Full Sail Partners Blog | Marketing

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Leveraging the Client Engagement Lifecycle to Drive Results

Posted by Lindsay Diven on January 26, 2023

01-27-23_ClientEngagement_BannerEngaging clients is essential to any business, but it can be difficult to know where to start. However, by understanding the client engagement lifecycle, businesses can develop a process for engaging clients that leads to long-term relationships. 

What is the Client Engagement Lifecycle 

In every sales transaction, buyers (or clients) go on a journey that begins the moment they decide they need services and continues to when the contract is eventually signed. This is called the client engagement lifecycle. And you can imagine this as a funnel with the following phases: 

  • Attract 
  • Nurture 
  • Convert 
  • Grow 

A prospect is initially attracted to your firm and starts at the top of the funnel and goes through each phase until eventually you are providing services for them.  

Client Engagement Lifecycle Stages 

Now let’s go through each client engagement lifecycle stage in a little more detail.  

Attract

The client engagement lifecycle begins when you bring in new prospects. You can think of this as the top of the funnel. During this stage, it’s important to identify your target markets and personas such as project managers, facility managers, and/or directors that will be interested in your services.  

To do this, you’ll want to create marketing content and promotions that resonate with these key personas. The goal is to attract them to your firm using your expertise and/or answering their questions.  

The marketing content can be varied. It could range from written blogs to videos, webinars and podcasts. You just want to make sure the content is relevant to your target markets and personas and helps them solve common obstacles within their industry. 

Sales and technical staff will usually have little-to-no engagement in this stage of the lifecycle.  

Nurture

Once prospects have been attracted to your firm with your attract-type content, it’s important to maintain the prospects’ interests so they stay in the funnel. This is typically done through digital efforts like email marketing and offline efforts through phone calls and networking events.  

Knowing what content has sparked and sustained this interest is important so you can produce new content to continue to drive awareness. Additionally, the original content that brought them into the funnel should leave them with unanswered questions. 

During this stage, familiarity with the content which first attracted the prospects will help you determine questions they might now have. Your new content should be more specific to answer these questions with fact-based information that also communicates your expertise. Email campaigns provide a great avenue to share this fresh content. 

Your sales managers or technical team members may also follow up with the prospects to ask further questions and make introductions to your firm and its services. 

Convert

As your prospects move from the attract and through the nurture phases, it’s now time to get those prospects to make a conscious decision to move further. This is not to say they were not interested in your services before, but rather the content that you have been sharing has made them recognize you are a trusted authority and a subject matter expert. 

This stage is when specific, offline conversations need to begin, and you should convert these prospects into advocates. For professional services firms, this means that your technical staff may be meeting with the prospects over the phone or in meetings to talk about a specific project. The conversations are turning to either a request for proposal and/or proposing specific services.  

The content produced in this phase supports proposals, presentations, and other sales-related documents to close the sale!  

Grow

Congratulations, you now have new clients in your funnel. This is the stage where you will foster the ability to provide additional services to your clients. 

The tricky thing here is creating content that will be important to your clients in the future. For some clients, this is a few months down the road, and for others, a year or more. A great tool to use is a monthly or quarterly newsletter for sharing your newly created content to create new opportunities. 

Using the Client Engagement Lifecycle to Your Advantage 

Understanding the client engagement lifecycle for your specific firm and targeted markets works as an advantage for your marketing and business development efforts. When you identify your client engagement lifecycle for a specific market or persona such as a facilities director for a University Campus.  

You can then begin to create marketing content that specifically appeals to that facilities director. This specific content strategy will work to attract the right type of prospects and generate leads for your firm.  

The client engagement lifecycle is a valuable tool for businesses to use when developing their client engagement strategy. 

Wrapping it All Up 

The client engagement lifecycle is a process that businesses use to manage and improve their relationships with clients. It typically includes stages such as attract, nurture, convert, and grow. By understanding and leveraging each stage of the client engagement lifecycle, businesses can drive results by identifying opportunities for improvement and developing strategies to increase client satisfaction and loyalty. This can lead to increased revenue, repeat business, and improved overall performance. 

To learn more about content marketing strategies for each stage of the client engagement lifecycle, click the image below for our series. 

