomes a business development tool.
And, as recently discussed in Turning Your Firms Website into a Marketing Machine, my recent session with Josh Miles at PSMJ's 2015 Industry Summit, websites have evolved from passive brochure-ware to active lead generation tools. Following are the four functions A/E/C websites must serve to transform into powerful marketing machines:
If your firm is clearly and narrowly positioned to attract a specific audience, then your website can reach and engage the unaware. These visitors may be potential clients or employees. Both are important to the success of your firm.
A benefit of knowing your target audience is knowing what keeps them up at night. Searchable and optimized content on your website that soothes client pain points will increase your odds that unaware prospects find you. Once they find you, they will devour your content because it seems like it was written just for them.
“A main opportunity is to attract the unaware: those who need your expertise but are unaware you exist or not considering you.” –Mark O’Brien, Author of A Website That Works.
By regularly adding unique, expertise-based content to your site, you will boost SEO. You begin to convey to Google who you are, which helps Google send the right visitors. The visitors like your content because it feels customized for them. Then visitors start linking to your content. Google notices this and increases your search rankings.
A good website can allow someone to get to know (as described above) to like to trust your firm. This happens by demonstrating your expertise in writing. This can be blog posts, white papers or monthly newsletters. Make sure the content is indexable (not a PDF), so Google, and visitors, can find it.
A commitment to regularly adding valuable and searchable content to your website demonstrates your expertise and works to pre-position your firm as a leader before the RFP comes out. Content marketing is so critical for professional services because we are “selling the invisible.” Buyers can’t see, touch, or test our services before they buy. Content marketing is a no pressure, non-sales manner for prospects to understand how you think, what you believe, and how you’ve solved previous problems.
Creating engaging content is hard to do. Most will give up after a few months. This is an opportunity to stand out.
I recommend starting with writing a blog. Then graduate to:
• quarterly webinars
• white papers
• speaking where your clients gather
• videos & podcasts
The mantra I hear repeated is: A/E/C marketing is a relationship business. People do business with people they know. Yet, I’m shocked how many firms are unwilling to highlight firm leaders on their website out of fear that this talent will be poached. Guess what? Your competition already knows who your leaders are. If your leaders’ loyalty is so fragile that an email from a competitor will cause them to jump ship, then you’ve got bigger issues.
The sales cycle for professional services is long and involves multiple steps. Nobody is going to visit your site and wonder where your shopping cart is so they can purchase your services with PayPal. However, in exchange for your valuable content, visitors are willing to give you their trust and attention in the form of their name and email address.
You may be reluctant to place sign-up forms on most of your pages, because you feel it is too “sales-ey” for a professional service firm. Get over this concern. Visitors won’t go to all the pages on your site so you don’t want to miss a conversion opportunity by only putting a sign-up form on your Contact page. If you are offering valuable content, you are helping visitors by allowing them sign up for your e-newsletter. Then they don’t have to remember to go consistently return to your site.
Conversion should be accomplished through a clear, concise and compelling call-to-action form (see below). The form should include Name and Email (no more) and a link to examples of the type of content they will receive. Keep the form concise to minimize resistance in the sign-up process. Since the sales cycle is long, it’s critical to get someone into your CRM and put them on a consistent drip of valuable content. When they become ready to buy your services, your firm will remain front of mind.
“No single piece of content, no matter how excellent, will be as successful as a steady, long term flow of quality content.” – Chris Butler, Author of The Strategic Web Designer
About the author: David Lecours is on a mission to help A/E/C firms fight commoditization to win new business. He believes the antidote to commoditization is Core Brilliance Marketing. As Creative Director of brand strategy firm LecoursDesign, and as a professional speaker, David helps firms attract clients and talent by choosing a narrow focus and sharing expertise via the power of story.
Now it's your turn: Can you predict one thing that will transform A/E/C business development in 2016?
PSMJ is always looking to publish diverse views on issues and trends in the A/E/C industry. We invite you to submit a 500-word post on any industry-related topic. We look forward to hearing from you.
For more advice on A/E marketing, following is a list of related blog posts: