In my experience developing marketing solutions for engineering firms, an engineering business culture is a good environment to find natural adopters of new marketing technologies and methodologies. Engineers make for good marketers because they are curious and skeptical, professionally trained to appreciate the discipline of strategic planning, repeatable processes, and data analysis. Engineers tend to avoid magical-thinking – instead, opting for solutions that lead to outputs which can be observed and measured.
What’s Not Working Anymore…
Project Lead Services
Times have changed and “anyone” can subscribe to a project lead service, and there are several to choose from. If your firm lacks any visibility, this might be a good place to start, but the downside is that this is where all of your competitors are as well. The easiest way of commoditizing your firm is to chase a bid and hope that your firm wins an opportunity based on price, instead of the unique value that you provide.
SEO is Dead
We know that 92% of all B2B purchases start with a simple Google search, but what’s hidden in the nuance of this statistic is that the purchasing process is not entirely linear. If you were to map out your sales funnel in 3-dimensions, it would look a lot more like a spiral (or Vortex for dramatic effect) with prospects returning to your website for further investigation as the opportunity matures and your services are needed. So, they leave and come back. The question you should be asking is, not whether or not they will find you, but will they return?
Be sure to ask yourself, why should they?
With regards to traditional semantic, organic SEO services – outsmarting search engines is definitely dead. Yes, it’s important to structure content that is compliant with best practices in search engine indexing preferences, but the boost that you’ll receive from the perfectly optimized headline and keyword density are much less important than the overall contextual experience for the user (Search Engine Land). Longer, more engaging, and useful content is preferred.
Visual Branding to Differentiate Your Firm
Good “design” is essential for readability and efficient user experiences. As consumers, readers, and customers – we enjoy consuming information and we want our experience to satisfy our content consumption requirements, but creating innovative and unconventional environments is not one of them.
Instead of assuming that the various assets that make up your brand’s visual language ( logos, colors, typefaces, user-interfaces, brochures, etc…) will create “preference” between your firm and your competitors, just make sure that you’re not creating roadblocks and headaches for your clients. In an audit of more than 50 AEC websites, we found that the majority of sites lacked calls to actions to direct users to solutions and convert them to active leads.
There’s nothing to appreciate from unusual or unconventional experiences. Your prospects want experiences that are relevant to their expectations and intuitive. Don’t be different. Be useful. Different is weird, and weird is not good.
As buying behavior has changed, so have the challenges in marketing an engineering firm. Buyers are in control of the selection process, and a lot of vetting and research happens before a project is publicly known, so getting an opportunity to demonstrate some compelling value and get into a substantive conversation early, is now critical.
The Value of Getting There Early
By the time that your firm has been invited to discuss a project with a new prospect, several other competitors may also be under consideration for the same opportunity. We know this because a buyer completes almost 60% of the purchasing process before they contact you. It’s easy to emphasize the importance of chasing the project – that’s what you are paid for. However, consider the benefits of getting in the door early. Being not only “known” but “preferred” by a prospective client, positions your firm for the opportunity to be automatically added to the next shortlist, or even as a trusted partner and advisor who is involved at the earliest stages of scope development and expected to provide the service.
Marketing Tactics You Should Consider “Besides” Lead Generation
How can you both grow your pipeline and speed up your sales cycle? Leads are obviously important. Most firms struggle with top-of-the-funnel (TOF) issues and lead generation is consistently at the top of the list of business problems that most B2B marketers are trying to solve. But is lead generation enough? Let’s face it, it’s not always possible to invest in a holistic, united assault against all of the enemies of your business development efforts. It’s important to prioritize and know where to get the most bang for your buck. Where else can you focus your efforts? Instead of looking at lead-generation alone, consider the following tactical areas to build infrastructure.
Personalize Experiences for Prospects
Differentiating your firm’s brand has much less to do with visual artifacts and much more to do with relevant and engaging content. The story of a me-too firm is one of capabilities. However, creating descriptors for the various services your firm provides does little to differentiate. What sets your firm apart is not what you do, but why you do it, how you do it, who you do it for.
The semantics of the terminologies: “brand journalism” or “content marketing” are somewhat irrelevant. Your content should educate the reader and influence profitable actions. Personas are essential tools in aligning your content with specific questions that your target audiences ask at each phase of the buying process, but they are not necessarily “personalized.” A personal experience is one that connects a brand with an audience’s values and aspirations. A personal experience inspires preference because consumers want to know that brands care about them and share their values.
How to Personalize Experiences
In practical terms, brands can personalize content by incorporating personal experiences (stories) that entertain, inspire, and engage audiences without necessarily being promotional. As your firm develops a brand strategy that incorporates a foundation of relevant content, it should consider how employee, customer, and end user experiences can be editorialized and incorporated in the organization’s informational content to improve engagement.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Technologies and methodologies to evaluate buyer behavior as prospects navigate your firm’s website and then recommend or optimize content that is relevant to the user. AI technologies are extremely efficient at A/B testing content to improve deeper engagement and more conversions.
Use HubSpot’s Smart Content features to alter content such as rich text, HTML, or CTAs to deliver the most relevant message to your user. HubSpot can recognize previous visitors and deliver content based on: list or lifecycle stages for known visitors or behavioral cues like referral source for anonymous visitors.
Invest in a library of project profiles to demonstrate your competencies in a specific engineering category or your experience in a particular sector. For example, if your firm wishes to deepen its profits in the grocery sector, then it is important to demonstrate your relevance with similar facilities. Your project portfolios demonstrate relevance, and help answer an important question that your prospects will ask. “Why should I believe you?”
Enable Your Sales Team to Close Existing Leads
Although sales and marketing are or at least “should” be closely aligned, there is a clear hand-off between the processes of acquiring a marketing qualified lead and then transferring that prospect to a trusted consultant. Revenues are dependent on closed business, so a firm’s inbound sales process should be as procedural and as well defined as they envision their marketing processes. When firms are inefficient or ineffective at maturing sales qualified leads to closed opportunities, revenues suffer.
Sales enablement looks at your entire sales process, aligning the steps with the customer’s buying cycle to:
- Identify, what content is required at each stage
- Define when sales should get involved
- Help anticipate questions open opportunities to solve problems
- Close the leads you already have and speed the buying cycle
What to do to enable sales
In order to enable sales, firms must develop a well-defined sales process with the buying process with the same emphasis on education and problem-solving. CRM and Marketing automation technologies help by delivering the right content at the right stages of the selling process.
Leverage Marketing Automation
Implement systems to assist prospects through your sales funnel by executing repetitive tasks like distributing educational content based on lifecycle stage or lead score. Marketing automation technologies can execute repetitive tasks to create more consistent and personalized experiences for users.
How to Get Started
The right infrastructure can empower your firm to build a more profitable pipeline and more reliable cashflow, but getting started can be an daunting and intimidating task. It’s important to start by developing a benchmark of how your firm performs today and then identifying the problem areas that might be frustrating your sales process. Don’t just look at the top of the funnel and ignore opportunities to improve the velocity of prospects who are marketing qualified and sales ready.
Start a Free Inbound Audit
Let’s take a look under the hood and get a better understanding of your existing sales process and performance. We can evaluate your current situation and provide you tailored recommendations that are uniquely suited to your business and help you reach your financial goals, faster.