What are A/E firms that are growing the fastest doing differently? “Firms that embraced more of the online marketing strategies really caught the wind very quickly in our industry,” says Karl Feldman, partner at Hinge Marketing based in Reston, VA.
Here’s what they do to shine:
• Create thought leadership content. This is about explaining your expertise in a way that’s compelling. “What audiences are really looking for is educational content that explains how a team is going to help solve their problems,” Feldman says, “and it’s relayed in a way that’s clear and understandable.”
• Be relevant. Relevancy in the industry has been at a standstill for the last three years, notes Feldman. This needs to change to prevent “sliding into commoditization.”
• Pay attention to the web. A majority of potential clients rule out a firm because its website “didn’t jibe with what they heard, and they went back to the RFP process,” Feldman says. Also be sure to stay on top of search engine optimization.
• Update mobile performance. Google’s new algorithms, coming in May, will make it even more important to have a mobile-friendly website.
• Leverage data and technology systems. This is the next big push. Says Feldman: “Think Amazon for professional services. We are going to get there, it’s just when and how.”
At the same time, successful firms know how to pivot from a three-dimensional world to a two-dimensional computer screen. And there’s always the “Mall Test,” says Hinsley. This helps figure out whether a prospective employee will be good for the existing team. Hinsley recommends pretending that you see this person up ahead, walking toward you, while at a mall.
Do you cross the flow of traffic to say hello, asks Hinsley, “or do you turn into whatever store is on our right all of a sudden you’re buying foot lotion or something because that’s a lot better then going to see that person?”
And virtual interviews are here to stay. “They’re not going to magically disappear once the last person gets vaccinated and masks go away,” says Dean Hyers, founding principle of SagePresence, a presentation coaching firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and co-author of the book Winning Virtual AEC Interviews.
For an impressive screen presence:
1. Look at the camera. If you look at your potential client on the screen, your gaze will appear to be off to the side. Look at the small camera on your computer instead, which will simulate direct eye contact and create a better relationship.
2. Be aware of your emotional vibe. Gear yourself up. When your heart isn’t in a virtual experience, you can come across as having steely confidence. Confidence is good, but relaxing allows your face and voice to soften, which makes you more approachable.
3. Consider standing. If you typically stand during presentations, do the same for a Zoom presentation. “Try to give back a little of what this platform took away,” says Hyers.
4. Know personality types. People are either drivers (those in power), inspirers (those who motivate), relators (those driven by emotion), and thinkers (those who are more analytical), according to Hyers.
5. “The question is, how do we respond to different personalities while we’re presenting, and how do we change to modify ourselves based on what they do?” he says. Prepare ahead of time during strategy meetings.
Hyers believes that becoming more expressive shouldn’t be too difficult for the average project manager. “You don’t have to be a thespian actor,” he says. “You just have to stand a little higher than the crowd.”