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Driving Growth with Digital Marketing: How to Optimize Digital Marketing Performance

Posted by Lindsay Diven on October 05, 2022

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Throughout the Driving Revenue Growth with Digital Marketing Series, marketers have created and implemented the marketing campaigns and collected results. Now it’s time to analyze and optimize the marketing campaign and strategy to achieve even more efficiency towards the marketing SMART goals 

This article shares just a few of the items to review to optimize digital marketing performance. Areas to optimize include the website, conversions, content promotion and email marketing. And this article just scratches the surface but will offer some ideas to begin.  

Improving the Website 

The firm’s website is the starting place for any digital or online marketing program. It’s the key piece of online real estate that marketers have complete control of and have access to the background statistics. Some of these key statistics to track will be based on the marketing campaign goals. Others will be general performance statistics to gauge the overall site performance such as overall website traffic, time on page, etc.  

Some areas to focus on to optimize performance when it comes to the firm’s website include: 

  • Highest traffic volume pages – Look at the specific site pages that are getting the most traffic. Identify what, if any, SEO elements are on the page including specific keywords. Look at where the traffic is coming from to that page. Also, check to make sure there is a call to action (CTA) on that page to either capture that visitor’s information or move them to another page to continue the visitor's journey.  
  • Most read blog posts – Similarly to the site pages, look at the most read blog posts. Which articles or topics are getting the most views? Marketers can assume that this is the type of content or topic that their audience is interested in. Work to create either more content around this topic or repurpose those specific blog topics into other content formats.  

Increasing Conversions  

A conversion can be any action a person takes that the marketer wants them to do. For example, if there is a form on a webpage, the call to action (CTA) for that page would be to fill out the form. Each time that CTA is completed, it’s a conversion. Conversions don’t always have to be filling out a form; it can be watching a video or requesting a meeting. The idea is that the person took an action, and that action is the conversion.  

Once marketers set up their CTAs and start collecting data, it’s time to see how to increase the number of conversions. Some ways to do this are: 

  • Use CTAs – This may seem obvious, but so many AEC websites do not have any CTAs anywhere on their websites or there’s just one – “Subscribe to ACME Engineering’s Newsletter.” The easiest way to increase conversions is to start using CTAs and inserting them throughout the entire website.  
  • Make CTAs relevant to the page – Even though we just said to use CTAs, don’t just put them on every webpage and think it is done. Marketers will want to use different CTAs that are relevant to the topic of that blog or page. For example, an architecture firm has a checklist called “10 Ways to Derail an Elementary School Renovation” that they want people to download. A good place to put that CTA is on project profile pages of elementary school renovations, not their healthcare project pages.  

Using Specific Landing Pages 

Most website management systems like WordPress or HubSpot are easy to set up and update. But sometimes it’s often difficult jumping through internal hoops to get new web pages or new navigations approved internally. So, that’s where landing pages are a great alternative, especially since they are easy to create with software like HubSpot or Leadpages.  

A landing page is just that – one page where marketers can direct specific traffic too. Some ways to optimize landing pages are: 

  • Minimize the design – Remove any design elements, navigation, or CTAs, that would distract the viewer from taking the one action you want them to take. For example, remove the navigation/menu bar, remove the firm’s social media links, etc.  
  • Write a strong heading – Continuing with minimizing the design is to have a strong headline. This headline should draw the viewer in and make them want to read more. It should either describe a pain point they are looking to solve or some kind of aspiration they are trying to get to.  
  • Describe the benefits – The landing page should be promoting the goal of the marketing campaign. And that marketing campaign should be benefiting the potential client. Under the headline, describe what the item is and the benefits the potential client will receive. Be clear, concise and to the point. Less is more here.  
  • Place the form above the fold – Most of the time, landing pages have some type of form for the viewer to complete to get something (a PDF download, checklist, case study, etc.). Make sure the viewer doesn’t have to scroll down to see and fill out the form. Seconds count, and if it takes even just a second longer to realize there’s a form, you might lose them.  
  • Determine the right questions – There’s a balancing act between asking for enough information and too much information on the landing page forms. Firms often want all the information they could get about a lead, but the lead will balk at having to fill out too many fields on a form. Marketers should determine the right questions to have on their forms to qualify and segment leads, and not one more. This is usually done by testing and then optimizing. 

