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Best Practices from Professional Services Firms Who've Upgraded from Deltek Vision to Vantagepoint

Posted by Lindsay Diven on August 31, 2022

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Having now partnered with hundreds of architecture and engineering firms to upgrade from Deltek Vision to Vantagepoint, Full Sail Partners has gathered a treasure trove of lessons learned and best practices. While professional services firms can certainly benefit from what has been discovered by Full Sail Partners, in this article, they can also hear directly from different engineering and architecture firms about their own experiences. Once again, firms looking to make the Vantagepoint transition can get advice as well as discover lessons learned and best practices from their counterparts’ Vantagepoint upgrade experiences. 

This is the third article in the series where professional services firms can “hear from their peers” who have either made the upgrade or talk about experiences during the upgrade process. The first article focused on preparing for the upgrade and the second article shared their users most loved new features of Vantagepoint. In this final article, the participants will share some best practices from their Vantagepoint upgrade experience. 

Featured Firms

The clients that are featured in this series are a mix of small, medium, and large firms. Also highlighted are specific contacts who serve in different roles within their firms. They each were in a different phase of the upgrade process when we met with them. The clients providing their feedback include the following:  

Argus Consulting, Inc. 
Nancy Smith, Project Controls  
Karen Pattison, Controller   

CSHQA 
Andrea Kier, Business Development 

RIOS 
Jessamyn Davis, Chief Operating Officer  

Structural Integrity Associates, Inc. 
Paul Arnone, Applications Support Manager  

Ware Malcomb 
Brad Mathias, Director, Financial Planning & Analysis  

Treat the Upgrade Like a Project 

Karen and Nancy from Argus Consulting approached the upgrade like a project. They assigned a project manager, in their case Nancy, to lead and she was the one person to be in charge of the efforts. Nancy also was sure to engage the end users, and she coordinated with people from marketing, project management, etc. She particularly worked hard on having a lot of interaction within each group along the way. 

Structural Integrity Associates took a similar approach in their upgrade. They established a task group to evaluate the entire upgrade. However, their task group was about 15 people who were on weekly calls including vice presidents and other executives. Paul now thinks it might have been more beneficial to have had smaller groups made of targeted areas depending on the meeting topic for that week. It might have helped the process move quicker and maximize everyone’s time.  

Communicate and Prioritize Across Departments 

Andrea from CSHQA recommends communicating and understanding what the users need from Vantagepoint and to ask a lot of questions. It is also important to realize that everyone is busy and that the upgrade tasks might not be their main job. So, it might take longer to review information and make decisions for the different end user groups.  

Remember, it’s Just an Upgrade, not a New ERP Implementation 

Jessamyn’s big take away from RIOS upgrading to Deltek Vantagepoint is to remember that this is just an upgrade. It’s not a migration to a new system. Most of Vantagepoint works the same as Vision, except that it’s in the browser. She wants firms to not be intimated by upgrading to Vantagepoint. While it is a lot of work, it is definitely nothing compared to migrating to an entirely new ERP system.  

Utilize the Expertise of a Trusted Partner & the Vantagepoint Readiness Report 

The best practice that Brad from Ware Malcomb recommends is to get the help of a trusted Deltek Partner. In his case, they used the services of Full Sail Partners and the Vantagepoint Readiness Report. The Vantagepoint Readiness Report identified everything that was needed for their upgrade instead of having to figure it out on their own.  

Start Cleaning Data, Even if the Upgrade is Far Away 

Another important thing that Brad always recommends is reviewing the data in Vision, especially if the firm has been using the system for a long time, like Ware Malcomb. Their data wasn’t necessarily bad data but there was a lot of duplicate data. Having the data as clean as possible will make the upgrade process go even smoother.  

Want to Hear More From Your Peers?  

As this article is the last one in a three-part series, be sure to check out the other “hear from your peers” topics.  In part one, different project-based firms shared their Deltek Vision to Vantagepoint upgrade experiences. Then in part two, the same firms shared their most liked new features of Vantagepoint. Hearing from peers is a great way for professional services firms to get comfortable with the transition from Deltek Vision to Vantagepoint. Take advantage of their experiences and learn how to make the move go smoothly. 

To listen to their upgrade experience, watch the webinar that is linked below. 

 

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A&E Project Management & Delivery Insight from the 43rd Deltek Clarity Study

Posted by Lindsay Diven on July 20, 2022

2022-ClarityReport_Banner-01While A&E firms are struggling with staffing challenges, business process automation, and managing a strong backlog pipeline, the discipline of project management and project delivery performance has improved. According to the 43rd Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Study, more firms are increasing internal project financial reviews and installing a project management center of excellence.  

How does your firm compare to the A&E industry when it comes to project delivery? Below is a summary of the findings from the study and read to the end to find out how to get a free copy of the report.  

Staff Shortages Affecting Project Management 

Looking at the challenges, especially compared to the prior year, it’s not surprising that staffing shortages and competing priorities are high on the list. However, staffing shortages were 40% last year and now are at 64%.  

The respondents were asked to rank their top three challenges. Those top three centered all-around staffing – 1) staffing shortages, 2) competing priorities, and 3) inexperienced project managers. These challenges may lead to burnout, more frustration or other challenges for the teams. Project managers are not focused on proactively managing their project because they are spending time figuring out how to get the work done.  

Improved Project Delivery Performance, in Some Areas 

Project delivery performance has improved with projects that are at or under budget. Those projects currently being reported as under budget went up almost six percentage points from prior year to 67.8%. However, the eight-year trend is showing a move in the wrong direction. Plus, on the schedule side, things aren’t looking as great with a decrease of more than six percentage points from prior year. The common theme from the project managers seems to be they are struggling the most when it comes to managing schedules. Schedule is the metric that is tracked the least and doesn’t have much visibility.  

These gaps in staffing and lack of visibility into project performance are affecting not only project managers, but the firms’ bottom lines. What new challenges are your project managers facing today? What’s being driven by clients and what internal processes or technology can be deployed to improve visibility and efficiency? 

Increased Emphasis on Project Management as a Discipline 

There were huge gains in the percentage of projects that follow a clearly defined project management process. In this year’s report, 44% of the respondents indicated that 75%-100% of their projects used a clearly defined project management process. Whereas, last year only 14% were in that upper tier of the majority of their projects.  

Another item the Deltek Clarity Study looks at is the project management office (PMO) or center of excellence. This year’s report indicates that this trend is moving in a positive direction. Overall, 15.4% of respondents have a PMO and that’s an increase of 5.4 percentage points over prior year. Leading the way are the large firms with 50% of them indicating they have a PMO up 20 percentage points from prior year. Though at 15.4%, that’s still less than a quarter of the companies that are using some kind of PMO or center of excellence to treat project management truly as a discipline. 

One of the things that’s important when it comes to project management is to celebrate when projects are going well. Firms often get wrapped up in the projects that get off course or fall behind schedule. Fortunately, the study does measure what’s going well in project management, and at the top of that list is managing client relationships with collaboration and communication.  

