AEC Market Research: The Key to Planning for Unpredictability

 

With 2022 right around the corner, many of us have been tasked with creating a marketing plan for the upcoming year. Traditional planning sessions typically begin with previous years’ plans and budgets as a benchmark, but with the unpredictability of the past few years, should we rely on that information?Absolutely not!

 

Nothing about 2020–2021 has been normal. As a result, markets have fluctuated, client and owner behaviors have been unpredictable, internal decision-making processes had to be flexible, and traditional business development patterns have shifted. 

 

When planning for your upcoming marketing program, there are the staple items most organizations include each year. Most marketing plans include business development, client relations, target markets and clients, digital presence, email marketing, proposal processes, and website costs. Now more than ever, it is essential to plan for the unpredictable by adding the information gathered from various market research components to your 2022 marketing plans.

 

And guess what? Everyone in the firm has a key role in obtaining and analyzing this valuable information so that it is ready to be incorporated into your strategy sessions.  These market research methodologies include:

  • Market research for lead generation & project pursuits
  • Market research for content creation & marketing campaigns
  • Market research for public relations

 

Market research can provide you with real data and insights to drive your marketing strategies.

 

Market Research for AEC Lead Generation & Project Pursuits

 

A common goal between doer/sellers and marketing staff is to collect a steady stream of qualified leads and project opportunities.

 

One essential component in creating a lead-generating business development campaign is knowing your target clients' behaviors and hiring patterns.

 

While many architecture, engineering and construction companies think they have an in-depth understanding of their target markets and clients, this is not always the case. The best way to understand market trends, industry growth and decline, and upcoming projects is to ask the client directly through market research.

 

How Can Market Research Surveys Help with Lead Generation?

 

Market surveys commonly survey two audiences:

  • Existing clients and past clients
  • Potential clients or a general population of AEC industry professionals

 

In a client-focused survey, information gathering questions could include:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being most satisfied), how satisfied are you with the services provided by professionals at [COMPANY NAME]?
  • In which areas of service are you most satisfied? In which areas are you least satisfied?
  • How often do you use [DISCIPLINE] services from [COMPANY NAME]?
  • What design and/or construction projects do you have planned in the next 1–5 years?
  • On a scale of 1–10, how likely are you to work with [COMPANY NAME] again?
  • On a scale of 1–10, how likely are you to recommend [COMPANY NAME] to others?

 

For a potential client survey, similar questions can be included. It is also helpful to ask:

  • Are you aware of any of the services provided by [COMPANY NAME]?
  • What is your perception of [COMPANY NAME]?
  • What [DISCIPLINE] company/companies have you worked with recently? 
  • What factors are most important when looking for a [DISCIPLINE]?
  • What design and/or construction projects do you have planned in the next 1–5 years?
  • Which, if any, social media channels, publications and/or associations do you frequent?

 

With insights gathered from a market survey, you can now analyze the information and create a data-driven marketing strategy. The more refined your plan is, the better chance you have of obtaining new business while retaining your current clients and target markets.

 

Who Can Help with This All-In Activity? 
 

Getting feedback and insights from technical staff, trusted administrative staff, marketing staff, or an AEC specialized marketing consultant will help you refine your plan.

 

Market Research for Content Creation & Marketing Campaigns 

 

Quality market research is key to improving your content creation and digital marketing efforts. It helps you uncover vital data and insight that enables you to better engage with your audience.

 

Digital marketing and content development is shaping the future of all marketing efforts and can provide the support materials for your business development efforts.

 

You’ve heard it before: “It’s just a blog.” “It’s just a social media post.” “It’s just a backlink.” While most AEC professionals understand marketing is necessary for this era, it can be difficult to show its impact on bringing in new business.

 

Additionally, the analytics we see from websites and other digital marketing platforms do not always provide the full pictures of how successful a marketing campaign was.

 

Two market methodologies are successful for gathering information that will fuel digital marketing campaigns for planning purposes. 

  • Client surveys (as mentioned above)
  • Campaign evaluation surveys

 

Client Surveys
 

Digital marketing is a powerful tool that allows you to reach both a local and extended geographic audience. However, this poses the problem of crafting a targeted message that reaches your respective audiences. Through market research, you can identify different segments of your target audience.

 

Client surveys can help narrow it down through a range of details, including:

  • Demographic info. (age, gender, income)
  • Interests and preferences
  • Past project/industry history
  • Service expectations
  • Wants and needs

 

Your marketing team can create highly targeted messages for each target audience based on the information gathered. When you gather the information from your client surveys, you can analyze the data and create a report broken down by market sector, project type, agency type, age group, gender, demographics, and more.

 

Campaign Evaluation Surveys
 

If done correctly, marketing platforms provide you with specific analytics to help guide your decision-making. Not only can you learn exactly how many viewers have reviewed a particular piece of content and its effectiveness in driving leads, but you can also really gather a wide range of data about how your content marketing is performing.

 

By adding an element of research to digital marketing campaigns you can test a variety of factors outside of the analytics provided by a social platform.

 

Who Can Help with This All-In Activity? 
 

Firm leadership, technical staff, administrative staff, marketing staff, or an AEC-specialized marketing consultant.

 

Market Research for Public Relations

 

Public relations surveys are a unique way to repurpose market research findings to data-driven content. 

 

According to a survey of 500+ publishers, original research is the top attribute to how they describe the perfect piece of content.

 

What are Public Relations Surveys?
 

Public relations surveys are a type of survey that polls a general population of people or a specific type of respondent.

 

Unlike traditional—and sometimes confidential—research studies, public relations surveys are crafted with the purpose of sharing the results through some form of client or public outreach.

 

Not only are public relations surveys the best chance of gaining attention and gathering information, but they also offer value added insights to your marketing strategy.

 

Here are a few benefits of PR surveys:

  • Repurpose findings into direct mail, blog posts, whitepapers, infographics, conference presentations, industry articles, and more.
  • Obtain backlinks from sites with high domain ratings.
  • Increase site traffic and domain authority for website and social media presence.
  • Grow market share and brand awareness of the firm and services provided.
  • Become a thought leader in any industry.

 

Who Can Help with This All-In Activity? 

 

Marketing leaders, business development staff, technical staff, marketing staff or an AEC-specialized marketing consultant.

 

When creating your 2022 marketing plan—especially after a few years of uncertainty—think outside of the box. In other words, create a plan for change by implementing market research findings.

 

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About The Author

Keri Hammond, FSMPS, CPSM

Keri is a long-standing trailblazer in the Utah AEC industry. Clients appreciate her ability to get things done – they know she does whatever it takes, with integrity, to help them build their business. Keri is known for her leadership and diplomacy; she motivates others with positivity, trust, and unwavering support.

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