In online marketing circles, the conversion rates of landing pages are somewhere between 5-15%. But marketers should be tracking their own conversion rates and then use these strategies above to make changes and see if that rate increases.  

Promote Even More 

A previous article discusses how important it is to promote the content and ways to do that. Once marketers begin promoting, they can use that information to make the promotion even better. Some ways to do this include: 

  • Determine the best channel – Once marketers start getting data, they can see which channels are bringing in the most visitors and highest conversions. Once they know that, they can lean into that channel even more. 
  • Consider each social media channel – If the firm promotes content on different social media channels like LinkedIn or YouTube, how can the content be re-formatted into different media types or different language used that corresponds to that specific channel?  
  • Going back to the basics – Marketers should make sure that the graphics and media are appropriately sized and formatted for each social media channel.  
  • Test frequency to find the sweet spot – Each channel is going to dictate just how often the firm posts content. Once marketers start getting results, they have a baseline and then can start testing posting more or less to see how that affects results.  

Don’t Forget About Email Marketing 

Part of every online marketing program should include an email marketing component. AEC firms have hundreds, if not thousands, of contacts in their databases and should be communicating with those contacts (with proper permission) on a regular cadence. This is even more important for a specific marketing campaign, like the one they are trying to optimize.  

Here are just a few email marketing tips to get great performance: 

  • Make sure the marketing emails are coming from a person, not a generic email address like “Info@company.com” 
  • Write clear and clickable subject lines. Take time to develop the subject lines. Don’t wait to just write something to get the email sent. Use this tool to test each subject line. 
  • Limit CTAs to only one per email campaign, especially if it’s part of a specific marketing campaign. Make sure every link in the email goes to that specific landing page or CTA.  
  • Segment and personalize as much as possible. 
  • Optimize for mobile.   

Watch this replay where an email marketing expert shared even more email marketing advice. 

Always be Adjusting and Refining 

Once you begin your digital marketing program, start to analyze results and then optimize, it doesn't end there! Marketing is ever evolving with new interests, new content formats and new preferences in which our targeted audiences like to consume our content. So as marketers we constantly need to be keeping up with trends, especially out of our industry, looking at our metrics, and adjusting our marketing efforts. The good news is that this is fun and creative, and our job demand will remain high.  

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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. 

Qr code

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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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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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Full Sail Partners is Celebrating its Silver Anniversary

Posted by Sarah Gonnella on May 11, 2022

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For the last decade, Full Sail Partners has been a recognized project-based technology leader in the Deltek professional services ecosystem. We have much to celebrate and we attribute that success to our company culture -- fun, fast-paced, flexible and collaborative. Our team members comment every day how they feel privileged to call many of their co-workers true friends and even family.  

Since our inception, the number of employees has expanded 131%, and over our 10-year history, revenue has increased 145% while completing over 4000+ projects. The firm launched its Blackbox Connector product in 2015 increasing the team’s integration capabilities by being able to connect clients to outside solutions. Deltek and other industry leaders have recognized our firm with 15 awards over its history because of our relentless commitment to cultivating strong customer loyalty and focusing on the customer experience. We accomplished this and more all while being 100% remote, before it became popular.  

We plan to recognize this huge milestone with our clients at Deltek’s Annual Conference, ProjectCon, in November in Nashville, TN. Additionally, as part of our continuing 10-year anniversary celebration, Full Sail Partners will be selling a cookbook filled with recipes from its employees. Each employee that submits a recipe will be nominating a charity of his/her choice. Any funds raised will be then given to the charity that is voted upon by Full Sail Partners’ clients.  

While viewing our accomplishments, you can truly experience the fun side of our culture. We would love to hear from you, our clients, about any experience that stands out over the years in the comments or on social media. Thank you to everyone that has been a part of our journey. We are excited to continue this celebration and enjoy the moment while looking forward to our next milestone accomplishment. Cheers! 

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Review our recent press release to learn more about our firm and our accomplishments over the past decade. 