However, there’s still a majority of the respondents that don’t have a clearly defined project management process for all or even most of their projects. It’s a good opportunity to ask internally why aren’t processes being followed? Is there not a clearly defined process? Are the processes not aligned with the different types of projects the firm does such as small vs. large or task-order vs. lump sum? 

Proactive and Accountable Project Management Metrics  

What gets measured gets done, correct? The Deltek A&E Clarity report asks what project management KPIs are being tracked at the firm.  

At the bottom of what is being tracked are some of the scheduling metrics including estimate at complete, on-time delivery, and earned value management. At the top of the list are those KPIs often tracked by the financial leaders and include net revenue, profitability, average collection period for A/R aged and multipliers. Yet the financial metrics are retroactive. This might indicate that the lack of visibility or tracking for schedule and schedule variances might correlate with the increase in projects going behind schedule.  

Firms should be asking what metrics they should be tracking that can help them to right size or fix what may be going wrong in a project. How can firms make sure the project managers have the information they need to see where their projects stand at any given time? How can the information be visible and accurate? 

Making the Case for Project Management Technology 

While firms are moving more and more towards technology, the reliance of manual data entry and spreadsheets is going in the wrong direction, specifically when it comes to project management. At the top of the list of departments relying on manual entry is operations and resource management.  

The Clarity Study found that 61% of firms say that they’re still using Excel for planning projects and resources. 75% are using email as their primary project collaboration tool, and 88% are still using email as a primary method to share large files both internally and externally. 49% are not using construction specifications technology.  

All of these are ripe for business process improvement and better leveraging of technology for efficiency, but just where are firms planning to invest in this technology? Project management is at the top of the list, with nearly half of the respondents indicating that they will invest in project management technology in the next 12 months. 

Top Initiatives for Project Management 

When you look at the challenges and top initiatives for project management at A&E firms, issues such as hiring more qualified staff, defining capabilities and responsibilities as well as defining internal best practices and investing in internal project manager training are not surprising. Firms know they need to have great project managers.  

Use These Findings to Improve Your Firm 

The immediate next step is to download the full Deltek A&E Clarity report. Click the image below to grab a free copy of the report along with a scorecard to chart the firm’s results. Then use that to begin discussions around the firm’s net revenue forecasts, project budgets and schedules, etc. Ask about where the firm is struggling, where it’s doing well, and what are the opportunities for improvement. Finally, make sure that you’re reaching out to a Full Sail Partners’ consultant so that we can help you keep your business on course. 

 

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Hear from Your Peers Most Liked Features of Deltek Vantagepoint

Posted by Lindsay Diven on July 06, 2022

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With Vantagepoint, Deltek has completely reimagined Vision, but what truly are the most liked features of Vantagepoint? Don’t just rely on the thoughts of Full Sail Partners, hear directly from your peers about what they consider to be the best features. In this second article of a three-part series, architecture and engineering firms were asked what their most liked features of Deltek Vantagepoint are for their firm’s users.  

Featured Firms  

The clients that are featured in this series are a mix of small, medium, and large firms. Also highlighted are specific contacts who serve in different roles within their firms. They each were in a different phase of the upgrade process when we met with them. The clients providing their feedback include the following: 

Argus Consulting, Inc. 
Nancy Smith, Project Controls 
Karen Pattison, Controller  

CSHQA
Andrea Kier, Business Development 

RIOS 
Jessamyn Davis, Chief Operating Officer 

Structural Integrity Associates, Inc. 
Paul Arnone, Applications Support Manager 

Ware Malcomb 
Brad Mathias, Director, Financial Planning & Analysis 

Easy-to Navigate, Modern User Interface 

A user interface (UI) guides users – it’s a chain of screens, pages, buttons or any visual element that interacts with a user. Having a good user interface can ultimately change the way users work and process information for the firm. With Vantagepoint, Deltek completely re-imagined the Vision interface making things more efficient, quicker, and it easier to find and analyze information. It’s not going unnoticed.  

Andrea – What I noticed right away [in Deltek Vantagepoint] is there’s a much more user-friendly, visual with the interface. It seems more appealing. I think a lot of our staff were avoiding Vision because it looks like something that’s difficult to figure out or something that is, you know, very techy. Vantagepoint now is a web-based interface. It just changes the feel of what you’re dealing with. For me, that was really encouraging.  

Jessamyn – For some reason for the casual user, it being a web interface really changes how often they’re willing to jump in Vantagepoint. I can’t relate to that, but it’s really made a huge difference rapidly.  

Intuitive Dashboards 

Dashboards are one of the most beneficial and functional parts of an ERP system, like Deltek Vantagepoint, and yet are often the most underutilized. As part of Deltek’s re-imagination of Vision, a lot of thought was placed into the ease of use and design of the Vantagepoint dashboards including pre-built dashboards ready for new users. Here’s what a peer had to say: 

Jessamyn – For our everyday users, the visual nature of the dashboards and how easy it is to create and customize them from the dashboard library is a great feature. It’s just fantastic. It’s a total game changer for getting people in the system and using it every day. 

It’s not just dashboards but saved searches and reporting that gets improved in Deltek Vantagepoint. Watch this webinar to explore the changes related to the system visuals and what firms should do to prepare for the change.  

One Project Record for the Entire Project Lifecycle 

For project-based firms, managing the project lifecycle efficiently is essential to having a profitable business. Even more, the processes that drive the firm’s project lifecycle must be in sync with the systems used to manage it. Deltek Vantagepoint meets this challenge with the creation of the Projects hub, which allows firms to track everything from project identification through project closeout in one record. Users agree this process is simpler and more efficient when managing their project lifecycles.  

Brad – The combination of opportunities and projects into one project lifecycle is an insanely great improvement.  

Jessamyn – The combination of opportunities, projects, and project plans into one record and not constantly trying to link one thing or a project, etc. has been a big change. It’s a very big improvement in logic of the system.  

Nancy – The new Projects hub is different than in Vision. Projects are now in their own hub with everything in the same project record.  

See how Deltek Vantagepoint supports the entire project lifecycle from lead identification to pursuit and final project execution in this webinar 

Full Sail Partners’ Input on Best Features 

Even though this article focuses on what peers most liked about Deltek Vantagepoint, we couldn’t leave you without sharing the Crew’s most liked features. Check out this webinar to see what sets Vantagepoint apart from Vision and why you should be excited. It covers the Top 10 features along with some honorable mentions.  

Want to Hear More From Your Peers? 

This article is the second in a three-part series, so be sure to check out part one where different project-based firms share their Deltek Vision to Vantagepoint upgrade experience. Whereas the first article covered how the firms prepared for the upgrade, the last article in the series will share some of their upgrade best practices.  

To listen to their upgrade experience, watch the webinar that is linked below. 

