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

Audio: Welcome to AEC Marketing for Principals, brought to you by Smartegies, where we help design, and construction firms navigate sales and leverage marketing to win more projects. Here are your hosts, Katie Cash and Judy Sparks.

Katie: Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of the AEC Marketing for Principals podcast. I'm your host, Katie Cash, and as always, I am joined by my partner in strategy, Ms. Judy Sparks. Today, we are super excited to talk about one of our favorite subjects. Maybe not one of yours, but we're hoping over the course of this episode that you might come to appreciate it more than you know, and it is the subject of digital marketing, and online marketing, and how it really can be a tool in your toolkit to move your brand in the right direction in today's marketplace.

Katie: A lot of times when we start out talking about digital marketing, we see the immediate glaze go over our architect, engineer, and contractor client’s face, because they immediately tune out, just assuming that there is no application to it in our space, and today, we really want to debunk that myth, and show you some ideas, or share with you some ideas so that you can start thinking about how digital marketing can play into your overarching marketing goals, and initiatives.

Katie: So Judy, you are one of our lead strategists. In fact, you are the lead strategist at Smartegies, and you are having a lot of the C-Suite level conversations with our clients helping to broach the topic of digital marketing, and it's application in today's design, and construction space.

Katie: So, maybe share with everybody a glimpse into why this is becoming more, and more of a trend, and it's not just this idea that I need to be on Facebook, because my competitors are on Facebook, but there really is a strategy, and an art as to how you can use it to make a big different in your brand.

Judy: Absolutely. I love this topic, Katie, because I have to tell you, it's quite satisfying for me personally to watch that transformation of my CEO client say, 'That's not applicable. There's no way that I'm going to get leads on Facebook. I am a professional, I went to architecture school, I am an engineer. No one is buying engineering services on Facebook.'

Katie: I love that. Yeah, nobody buys engineering, nobody buys architecture. Nobody buys construction online. 

Judy: Exactly. Exactly, and you know what? You're right. Nobody is going to send you an electronic check online to buy your services. However, there are very real applications that are revenue drivers that you can use in this online digital world. So, let's talk about those.

Judy: First of all, why are people slow to adopt? Because they don't understand it. Let's face it, most of the leaders in our industry, one, they're technically trained. Two, they're operationally focused. Three, they did not grow up in the digital age. You know, most of my clients who are CEO's of architecture, engineering, and construction firms, they're in their 50's, or 60's, or even sometimes older, and when they were coming up through the ranks, we didn't have the internet.

Judy: We didn't have social media. This is a new distribution channel, and they didn't grow up doing it, so let's cut them some slack. They're not old fashioned, they just simply need somebody to explain to them how it's going to make a difference to their bottom line, and so once we are able to do that, they are not slow to adopt, they are quick to adopt. In fact, the very first time they see that lead come through their website as a result of a digital campaign, they are so eager to do it again, why? It's so much cheaper, and it takes less time.

Katie: Wait, are you telling me that these CEO's in these professional service firms might not be looking at the analytics on their already digital applications they have out there to know whether, or not it's pulling in leads? Or they just have a website for pure validation points, is that what I'm hearing?

Judy: Katie, you are hearing me exactly correctly. I'm telling you not only are they not looking at the analytics, a lot of times they don't even know that the analytics are available. So, when I tell you they did not grow up in this age, they did not grow up in this age, and it is not their fault, but there is a marketing professional somewhere on their payroll most of the time that knows this, and it is up to that person to educate their C-Suite, or find a consultant to educate their C-Suite.

Judy: So, this is what I hear all the time, and then hey, you C-Suite listeners out there, listen, listen to your in-house people. When we come into an environment where we're talking about digital marketing, it is super frustrating when I hear time, and time again, the marketing director of a large construction company, or a large architectural firm say, 'Do you know how many times I have said that, and nobody has ever listened to me, and you come in here, and say at one time and all of a sudden it's brand new news?'

Judy: So, I would encourage the C-Suite to be open to ideas that are unfamiliar, but with that, let me convince you today that there is an application for online marketing for professional service firms. Katie, I think this is best told through stories.

Judy: You know, if you would've listen to our previous episode on the Art of the Pitch, people remember stories, so I think it would be good for us to take our own advice, and share some tangible stories on how our clients are using digital marketing to advance their brand visibility, engage with the digital audience to influence those buyers, and convert those buyers into actual leads that can be followed up by with their business development, or seller-doer team.

