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The Importance of Brand Strength For Marketing A/E/C Firms

During the five years I spent working as a marketer in the Architecture/Engineering/Construction (A/E/C) industry, I produced my fair share of prime proposals.  Most times with the belief that for each submission ‘we had to showcase our past performance to win.’  Based on the results from our A/E/C How Buyers Buy Research Study however, this does not seem to be true. 

Past Performance vs. Reputation

What the research showed was actually quite surprising. When buyers were asked about selection criteria, leading the way with a response of 58% was a Good Reputation followed by a Good Fit/Share Our Values at 43%. Those statistics may not have been what shocked me the most though. Take a look at the chart and try to find what’s missing.

I’ll give you a hint.  Two words that start with P. and P.  Yup, not a single mention of past performance on the list! 

It wasn’t until we asked buyers about what tipped the scale that any mention of past performance appeared.  And it wasn’t even the first, second or third highest; but came in fourth!  What didn’t surprise me however, was that when sellers were asked the very same question, they ranked past performance second at 33%.

Looking at Figure 8 (above) again, it’s abundantly clear that the perception from sellers on what drives buyer selection is grossly misconstrued. While the notion of past performance is often driven home in many A/E/C firms, it’s really not what buyers are ultimately basing their selection on. Conversely, the research shows that buyers are far more interested in a firm’s reputation, value and relationship.

Build Your Brand Strength

What became clear through our research that shouldn’t be ignored was the importance of a seller’s brand strength.   As we at Hinge explain it, brand strength is determined by your firm’s Reputation x Visibility. The higher the number, the stronger your brand. 

How do you increase your brand strength you ask?  Well, one avenue (of many) is content. Fresh and thoughtful content that your buyers will find useful is like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow for your firm. 

Think about it.  Your buyers have a question. Your firm has the answer (and may be the only one with the answer).  You educate your buyers through content.  At the end of the proposals process, your buyer selects your firm for the job as they see you as the expert.

By no means is generating content an easy task, but it can prove to be quite rewarding. Through our research we also found that, when asked what the best way to reach buyers was, a startling missed opportunity arose.  Sellers seem to ignore a serious factor when it comes to offering educational content to buyers. 14% of buyers want education on topics of interest to them, while sellers didn’t bring it up at all as a relevant concern. 


 

Just think what this could mean for your firm.  If most A/E/C firms are concentrating only on past performance and aren’t focusing on generating content, now is your time to strike and lead the charge.  The more content you produce and share with your buyers, the more likely you will be perceived as the thought leader. The more you are seen in the industry as a thought leader, the more you will raise your brand strength.  And the higher your brand strength (keep reputation and visibility in mind), the more probable you are to win more business!

As the A/E/C industry changes, so do the strategies for becoming more attractive to your buyers.  Download the full Research Study: How Buyers Buy Guide A/E/C Services and don’t be left in the dust.

Katie’s professional background is as wide as her smile. From advertising and design to professional AEC marketing experience, she has experienced marketing from both sides of the table. Katie has worked at Arnold Worldwide, where she was a Creative Manager for clients such as Amtrak, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Choice Hotels. Later, she spent several years in the AEC industry, including Deltek and marketing a Washington DC Top 25 Engineering Firm.

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Comments

Linelle:

Dear Kate,

Does the same count for agricultural firms and produce? I am investigating what kind or type of marketing would work for firms in the agricultural field. (My guess is the same would apply) Your opinion would come in handy. Thanks.

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Lisa:

What do you mean by providing content in a proposal? Most RFP’s request specific formats and content (usually past project examples). How do you still provide content when the format does not allow for it?

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Katie Sanner:

Linelle -
Yes, I believe a content marketing approach can work for almost any type of professional service firm.  As long as you are providing your audience with useful information and educating them on issues they face, you will be viewed as being relevant and thought provoking in your industry.

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Katie Sanner:

Lisa -
You are correct that most RFP’s have a very rigid structure you have to follow for submissions.  Regarding content however, what I was referring to was creating content outside of proposal submissions. 

What A/E/C firms need to start doing more is educating their audiences before even getting to the proposal stage, pre-positioning yourself as the expert.  But when you do have the chance to submit custom proposals or custom sections in your proposals (i.e. Section H of the SF330), present information in a way that comes across as educational not sales-like.  If you have information your buyers need to make a decision, let them know you have the answer!

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