The Changing Landscape of AEC Marketing in 2019 and Beyond

Understanding upcoming trends and predicting potential challenges allows AEC firms to prepare for change and build resiliency in the face of an evolving marketing landscape.
By Karl Feldman
July 12, 2019

Marketing strategies are constantly evolving and AEC firms are discovering the importance of adapting to changing trends to stay competitive. With 2019 nearly half over, it’s time to take a closer look at the emerging trends that will continue to make an impact for the remainder of the year—and likely remain relevant long beyond December. AEC business leaders can use this list to ready their firm for upcoming challenges and prepare for more changes on the horizon.

Seven AEC Marketing Trends for 2019

1. Strategic M&A Branding
Mergers and acquisitions have become a popular growth strategy for many AEC firms. In fact, recent research from Hinge revealed nearly one-third of professional services firms were involved in some degree of M&A last year. However, while growing via M&A can be extremely beneficial, there are some challenges that AEC business leaders need to consider—particularly when determining how to market the expanded firm.

This requires strategic M&A branding to present cohesive positioning and messaging that integrates newly acquired brands with the existing brand. Further, AEC firms need to develop clear integration plans and unified branding initiatives that can be seamlessly applied to future mergers.

2. Investing in website-connected online technology
While a strong website has always been important to the success of AEC firms, it’s likely to become an even more critical marketing tool in the months and years to come. Eighty-four percent of AEC buyers check out a firm’s website during the buying process and 75% use search engines when looking for a provider. To be among the fastest growing firms in the industry, AEC marketers will need to prioritize on-site technology, connected martech platforms and SEM implementation.

3. Continued Recruiting Importance
AEC talent is constantly in high demand, and top firms have already realized that marketing is about more than attracting clients — it’s also about attracting qualified workers. To remain competitive in the job market, AEC firms will need to continue to place emphasis on recruiting and employer branding.

4. Greater Emphasis on Non-Service Revenue
Non-service revenue from technology platforms can expand the offerings of an AEC firm in a way that is organic and relatively simple. Take the health care industry, for example. Advanced AI and machine learning tools have become key resources in addressing unstructured data search or data visualization challenges. While this trend is only beginning to catch on in the AEC industry, firms that incorporate these types of tools with their existing offerings can get ahead of the competition.

5. Expertise About Everything
Today’s AEC buyers are putting a higher premium on established expertise than existing relationships. With expertise more visible than ever thanks to online platforms—and more prevalent due to an expanding industry—buyers are less likely to settle for anything less than the best. To combat this trend, firms will have to position specialty skills and leading expertise above all else.

6. Engaging Content
Beyond blog posts and white papers, many firms are focused on creating content that allows direct engagement with the audience, such as webinars. In fact, recent research from Hinge found that nearly 22% of professional services firms are using webinars as marketing content. By producing engaging content that is also still optimized for search engines, AEC firms can build their visibility and connect with prospects in an active, nurturing way.

7. Growth Through Government Contracting
In a relatively recent shift, government contracting firms are now growing faster than firms that cater only to private companies. Since 2015, the median annual growth off firms selling to government buyers has grown from 8% to nearly 12%, while the median annual growth for firms that do not contract with government buyers has dropped from 14.3% to 8.3%. While much of this shift may be due to the current administration, AEC firms will need to consider how this trend may affect their business—especially considering what 2020 may bring.

Understanding upcoming trends and predicting potential challenges allows AEC firms to prepare for change and build resiliency in the face of an evolving marketing landscape. Only time will tell what the next year in AEC marketing will bring, but one thing’s for sure: top AEC firms will be prepared to handle it.

by Karl Feldman

Karl Feldman is Partner at Hinge, the leading research-based branding and marketing firm for the professional services. Hinge conducts groundbreaking research into high- growth firms and offers a complete suite of services for firms that want to become more visible and grow.


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