How AEC Firms are Solving Today’s Difficult Lead Gen, Recruiting, and Marketing Challenges, with Judy Sparks and Katie Cash

Episode 7:

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Oftentimes, when we talk about digital marketing with our clients and prospects—that is, principals of AEC firms and their teams—we see an immediate glaze go over the faces of the people in the room. Why? Because there is a widely held assumption within the AEC industry that digital cannot solve real business challenges like lead gen, driving sales, or recruiting top talent.

While we agree that it is unlikely any of your prospective clients will send you an electronic check online as a way to engage your engineering services, we also know that digital strategies have been proven effective for reducing cost per acquisition, driving biz dev, and attracting highly qualified candidates for hard to fill senior-level positions within firms.

We often hear complaints from within an organization that the leaders of the firm are slow to adopt digital marketing strategies because they don’t understand the technology.

The reality is, most of the leaders in our industry are technically trained and operationally focused. They did not grow up in the digital age. Many of our clients are CEOs of architecture, engineering, and construction firms in their 50s, 60s, or older.

They did not have the Internet when they were working their way up through the ranks, and they certainly didn’t have social media.

But, they’re not old fashioned by any means. They simply need somebody to explain how any strategy—digital or not—is going to make a difference to the firm’s bottom line.

It has been our experience that once we are able to make a tangible connection, they are not slow to adopt. It is actually quite the contrary.

The very first time they see a lead come through their website as a result of a digital campaign, they are eager to do it again because it’s cheaper and it takes less time.

Our goal for this episode is to share some tangible examples for how you and your team can use digital marketing strategies to advance your brand visibility, engage with an audience, influence buyers, and convert those buyers into leads that your business development or seller-doer team can connect with.

We are going to share three real-world case studies where AEC firms used digital strategies to solve significant business challenges and drive ROI as a result.

Our hope is that the ideas will help you and your team to start thinking about how digital marketing can play into your overarching goals and strategic initiatives.

What You Will Learn:

  • How a properly structured webinar series can accelerate lead gen while dramatically reducing cost and time of the traditional lunch and learn
  • How digital strategies can provide similar benefits to PR
  • Why organic visibility of social media content is dead and Facebook is the dominant ad platform for B2B audiences
  • How radio was used to attract high-quality candidates for senior-level positions within an AEC firm
  • Why you cannot have a successful digital media application run by people who do not understand your business

Solving Lead Gen Challenges

Challenge 1: the time and cost of providing clients and prospects with in-person “lunch and learns”

Engineering firms, architectural firms, contractors, fire protection contractors, etc. often propose an educational “lunch and learn” session. In most applications, there’s someone within the firm who is tasked with preparing the materials, getting it approved for continuing education, and sent office to office seeking out potential clients.

It is a time consuming and expensive process. Katie shares a detailed example of how one AEC firm decided to forgo the traditional, door-to-door lunch and learn, and allocate those dollars to an online webinar series instead. They invested $500 in ad spend, received registrations from 200 unique participants, and they recorded the webinar and repurposed it as an online tool.

Challenge 2: sharing one project’s success as a tool to attract future work

Are you leveraging the work you complete for one client into a successful digital lead gen campaign that attracts future work? Judy shares a detailed example from an AEC client who created a virtual fly-through tour of a recently completed, mixed-use facility, and now wants to leverage that work for greater lead gen to attract future work. The asset was converted into a strategic retargeting campaign so prospective clients could not only view the firm’s work but engage with it. The campaign generated 300,000 views, 610 individual clicks to view the virtual tour, and an inquiry from a firm who is developing a $100 million mixed-use project in Portland, Maine—that project is now being designed by the AEC client.

Solving the Need to Recruit Top Talent

If you’re like most AEC firms, you’re likely having a hard time filling your senior positions in the firm. Katie shares an example of a firm that needed to attract talented candidates with specialized knowledge. The company had already worn out all the traditional methods like recruiters, online job posting boards, and other tools, but at the end of the day, the team landed on radio as the idea strategy. Radio works because the ideal candidates (superintendents) are always in their trucks in the morning and in the afternoon going to and from the job site. The campaign resulted in several high-quality candidates applying for open positions, and the company hired two of them. Katie shares the full story within the episode.

About Judy Sparks

Judy is the founder, CEO, and President of Smartegies LLC. Founded in 2008, Smartegies is a specialty marketing agency that has helped more than 150 companies across North America build stronger brands, implement effective communications, and develop winning strategies and proposals. Judy has worked in B2B marketing and sales roles exclusively since 1993, specializing in the AEC industry. Judy is a true expert in AEC marketing and has a proven record of success across her 25 years in the field.

About Katie Cash

Katie is an architecture, engineering, and construction marketer with over 15 years of experience serving the AEC industry. Katie is an expert strategist who helps her clients win big projects through creative marketing methods. Katie believes in thinking outside the box and has a gift for tackling challenges by using innovative and unconventional solutions. Today, Katie serves as the Vice President of Smartegies, working alongside Judy to help clients achieve maximum impact in their marketing efforts.

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