Judy: So I'm going to put you on the spot, Katie, because you are our resident digital expert at Smartegies, you manage a lot of the strategy around digital. Can you share with us some success stories that have really made a difference in advancing our client's missions?

Katie: Yeah, I absolutely can share some stories, and for our listeners where this might be new to you, just to give you kind of some baseline understanding, when we're talking about digital marketing, it's really all the different things that your brand can do online. So, it's your website, it's social media, it's email marketing, it's things that you can do that people can absorb your brand through a digital mean.

Katie: So, a lot of times when I'm working with clients, I am trying to understand what are all of the tools they already have in their toolkit that they feel brings them the most return on investment, and then we see if there's a way that we can either amplify, or replace that physical way of going about things, and do it in a digital means, because there is an easier speed to market, and oftentimes it is more cost effective.

Katie: So, I think one of the greatest examples I have that might translate well for a lot of our listeners is this idea in our industry that professional service firms, be them engineering firms, architectural firms, contractors, fire protection contractors, anybody, and everybody oftentimes have something that they offer to clients in the form of a educational lunch, and learn, and in most applications, there's someone that's charged with preparing their materials, getting it approved by the governing continuing education, like credit authority, maybe it's the AIA, maybe it's another accreditation group, and then they are in power to go around office, by office seeking out potential clients, or existing clients if you will, to offer these educational lunch, and learns.

Katie: So they come in, they give a presentation for about an hour, maybe an hour, and a half, and they also pay for lunch for anybody that comes to their presentation, and when you look at some of the larger offices, one of our engineering clients was doing this every week in multiple offices across the United States.

Katie: So, they were spending thousands of dollars each week on lunch, and learns simply for the boxed, dry turkey sandwich that they are taking to X,Y,Z architectural firm, but they are able to show that 'Hey, it's worth time. We are getting some face-to-face time with our clients, we're able to keep them up to date in terms of what's going on in the world of engineering codes, and to talk about really sexy things like VRV, VRF technology', and yes listeners, it's super exciting.

Katie: If you don't know about it, Google it, it's super exciting in the world of engineering, but so I was meeting with this client, and I said, 'Hey, I think this is great, let's go ahead, and do this as an online webinar. Let's do it, let's push it out through social media, let's push it out through your email list, and let's offer it online to a broader list', because on a webinar platform, who cares if they are from 50 different organizations all over the US. You just want them to tune in for that hour, hour and a half. You want them to associate your brand with that particular service line, or that solution, and so we did just that.

Katie: They decided one quarter that they're going to forgo the traditional, in-person, door-to-door, one at a time, lunch, and learn programs. They were going to allocate those dollars to a digital application through an online webinar series. So, they utilized a tool, they already had Goto meetings, so they just added the GoToWebinar extension, that was the technology tool that they used to launch the program.

Katie: They promoted it via email blasts to their existing clients, they also bought some membership list through professional organizations, and some key areas in terms of geographic expansion where they were looking to add a new office, and kind of wanted to build a groundswell, a brand understanding, and brand awareness before they got to that market.

Katie: And then we also ran a very targeted LinkedIn campaign for a couple of weeks leading up to the webinar, just to promote it online with a very specific target audience being more of the senior architectural studio leads that might be in a position to recommend, or to specify which engineering consultant they wanted on their projects for their given studios.

Katie: So they did this, they spent, I want to say roughly, $400, or $500 on the ad promotion through the digital means to promote this webinar program, and day of the webinar comes, lo, and behold, internet connection was good that day, technology cooperated, and they had over 200 participants, unique participants log in to listen to their webinar series, and they also were really mindful, and they recorded that webinar.

Katie: So they did it live, they recorded it, and then they repurposed it as an online tool that they had on their social media pages, as well as on their website, and they pushed it out afterwards again to the same individuals that they had promoted the live webinar to saying, 'Hey, in case you missed it, you can learn this on your own time. Here's this great webinar resource that we have about this VRV, VRF sexy technology, and how it might apply to you, and your world', and they also did some post-event surveys, and found out that yes, they had 200 people logged in, but in most of those cases, it wasn't just one person.

