Websites are the most encompassing piece of collateral your firm will produce that can impact your company’s strategic planning overall. Taking the time to create an “all-in mentality” will ensure that all website planning will meet the needs of every manager, department head, colleague, and—most importantly—the external audience to its fullest potential.
There is no single website strategy that is right for all firms, but engaging each team in developing the following six strategies will move site planning in the right direction.
- Define your firm differentiators. Existing and potential clients want to know who they will be working with and how you are different from your competitors. This is your firm’s unique selling proposition and needs to be the #1 priority for all website content. All-In Strategy for Everyone at Your Firm: Who knows your firm better than those that have worked with you in the past (clients, consultants, vendors, etc.) or work for you in the present (employees, clients, consultants, vendors, etc.)? Take the time to ask clients and team members to define what makes your firm different and unique from others in the AEC industry. This crucial information about your firm and team is often pivotal in project negotiations and final selection committee decision-making.
- Fully explore your firm’s services. Provide in-depth descriptions of “products” and services as a way for AEC clients and potential employees to both educate themselves about your expertise and accelerate the closing of contracts. All-In Strategy for Technical, Marketing/Business Development Staff: Your project managers, architects, engineers, marketing, and business development professionals know your services better than anyone. Involve them in the planning and brainstorming of what their day-to-day involvement with design and construction projects can provide clients. They are invaluable in the planning process.
- Create a thought leadership content hub. Use the website as a way for clients to gain educational insights, training, and industry knowledge regarding your specific discipline. This approach is a way to make invisible expertise tangible, asserting team members and firm leaders as AEC industry experts. All-In Strategy for Technical Staff: Your people are your firm’s greatest assets. Use your AEC experts to illustrate and articulate insights into new, innovative, and useful techniques or practices that make working with your firm an elevated experience. They can provide blog posts, guides, graphics, studies, white papers, webinars, podcasts, videos, training courses—the list goes on and on. This knowledge library can be a goldmine for clients and/or potential employees to see your team as the expert in any area of practice you wish. It will keep them coming back to your website again and again for this valuable information.
- Don’t miss out on lead generation, the ultimate ROI. Websites are often an effective way for firms to generate new business leads directly. This strategy is often combined with a thought leadership approach (described above) to yield a stream of qualified prospects. All-In Strategy for Marketing and Business Development Leaders: The marketing and business development team will provide reliable insight into this planning process for the website. By following a typical marketing model, your website content strategy can be a catalyst for ultimately turning opportunities into clients. AEC-specific marketing and business development activities can work together to provide a website framework that can attract, nurture, and convert site visitors into clients through valued content.
- Provide client-engaging functionality. The worth of websites lies in the ability to bring clients/prospective clients back again and again. A successful AEC website can also provide a platform for important functionalities such as secure communications or value-adding applications. All-In Strategy for Technical Staff: Discovering ways in which you can utilize the website as a resource for clients and project administration is a successful method of bringing them to the website repeatedly. Project/Client login portals that contain project management tools or workflow documents accessible by all team members is one example of a client-engaging approach.
- Emphasize your focus on recruiting. The war to find talented AEC professionals has been raging for several years now. One of the primary weapons to win (or lose) the war is a firm’s website. The careers page is one of the most visited pages of an AEC firm’s website. For firms that are actively seeking to attract top talent, an entire section devoted to careers—with multiple pages and a variety of content—is needed to provide the type of information potential employees are seeking. All-In Strategy for Firm Leadership and Human Resource Professionals: A potential employee wants to understand several specifics before considering your firm. Your firm leadership and human resource professionals must create an “experience” on your website that answers questions such as: what it’s like to work at a firm; who they will be working with; what opportunities exist for training and upward growth; benefits the firm offers; a sense of the firm’s culture, values, mission, and vision; and, last but not least, what current job openings are available. Through words, photos, infographics, and videos, a job seeker should have a window into these and other priorities and concerns.
As marketing in the AEC industry is evolving, websites are foundational pillars that can withstand the whirlwind of change. Your overall marketing strategy should focus on developing a growth-focused, flexible, and timeless website. The involvement of your entire firm in planning and executing the website strategies will help it evolve from a digital brochure to a tool for business development and user engagement.