Digital Marketing for AEC Firms: Drive Leads with Content, SEO, and Targeted Ads

By Kathryn Hawkins. AEC Content Marketing
Technical drawing blueprint
Technical drawing blueprint   Credit:  xresch via Pixabay  License: 

Architecture, engineering, and construction firms (AEC) can use content marketing and other digital strategies to drive new leads.

If you’re marketing for a company in the architecture, engineering, or construction (AEC) spaces, your goal isn’t based on gaining the biggest audience possible. AEC firms and other companies that offer professional services just need to get to a handful of the right leads to win millions of dollars in annual sales.

Buyers for AEC services are serious businesspeople who are more likely to focus on vendor booths at trade shows and respond to government RFPs than to pay attention to the latest influencers on Twitter. They’re not the types of leads you’re likely to find by simply setting up a Facebook page or publishing photos on Instagram every day. But digital marketing is considerably cheaper than sponsoring a construction industry expo booth, and your audience can be found there. You just need to build the right digital marketing strategy.

That sets up our challenge: how do you successfully drive qualified leads from digital marketing efforts for AEC industries?

Here are some ways for AEC marketers to leverage digital marketing and content marketing to boost your niche audience and build trust among current and prospective clients.

Use SEO to Help AEC Prospects Land in the Right Spot

Prospective clients are out there looking for you—but how can you ensure that they land in the right place?

Doing some keyword research to identify the most common Google search terms and phrases will help you build SEO-optimized landing pages that have the content both robots (in charge of search rankings) and humans are looking for.

You can conduct SEO research using Google’s keyword research tool for free to see how people are searching for specific keywords each month, or consider a premium marketing tool like SpyFu or Moz that provides deeper tracking capabilities. You can then build out high-quality content—whether blog content or solution-focused landing pages—that is optimized for those keyword phrases.

Here’s the catch: it’s not only about your keywords. Content engagement is now a key factor in ranking, so your content needs to be solid as well. Strive for landing pages that have concise, helpful content with appropriate keywords organically included in the copy. AEC professionals can be particularly tuned in for “fluff” so you’ll want to craft SEO-friendly content that also shows your expertise and service benefits. Here are some tips on building out high-quality SEO content at scale.

Opt-in content resources, such as ebooks and white papers, can help you generate new leads, so plan them into your marketing program as well. Make sure to include a CTA at the end of your blog content to encourage readers to opt-in to a gated resource. That means, even if the reader isn’t ready to strike a deal yet, she’ll have your company top of mind (and top of inbox) when the time comes.

Budget for Targeted Content Distribution

While building high-quality content is a big part of the process, readers won’t always discover your content organically through search, especially if your site hasn’t been established for long. That means it’s also important to allocate some budget to promote your content on targeted social ads, including LinkedIn and Facebook. (While Facebook isn’t an exclusively B2B network, its targeting capabilities also make it possible to advertise to prospects in your industry based on their profile interests.) Marketing trends change over time, so it can be helpful to consult with an AEC marketing agency to help build an effective plan of attack to reach your intended audience.

Get the Media Involved in Big Projects

Did your construction firm just play a big role in building out a local university's LEED-certified residential center? That's a great news hook to make your AEC firm a central part of the story. Ask your client to provide a quote for a press release about the project, and then issue the release through a media newswire as well as sharing it directly with a carefully curated media list. This PR effort will help to build your association with your brand name clients, enhancing your industry reputation and generating heightened awareness.

Substantiate Your Claims

AEC services are technical in nature and have the price tag to go with it. Trying to convince someone to hire you to build a commercial facility or design a product is a far cry from buying a tube of toothpaste at a grocery store. To support the investment, digital content for AEC industries should clearly substantiate your capabilities and products.

Your website and social media materials should show clear features and benefits for your service or product. Client case studies, demonstrations, and white papers are all great options to use SEO keywords naturally and share compelling information with your prospects. Look to Bechtel, and their detailed case studies, as a model for how to showcase your company’s past work experience well.

Provide an Excellent Customer Experience

You might not be aiming to have over 500K followers on Instagram or YouTube, but you should be striving to communicate with both current and future clients in valuable ways. Having a reputation of being accessible and knowledgeable is extremely powerful, especially in technical areas that may feel intimidating to prospects who are less experienced.

AEC industries benefit from discussion boards and help forums where current users can help each other and answer questions for new users as well. You can also craft social media posts to drive helpful discussions and feedback from your users. Professionals in these areas often love to share their expertise; give them a great place to discuss, and they will add to your value proposition as well.

Participate in Industry Discussions

The world is full of architects, engineers, and construction pros. Don’t ignore the rest of them! Instead, spend some time in your digital forums, as well as external industry-focused communities, spotlighting products you use in your office, discussing interesting industry developments, or sharing experiences from your clients. Basically, share more and sell less.

The world of AEC developments is constantly in flux. By discussing what’s happening in the space around your company, you can become a thought leader and build reader trust in your industry knowledge.

Educate Existing Users

Don’t forget about the clients you’ve already landed. AEC websites are the perfect location for how-to guides, troubleshooting help, and even do it yourself projects or ways to “hack” your product in an innovative way (IKEA, anyone?).

Continuing to educate your existing users preserves and increases your reputation with them. In a services-based industry, referrals are extremely valuable. Keeping current clients happy and invested in your company through digital content will keep you on their mind and give them great information to share with their next colleague or friend looking for a service like the one you provide.

Building a targeted digital marketing strategy is a worthy investment for AEC firms. It means you can shift the focus from constantly responding to government RFPs, and take your pick from the private enterprise opportunities that come in. By using digital marketing to spotlight your firm’s unique value, you’ll be able to showcase what separates your firm from your competitors and elevate your brand.

Get in touch for a free consultation on your AEC marketing strategy. 

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than 16 years.

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