Katie: The organizations had assembled their own little internal lunch, and learn, and they had anywhere between three, to 30 people in each of those different logins. So, their reach was quite larger than we had ever expected. Again, if you were trying to buy lunch for all of those people, and going door-to-door, doing it one at a time, the cost was far greater in their traditional method, versus doing it online.

Katie: Now, they continue to do these webinars today, they've got upwards of nine different topics that they use, and it's really funny to me. This was a great success story for them. It was kind of this proof of concept idea, they were a little bit skeptical on whether, or not it would actually work, because so many people in our industry believe that everything is relationship-driven.

Katie: So, they really only accept the invitation for us to come give a lunch, and learn, because they know the presenter, and we're friends, and that we're reliable partners, but that's really not it. They were really coming, because most professionals, myself included, sometimes are a little bit of procrastinators, and we wait too long, and then, 'Oh no, we need to get our continuing education units to keep our professional license, or whatever that might be', and so it was really about the content was the bait, more so than the person presenting, but through their post-event surveys, they got a lot of requests to actually offer that particular webinar exclusively to companies.

Katie: So, there was an individual from X, Y, Z company that participated on the nation-wide one found the content to be so great that he asked this particular engineering client saying, 'Hey, I want you to do this for everybody in my firm. This was great, when can you do it? I'll set it up, I'll even fly you here if you want to do it in-person', and they've had lots of requests like that.

Katie: So, it has proved to be a really great way for them to promote their technical preeminence, if you will, how smart they are. It's a great way for them to measure who all is engaging with the content, and because they do it live, and then they record it, it's an asset that continues to live online, it continues to produce leads for them down the road. So, I think that's a great success story. I love telling that story, because so many brands in our space do practice the lunch, and learn traveling road show.

Judy: Wow, Katie. Can you tell us one more time, tell our listeners, when you say that they advertised this webinar on social media, what was the total cost of that advertising spend? Can you say that one more time?

Katie: Yep, absolutely. So, everybody's always blown away by this, because for a lot of firms in our space, advertising has really been limited, and let's be honest, I wouldn't call it true advertising, but advertising has really been limited to advertising in your conference, or trade show programs, in directories, or your professional services, organizational directories, and I wouldn't call that true blue advertising, but in this case, we utilized LinkedIn.

Katie: We built a target audience around an industry being design, and construction, job functions being architectural designers, because again, this was an engineering client wanting to get on all the different architectural firms teams, and then we based it on job seniority.

Katie: So, we were only targeting individuals that were manager level, and above, and with that, we utilized LinkedIn in two applications: We did InStream, so if you're in LinkedIn, and you're scrolling through your newsfeed, we did a sponsored content post there promoting the continuing education webinar program, and then we also did upper-right hand corner text-based ads that were a little bit smaller, and all in, they advertised for six weeks, and they spent just shy of $500 on that ad spend.

Katie: So, I can't emphasize enough how affordable it is to advertise, especially in this platform where it's pay-per-click. So, that means I am not paying for people who are just scrolling by. Those people will see it, sure, if they don't scroll too fast, but I'm only paying for people that actually click on the ad to register.

Katie: The click bait was for people to register, so we were happy to pay a dollar per click, even up to $4 per click with some target audience that there was a lot of competition around trying to get in front of, but we find it to be highly affordable. If you were to contrast that ad spend with advertising, say, in your local business journal, maybe you take out a quarter page ad, depending on which market you're in, that might be $10,000 spent for one ad. So, the advertising through social media provides you lots of opportunities to target your specific audience so you minimize your waste, but it's highly, highly affordable.

Judy: Wow, Katie. I am just sitting here doing the math, and 200 participants, I think you said there was 227, but let's just say 200 participants. If you were to buy them a $10 lunch, I mean, that's $2,000, and you haven't even factored in the time that your billable team going to the office, and giving the presentation, so that, I think is a no brainer. I think anyone that is in our industry that are doing live lunch, and learns should definitely consider a digital application.

Katie: Well, and I mean it's so funny too, because for any of our listeners that have heard our Art of the Pitch story ...

PART 1 OF 3 ENDS [00:18:04]

Katie: For any of our listeners that have heard our art of the pitch story. You've got this scenario where we're telling you, hey, protect yourself with technology and webinar and you can be the subject matter expert sitting in your pajamas behind a screen of presentations and nobody's gonna know. And you can still come across highly, the expert that you are and not really have to go through all of the challenges, and sometimes the anxiety that comes with presenting live. Because you are behind a screen and people can't really see if you're reading a script or you're jotting down notes or what that might be. So for our engineering client in particular, the allure of utilizing a Webinar was also really, really preferred over having to go and stand up and do a stand and deliver formal presentation in front of a group of their peers.