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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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Building a Content Strategy for A/E/C Firms

Posted by Lindsay Diven on December 15, 2021

The initial steps in putting together an online marketing program include defining personas and setting goals. Once those are set, it’s time to begin creating content. But what types of content need to be created? How does an A/E/C firm come up with content ideas that attract potential clients?

In this article, we will walk through the answers to these questions and go over the process of building a content strategy. And it’s the next step in the Full Sail Partners’ Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series.

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

First let’s define what a content strategy is. A content strategy is a plan in which firms use content to achieve business and marketing goals. A successful content strategy will attract ideal clients and decision makers at different stages of their buying decisions. Below are the steps to help A/E/C firms to develop a content strategy.

Step 1: Formulate the Decision-Making Funnel

In every sales transaction, buyers go on a journey that begins the moment they decide they need services to when the contract is eventually signed. This is also referred to as the funnel. Marketers often group the funnel into the following phases as shown in the graphic below.

Content Marketing Funnel

The funnel stages are described below along with the content intent for each. A/E/C firms should formulate their own decision-making funnel for their clients and potential clients.

  • Awareness – Is the uppermost part of the funnel. Potential clients are drawn into the funnel through marketing campaigns that include content, events, advertising, trade shows/conferences, social media, and more. In this stage, content is developed to capture new leads and to pull those leads into a CRM system for nurturing further through the funnel.
  • Interest – Once leads are collected, they are then moved into the interest stage. Content for this stage should be more about the firm, its services, and case studies and best practices. This is typically shared through email newsletters and performs best when it can be more targeted to the leads around their industries, markets, or locations.
  • Consideration – In this stage, the lead has become more qualified to become a prospective client. For A/E/C firms, this may mean that the potential client has a project in the future or obtained funding such as a bond. Content developed in this phase is even more specific to that potential upcoming project or service offering. The content should also highlight the firm’s differentiation and value proposition. It might also be sent directly by project managers or business developers.
  • Evaluation – Decision makers move into this stage when there is a procurement event taking place. This will range from a client issuing an RFP or invitation to bid to just a meeting to negotiate. Typically, at this point marketing is working with a project manager or business developer to develop content to convince the client to select their firm.
  • Purchase Decision – The ultimate goal is to get the win! To have the client select your A/E/C firm. The prospect is now a client.

A content strategy should be a mix of content for all phases of the decision-making funnel. And, it’s possible to have different funnels for different personas identified for the firm because the decision making might be different.

Step 2: Run a Content Audit

Knowing what content is already available is a great place to start. Once you know what content is already created, the new content that needs to be created is just filling in the gaps. Take the time to gather all the available content, look through everything and tag it with the stage of the funnel it could work for.

Places to look for content:

  • Blog articles on firm’s website
  • Blog articles written by subject matter experts (SMEs) for other websites
  • Published articles written by SMEs
  • Presentations given at conferences, webinars, etc.
  • Proposals
  • Shortlist presentations
  • Project award submittals
  • Firm award submittals
  • Press releases
  • Brochures
  • Statements of Qualifications (SOQ)

When firms run a content audit, they are often amazed at just how much content they already have created. Often, content developed for a specific pursuit can also be used in various stages of the funnel after a few edits.

After reviewing a firm’s own content, take it one step further by doing a competitive analysis. Review your competitor’s own website and social media content. This will help when creating content that is differentiated.

Step 3: Fill the Content Gaps

Once the decision-making funnel is formulated and the existing content is gathered, the gaps should be clear. Now, it’s time to develop the new content to fill in those gaps. Review each stage of the decision-making funnel and make sure there are content ideas for each stage. Some ways to formulate content ideas are:

  • Ask project managers and business developers what they get questioned the most about by clients and potential clients
  • Conduct keyword research. Keyword research is an essential foundation for a content strategy because it gives valuable topic ideas. Using keyword research tools like HubSpot, Ahrefs, and Semrush will uncover search topics and questions asked by prospective clients.
  • Use the above two actions to brainstorm new content topics. Brainstorm ways to approach old topics, combine two different ideas into one, give a unique perspective on an industry outlook, etc.