 

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Architecture & Engineering Firms’ Top Trends from the 43rd Annual Deltek Clarity Study

Posted by Lindsay Diven on June 29, 2022

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The Deltek Clarity report is the longest running, most comprehensive study in the architecture and engineering (A&E) industry for North America. The report digs into benchmarks, market outlook, and industry trends to help A&E firms identify where they are and how they compare to other firms in the industry. The 43rd Annual Report provides both surprising and not so surprising findings, as well as positive firm indicators for financial strength and project management excellence.  

Deltek Clarity has participation from more than 540 companies and delivers more than 100 benchmarks and industry insights across the business. The study focuses specifically on architecture and engineering firms and other firms who support the design firms. The 43rd Annual Deltek Clarity Study collected responses from A&E firms of all sizes in North America based on 2021 fiscal data. Here is an overall look at what was reported this year, but for more detail, the 43rd Clarity Study can be reviewed in its entirety. 

Consistent Challenges Across Departments 

This was one of the report findings that was not surprising. The two biggest challenges across company departments were related to staffing and time. Business development is challenged to find the time to nurture client relationships while technology departments have a lack of time to invest in learning. Moreover, project management, human resources, and finance departments all cited staff shortages, finding, and retaining qualified staff as their top challenge.  

In fact, 78% of the financial leaders identified that finding and retaining qualified staff is the number one financial challenge. This has been very different than what previous Clarity reports have shown in the past few years. In addition to staffing challenges, other consistent themes included business process automation and managing strong backlog and pipeline. All of these have an underlying theme of technology and how best to leverage technology to address some of the challenges companies are facing. 

Purposeful Investment in Technology 

This begins by measuring the digital transformation and maturity levels now and in the next five years, and how this aligns with the goals of the business. Then aligning business goals and IT goals to have that culture of efficiency and culture of innovation. According to the report, most firms identify themselves in that early or exploratory phase of maturity but nearly 70% of firms expect to be mature or advanced within the next five years. This is less optimistic than the previous year’s study. Some factors attributing to this may be that the pace of technology is moving so fast that the ultimate end goal seems to be constantly changing and/or not attainable.  

The top three challenges related to technology were lack of time to invest in learning, cost of technology, and prioritizing which trends are most applicable. Companies are struggling to understand not only what the new technologies are, but how to apply them in projects and business improvements. Top emerging technology cited by the firms were geolocation, augmented reality, and Internet of Things.  

These are often externally focused and can be leveraged in managing and executing projects. Not far behind in the cited top technology was big data and data science. Both can help firms to provide greater visibility and insight into what’s happening inside the firm.  

What this all leads to is purposeful investment into technology. Firms are looking to invest in the right technology to meet firm goals, not necessarily the newest technology. Deltek calls this purposeful investment. It’s critical, with the challenges of lack of time and resources, to look at the firm’s current systems with the technology in place and make sure it’s using them to their maximum capacity.  

Strong Market Forecast 

As noted earlier, the report indicates a really strong market forecast for the North American A&E industry. However, there are limited resources to both pursue and perform work. With these issues in mind, firms are going to have to be more strategic about how best to capitalize.  

Fortunately, the report does show a net revenue growth forecast of 17.6%. This is the highest that growth has been in the last ten years, and this is very optimistic over last year at an increase of 13.4 percentage points. Small firms were drivers for a lot of this positive push. In last year’s report, small firms had a negative forecast but now are rebounding back to a 14.6% net revenue growth forecast.  

The overall percentage of firm revenue from the top three clients has decreased slightly from the previous year to 35%. This could show good or harmful trends. Firms may be strategically and purposefully diversifying their client base or competition may be winning work away from the top clients. This is a great time to lead these types of discussions internally to see how the firm compares. 

Thus, while the forecast remains optimistic, it doesn’t come without challenges. About half of the firms said they are struggling to find the time to nurture client relationships. Combined with increased competition, firm leaders are trying to keep existing client relationships healthy and strong while looking for new prospects and revenue sources.  

Project Delivery Keeps Improving 

Projects are the core of what architecture and engineering firms do. The 43rd Annual Deltek Clarity Study indicates that, overall, A&E firms are becoming more confident in their project performance. 67.8% of projects are on or under budget, more companies (59%) are doing internal performance evaluations based on projects not waiting for an annual review, and 15% of firms are sharing their best practices through either a center of excellence or a project management office. Firms are focusing on project management as a discipline.  

While more projects are staying on track or ahead when it comes to budget (67.8% of projects), they aren’t performing as well from a scheduling perspective. Just over half (58.5%) of projects are on or ahead of schedule according to the report. This number decreased by 6 percentage points from the previous year. These are areas that both firm leaders and project managers should evaluate to strategize, understand, and determine what is happening. Does the firm need additional training for project managers or is the schedule being driven by the clients but at the cost of the firm’s profitability? 

One challenge could be access to timely data around projects. When asked about visibility around schedule variance, half the firms report low or very low visibility for project managers and principals. It’s challenging for project managers to proactively manage and keep the project schedule on track if there is a lack of visibility. This is a good opportunity to ask the firm’s project managers how visible their project schedule variance is and how better to improve that visibility.  

Similar to other firm departments, top project management challenges include staff shortages, competing priorities, inexperienced project managers, and accurate project cost and timeline forecasting. When it comes to project management, how is the firm handling project schedules, are the schedule changes internally or client driven, how quickly can the firm train new project managers, how can technology improve the project delivery gaps, and do the project managers need more visibility and access to project data? Discussing these internally will help to continue to improve the firm’s project performance. 

A&E Talent Staying, but Not Enough 

While the talent shortage is not new news, the Deltek Clarity Study digs in a little deeper to see what’s exactly happening in the North American A&E Industry. One surprise finding was the employee turnover rate. This was expected to be high, but it’s 13.6% which is low compared to the 18-19% that is shown in the Deltek Clarity Global report. Additionally, the findings show that talent isn’t necessarily leaving the industry but rather moving to other A&E firms. This might be good for the industry, but maybe not for the firms struggling to refill the positions. 

Medium-sized firms experience the highest turnover at 14.7%. Large firms are just below at 14.4% with small firms even lower at 11.9%. This lower turnover might be because smaller firms could have better employee engagement or be able to give different opportunities to grow.  

Nonetheless, with the high turnover, firms are experiencing the biggest challenge with filling open positions. The majority of firms are seeing more open positions than they had last year (65% of firms) while a third (30%) have about the same number of open positions. For nearly half of the firms, it’s taking 60 to 90 days to fill a position.  

With this talent challenge, it might be a good time for the firm to look at external factors such as candidates available in the market. Firms could also look internally to make sure their processes are as efficient as possible. This would include leveraging technology to streamline the recruiting process.  

The top talent acquisition challenges noted in the study were the availability of good candidates in the marketplace, ability to offer competitive compensation to candidates, and matching qualified candidates to open positions. This is even trickling over to the finance department. Finance leaders are feeling the increase in labor costs, higher salary demands for candidates, and additional costs to keep employees engaged. These higher labor costs could affect the future profitability of projects.  