Katie: So that's just a byproduct of it. But yes, my last name is Cash. I love when you can spend less money to achieve greater results. So that's I think one of the reasons why we love digital. The other part of it is really because of the data behind it. So Judy, I'm going to flip it back to you and ask you to tell a story about ... Another really relative thing that I think our industry does all the time is they'll complete these really great projects and the traditional idea is, hey, I'm going to hire a PR agency and I want to get, earned media placement in some select publications. But we had a client come to us saying, hey, we just finished this great project. I want to get more projects. I don't necessarily want to get more press but I want to get more projects and we utilize digital.

Katie: I would love for you to tell that story.

Judy: Absolutely. I think that it's so interesting that firms will default to ... I really want to garner some buzz around this project. And when we really questioned the motivation behind why you want the PR, usually it comes down to two things. Either the PR is important because it'll attract more talent to my firm. Other professionals will want to come work with us because of the caliber of projects we do. Or it really comes down to, well, because we did this job, there's other jobs like this job and we want to be considered for them. The ladder is usually the biggest driver and motivation behind public relations. So, in the age of digital, this just got a whole lot easier people. So we had a client that designed a landmark mixed use destination around it, a sports facility. This principal called me and said, well it's opening day. It's a big stadium. We did all of this amazing mix use around the stadium. Everybody's talking about it, but nobody knows that we designed the mixed use.

Judy: Everybody's talking about the architect that designed the stadium, and the owner who's going to be playing their games in the stadium. But we had this amazing live work play environment that's wrapped around the stadium. You know what? This is a big trend in the country. Our client is educating us that sports organizations all over the country are looking at how do I monetize my sports facility on days that are not game day. So they are getting into the real estate business and they are developing the land around their stadium, so that they can capture more of those revenue dollars from those fans. Not only on game day, But also providing a place for the local community and visitors to that city to come to as a mixed use destination.

Judy: So we said, okay, well what assets do you have? They said, well, we have this really amazing virtual tour that we did for our client that is this virtual, fly through of our design. I said, well that's perfect. Let's use that as the asset. What we did is we use LinkedIn and Facebook and an application for retargeting, and we targeted the c-suite of professional sports organizations. So that's imagine the CEO, CFO, president, CMO's of major professional sports organizations all over the country as well as commercial real estate developers that develop, mix use projects, and we serve them up an ad of inviting them to take a virtual tour of this new landmark project that was opening that weekend. We ran the digital campaign over opening weekend through LinkedIn, sponsored in mail, sponsored content as well as retargeting visitors.

Judy: So when you clicked on the ad, it took you to a specialty landing page where they would then leave and be re-targeted. I think everybody's had the experience of looking at something online and then going to a different website and all of a sudden the thing you are looking at has an ad that's following you, that's called retargeting. The retargeting ad had a content offer. What do the most successful max use facilities have in common? When you click on it, you give your information and you get this download. Well, to make a long story short, 300,000 impressions, Katie, through this campaign.

Katie: For our listeners that don't know what impressions are, break it down for them?

Judy: Well, think of it as a view. The ad was served up to potentially have 300,000 views. But more impressive is 610 clicks on the virtual tour of these highly targeted individuals to watch this video, and then get re-targeted and the click through to the content offer. This entire campaign cost $1,500 in ad spend.

Katie: That's awesome.

Judy: So, I think that I have clients that spend $1,500 on a foursome to play golf with one client. To be able to reach 300,000 views, 610 individual clicks and to garner leads from the content download for $1,500 in ad spend is phenomenal. Then on top of that, that campaign led to an inquiry from a developer that was developing a mixed use project in Portland, Maine, where our client does not have any salespeople or an office. It's $100 million development and our client is designing it. So I would say that that's pretty strong ROI for digital.

Katie: Yeah. I would argue that that's worth the money, especially if you can track it back to that actual project one.

Judy: Absolutely.

Katie: Yeah.

