9 ways AEC firms are missing the mark with content marketing

March 9, 2017

9 ways AEC firms are missing the mark with content marketing

Content marketing isn’t going away anytime soon, especially in B2B markets that have a  lengthy procurement process (*cough cough* AEC).

A recent survey by HubSpot showed the number-one challenge for B2B marketers (with 65 percent of respondents) is generating traffic and leads. That’s because only good content marketing can help. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProf’s collaborative research report found that in 2016, 85 percent of companies who reported better content marketing over the last year upped their content creation while 72 percent attributed success to strategy development. There’s hope for you, too.

If you’re making any of these nine content mistakes, you’re not making it any easier for leads to fall into your lap and win projects:

1. Bogging down your “blog” with company news and press releases

Blogging is an oh-so-important tool in content marketing. If you’re mixing other company announcements in with the stuff that’s supposed to be a helpful, searchable library of useful info for prospects and clients, well, that just looks sloppy. Instead of this cluster of info, create separate sections of your website for company news and highlights apart from your blog. Like this:

9 ways AEC firms are missing the mark with their content

2. Distributing newsletters that focus on the company and not the customer

If your newsletters are constantly filled with “We were awarded a new government contract!” “We added a new sales manager to the team!” “We collected 40 cans for a food drive!” then you’re doing it wrong. Sure, disclosing company culture and success is an integral part of marketing, but the newsletter isn’t the place. If customers are granting you with the click, give them something to make it worthwhile with things like helpful content, staff profiles or engaging polls.

3. Creating content that is purely promotional and salesy

When you’re only putting out “10 reasons we are the best AEC firm in the whole, wide world,” your content kind of really loses its credibility. Though there’s a time and place to talk up your company’s value proposition and competitive edge, the temples for thought leadership (like your blog, e-books or webinars) aren’t the place. Demand Gen reported that 96 percent of B2B buyers want content with more input from industry thought leaders. To meet that expectation in your marketing, it means focusing on educating your target audience and adding value where your thought leadership can shine — not selling.

4. Not having a targeted content mission

According to Kapost, up to $958 million is “wasted” on content that doesn’t cut through the noise. Yikes. If your target audience is defined as “anyone who owns a facility,” that’s a tell-tale sign your content is feeding into the static. AEC firms that have targeted content to a niche audience are much more effective than those who write about anything and everything relevant to the industry. For instance, Stellar is an AEC firm that serves a broad span of industries, but has a blog focused entirely on the food industry. This focus on a narrowed audience, and therefore specific content, is more effective. To discover your niche, you can start by taking a chunk of your demographic and narrowing it down (i.e. healthcare industry narrowed down to private medical practices).

5. Putting all your eggs in your portfolio basket

Your logo might be imprinted across your city’s concrete, but AEC companies are worth much more than the projects they build. Instead, you want to sell your expertise (think strategy, knowledge, experience), which is what your content can demonstrate. The portfolios are a marvelous way to showcase the end result, but if you’re not showing how you created those buildings (your added value and intelligence), it’s a shallow game. For instance, use your project case studies to describe the way you met a shorter timeline, came in under budget, solved a safety hazard issue or offered a unique solution for clients.

6. Overlooking social selling as a sales method

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn aren’t just distractions from work — these platforms can actually help win you business. And we’re not just talking about social media marketing (which is distributing content via these platforms). Salespeople can use social selling to prospect and network without being spammy (please, no spam). This could include participating in LinkedIn industry group discussions or sharing helpful content with new connections (i.e., hit ‘em up in their DMs).

Source: WTWH Marketing Lab

7. Counting on cold-calling without content

Outbound has its place, but scripted cold calls belong in the outhouse. When your sales team uses outbound tactics (like cold-calling or emails) without helpful content to back it up, you’re just another one of “those” salespeople (hint: a major turnoff for potential buyers). Instead, ditch the script, act like a normal, conversing human and back your conversation with useful content. By offering something like a recent e-book or case study to your prospect, you’ll have a non-stalker reason to follow up later and keep them in the sales funnel.

8. Holding back marketing tools from business development teams

Your sales team can’t go into the outbound field like we just talked about without the actual content. We know, we know — there’s always tension between sales and marketing departments, but making sure these teams get along (or at least pretend) is crucial to winning business. Marketing: don’t hoard the content. Your business development team can use content to:

  • Start insightful conversations with prospects

  • Nurture leads and follow up

  • Secure business and close deals

  • Develop future business with existing clients

9 ways AEC firms are missing the mark with content marketing

9. Forgetting about content distribution

Creating content is one thing, but how will you get the content to the people you need to reach? Since organic search and social media alone aren’t cutting it anymore, marketing budgets must include paid promotion in order to get the right eyeballs on your content. Here are some ideas for your content distribution strategy:

  • Press releases

  • Pitching long-form offers (e-books, industry survey results) to trade media

  • Video case studies (show off those schnazzy projects!)

  • Trade shows and conferences

  • Sponsored InMail on LinkedIn

  • Email marketing

  • Short content offers that drive to content (e.g., infographics, blog posts)

9 ways AEC firms are missing the mark with content marketing

We’ve seen our fair share of cringe-worthy AEC marketing strategies, but we don’t want you to be one of them. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be nailing those targets (and sales) in no time.



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