If your firm is new to content marketing and are going into it with the idea that the investment needs to be able to tie directly to a project win, you’re thinking about it wrong. In fact, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. And you may even think about calling it quits before you have a chance to see what success should look like.
I get it though. A/E firms are ROI-driven. A marketing activity better have a direct connection to utilization to prove its worth. It’s a line of thinking that has merit because most A/E firms are heavily dependent on billing people. However, content marketing is more about positioning the firm for success in the long-term rather than winning a project right now.
Content marketing should enable sales. Not create them.
Plain and simple your content marketing strategy is meant to position your firm over the next closest competitor. That doesn’t mean it closes a project. It just enables you to have a better chance at landing a new project. At the root level it’s about connecting knowledge with expertise and bringing that knowledge forward through useful and valuable content that can be accessed by your prospects. If they get what they need from you and not the next firm, your brand perception just went up. And your chance of winning the firm’s next big project just increased.
So in order to enable sales with content, your 4 core objectives should be:
1. Create Awareness: A solid content strategy that includes a smart topical focus and distribution strategy should aid your brand awareness (Read: 7 Steps to Develop Your Content Strategy). For example, your company should become more visible through topic or issue-based online search, social followers should increase, website engagement should move up, and incoming referrals should become more regular. All of this simply creates opportunity where opportunity didn’t exist before. And your firm becomes better known in the markets you serve.
2. Change Brand Perception: A proper content strategy changes the way clients think of you. Content reinforces expertise, expertise is connected to your people and your people define your firm. If this expertise is being driven from your firm then your brand perception is associated with employing the best technical or industry experts. And this market perception will take your firm far both in terms of growth and talent acquisition.
3. Better Convey Expertise at Qualification: During the RFQ stage, your content mix should supplement your firm’s qualifications and knowledge set. For example, your firm may be a really good structural engineer, but maybe it’s the best when it comes to engineering structures that can withstand hurricane force winds. If so, your content mix needs to prove this knowledge set. Because if done well, you may find your firm fast tracking the pre-qualifying process and establishing master service agreements more often, therefore, significantly reducing your competitive landscape to just a handful of firms.
4. Supplement the Business Development Team: Content marketing should not be viewed as solely a marketing activity because marketing doesn’t have the knowledge to produce the content. Instead, content marketing should be viewed as a firm wide initiative (Read: 2 Ways A/E Firms Cultivate and Sustain High Quality Content). Marketing can curate authorship, but the source needs to be the firm’s actual experts. Marketing should own packaging, distribution, and promotion of the authored content. Business development should be your reinforcement team. What this means is your business development team needs to be just as intimate with the available content produced by the firm as anyone else on the content team. Because anytime a relevant conversation comes up where a piece of content exists that provides the firm’s position or perspective on a relevant topic, that content should immediately be used as an asset within a follow-up to reinforce the firm’s knowledge set. Not only will this help in selling for new project opportunities, but it will also help business development cross-sell services for existing clients.
Be sure to read my follow-up to this post where I explore metrics you can use to measure the success of your content marketing output.