In last year’s Deltek Clarity Study, succession planning and performance management were the top human resources’ challenges. This year, the challenges and priorities have changed. Now the top challenges for managing human resources are retaining employees, employee engagement/experience, and workforce capacity and planning.  

Relatively Stable Financial Statements 

The financial management section of the Deltek Clarity report is the longest running section of the report, with many findings showing a 10-year trend line. Firm financial leaders should review this section and analyze the trends and changes. For this year’s report, the financials are relatively stable but there are a few noticeable declines to note.  

Operating profit on net revenue declined after a decade of growth to 12.8% from 19.0% from the previous year. Deltek Clarity sets a threshold of 15% operating profit on net revenue for its high performing firms. In this year’s study, high performing firms had 23.9% operating profit on net revenue and large firms were near that threshold at 14.6%.  

Net labor multiplier is another key financial metric of the Deltek Clarity Study. This year’s multiplier increased just slightly to 2.99. The high performer firms had an average of 3.41 net labor multiplier. Something also to note is the top quartile net labor multiplier of 3.36. 

Overall, the utilization rate has decreased but is hovering close to 60% at 58.5%. This is not a surprising finding because of the increased labor costs, number of open positions, and maybe the increase in business development or other non-billable activities. Small firms saw the biggest decrease from 63.9% last year to 60.9% this year.  

Firms are seeing a strong backlog of nearly nine months. Large firms saw the biggest increase last year from 8.3 months to 9.94 months, and the top quartile is nearly 12 months of backlog. So, this is positive news for firms, if they are making sure that they can actually deliver on the work with the right resources.  

44% of the reported top financial challenges listed finding and retaining qualified staff as the top challenge. This was a big jump from the prior year’s report. Other challenges for financial leaders were managing firm growth and increasing profitability. These top challenges are interdependent. Finding qualified staff and having to compensate for that top talent will affect the firm’s ability to increase profitability and grow the firm.  

Diving Deeper 

This has just been a glimpse of some of the findings in the 43rd Annual Deltek Clarity Study. Firms should download the report (click the image below) and dig into it to understand what’s happening in their business, how they are leveraging technology, and where there are opportunities for additional training and awareness. This will allow these firms to better educate their teams, make sure they understand what their process is, and how they contribute to the overall success of the firm. 

 

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Driving Growth with Digital Marketing - Marketing Content Promotion for AEC Firms

Posted by Lindsay Diven on June 22, 2022

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So far in the “Driving Revenue Growth with Digital Marketing Series,” firms have developed their content plan and created content. However, creating great content simply is not enough. AEC marketers need a promotional plan that strategically shares content with the people that benefit the most from it. This article shares some common and uncommon promotional tactics.  

Search Engine Optimization 

Search engine optimization or SEO is a series of techniques firms can deploy for their content and on their website to rank higher for certain keywords on search engines like Google. Click here for a basic introduction to SEO. 

SEO should be the first strategy to be used as part of the promotional plan and should be considered when the content is being created, especially if that content is a blog article. Marketers should optimize the piece of content for the specific topics or keywords it wants to be found for. Another way to look at it is to think about the person that marketers want to read or consume that piece of content. What types of phrases or questions would that person be typing into a search engine as that person searches for answers? Make sure that marketing content has those phrases and key words included naturally throughout the content piece.  

Email Marketing 

This is the most overlooked and underutilized promotional tactic in the AEC industry. As a Premier Partner for Deltek Vision and Vantagepoint CRM, Full Sail Partners works with hundreds of AEC firms across the country specifically advising them on CRM and marketing strategies. So many of these firms have databases full of thousands of contacts but fail to have a consistent email marketing strategy.  

By using email marketing, there is a real opportunity for AEC firms to easily, affordably, and routinely get in front of clients and prospects with the content that is often difficult and time consuming to create. With tools like the Blackbox Connector for Mailchimp or Constant Contact that connect Deltek Vision and Vantagepoint to those email marketing services seamlessly, AEC marketers can get a leg up on their competitors just by using email marketing.  

Social Media 

This is probably the most popular and utilized promotional tactic. AEC firms often promote blog articles, white papers and case studies through their social media channels including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Each social media channel has its own pros and cons in terms of reach and engagement as well as best practices when it comes to getting in front of the preferred audiences.  

Finding out the social media channels where the ideal clients and personas spend the majority of their time is key for AEC marketers to develop the content, and they should focus their time on that channel first. Once that channel or channels are identified, marketers can research hashtags to utilize and optimize the visual content plus write engaging captions that keep both the tone of the social media channel and the brand voice.  

Live Events 

With a digital marketing campaign, often the content that is created is online. This includes blog articles, videos, case studies or white papers, for example. So, it isn’t a surprise that promoting this type of content is often forgotten when attending or presenting at live events. If the firm has technical experts or subject matter experts (SMEs) who present or speak at industry events, it’s a great opportunity to also promote the online content.  

Most recently, presenters have been including a slide at the end of a presentation with a QR code. The audience can snap a photo of that QR code, and it takes them to either a specific piece of content or to a webpage/landing page that has links to several pieces of content. Below is an example of a slide with a QR code from a recent conference. 

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It’s not just for in-person conferences or events either. If the firm’s SMEs are guests on podcasts or webinars, those can be other great opportunities to promote marketing content. AEC marketers should help SMEs prepare for these appearances, including identifying what marketing content to promote.  

Creating Great Marketing Content Simply Isn’t Enough 

Thinking about the content promotion while developing it is a great way to make sure that content performs well and meets the digital marketing goals. The content promotion plan should list the ways in which the content will be promoted including SEO, social media, email marketing, and live events.  

This article is part of the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing and will walk through how to gather and analyze the results for the digital marketing campaigns.  

 

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How These Project Based Firms Prepare for the Deltek Vision to Vantagepoint Upgrade

Posted by Lindsay Diven on June 08, 2022

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Just how was the Deltek Vision to Vantagepoint upgrade for project-based firms? As consultants, Full Sail Partners can speculate on how the process will be for firms but feel it’s better coming from the clients who have been through it.  

This article is the first in a three-part series where clients, in different stages of their upgrade journey, share different aspects including how to prepare for the upgrade, the Vantagepoint features that are most liked by users, and best practices that other firms can use as they upgrade. Hear from clients who work at small, medium, and large professional services firms throughout the series. 

Featured Clients 

The clients that are featured in this series are a mix of small, medium, and large firms. Also highlighted are specific contacts who serve in different roles within their firms. They each were in a different phase of the upgrade process when we met with them. The clients providing their feedback include the following: 

Argus Consulting, Inc.  
Nancy Smith, Project Controls 
Karen Pattison, Controller  

CSHQA 
Andrea Kier, Business Development 

RIOS 
Jessamyn Davis, Chief Operating Officer 

Structural Integrity Associates, Inc. 
Paul Arnone, Applications Support Manager 

Ware Malcomb 
Brad Mathias, Director, Financial Planning & Analysis 

When Should Our Firm Upgrade to Deltek Vantagepoint? 