Putting it All Together

At this point, the firm should have a defined decision-making funnel or funnels depending on the firm’s different markets. The firm should also have a list of content already created and identified what stage of the funnel it can be used for. The content gaps have been identified and a list of new content to create has been written.

In the ongoing articles in this series, we’ll walk through how to develop new content, how to maximize it by repurposing, and the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). Sign up below to be notified when a new resource in the series becomes available.

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How to Set Digital Marketing Goals

Posted by Lindsay Diven on October 20, 2021

Without marketing goals, it’s nearly impossible to develop a marketing plan let alone know if the marketing effort is working. And without clear, actionable, and achievable metrics, how does an A/E/C marketing team know what they’re working towards? Setting goals for digital marketing programs should always be the priority.

In this third installment of the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series, let’s learn how to begin goals setting, what SMART goals are, goal examples, and best practices.

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Start with the Firm’s Goals

An A/E/C firm’s strategic or business goals is a critical place to start identifying digital marketing goals. The business goals of the firm give the marketing team a purpose and define exactly what they want to achieve.

The A/E/C firms that have strategic plans often have both long- and short-term goals. Some of those goals might not be relevant to the marketing team, but often they are. Some common strategic goals include:

  • Expand geographically – This includes opening new offices, pursuing new clients, or acquiring firms in new geographic regions.
  • Expand services – This includes adding new service offerings by acquiring firms, hiring new talent, or creating strategic partnerships.

Once the firm’s strategic goals are identified, the marketing team can begin to create digital marketing goals to align. This helps to ensure that the marketing efforts are contributing to the firm’s growth goals and gets buy-in for budget and resources.

Setting SMART Goals

Firms are most likely familiar with the “SMART” goal setting technique. This strategy is very popular to use in marketing and personal development goal setting. To apply these to digital marketing goals, be:

  • Specific: Marketing objectives should be well defined. Rather than simply saying ‘more website traffic’ be more specific such as ‘increase web traffic from Texas.’ Ideally the specificity will align with the firm’s strategic goals.
  • Measurable: To gauge the progress of the marketing effort, marketing teams need something to measure. This means the goal needs to be quantifiable. So, instead of ‘increase web traffic from Texas,’ the measurable goal would be ‘increase web traffic from Texas by 10%.’
  • Attainable: When firms begin a digital marketing program, it’s often hard to determine what goal is attainable. An example of a better attainable goal would be ‘increase web traffic from Texas by 10%’ instead of setting an increase of 30% or 50%. That much of an increase might not be attainable. Sometimes the marketing team needs to start with some number and adjust after a certain period. It’s more important for the firm to base the goal off the firm’s own data first and then adjust from there.
  • Relevant: The goals must be relevant to the firm’s strategic goals. For example, if the firm’s strategic goal is to expand into the Ohio transportation market, the Texas goal above would not be relevant.
  • Time bound: Giving the marketing goals a deadline ensures that a goal will be given the attention it needs to be successful. Often, when there is no deadline, a project or initiative flounders.

Every time the marketing department at an A/E/C firm sets out a new digital marketing campaign, the team should go through this goal setting exercise. Then once the goal is set, it should be clearly communicated with the firm’s leadership and stakeholders. This gives leadership the opportunity to ensure it’s aligned with business goals and for marketing to get buy-in as early as possible.

Common Digital Marketing Goals

Below are a few examples of digital marketing goals.

  • Acquire new leads or contacts. This is a common goal. Most firms cannot continue to grow without generating new leads, and eventually new clients and projects. Digital marketing can help attract new leads or contacts.
  • Activate leads and contacts. A/E/C firms often have leads or contacts in their databases that they haven’t worked in months, if not years. The firms can use digital marketing campaigns to encourage engagement, as well as remind the past contacts about the value the firm has provided to them and other similar clients. The digital marketing campaign can reactivate dormant leads and contacts and help keep your firm top of mind.
  • Cross-selling services. Acquiring new clients is often more expensive than getting repeat work from existing clients. And firms often provide many services to several different industries. Digital marketing campaigns can be used to educate existing clients on all the services the firm provides.
  • Increase website traffic. Digital marketing strategies can be used to increase website viewers, either to the entire website or to targeted landing pages.
  • Improve conversion rate. This is when a website visitor completes the webpage call-to-action. A popular example is when a website visitor completes a form on a website to get access to a white-paper or webinar, also known as gated content.

