While AEC firms are catching up on integrated marketing and branding techniques, many continue to market their services the way they have for decades. These firms will begin adapting in 2019 — before it’s too late.
Marketing is changing rapidly. In 2018, we saw the impact of native LinkedIn video skyrocket, the Google Medic Update, and technology obsessions with blockchain, virtual reality and artificial intelligence get more intense.
So as we enter into the new year, I’d like to walk through seven marketing trends that will impact AEC firms in 2019 and beyond. Hopefully that will help you see what’s coming and prepare for upcoming challenges.
We’re seeing it more and more. Professional services firms are starting to pursue mergers and acquisitions as a primary growth strategy. Our recent research shows nearly one-third of professional services firms were active in M&A in 2018.
While there are many benefits of growing via M&A, it can present new, complex marketing challenges, especially for AEC firms.
For example, in 2019 we worked with global, national and regional firms that had grown rapidly by strategically acquiring smaller firms for their specialized service offerings. The services they added were complimentary and the acquisitions brought valuable talent with them, but the new “house of brands” lacked cohesive positioning and messaging. We recognized a few of common needs shared by all of these firms:
In each case we started with brand equity research, from which we were able to quantify the equity of each acquired brand, and uncover potential synergies and potential conflicts between them. Ultimately, these insights were used to develop integration plans and unified branding initiatives and strategies for future mergers.
A generation raised on the web is fast becoming the beating heart of our industry. That means your website is only going to become more important to your firm’s success in the coming year. Today, 84 percent of AEC buyers check out a firm’s website during the buying process, and 83 percent have ruled out a potential service provider before even talking with them.
But that’s not all. As millennials make more and more of the buying decisions, the way buyers find AEC service providers will change, too. Online search has become more important to the industry as buyers turn to online search before, during and after the selection process.
Once a business is aware of a challenge, the next step along its buyer’s journey is to research solutions. At this stage, 75 percent of AEC buyers will turn to Google or other search engines as a starting point. The service providers and teaming partners with the most visible expertise will have the advantage of first impression.
We’re seeing the fastest growing firms in the industry place higher emphasis on keyword research and SEO implementation. It would be wise for AEC marketers to follow suit and prioritize SEO in their 2019 marketing plan.
If you can’t be found in search, if your website is not mobile, and if your website cannot convey how your firm helps its clients, you’ll be at a significant disadvantage.
For the past three years, a tough hiring market has persisted — architecture, engineering, construction and environmental talent remain in high demand, and there are simply not enough qualified people to fill every opening.
If the Trump administration’s commitment to the nation’s infrastructure comes to fruition, the need for talent will be even more urgent..
Forward-thinking business leaders understand that marketing not only needs to attract clients, it needs to attract talent, too. Look for firms to invest more in recruiting materials, career microsites and employer branding.