A common question that Full Sail Partners gets asked by clients is when their firm should upgrade to Deltek Vantagepoint. Here are a few perspectives from Deltek clients. 

Jessamyn – We first learned about Vantagepoint and how it is a vast improvement to Vision at the Deltek conference a few years ago when it was in Florida. It was then that I realized that we needed to get on a path to upgrade. But for us, the question about when the upgrade would take place was when Vantagepoint had enough functionality to make it worthwhile, and we made the upgrade in March 2021 after working with Full Sail Partners for about four to five months to prepare. 

Karen – We started looking at Vantagepoint about three years ago at the Deltek Insight [now ProjectCon] conference. Similar to Jessamyn, we were waiting for more functionality, especially with the accounting features. We got serious about the upgrade process in 2021 and that is when I selected Nancy to be the project manager for this effort.  

Andrea – We decided that because Vantagepoint had been out for a while already, the major kinks were worked out. So, our firm made the decision to move forward.  

Paul – The upgrade was on our radar beginning the spring of 2020 and by that summer we had a test environment set up. We had established a task force and were meeting regularly, mostly weekly, to get the Vantagepoint preview environment set up the way we wanted it. However, things got put on hold when we decided to wait for newer features to be added to Vantagepoint.  

Brad – We were in a very similar situation to Paul, waiting for the features that we needed to be available in Vantagepoint. We utilized Full Sail Partners’ Vantagepoint Readiness Report to identify all the things that we needed to pay attention to. We were originally supposed to go live in April 2021 but based on that report we had a massive data issue that we needed to clean up. We decided to focus on that before the upgrade. We also decided to bring CRM into Vantagepoint after using another CRM system for a couple of years. So that combined with the data cleanup has delayed our upgrade a bit.  

Who Was Involved in the Upgrade Process? 

Once the firms decided it was time to begin upgrading to Vantagepoint, the next step was to determine who in the firm and other outside resources, if any, to involve in this effort. 

Nancy – We established a core team with a representative from each user group. My recommendation would be for each of those people to be positive and tech-savvy.  

Andrea – We have three accounting people and three marketing people. Vision wasn’t widely used by a lot of people at our firm. It was seen as more of an accounting tool and the upgrade to Vantagepoint was seen as a marketing thing because it was very CRM-focused. I would agree with Nancy to have a representative from each user group because having only accounting and marketing limited our transition to just the training on the CRM and accounting aspects. Because we were the only ones involved, we were the champions and were the people who could ask questions. So, I think the level to which our staff embraces Vantagepoint would have been boosted more if we had had project managers and principals as part of the core team involved from the beginning.  

I think our challenge is that the project managers and principals did not really use Vision before. So having them on the transition team did not really make any sense for us. However, I would recommend that if you can include them, that do you include them, especially if you are creating new processes. We basically took this opportunity to start over and do a lot of new stuff that we never really did before. So having users be able to contribute to those new processes and provide additional insight would have been even more helpful for us.  

I have been involved in migrations and upgrades in other past positions outside the AEC industry. I have seen a number of times when you do not involve the right people, you end up with this giant mess afterward. Then it takes a lot more time and money to fix and you end up getting frustrated and burnt out.  

So, I would recommend involving a small group but trying to get equal representation from different user roles.  

Paul – Over at Structural Integrity, we established a task force of about 15 people representing all the different departments. We tried to identify all the processes in Vision that we have now. Then the goal was to make all those same processes continue to work in Vantagepoint.  

Brad – This upgrade was handled a little bit differently than what we did for the last upgrade in Vision. The upgrade when we went from the earlier Vision version to Vision 7.6 was a heavy lifting exercise that we did all by ourselves.  

Like a lot of companies, marketing is a very powerful piece of your operation, and marketers tend to have their own tools and software that gets connected to Vision. Part of the exercise this time was bringing marketing into Vantagepoint which brought in a whole new team and a whole lot more mojo. If you can find a way to embrace Vantagepoint as an option for CRM, in addition to your backbone of accounting, you are going to get a lot more attention and a lot more buy-in. That is what I can suggest – having marketing and accounting being on the same team and working on the same initiative was refreshing.  

Jessamyn – We had a core team that was our project accountants and our project planner because we use resource planning heavily. Since we also use CRM, we also had three people from our marketing team. We held some workshops with our project planners and project managers to understand what they would like to see out of dashboards and what they felt they were not getting now. We did not include them on our core team, and I think that was for the best. We delivered Vantagepoint to the project managers as a finished product rather than including them in the “making of the sausage.” I think it went really well. I think it was very successful, and then we did a lot of training when we went live.  

What Resources or Support Did You Need for the Upgrade? 

Having helped over 200 firms make the upgrade from Vision to Vantagepoint, Full Sail Partners understands that there can be different levels of support and resources that firms need. This can be due to the unique modules or features which the firm uses or to the amount of customization the firm has built into Vision. Hear from a few clients about what resources and/or support they utilized, if any, to make the upgrade. 

Brad – There was no way we could do this upgrade on our own. We are a large firm with over 600 employees. Accounting, marketing and HR, plus our support teams, are always understaffed. We also have customized Vision quite a bit. It would be very difficult for us to make any type of upgrade alone. We utilized the Vantagepoint Readiness Report and help from Full Sail Partners because of this. 

Jessamyn – The Vantagepoint Readiness Report shows you the exceptions or areas in your system where something is going to throw back a problem. Things like duplicate records for vendors and clients, project plans that have something wrong with them or all the customized reports and when the last time they were used - All these types of information. The first time we ran the report, it was overwhelming because we had years of data that had probably never been cleaned. We had two interns work full-time for four months cleaning up the data. Then we ran the report again and just kept doing that until we felt like we were at a manageable place.  

Andrea – We set up significant training time beforehand. We really didn’t understand Vision very well, and we didn’t use it in the way that it was designed to be used. We had years of different processes and data with different people in and out who decided they wanted to do something one way, and there wasn’t global communication. So, we had a lot of training before the upgrade. I was focused on the CRM stuff. I worked with the CRM specialists at Full Sail Partners for a while because we really needed to transform how we use the database. I wanted to make sure that I understood the logic behind how the system was supposed to work. If your organization is really organized, you have clean data, and you’ve got someone who has time to lead the efforts, then it’s totally possible to do this on your own. Yet even with the skills and having a strong foundation that would normally make this kind of transition seamless, it was helpful and time-saving (which can also be money saving) to have a team of Full Sail Partners’ people to help us.  

Just looking at the Readiness Report can be overwhelming. You realize that maybe the data is not as good as you thought. You spend a lot of time on that cleanup, and with so much time you are investing, you want to get it right. So having a team of experienced people to help guide us through was definitely useful for us.  

Paul – We are a firm of about 300 people, and I cannot imagine going through this on our own without the help of a company like Full Sail Partners. I have worked with Full Sail Partners in the past on several different customizations and we have always been happy with them. When Vantagepoint got on our radar, it just seemed like a great fit to just work with them and use the tools to help make this upgrade an easier process.  