Judy: Katie, I have to say, Legion is a major, major driver when it comes to digital applications for industry. But, you know, a lot of our clients are not looking for new work right now. I know that seems like a really strange thing to say, but everybody I know is really busy right now. So they're looking for people. So I think you have some stories that talk about these digital applications when it comes to recruiting. I tell you those recruiters today are having a great season, because those recruiting fees are quite high to steal quality employees from your competitors. So I think that you have some applications when it comes to the HR side of our business.

Katie: Yeah. So we've covered kind of a sales tactic. We've covered a legion story for digital. I'm happy to share with you some recruiting and HR ideas in terms of digital. I think that everybody's probably heard this by now. But the younger and younger that these professionals are coming out of college, the more digital natives that they are. So I have to emphasize importance of your website, especially when it comes to recruiting new talent. I hear it more time than I would ever want to, that people, our clients included are losing out on really great candidates because of the appearance of the website. Some websites even in today's society are not mobile friendly or it's just an online portfolio. When people are wanting to know more about corporate missions and value statements and what day in the life of at XYZ architectural firm really looks like, they really want to know what a career journey may be.

Katie: So I just really want to kind of pre-preface the story around the importance of having a strong online presence centered around an effective a website that's working for you and for your brand, and promoting your employer brand out. The other thing that's fun about recruiting are, depending on who you're trying to recruit, there are different avenues that you can take from a digital standpoint. So I mentioned these younger professionals. Maybe you're trying to get co-op students that are currently in college or you're trying to get those fresh new grads. Judy's example of, utilizing social media is a great way to get some ads, maybe promote an online ... Maybe you're going to host like an open house or maybe you're going to have like a pop up meet and greet with some of the principals from your firm, from a recruiting standpoint.

Katie: Those are great applications for that. But if you're like some of our clients you are having a hard time filling more of those senior positions in the firm, because it's not lost on us that just a couple of years ago we were in the great recession, in lot of individuals than the design and construction space, there was a mass exodus. And those individuals have not returned to our industry because they explored work outside and they have not returned. So we still here on almost what feels like a daily basis that they have more work than they have people to do it, and that they really need some senior individuals to step in at their firm to help build and train some of the younger ones and they can build the succession planning. So we were working with a smaller specialty contractor out of the southeast that builds everything from, Texas all the way up through Boston and to New York City as well.

Katie: But they operate one office in Metro Atlanta, and then everything else they do, they have these road warriors that will go out and build for their clients and they work primarily in the telecom and data center and mission critical space. So they are building specialty facilities where you can't just hire anybody. So it doesn't mean that they couldn't hire a project manager or superintendent that built schools and have them come build a specialty data center. That there's a loss in translation. There's a knowledge gap there. So it's like building specialty facilities for hospitals. You can't and trust that level of detail to someone who hasn't done it before. There's a big risk there. So they really weren't looking for your general construction person. They really needed to get someone that had this specialized knowledge, and they had worn out all the traditional methods.

Katie: They had advertised all the traditional trade publications. They had employed multiple recruiters to go out and actively seek out individuals. They had also gone the route of putting up a job board. They did the zip recruiter thing. They were promoting those positions online through that, and they really weren't getting any traction. When I was having a conversation with their owner, I said, hey, what do you think it is? What do you think this challenges? It was like right there in front of us, the elephant in the room. Well, we're trying to recruit people in these areas where we don't have an office and they've never heard of us and we just sound like a fake company. I think we're coming across as a scam. Because, who in the world is going to come work for a company out of Cedartown, Georgia that is saying that they're building on fifth avenue. Like nobody's gonna believe that.

Katie: So I'm like, okay, well we really have a gap in understanding in the marketplace. So what can we do to overcome that? We used what you know in everywhere else in the world is a very traditional distribution channel, which is radio. But it is not at all remotely traditional when it comes to design and construction. So this is a specialty contracting firm looking for seasoned superintendents. They weren't finding them through recruiter, they weren't finding them through online. At the end of the day we landed on radio, because these superintendents are always in their trucks, in the morning and in the afternoon going to and from the job site. Again, we were looking for those actively employed superintendents. So we were like, okay, we're going to have a captive audience on the morning and afternoon commute. How can we reach them? Billboards, were outside of the the cost that we were willing to pay.