Digital Marketing Goal Setting Best Practices

Some digital marketing goal setting best practices are:

  • Don’t set too many goals. This could spread the marketing team too thin and risk not achieving any goal.
  • Begin with a pilot or test initiative. Identify one firm strategic goal and begin with that as a pilot initiative. Build the goals and a timeframe around that.
  • Clearly communicate the goals. When the marketing team communicates the goals, it creates a wider understanding of what your digital marketing efforts have set out to deliver and how those efforts align with the firm’s strategic plan.
  • Define who is accountable. Identify who is responsible for each goal. Making someone solely responsible for each goal makes it more likely to be achieved.

Don’t Skip Goal Setting

Setting goals can be intimidating when it’s the first time the firm is undertaking a digital marketing program. Don’t let that stop the marketing team from setting the goals. The goals will help keep the campaigns and marketing activities aligned towards achieving a common objective. They also help to set expectations and motivate the team.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the other articles in the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series. Learn more about how A/E/C marketers and principals can develop a digital marketing program that is right for their firm. Sign up below to be notified when a new resource in the series becomes available.

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Define Your Personas to Guide Marketing Strategies

Posted by Lindsay Diven on September 08, 2021

Professional services firms don’t just make a product that one consumer is going to purchase. The services that the firms sell are complex and involve different decision makers who have different needs and goals. Successful firms don’t just know who those decision makers are, but rather, develop personas that guide their marketing strategies.

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This article will dive deeper into what personas are, how to develop personas, and how they are used to help create marketing strategies This is the second article in the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series.

What is a Persona?

According to HubSpot, a buyer persona is a fictional, generalized representation of an ideal client. The persona helps firms understand their clients and prospective clients better making it easier for them to develop content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups.

Personas are based on insight gathered from existing clients and market research done by marketing, business development or outside resources. Due to the nature of project-based firms who pursue projects with multiple decision-makers, most firms will have multiple personas.

How to Create Personas

The first step in creating a persona is asking specific questions about current and ideal clients to find out as much as possible about who they are and how they interact with your firm. This can be completed through research, surveys, and interviews by a mix of clients, prospects, and those outside the CRM who might align with the target audience.

Potential methods for gathering information needed to develop personas are:

  • Look through the contacts database (CRM) to uncover trends about how certain clients find and consume marketing content.
  • Use form fields that capture persona information when creating website forms. For example, if the persona varies based agency role, ask each lead for information about their role at their agency on the website form.
  • Ask for feedback from the business development team about the leads and contacts they’re interacting with the most. What generalizations can they make about the different types of contacts served by the firm?
  • Ask for feedback from project managers and other project delivery teams. What generalizations can they make about the different types of client contacts they work with?
  • Interview clients and prospective clients to discover what they like about the services the firm offers.

Some example questions to ask during the information gathering phase:

  • What is their profession?
  • What does a typical day in their life look like?
  • Where do they go for information?
  • How do they prefer to obtain services?
  • What is important to them when choosing a firm?
  • What do they value most?
  • What are their goals?

Use this information to identify patterns and commonalities. Then the persona can begin to be recorded (written down!). This can include information such as:

  • Basic demographic information – Age? Income? Location? Gender identity?
  • Background – Job? Career path? Family? Lifestyle?
  • Identifiers – Communication preferences? Social media platforms?
  • Challenges – What does this person struggle in relation to meeting goals? What serves as a roadblock for this person’s success?
  • What can we do – To help this persona achieve their goals? To help this persona overcome their challenges?
  • Goals – Primary/secondary goals? Personal vs. professional goals? Role-related vs. company goals?

Once the persona is created share it with marketing, business development, executives, and operations to ensure the entire firm has the same view of the ideal client.

How are Personas Used to Guide Marketing Strategies?

Personas allow firms to personalize or target marketing for different segments. For example, instead of sending a monthly newsletter to all contacts in a CRM system, firms can segment by personas and tailor the newsletter content according to what is known about each persona.