Karen – I would highly recommend getting support. There is just no way we could have upgraded on our own even though we are only a 70-person firm. We needed the help of Full Sail Partners. We have used them a lot. We get all our questions put together. Then Nancy and I worked with a Full Sail Partners’ consultant to help us answer the questions. There are a lot of things that we just would not be able to figure out on our own to make this happen in our timeframe. 

Hear More from Your Peers 

This article is the first in this series where different project-based firms share their Deltek Vision to Vantagepoint upgrade experience. Future articles will include topics like the favorite Vantagepoint features of users and upgrade best practices.  

To learn more about upgrading to Deltek Vantagepoint visit the page linked below. 

 

 

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Driving Growth with Digital Marketing - How to Analyze Digital Marketing Campaign Results

Posted by Lindsay Diven on May 25, 2022

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If the results from the digital marketing campaign efforts are not tracked, how will the marketers know if it’s working or not? It seems simplistic when written like this, but for architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firms, collecting and analyzing the results of digital marketing efforts is often the hardest part. And, because the results are often not collected, not analyzed, or not presented to the firm’s leaders, it’s hard for marketing professionals get buy-in for additional digital marketing resources.  

This article is part of the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing and will walk through how to gather and analyze the results for the digital marketing campaigns.  

Select the Metrics During the Planning Phase 

At this point, the digital marketing campaign is created and has been promoted. At this point it’s time to analyze the results and compare them against the original goals to determine the performance of the campaign. 

The hardest part about selling digital marketing strategies to firm leadership is showing the results. And choosing what to measure and how to measure the results is where AEC marketers often get stuck.  

The best time to select the metrics to be used in analyzing the marketing campaign results, is in the planning stages. Thinking through this while in planning, allows the tracking software or infrastructure to be put into place to gather the correct results.  

Using the original campaign goals along with thinking through how those goals can be measured, is the best place to begin.  

For example, if the original goal was to increase brand awareness in the Texas market by increasing web traffic in Texas by 25% in the first 2 quarters of 2022. The marketing department will want to make sure that they can track web traffic, including geography, and have a baseline number for the web traffic from Texas before the campaign begins. 

If the marketing department doesn’t have that ability or information before they begin the campaign, it's going to be very difficult to gather and analyze the results.  

That's why having very SMART goals outlined and agreed upon by leadership is critical to be able to track, analyze, and progress to achieving goals.

Understand that AEC Metrics May be Different 

AEC is different than other industries when it comes to marketing. It isn’t e-commerce. The AEC industry doesn’t provide online stores. AEC firm clients typically don't buy their services through their websites. So, this means that typical marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) like Cost per Acquisition, Customer Attrition, or even marketing-originated customers really aren't relevant.  

That’s why it so important to get the marketing campaigns SMART Goals determined. When those goals are clear, written down, and agreed upon by firm leadership, the metrics to determine that campaign’s performance become more clear. 

Possible AEC Marketing Campaign Metrics   

So, what should AEC marketers measure? How should they measure the results of their digital marketing campaigns? 

Marketers should identify quantifiable metrics that aligns with the goals of the organization and the SMART goals as mentioned above. These metrics should be either new leads (new to the firm’s funnel) or more interaction with current contacts to “nurture” the relationship until that content needs the firm’s services.  

And because each AEC firm’s goals are all going to be different, this article cannot simply provide a list of 10 example metrics. However, listed below are some potential metrics (KPIs) that could be considered. They are listed to help AEC marketers brainstorm metrics that are relevant to their specific digital marketing campaigns and firm goals.  

Possible AEC Marketing Campaign Metrics: 

  • Website traffic 
  • Search traffic/keyword rankings 
  • Backlinks 
  • Click-through rate 
  • Conversion rate 
  • Email sign-up rate 
  • Delivery, open, click rate 
  • Engagement/interaction rate 
  • Follower growth rate 
  • Brand mentions 

Marketers can then take those metrics and compare the marketing performance to a previous time such as: 

  • To the previous month, 
  • A 3-month average, or 
  • Specific goal(s). 

Metrics That Shouldn’t be Measured 

The things or results that the AEC marketer can’t impact should not be measured. If the marketer or firm can’t change it, there’s no point in tracking it or making it a KPI.  

Vanity metrics should also not be tracked, or at least, have too much weight or emphasis placed on them. Marketers are sometimes tempted to track vanity metrics like the Facebook page likes or Twitter followers, but if the marketing department is not currently implementing a social media campaign with the goal of getting more likes or followers, why track it? It’s not an effective KPI. 

Best Practices for Collecting and Analyzing Digital Marketing Campaign Results 

The following are some best practices that marketers should keep in mind as they plan for, implement, and analyze the results of their digital marketing campaigns.  

  • Use the campaign goal as the basis for analyzing the results. Marketers should tie what the goal of the campaign is to what metrics they collect and analyze.  
  • Connect marketing platforms. By starting with the goals, marketers can list what metrics they need to collect. But, this is also the time to evaluate what systems can be connected and automatically share information. A great example of this is the Blackbox Connector for Mailchimp or Constant Contact. These connect the email marketing statistics to the Deltek Vision and Vantagepoint CRM systems. A marketer can easily pull in the statistics for one email campaign or an email campaign series into the Deltek Marketing Campaign.  
  • Limit KPIs to only those that are needed. Marketers might be tempted to collect more data or statistics than necessary to see how the campaign is performing. Especially when first getting started, limit to collecting and analyzing only those metrics or KPIs that are needed to see how the performance is measuring to the goal.  
  • Tailor the KPIs to the audience. If the marketing campaign performance needs to be presented to firm leadership, make sure to tailor what is shown to that audience to just what they need to see how it’s performing to goal. For example, the marketing manager may be tracking email newsletter opt-in rates and email bounce rates. However, if that’s not a goal of the specific marketing campaign, don’t report those metrics in a presentation to the firm principals.  

How to Use the Digital Marketing Campaign Results to Improve Performance  

Collecting and analyzing the performance of the marketing campaigns is only half the battle! The next step is optimizing the campaign’s performance to get even better results. And the next article in this series share a few different areas to optimize when it comes to the firm’s digital marketing efforts. Subscribe to the series below to get the next article.  

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Search Engine Optimization Basics for Project Based Firms

Posted by Lindsay Diven on April 20, 2022

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The primary goal for the AEC digital marketing program is to get a firm found online. This can be done through creating content highlighting the firm’s expertise and subject matter experts. However, it’s not enough to just publish this content on the firm’s website or blog. To have the right potential clients find that content, the content needs to appear in searches. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.  

According to HubSpot, the definition of SEO is techniques which assist a firm’s website rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This makes a firm’s website more visible via search engines like Yahoo!, Google, or Bing for those who are seeking solutions that a firm’s brand, service or product could offer. 

This article is part of the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series and will provide an introduction to SEO techniques AEC firms can utilize when building their digital marketing program.