Katie: So we turn to our friends over at iHeart Media, and we'd partnered with them for a two week total traffic takeover. So in this particular area that they were looking to hire immediately for these superintendents across all radio stations, country, classic rock, alternative rock, today's pop, even the Hispanic channels, even your talk radio stations. During the morning and afternoon commutes when they break in for weather and traffic announcements, our client had this 30 second pre-roll ad that promoted their company name and promoted job opportunities with a call to action to apply online. So it was driving traffic online through iHeart. They also have the iHeart media app. And so just similar to Spotify, similar to Pandora. with that we were able to run digital ads in their app as well so that people could just click, and it automatically would take them to the website.

Katie: We chose the call to action to be going to the website, so that people could fill out the application and learn more. More so than a phone number. Because if you're driving and you hear a radio ad, the likelihood that you're going to remember that phone number is pretty slim. But the likelihood that you can remember a company name's website address, that's pretty likely. So we ran that for two weeks. Long story short, if I skipped to the end, they had candidates apply. Shockingly, I know everybody's like really? People apply through a radio ad. But these were individuals that we later learned had been receiving the targeted messages. They had been receiving some calls through some recruiters, but they really weren't justifying that this actual company was real. The problem was true.

Katie: They were being seen as, what we call in our industry, the trunk slammers. Just coming in and being that mom and pop shop and not being as sophisticated as they really were. So there was this extra layer of validation that was gained by them advertising. Especially doing such broad advertising across the radio network that made people, click the bait and to go through and to fill out the form. They wound up hiring two seasoned superintendents that still work with them today, and they got all of that really through the radio ad. I would say that that's not always applicable, but it worked here at getting to that target audience.

Judy: So Katie, we are all wondering how expensive is a total traffic takeover all across all genres of radio for two solid weeks during peak hours of rush hour? Drum roll.

Katie: In trouble with this. This is where everybody hates me because my favorite word is depends, and that's what's coming up right now. It depends on the market. So if you're trying to advertise in downtown New York City, that's going to be more expensive than trying to advertise, say in Tampa, Florida. But depending on whatever your major metropolitan area is, you can work. I highly recommend our partners at iHeart. They were great on this. But for this particular spend, they spent $6,000, for in the radio recruiting.

Judy: Wow. And they hired two?

Katie: Yeah, they hired two superintendents. But the ad, they got the pre roll record. So, they got this commercial. They owned that asset later. So we coupled it with, the smart G's team after the fact on some other recruiting ideas. We coupled it with other paid tactics and organic tactics. And made some quick little videos and ads to push out on social media. So we continue to use that asset for them. We've got kind of like this voiceover talent, if you will, on those little video vignettes. Then they had the live on radio and then they also with that, some of the DJs on certain stations, not all stations, but certain stations ...

PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00:36:04]

Katie: Some of the DJs on certain stations, not all stations, but certain stations did a few different like live plugs where they would just bring that into regular conversation in the morning shows or the afternoon shows. They got all of that for six grand, which is a whole heck of a lot less than advertising through some of your more traditional means and certainly less than the fee that they would have paid directly through the recruiters who typically take a percentage. If you're paying a hundred to $150,000 a year for these individuals, it's a pretty sizable chunk.

Judy: Absolutely. Wow. What a success story. I think it's really important that our audiences understand that digital sometimes by itself will not work. But if you couple it with another distribution channel like radio or even if you're exhibiting at a trade show, always think to yourself, how can I layer on a digital application because of its reach and its affordability to make my investment more lucrative and bring a bigger return?

Katie: Absolutely. I mean we work with clients all the time that are doing live events. They've been asked to speak at a conference. They spend all this time preparing their materials, preparing their call for speakers to be selected, and then they get selected and the work really starts happening. They build these great decks. They practice and then they go to the conference. We encourage them like, "Hey. If this particular piece of content would be relevant to more than who's going to be sitting in that room with you, you should record it and let's find a way to promote it digitally online afterwards and have it keep working for you."

Katie: I would encourage people to think about what assets they already have that can be leveraged digitally, what events or what projects or whatever might be coming up in the future and see if there's another way to layer on a digital application and then what they're doing in the physical world that they might could forego and do more cost effectively, more efficiency just through a digital means. You know?

Judy: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Sounds like it makes a lot of sense to me. It's really not that hard to do.

Katie: It is really not that hard to do. The other thing that I think is super fun to talk about with these clients. I think for the most part our clients in the design and construction space have gotten onboard with the fact that yes, they do need a website. I'm sorry for our listeners if this sounds crazy, but we still have those conversations that yes, you need a website. But beyond that, they've gotten onboard with this idea that they should have a LinkedIn presence. But believe it or not, we still have the conversation on whether or not they should have a company Facebook page or whether or not they should have a company Instagram.