Let’s say a firm called ACME Engineering has personas that include facilities directors, permitting coordinators, and prime architects. These personas have different specific needs, behaviors, and concerns, as one would assume. Sending a monthly newsletter that contains the same content to the entire list, wouldn’t be as well received as if ACME Engineering changed the newsletter content slightly that each project feature or blog article was written specifically with that persona in mind.

Other uses for personas for marketing include:

  • Building effective content marketing strategies by focusing on keyword research efforts.
  • Identifying and prioritizing the most relevant promotional activities.
  • Timing marketing campaigns for peak engagement rates.
  • Publishing content and advertisements on the channels (email, social media, etc.) most frequented by personas.
  • Personalizing marketing automation efforts.
  • Refining copywriting to reflect improved SEO strategies.

When the personas are used correctly, personas allow firms to produce highly targeted content that leads to better responses from new and repeat clients. And there is data to prove this. According to research from Single Grain, companies who used personas saw:

  • Websites were 2-5 times more effective.
  • Personalized emails had a 14% higher click-through rate (CRT).
  • Conversion rates* were 10% higher.

Using Personas Throughout the Firm

While this article focuses on the persona for marketing’s use, once the personas are defined, they can be used throughout the project lifecycle.

  • Business Development – Personas are valuable to anyone in the firm who is client facing. From crafting one-on-one message and building rapport to understanding the persona on a deeper level allows the business developer to be better prepared to address the client’s concerns.
  • Project Delivery – Just because the firm won the project, the firm shouldn’t stop building the relationship with the client. Because of this, involve project management team members in the persona development process so that it can be tailored to the project delivery process in your firm.

Persona is the Foundation for Driving Revenue Growth

Having a deep understanding of the personas is the foundation for building a digital marketing strategy. It’s critical to driving content creation, seeking out new clients and prospects, building relationships, delivering the projects, and really anything that relates to client acquisition and retention.

This is the second article in the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series. In this series, marketers and principals will learn how to develop a digital marketing program that is right for their firm. Sign up below to be notified when a new resource in the series becomes available.

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*Conversion rates can mean that someone took an action on a call to action. This can be filling out a form, clicking a link, etc.

Driving Growth with Digital Marketing: What is Digital Marketing

Posted by Lindsay Diven on August 18, 2021

This article is the first in the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series. This series will walk A/E/C firms through how to develop a digital marketing program that will raise brand awareness, capture new leads, and increase revenue.

But, before the series covers the nuts and bolts of how to do this, let’s define digital marketing, its history and how it can benefit A/E/C firms.

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Digital Marketing Defined

Digital marketing is defined as any marketing that uses electronic devices to convey promotional messages and measure its impact. Typically, these marketing practices include marketing campaigns that appear on computers, phones, tablets, or other electronic devices. It takes many forms including videos, emails, and social media posts. Additionally, it includes organic content and paid content such as display ads. Digital marketing is often compared to “traditional marketing” like magazine ads, billboards, and direct mail.

The History of Digital Marketing

The term Digital Marketing was first coined in the 1990s when customer relationship management (CRM) software became a significant factor in marketing technology. Then in 1994, the first clickable banner ad went live for the “You Will” campaign by AT&T. Over the first four months of it going live, 44% of all people who saw it clicked on the ad.

In the 2000s, with increased internet usage and the birth of the iPhone, customers began to search products and make decisions about their needs online first, instead of consulting a salesperson. This encouraged marketers to find new ways to integrate digital technology into market development.

Digital marketing took another step forward in 2007 when marketing automation was developed. Marketing automation is the process by which software is used to automate conventional marketing processes. With this new technology, marketers could launch multichannel marketing campaigns based on the customers specific activities.

After that, social media including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter made consumers even more dependent on digital applications in their daily lives. Now customers and potential customers expect a seamless user experience across different channels when searching for a firm’s information.

Digital Marketing Campaign Types

Digital marketing can consist of both online and non-internet channels and strategies. Common online digital marketing channels and strategies consist of:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Content marketing
  • Inbound marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Display advertising
  • Pay per click advertising (PPC)

Off-line or non-internet digital channels and strategies consist of:

  • Television
  • Text message campaigns (SMS and MMS)
  • Virtual displays or electronic billboards such as at conferences or events
  • Custom apps
  • Cold calling

The Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series will go more in-depth on several of these digital marketing strategies. Click on the image below to be alerted when a new article in the series is available.