How SEO Works

Search engines crawl the internet to scoop up tidbits of phrases and key words to index them. Then when a user types in a phrase, question, or key word into the search engine, it provides results to the user based on those indexes. Search engines are searching for the websites, webpages, blogs, etc. that the firm is publishing.  

Search engines also look at the firm’s website structure and design, visitor behavior, and mobile optimization. So, it’s not just about the content that is being published, but the framework in which it’s published too.  

The Elements that Can Increase Organic Traffic    

Organic traffic is what most AEC firms are aiming for and includes the unpaid visitors (or traffic) that comes to the firm’s website through the search engines. The firm isn’t paying for any of that website traffic.  

There are elements of the website, structure, webpages, and even the firm’s social media channels that help or hurt getting organic traffic. Some of the elements that have the most impact are described below. 

Consistent Content Creation 

The website needs to be updated on a regular basis. Publishing genuine content that interests the targeted personas greatly improves SEO. The more often producing and updating content, the “fresher” it appears to search engines. Make the content easy to read or skim by using small paragraphs, descriptive headings, lists and bullet points. Also, link to internal and other external pages throughout the content.   

SEO Friendly Webpage Structure    

Each webpage has a built-in structure that is universal no matter what program the firm is using for its website software. Each page usually has a hierarchy of headings that tells the search engines the importance of the content. For example, the heading tag called H1 is the main header tag. This is typically reserved for the title of the page. Then there are heading tags H2, H3, etc. Just like in a printed document, these should be used to help guide the reader (and search engines) through the webpage content.  

When creating new content, don’t cram it full of all the keywords. Make sure the keywords, topics, and phrases are spread throughout the piece and flow naturally into the content. Be sure to use keywords in the title tags (H1, H2, etc.). Also, make sure that the content is easy to read and/or skim by using many small paragraphs, descriptive headings, lists, and bullet points, for example. 

Image Optimization 

Another SEO component is how fast the webpage loads, and images are the biggest culprits when it comes to slowing down webpage load times. Since AEC firms tend to have very visual websites, it’s easy for the websites to be slowed down dramatically due to the number of images. Make sure that every image on the website is compressed and is the right image format for the screen (as opposed to print-level quality).  

Meta Descriptions 

A meta description is the text that appears in the search results underneath the page title. See the screenshot below for the example that appears with the search of “Deltek Vantagepoint Upgrade.” Meta descriptions can be added to the backend of the firm’s website builder and should be written to include keywords and phrases. The meta description should also be relevant to the content that is on the page, so keyword stuffing will actually hurt the results. Also, the meta description length should be between 150-300 characters. 

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URL Structure 

Did you know that URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator? Just like the webpage structure and meta descriptions, search engines display the URL on the search results. Consider following these SEO best practices when creating URLs: 

  • Use clear, descriptive words in the URL as opposed to random numbers and letters. For example, www.fullsailpartners.com/fspblog would be better than www.fullsailpartners.com/453=?45659. 
  • Try to use shorter URLs whenever possible. There is some research that shows that shorter URLs perform better because URLs that are too-long will be cut off in search results. However, it’s just as important to be descriptive in the URL so don’t cut the URL length just to cut it. 
  • Use keywords in the URL. If the page is targeting a specific term or phrase, make sure to include it in the URL. But don’t go overboard or appear too spammy. The search engines know it and will penalize the content. For example, a spammy URL might be www.fullsailpartners.com/vantagepoint-partner/upgrade-to-vantagepoint/vantagepoint-upgrade-services. A good way to test this is to look at the URL through the eyes of a searcher and ask if it looks natural or like a robot wrote it.  
  • Use hyphenations instead of spaces. Every search engine interprets special characters or spaces the same. Use hyphens to separate the words in the URL.  
  • Use geographic location names, if applicable. If the content is about a specific location or a project in a specific location, use that location name in the URL. This can include city names, neighborhoods, or other regional descriptors.  

Off-Page SEO  

Some of the secret sauce to improving SEO happens off the firm’s website. Search engines like Google rank how popular a firm’s website is. If the firm’s content is popular, it sends a signal to search engines that it’s the best content, making it more of an authority in that topic area, thus a higher ranking. So, what makes a firm’s website popular? Let’s introduce a few strategies. 

Authority Building Through Backlinks  

One way to build authority in the search engines is how popular they rank a firm’s website. One factor they use is called ‘backlinking.’ Backlinks are links from other domains that points to a firm’s website or particular webpage. Each backlink is considered to be a “vote” of confidence for the content that’s being linked. Other websites should also be linking back to the specific firm’s website. Even better is if the backlinks are from higher authority domains such that end in .edu or .org. 

Think about the various ways in which the firm’s website can be backlinked. Some might include: 

  • Sponsoring industry conferences and events. Ask the host entity to place the firm’s logo on its website and link back to the firm’s website. 
  • Write articles for industry websites. Then, make sure the article has a link back to the firm’s website. 
  • List the firm in online industry directories. For example, Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) has a rather established one. 

Google My Business 

This is probably the easiest task to improve SEO is to make sure the Google My Business is set up for every office location for your firm. Make sure that the firm’s name, address(es), and phone number(s) are correct on the firm’s website and that they are also the same at what’s displayed on the Google My Business page. It sounds so simple but can be quite complex especially the more offices the firm has and how often the offices move locations.  

Getting Started with SEO 

There is no exact science or formula to rank first, or even on the first page, in a search result. Basically, if the content provides value to the people searching for it, it will rank better. Here are some best practices to keep in mind as content is developed for the firm’s digital marketing program: 

  • Research for the key words, phrases, or questions that the firm’s personas would be searching.  
  • Conduct those same searches on Google, Yahoo!, and Bing to see what pages and content is already ranking high.  
  • Review those pages and content to identify what qualities, format, content type, etc. that those pages possess.  
  • Make sure to create content that is better than those! 
  • And, if some of the firm’s content ranks high with those searches, evaluate those pages and content to see what’s working. Repurpose that specific content in new ways and create new content like that. 

Driving Growth with Digital Marketing 

SEO is just part of the overall digital marketing plan for AEC firms. Other components include identifying the persona, setting goals, and developing a content strategy. To learn more about each of these components, check out the entire Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series by clicking the link below. 

 

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The Power of Content Repurposing for A/E/C Firms

Posted by Lindsay Diven on February 09, 2022

Consistent content that appeals to the ideal client is a cornerstone of a successful digital marketing program. Often, it’s a challenge for A/E/C firms to constantly be creating new high-quality content. There just isn’t enough time or resources. In this next installment of the “Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series, readers will learn how to extend the life of an existing piece of content.

Driving Growth with Digital Marketing for A/E/C Firms

Introducing Content Repurposing

Content repurposing is a magical way to use content already created and revitalize it, so it works harder for your inbound marketing and SEO efforts. Repurposing takes previously published content and reimagines that content into different formats, refreshes the information based on industry updates, and allows the content to reach audiences that might have missed it the first time around.