Katie: Some firms that just automatically jump on whatever the latest and greatest trend is and they empower their young millennial staff to run it for them without any concept of the business and who they're trying to reach. Judy, I know that you have been preaching about the need to understand your audience and where they live online and picking the right social media channel if social is the distribution channel. Maybe you might talk a little bit about that and how you're utilizing some social media channels that other people had already ruled out were not relevant for our industry.

Judy: Sure, Katie. I think that to be fair, it really wasn't that long ago that many professionals, myself included, believed that there is this hard line between personal social media and professional social media. But what I've seen in the last two years is this concept of work-life integration. Now, I think that most of us have abandoned the concept of achieving balance. This work-life balance thing that people speak of. If you're in the design and construction industry, my guess is you really don't know what that is. We have now adopted what we call work-life integration where you're seeing more flexibility around the workday where people are working remote, people working from home.

Judy: They're spending time with family maybe during the workday, having the flexibility to go to their child's school and see a play or see a performance and then come back to work. Maybe getting back on their laptop at night after dinner or after people have gone to bed and putting in a few extra hours there. People are living and working and adopting this integrated lifestyle. As a result of that, there has become a blur between personal and professional social media. No longer is it true that Facebook is for personal use and LinkedIn is for professional use. I am seeing more and more everyday professional oriented advertising on Facebook and personal sentiments on LinkedIn.

Judy: We are taking note of this trend and we're actually putting it to practice. The truth is is depending on who your audience is, they may or may not be on every platform. For example, the correctional audience, a lot of those people are not on LinkedIn. Your sheriffs, your prison wardens, they're not LinkedIn, but they are on Facebook looking at pictures of their grandkids. Facebook is part of their social lives. Where we're seeing the blur is it used to be taboo to bother people on their personal time. Well, I don't know about you Katie, but my cellphone number is on my business card now. I don't want people calling me at the office because I'm not chained to my desk.

Judy: If you want to reach me, you have to call me on my mobile. You can reach me through Facebook in my off hours and it does not offend me. I think that this has become very common. I just want to establish that Facebook is being used more and more. In fact, we went to the B2B Forum national conference last year where all of the big business to business brands were represented. Large enterprise companies that sell to other businesses. A lot of primary research has been done around the subject of social media application in B2B environments. Shockingly, Facebook by far was the leading platform for B2B advertising.

Katie: Well, and I think it's so funny. You mentioned this correctional space and I imagine that there's a large portion of architects, engineers and contractors that serve that space. But what was shocking to me wasn't so much that the sheriffs were on Facebook because I get that, but I was really shocked when we started building out some audience mapping and trying to do somethings for some of our clients is understanding that those director of corrections at the high level for the state agencies, they weren't on LinkedIn, but they were on Instagram. I was like really? I never would have... I feel silly for just stereotyping people, but I did not anticipate that to be a trend.

Katie: Then there's some other things where I find myself to be surprised where people spend so much of their time. Certainly when you look at your Google Analytics and anybody listening, if you're not looking at that to understand where your website traffic is coming from on a monthly basis, I highly encourage you to do that. Those of you that have been having Google Analytics for a while, there are other tools out there that get a little bit more granular, but it's always interesting to me to find out how people are coming to your site and then whenever you engage in these online advertising avenues where they actually come from.

Katie: If you do a Google Display ad out there and it gets served up across the internet, it's always funny to me where I got served up. One of our client's online fire protection part store ads when I was looking at CrazyCoupons.com. I'm like really? I'm getting served up this ad here? That's so funny to me. I'm like oh wow. Your audience was really busy checking out of the March Madness event and following all the sports. I could have anticipated that, but oh wow. They're really avid watchers of Discovery Channel and they check in on that all the time.

Katie: There's a lot of data behind these digital campaigns that give you a glimpse into what the whole person looks like that makes up your target audience and how you might be able to find unique ways to surprise and delight them across the online opportunities.

Judy: To that end, Katie, I think that you hit on something really important there. The data is something that you really have to pay attention to and audience mapping is key to an effective campaign. I think a big mistake a lot of our customers make or a big assumption or to use your word stereotype is if you have a millennial on your staff or a young person, you make an assumption that because they've grown up in the age of technology and social media that they are the most qualified to run your social media. That is a huge, huge mistake. You know why? Because they don't have the professional B2B experience to know how to apply that technical knowledge.