Goals for Digital Marketing

We live in a digital age, and millions of people spend most of their time on digital platforms including their computers and phones. Marketing is all about connecting with targeted contacts in the right place, at the right time, and if the contacts are plentiful online, then that’s where the best marketing strategies should be implemented.

One goal of digital marketing is to raise brand awareness. Recent trends show businesses and digital marketers are prioritizing brand awareness, focusing more of their digital marketing efforts on cultivating brand recognition and recall than in previous years. This is evidenced by a 2019 Content Marketing Institute study, which found that 81% of digital marketers have worked on enhancing brand recognition over the past year. Another Content Marketing Institute survey revealed 89% of B2B marketers now believe improving brand awareness to be more important than efforts directed at increasing sales.

Another goal for digital marketing is lead nurturing. Many A/E/C firms work with the same clients for many different projects. Because of this high rate of repeat work, the marketing goals aren’t to raise awareness to new leads, but rather, keep the firm top of mind with existing clients. Also, the sales cycle in the A/E/C industry can be long, stretching out several months, if not years. Therefore, a firm might want to stay in front of those leads between projects.

Most likely, the goals for the digital marketing program will consist of a combination of both of these for different markets and clients.

Benefits of Digital Marketing for A/E/C Firms

The agency Hinge Research conducts original research for digital and thought leadership marketing specific to the A/E/C Industry. In their 2020 study of high growth A/E/C firms, they found high growth firms are dedicating almost 27% of their revenue to marketing, and are generating 50% of new leads from digital sources.

Other benefits of developing a digital marketing program for A/E/C firms include:

  • Cost effectiveness – Compared to traditional marketing strategies such as print advertising, conference sponsorship or attendance, digital marketing is relatively low cost. Some of the digital marketing strategies only cost the time to produce the materials and the technical knowledge. Others involved purchasing relatively low-cost software and online advertising like display ads or PPC.
  • High return on investment – Because of its relatively low cost to generate new leads that could result in thousands of new firm revenue, the return on investment is very high for digital marketing. And with the proper marketing technology in place to track and attribute the marketing campaigns appropriately, it’s relatively easy to track.
  • Easier to measure – Compared to traditional marketing strategies like a print ad or conference sponsorship, with a digital campaign you can know almost immediately how it’s performing. For example, an email marketing campaign’s performance can be known within hours or the next day. The opens and clicks are a good indicator of its performance, and marketers can use that knowledge to adjust accordingly.
  • Easy to adjust – Because the performance of the digital marketing effort is known quickly, marketers will have that knowledge and can adjust other campaigns with that knowledge.
  • Easy to share – Digital marketing channels like social media posts and email campaigns can be shared with a click of a button. This helps firms create a multiplier affect and amplifies the content.
  • Precise targeting – Traditional marketing is one to many and everyone. For example, an engineering firm places a print ad in an industry publication. The engineering firm hopes that a few people who like what they see in that ad would take a positive action. Marketing over digital platforms allows for targeted campaigning. The engineering firm can now place a display ad where that ad is presented to potential contacts based on their preferences or initial action.
  • Further reach – Digital marketing gives small firms, which make up most of the A/E/C industry, the opportunity to expand their reach. Using the benefits above of low cost, precise targeting, etc. every firm that deploys a digital marketing program can play on the same field as the mega firms. A small architecture firm in Iowa can be the worldwide leader in theater acoustical engineering through digital marketing campaigns and reach theaters in Moscow or Brisbane, for example.

Propelling Forward

The A/E/C industry has often been slow compared to other industries when adopting new marketing trends. But in 2020 with the global pandemic, A/E/C firms were propelled to rapidly make changes to their marketing programs, including shifting resources to digital marketing. Knowing this, Full Sail Partners has developed the Driving Growth with Digital Marketing series. In this series, marketers and principals will learn how to develop a digital marketing program that is right for their firm. Sign up below to be notified when a new resource in the series becomes available.

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