Repurposing saves time because marketers don’t need to write new content from scratch. It is not just publishing the same blog article link with the same caption on the firm’s LinkedIn page once per month. It is transforming content into a new focus of interest.

How to Select Content to Repurpose

A great way to determine what content to repurpose is to audit the content you’ve already published. Look for content that still resonates with the ideal client and that is evergreen. If the content is too outdated or highly seasonable, it might be too much effort to repurpose it. Choose the content pieces that can be easily refreshed and still attract the targeted audience.

Then, take a look at your firm’s website analytics to find the high-performing content. Find the content that ranks the highest when it comes to page views, average time on page, etc. The content that meets all these criteria should be what you begin with.

Content Repurposing Case Study

A great example of a content repurposing strategy is this series, “Driving Growth with Digital Marketing.” As a new marketing manager for our Blackbox Connector products, I wanted to target other marketing managers who use Deltek Vision/Vantagepoint and who already have a digital marketing program or want to create one. So, I developed this year-long content series to attract new leads.

This campaign began in 2021 with a 10-part blog series. Potential clients could subscribe to the series to get notified when new articles would be published. And, using our HubSpot Connector, new submissions would be added to the Full Sail Partners’ Deltek Vision CRM to monitor and evaluate.

This blog series was then turned into a presentation abstract that was submitted to several marketing-related conferences. It was selected to be presented at three conferences where there was a high number of the targeted audience.

Eventually, Full Sail Partners will present this as a webinar and possibly publish it as a guide accessible by a form on the website. Between now and then, different steps will be shared as infographics and other resources to post on social media.

This one content topic has been transformed into over a dozen different content types and formats.

Other Repurposing Ideas

When planning for new content, brainstorm ways in which that piece of content can be repurposed. Some ideas include:

  • Convert long blog posts into an eBook or listicle social media series.
  • Turn conference presentations into blog articles, webinars, etc.
  • Build an infographic from a presentation or blog article.
  • Refresh and republish old blog posts with new, relevant information or data.
  • Create a podcast or video series from a previous conference presentation.
  • Create a frequently asked questions area on your website from previously published blog articles.
  • Create a checklist freebie based on the firm’s project management process.
  • Pitch existing articles to guest blogs on other websites.
  • Record existing content such as previously written blog articles or conference presentations. Post those recordings on YouTube or use them in a podcast.
  • Visualize existing content such as articles. Turn them into short video snippets, pull quote graphics, or carousel-type posts.
  • Group existing content to create content pillars or resource hubs. Full Sail Partners has done this with our resource pages. Check out the marketer’s page here.
  • Promote similar content previously published via an email series. Deliver each piece of content in one email spread throughout an entire campaign.
  • Package similar content topics into an eBook or guide. Gather as many similar topics already created and add an introduction or point of view to make it more of a book. These are often titled, “The Ultimate Guide to…” or “The Only Guide to…”

Making Marketing More Efficient

Making the best use of the marketing resources and the subject matter experts’ time ensures marketing investments are more efficient. Content repurposing is one of the best ways to effectively use previously created content and allows for more time to spend on other marketing efforts. Keep a lookout for the next article in this series that introduces search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to help A/E/C firms get found online.

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Creating the Right Content to Attract Ideal A/E/C Clients

Posted by Lindsay Diven on January 19, 2022

Creating content that attracts the ideal client is a crucial part of a digital marketing program. This content educates the potential client through the process and highlights the firm as the best choice for the project.

Driving Growth with Digital Marketing 3

Through the “Driving Growth with Digital Marketing” series, we’ve learned about creating personas (ideal client), setting goals, and outlining a content strategy. Now it’s time to create new content to fill in the gaps from the previously completed Content Audit.

Brainstorming with an Inbound Focus

Marketers may already have a sense of what type of topics to cover in their new content development. These ideas might have been thought of in proposal or presentation preparation, interactions with business developers or project managers, or observing industry trends.

However, take these ideas a few steps further by brainstorming with an inbound focus. Identifying what would attract an ideal client to the content draws them into the digital platforms like the firm’s website or social media channels. During the brainstorming sessions, ask the following questions when evaluating topic ideas:

  • Who will be reading the content? For how many audiences will you be creating content? This goes back to the persona development and creating content that appeals to the persona(s).
  • What problem will you be solving for the ideal client(s)? Ideally, your firm provides services to solve the clients’ challenges. The marketing content should educate this same audience as they begin to pinpoint and address their issues. Refer to the decision-making funnel to identify the questions for each step in the funnel.
  • What makes your firm or point of view unique? How is your firm different from the other A/E/C firms in town? Do you have a unique offering, specialist, technology, or brand voice? Maybe it’s how or why your firm approaches a design challenge a certain way? If it’s difficult to decide what makes your firm unique, try taking a piece of industry news or trend then applying your firm’s point of view or opinion about it. This combines trending content, while allowing the firm to stand out.
  • What content formats will be the focus? It’s not about what content format your firm WANTS to create but meeting the audience (ideal clients) where they are. That’s why the persona development work is so important. For example, marketers may be tempted to create a firm podcast, but learn that the targeted persona prefers to read. Knowing this before launching the podcast may save the firm time and resources.
  • What channels will be used to share the content? Just like the content formats mentioned above, determining the social media channels should be based on where the ideal clients are, not where your firm wants to be.

This focused brainstorming technique will result in the content development plan.

Writing a Content Development Plan

Once the list of topics for new content is developed, now it’s time to get to work. Writing a content development plan and treating it just like any project or proposal plan is the best way to ensure it gets done.

Items to outline in a content development plan include:

  • Who’s creating what piece?
  • Who’s contributing to the piece (the subject matter expert)?
  • What additional resources or skillsets are needed?
  • What type of graphics or media is needed?
  • Where is it going to be published?
  • When it’s going live?

In smaller firms, this may all be completed by one or two people. In larger firms, this might be managed by an entire department. Either way, it eventually gets put into a plan and publishing schedule.

Keeping SEO in Mind

There is so much information about search-engine optimization (SEO). In fact, a future article in this series is going to be dedicated to SEO. But it’s worth thinking about SEO while brainstorming and creating new content.

One method for brainstorming new content ideas is to do keyword research. Ideal clients are most likely searching for answers on search engines, like Google. And those search engines along with tools like Moz and Semrush can provide marketers with keywords to help with new content ideas.

As the new content is being developed, make sure that those keywords and phrases are used in the content titles, body, images, etc. when it’s published.

Getting Started

Hopefully, you now have some ideas on how to create the right content to attract ideal A/E/C clients. You know how to brainstorm new content ideas, write a content development plan, and keep SEO in mind as new content is created. It can feel overwhelming, but firms don’t need to create a lot of content, just high-quality content that helps the ideal client move through the decision-making funnel. Focus on creating the amount of content your firm has the resources for. In the next installment of the “Driving Growth with Digital Marketing” series, you’ll learn ways to repurpose that content to extend its life. It’s about working smarter, not harder.

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