Photo by Luis Argerich @

The Online Marketing Train is Leaving the Station and AEC Firms Aren’t Onboard

Mark Busse – No Comments

Five Reasons Why Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Firms are Lagging Behind in Online Marketing

One of the most important objectives for an AEC firm is to generate quality leads. Regardless of your mantra—be it sustainability, innovation, or design—you need clients to prosper. Architecture, engineering, and construction firms (AEC), even those considered innovative in their fields, are lagging behind in the realm of marketing. This is clearly indicated by the fact that—while many other professional services firms are jumping in droves on the bandwagon of Internet marketing—AEC firms are stagnating. Most professional services firms are acquiring an average of up to 30% of their leads online, while AEC firms are bringing up the rear with an average of around 8%. AEC firms are falling behind.

So why aren’t AEC firms jumping on the online marketing train?

1. They’re too reliant on traditional methods

For starters, many AEC firms are stuck in the old ways of marketing (print, trade shows, etc.), despite the fact that these channels simply no longer resonate with today’s audiences. Even the hallmarks of the AEC industry, RFPs and proposals, are beginning to decrease in relevance. This is because, to put it bluntly, they’re flawed and the industry is realizing it. Cal Harrison, of Beyond Referrals, writes:

Far too many RFPs fail to achieve [their] desirable goals. That’s because using the RFP process actually increases the cost of buying professional services while decreasing the likelihood of selecting the right service provider.

Unfortunately, despite the ineffectiveness of RFPs, architecture, engineering, and construction firms stubbornly hold on to them. Likewise, word of mouth—the primary method for building networks and reputations—is losing effectiveness. It often takes many years to develop a solid reputation, and even then a reputation usually has limited geographic reach. Yet, online marketing propels word of mouth quickly and across vast distances. It’s a shift in the way we communicate our brand identity.

2. They think online marketing consists of a twitter account and a website

Many AEC firms think online marketing consists of a website and a twitter account, but it’s much more. For AEC firms to collect quality leads online, the following components of an online marketing strategy require time, energy and money to ensure active and consistent involvement:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Social Media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Houzz, Flickr, Youtube, etc.)
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Email Marketing
  • Analytics

3. AEC firms tend to be happy with moderate growth

Perhaps your firm is comfortable with slow to moderate growth. If this is the case, then you have had no reason to search for high growth opportunities. Yet, a recent study shows that as the proportion of leads acquired online increases, so does the rate of growth. Firms that generate at least 40% of their new business leads online grow by approximately 400%. Far more than firms that don’t generate leads online (15% growth).

4. AEC firms think online marketing is too expensive

Despite what you might initially think, online marketing is less expensive and more profitable than most other channels. As online lead acquisition rises, so does profitability. A firm generating 60% or more of its leads digitally is likely to be twice as profitable as one generating less than 20%. In fact, online lead generation can have a 62% cost advantage compared to other traditional marketing approaches.

5. AEC firms think online marketing isn’t right for them

As mentioned earlier, most AEC firms produce and average of only 8.3% of leads via online lead generation. Evidently, the industry is in its early days of online marketing, and most architecture, engineering, and construction firms simply aren’t convinced that online marketing is right for their brands.

Traditional marketing and RFPs are falling by the wayside. Online lead generation spurs growth and profitability, it facilitates word of mouth, and it opens avenues to a world-wide audience. It is evident that online lead generation should soon play a significant role in your firm’s marketing strategy. In many ways, it’s an expansion of traditional marketing systems, yet it has the potential to drive significantly more growth and profitability while costing less on the bottom line. If you want to successfully market your architecture, engineering or construction firm in the future, it’s time to to shift your marketing paradigm.

If you’re an AEC firm, jump on the train while the opportunity still exists and while competitors are lagging behind. Be ahead of the game, and don’t get left behind. If you need help, hire a marketing strategy firm to get you set up. To learn the basics of how to implement online marketing, we recommend this ebook: The Essential Step-By-Step Guide to Internet Marketing by Hubspot.


Photo by Luis Argerich