Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about the trends driving A/E firm website experiences. We’ve taken a look at the first six trends from our eBook, The A/E Firm Website of 2015, and expounded on each point in posts over the past few months. In this post we’re going to talk about the seventh and final trend: transforming a website from a marketing expense into a revenue-driving asset. You can find posts on the other six trends here:
- Thought Leadership
- Knowledge Management
- Mobile Devices
- Portfolio Management
- The Integrated Lead Development System
Ultimately, the goal of rethinking the A/E firm website is to change it from a marketing expense into a revenue-generating asset.
Turning A/E Firm Websites into Valuable and Transferable Assets
For most A/E firms, their website plays a pretty passive role in business development. While the site might do a good job of showcasing their portfolio of past work, it doesn’t do a good job of producing useful content to help them attract and engage with early stage buyers.
For an early stage buyer, looking at past work may give them a sense of what the firm can do and has done, but they may not yet be entirely sure what they actually want or need. Heck, they may not even know the firm exists as of yet. And, for a site that is little more than a collection of past projects, it’s not likely they’ll ever find it at all.
That said, a number of forward-thinking firms are taking note of the potential for their websites to play a bigger role in generating revenue. They’re shifting their approach and generating tangible business results. They’re doing this by developing a thought leadership strategy and focusing on creating engaging content for prospects at every stage of the buying cycle. As a result, they’re turning their websites into valuable and transferable assets. Here’s a look at what these firm’s websites look like:
- Valuable content is the core of their site’s functionality, generating both marketable leads and qualified opportunities — often, long after the content is produced.
- The firm’s site is the definitive source of its collective expertise and experience, making it a critical hub of all marketing and business development activities.
- With thought leadership taking precedence over portfolio, the firm’s site connects it with potential clients it doesn’t even know, making the site a meaningful source of both leads and annual revenue.
Three Industry Examples
Here are three examples of A/E firms who are generating tangible opportunities solely from their websites that they’ve been able to turn into real revenue for their firms:
1. Burns & McDonnell
Coming in at #20 on the 2014 ENR Top 500 Design Firms, Burns & McDonnell is one of the larger firms in the industry with over $1B in revenue and over 4k employees. As a result, it’s a widely diversified firm. It also has a broad content marketing strategy employing 2 quarterly publications (Benchmark, a general interest engineering magazine and TechBriefs), an annual specialty publication for the aviation sector, and a well maintained blog that publishes new educational content 7-8 per month from authors all over the firm. In 2013, the firm remarked that its blogs alone drive 10% of its total website traffic and that the site in general “generates 15 to 20 solid business inquiries per week.” (For more on this, read this article in ENR on the firm).
2. JDB Engineering
You may recognize this firm most readily based on its Director of Business Development, Scott Butcher. Scott is actively involved in SMPS and recently published a book, A/E/C Business Development: The Decade Ahead, in partnership with the SMPS Foundation. I shared the stage at SMPS Michigan with Scott last week. He opened the session with a summary of the findings of buyer and firm research that led to the publication of his most recent book.
During the talk he spoke about the rising importance of firm websites, online search and industry articles in relation to how buyers seek A/E/C firms. He highlighted how his firm had been found by a firm outside its typical geography that was looking for an engineering firm with specific manufacturing expertise. The client talked to a range of firms in its local geography, but couldn’t find what it was looking for. They searched online and found JDB Engineering. This simple web search ultimately led to over $1.5M in engineering fees for this 20+ person specialty engineering firm.
3. An ENR Top 150 Firm in the Northeast
Just last week, I was chatting with the Director of Marketing in an engineering and design firm headquartered in the Northeast. As part of the conversation we talked a bit about the role of the A/E firm’s website to attract potential clients online. Because she shared a variety of data in confidence, I’m not comfortable sharing the details of the firm here. But, the firm is doing what we talk about frequently. They’ve identified a specialty niche inside of their $100M+ diversified practice that can be delivered across geographies and has a shorter buying cycle relative to their traditional services, and they’ve focused on developing search-optimized content related to that service. The results speak for themselves, “5-10 legitimate business leads per week; of which, 70-80% turn into contracts.”
The A/E Firm Website of 2015
Turning a website into a revenue-driving asset is one of the seven trends driving A/E firm website experiences. To access all seven, download our eBook, The A/E Firm Website of 2015.