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:
- It validated that the content I share is useful
- By being myself, my voice connected with a prospect
- 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
- 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.