Seven Trends Impacting AEC Marketing in 2021

In the context of a confluence of economic, social and political change, 2021 promises to be a dynamic year. For marketers, pivoting to embrace change by providing marketing leadership presents exciting opportunities.
By Brian Gallagher
January 27, 2021

Throughout history, companies who embraced change and disruption have proven to be the most successful. In 2021, marketers will need to pivot and be intentional about adapting and improving their marketing approaches and building strategies that engage clients and drive the achievement of business goals. In some respects, the new roles and activities that are called for will expand a company’s very definition of marketing.

COVID-19 has disrupted all facets of business and life. From a marketing and business development perspective, 2021 will continue to present challenges and opportunities. The methods we have relied on to communicate with clients have changed—some forever. Architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) marketers will need to lead their firms to adopt different marketing approaches. The following are key trends marketers can expect in 2021.


Traditionally, AEC marketers focused on positioning, branding and marketing to acquire, retain and grow clients. The changing business environment is demanding that marketers play a great role for companies. In 2021, marketers can expect to lead or be involved in a range of initiatives including supporting recruiting efforts through employment branding efforts; driving employee engagement with internal communications; leading community and industry outreach efforts; shaping and monitoring the company’s approach to social and political issues; and leading technology initiatives focused on improving the client experience during the entire project and relationship life cycle.


Engagement with leadership in marketing strategy planning and execution will increase in 2021. Marketers can be expected to be a resource of company executives as they seek to navigate a turbulent and ever-changing marketplace. Expect executives to be more involved in managing the client experience, keeping a pulse on industry trends and clients, managing knowledge assets, creating content and guiding the delivery of internal and external messages. Marketers need to regularly communicate and collaborate with their firms’ leadership to ensure alignment between ever-changing organizational goals and marketing efforts.


In 2020, AEC business developers’ ability to meet clients face-to-face and attend trade shows, as well as conference and networking events was limited. Sales teams likely will not be attending many meetings and events in 2021, so they are going to need marketers’ help to reach their audience. Collaboration between sales and marketing with a focus on creating and delivering dynamic, engaging and personalized messaging to break through the noise and clutter will be critical.


Now more than ever, an integrated approach to marketing is vital to reaching one’s audience and building thought leadership. With the access to clients limited, marketers will connect with prospects and clients though digital channels with personalized messages. By integrating marketing communications, marketers will harness content marketing, social media, public relations and other programs to work in coordination as a unified force to consistently deliver positive brand experiences. Sharing stories, insights, ideas and expertise with clients, prospective customers and the community through client profiles, Q&A, articles, videos, webcasts, podcasts, educational materials and more will increase. This digital shift will accelerate in 2021 as marketers realize the benefits of more conversational and personalized marketing.


2021 will bring more strategic partnership opportunities for branded content to the forefront. With a lack of in-person events, trade shows and association conferences, there will be more joint online events, such as forums and panels, and branded content hubs as companies team up to deliver content their collective audiences are seeking. By leveraging partnerships and alliances, marketers can reach more people than each brand could independently.


Investment in marketing technology is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Marketing technology (martech) platforms and tools enable marketers to manage marketing efforts efficiently and effectively, with tools to support activity management, scheduling, monitoring and analytics. These tools also offer insight into prospect/buyer behavior and buyer personas as well as provide an excellent means of managing engagement with a firm’s digital marketing efforts. With a shift to more digital marketing strategies, AEC firms will employ martech initiatives in 2021 to achieve marketing goals and objectives.


With many AEC firms tightening their budgets and even making staff reductions, marketers will be even more focused on tracking marketing performance. While we will see an increase in content marketing in 2021, focusing on ensuring the right content is delivered to the right audience at the right time to create momentum toward objectives and tied to a measurable return on marketing investment (ROMI) is essential. What can be measured can be managed.

In the context of a confluence of economic, social and political change, 2021 promises to be a dynamic year. For marketers, pivoting to embrace change by providing marketing leadership presents exciting opportunities.

by Brian Gallagher
Brian Gallagher has over 30 years of experience leading strategic planning, organizational development, marketing and sales efforts for design and construction firms. He is author of three books and was named a Top 20 Construction Influencer by Procore.

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