Judy: Sure. They can get in and out of Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or Snapchat or manage your Tumblr platform, but they don't understand what is going to resonate with your audience because they have not yet learned your business. You cannot have a successful digital media application that is run by people who do not understand your business. That is at the end of the day to use social media effectively, it has to drive your business. If you don't understand the fundamental things like how do we make money, who is our target audience, what do they care about, what is it that I want them to do when I reach them, then you're not going to have an effective ROI.

Judy: Instead what you have is a bunch of what we call look at me content. Nobody cares about that. Honestly, look at us at this groundbreaking. Look at us at this charity event. Look at us at this meeting. Thank you so and so vendor for bringing donuts. Nobody cares about that. But it's natural to want to post those things because that's what we post in our personal lives and we get a lot of engagement. Why? Because our audience knows us, likes us or invested in our friendships and they want to participate in celebrating our very ordinary moments in life.

Judy: But when you bring that to a business platform, if they're not personal friends with you or have a vested interest in your business already, they really don't want to engage with that kind of content. If they are an employee or yours or already invested in your business, it's a nice to have to have them engage in your content. But really the whole purpose of social media is to meet strangers, to connect and engage with strangers who... Not just any strangers. Strangers who might one day hire you. To put that responsibility on somebody when it's their first job out of college, of course, it's not going to work.

Judy: That's just something that I think that a lot of our principals who are our clients are quick to assume this person knows how to use the tools so they're the best person to executed the strategy. That's the first mistake in a series of events that's going to end in we didn't get anything out of this.

Katie: I think on that subject too just on social media as a whole is our industry, you and I see it all the time, firms that say, "Hey, I want to outsource social media to you guys, or I need to get a XYZ page or whatever." We ask they why and they're like, "Well, because." They really haven't thought through how they plan to use that distribution channel and what they really want their goals and objectives to be and who they're trying to reach. I see so many firms jump on this idea of hey, we started an Instagram page. Well, yeah.

Katie: Well, do you know that 75% of things posted on Instagram don't get seen anybody because it's so popular and you have to have a deliberate strategy on what you're going to do there, how you're going to target it and how you're going to grow your audience.

Judy: Well, that's right. We went to this B2B Forum national conference as I've mentioned before and we learned that organic reach is dead. For you listeners you may not be familiar with the term organic reach, that's basically the content that you put up on your pages for free. You're not paying for it to be displayed. What you might not know is that all of these platforms are in fact advertising platforms and that's how they make their revenue is through advertising dollars. Even if you have let's say a hundred followers of your Facebook page and you put up some organic content, only one to 6% of the people who are your followers will actually see that content.

Judy: Unless you start paying for advertising, it's really a waste of time to post organic content because one, it's only going to reach people who already know you and are already following you, and two, it's only going to reach one to 6% of those people. If you're going to do social media, you have to budget for a paid application in order for it to be affective, or I would argue with you that you shouldn't have it at all.

Katie: Spoken like a true CMO there. You're real about it. For all the listeners, hopefully this session on let's get digital and how the digital world and landscape is here to stay, how it can apply to the design and construction space, hopefully it's been helpful for you. Judy, if you want to summarize in three key points, what were the major takeaways that you want them to understand today?

Judy: I think the major takeaways is one, accept that digital media is here to stay and that the professional services industry or the built environment is not the one industry in the entire world that is immune from utilizing this distribution channel and utilizing it effectively. There is an application for your business. I promise you it's going to be cheaper than the traditional applications in most cases. If you are not looking at your digital marketing opportunities very closely of whether it's for marketing to clients or marketing to employees, you're probably over spending and you are probably leaving really great opportunities on the table.

Judy: I really, really encourage all of you to have an open mind about digital and really truly think about what you could achieve by using this online distribution channel for your business.

Katie: Food for thought, guys. Thank you everybody for you guys tuning in. We will see you next time. Have a great week.

Audio: You've been listening to AEC Marketing for Principals brought to you by Smartegies. If you like this episode, please let us know by visiting aecmarketingpodcast.com where you can learn more ways to position your brand and sell to owners.

PART 3 OF 3 ENDS [00:52:46]

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