Why AEC Firms Must Use Content Marketing

Reverse Megaphone

I recent­ly received a call from a client that we hadn’t worked with in 10 years. The client said, “I received one of your advice emails and it was real­ly good. I get a lot of these from ven­dors and I rarely read them. But I con­sis­tent­ly read yours because they are thought­ful, help­ful, and I like your voice. Our firm is going through some strate­gic changes and I’d like to dis­cuss hav­ing you help us com­mu­ni­cate our new voice.”

I loved get­ting this call because:

  1. It val­i­dat­ed that the con­tent I share is use­ful
  2. By being myself, my voice con­nect­ed with a prospect
  3. By shar­ing advice on a con­sis­tent basis, it arrived when the prospect had a need for our ser­vices

The call led to a brand strat­e­gy assign­ment that led to two new brand iden­ti­ty projects, web­sites, and more. This rein­forced my belief that Con­tent Mar­ket­ing is essen­tial for AEC firms (and con­sul­tants like me who serve them).

What is Con­tent Mar­ket­ing?
The shar­ing of exper­tise in exchange for your audience’s atten­tion. Also called Inbound Mar­ket­ing because it pulls prospects toward you in an inbound direc­tion. As opposed to out­bound mar­ket­ing chan­nels like adver­tis­ing or direct mail where your mes­sage is being pushed out towards prospects.

Unlike tra­di­tion­al adver­tis­ing which inter­rupts cus­tomers to get noticed, con­tent mar­ket­ing pro­vides con­tent that cus­tomers want in exchange for per­mis­sion to mar­ket a prod­uct or ser­vice.” –Kiss Met­rics

Con­tent Mar­ket­ing Takes Many Forms
Con­tent Mar­ket­ing isn’t new. Peo­ple have been speak­ing at con­fer­ences and writ­ing newslet­ters for the last cen­tu­ry. What’s new is the dis­tri­b­u­tion ease via the inter­net. I’ve list­ed the major forms of con­tent mar­ket­ing here (from mod­er­ate to very dif­fi­cult):

  • Shared Images (Pin­ter­est, Insta­gram, Flickr, etc.)
  • Social Media Posts
  • Case Stud­ies
  • Blog Posts — short­er form ~500 words
  • Newslet­ter — long form arti­cles. 1k words +
  • White Papers
  • Writ­ing For Exter­nal Pub­li­ca­tions
  • Webi­na­rs
  • Speak­ing
  • Pod­casts
  • Video­casts
  • Info graph­ics

Why Con­tent Mar­ket­ing Works
As you know, AEC firms have the chal­lenge of sell­ing expen­sive ser­vices on the promise of future deliv­ery. This requires trust on the part of the buy­er. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, that trust was only gained after deliv­er­ing the promise of a project. Con­tent mar­ket­ing works as a short­cut to gain­ing a buy­ers trust before hir­ing you. The prospect has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence your exper­tise in a low risk, non-sales envi­ron­ment. Nobody likes to be sold; con­tent mar­ket­ing gives the buy­er the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn how you think before tak­ing any risk of hir­ing you.

Con­tent mar­ket­ing works on the prin­ci­ple of reci­procity as high­light­ed in the mar­ket­ing clas­sic, Influ­ence: The Psy­chol­o­gy of Per­sua­sion by Robert Cial­di­ni. Human are dri­ven to resolve the inher­ent ten­sion of being indebt­ed to anoth­er. When we give away some­thing of val­ue (our exper­tise), prospects feel a psy­cho­log­i­cal urge to “even the score.” Try before you buy lets prospects expe­ri­ence your think­ing, but it also puts them slight­ly in debt to you.

More Ben­e­fits of Con­tent Mar­ket­ing

  • Pre-posi­tions your firm — shar­ing con­tent demon­strates your exper­tise before the RFP comes out
  • Hav­ing time to devel­op con­tent com­mu­ni­cates that you have a well run busi­ness
  • Com­mu­ni­cates help­ful con­fi­dence, not des­per­a­tion
  • You have to do less “sell­ing”
  • Boosts SEO — Google likes orig­i­nal con­tent being added to your web­site
  • Edu­cate prospects to the point where they are ready to hire you
  • Great con­tent gets shared (resid­ual expo­sure with­in your niche)
  • Con­tent can, and should, be high­ly tar­get­ed
  • It makes you smarter — you gain clar­i­ty when you share your exper­tise with oth­ers

The anti­dote to fear is knowl­edge. Knowl­edge is not com­plete until it is artic­u­lat­ed and pub­li­cized.” –David Bak­er

In the race towards gain­ing the trust of a poten­tial client, con­tent mar­ket­ing can pro­vide a short­cut. It can allow a prospect to get to know you, like you, and even­tu­al­ly trust you enough to hire you.


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