Establishing thought leadership in the primary markets you serve is an important objective for many A/E/C firms. Content marketing can play a huge role in establishing your firm as an expert in the industry and blogging is an essential component of an ongoing program.
While many firms have a blog, not all are using their blog in the most effective way and results may be lacking. Whether the issues are a lack of consistency and frequency, populating with the wrong kind of content or missing features and functionality, A/E/C firms should consider the following tips to elevate their blogging approach and execution.
One of the most common reasons that A/E/C firms lack a successful blog is that they have never made their blog a marketing priority. While they may recognize its importance, the day-to-day reactive demands on the marketing team often take precedent.
But as Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, once wrote, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” In other words, the squeaky wheel may not always deserve the grease.
Unquestionably, a successful thought leadership blog requires top-down leadership support and a strong commitment from key technical staff and subject-matter experts. But it also requires a marketing department willing to prioritize the blog and do what it takes to keep it on track, even in the midst of never-ending deadlines for proposals and short-list interviews.
There are many compelling benefits of blogging for A/E/C firms including driving website traffic, increasing search engine rankings, promoting subject-matter expertise and raising the profile of the firm. But in order to realize blogging success, you have to commit to publishing articles regularly and consistency.
How often should your firm post new articles? Depending on the size of your firm and the resources of the marketing department, how often you can post will vary. The key is to make blogging a regular, consistent marketing activity and find a cadence that is manageable. This could be as often as multiple times per week, or as infrequent as once or twice a month. Think of blogging like working out — the more often you do it, the more results you’ll see and the greater the impact will be on your marketing efforts.
If you’re going to be successful at consistently publishing thought leadership content on your firm’s blog, planning is going to be a critical component. Hopefully your A/E/C firm has developed a long-term strategy and roadmap for your content marketing efforts. So with your content strategy in mind and considering your buyer personas, create an editorial calendar that identifies the key target audience, topic, subject-matter expert and publish date for each article you plan to publish.
Be sure that the majority of your topics are evergreen — meaning they’ll have a long shelf life and will continue to stay relevant for weeks and months to come. Your editorial calendar should be considered a work-in-progress and it’s best to plan at least a month ahead, but no more than 3-4 months out. You need a plan in place to guide your efforts, but you’ll want to leave room for adjustments, as current events pop up and things will inevitably change along the way.
Let’s be honest, your prospects and clients aren’t nearly as interested in your latest project win, accolades, employee spotlights or photos from recent company events as you are. And the purpose of your blog is not to explicitly promote your firm or sell your services. Your blog should exist solely to provide a platform for sharing content that educates and informs, and ultimately puts your A/E/C firm’s subject matter expertise on display.
To do this, you’ll need to match their interests with your firm’s expertise and create content that speaks to the topics that are most relevant to your audience. Content should be centered around what your audience wants to read about, as opposed to what your firm wants to say to your target audience. While the ultimate goal of content marketing is to attract new clients, your articles should be written with a selfless purpose, focused on being helpful — not promotional.
Blogging provides an incredible opportunity for your firm to display subject matter expertise and differentiate your firm from the competition. It should offer your audience a window into your firm’s thinking and demonstrate your expertise, rather than simply claiming it. But A/E/C marketers can’t be expected to write technical blog articles on their own and will need to enlist the help of technical staff and internal subject matter experts.
Ideally, you want to recruit a diverse team of experts from around the firm that are committed to contributing to the blog. The larger the team, the less frequent they’ll each be required to contribute. Strive to showcase the knowledge and expertise of your company’s thought leaders as well as up-and-comers with the potential to be thought leaders in their own right. It’s very likely that your subject-matter experts already have great content that exists in the form of presentations or unpublished journal articles, so try to leverage existing content as a starting point.
In addition to publishing regular, client-focused blog posts, you also need to make sure that the details of each post receive proper attention as well. The article’s title can have a huge impact on whether or not the article gets read, so spend some time crafting an attention-grabbing title that is also descriptive and search engine-friendly. Most people scan articles, so make your articles easy to scan by breaking up the copy with sub-headlines and bullet points where possible.
Include links to your other related blog articles as well as external sources of research throughout each blog. Be sure to include a corresponding and eye-catching image with every post and include supporting charts, diagrams, photos, etc. where it makes sense. Lastly, be sure each post is optimized for search engines and consider on-page SEO best practices such as SEO-friendly URLs, unique meta descriptions and optimized titles, ALT tags and image file names.
One of the goals of your blog is obviously to generate web traffic and have your articles read by as many people as possible. But this doesn’t just happen automatically! Even if an article will eventually rank well and drive traffic organically, it takes time for that to happen. You’ll want to leverage the power of social media to spread the word about your content. As Jay Baer has said, “content is fire, social media is gasoline.”
Obviously, promoting new (and older) blog articles on your firm’s social channels is a must. But try to also leverage your firm’s employees as social advocates and capitalize on the reach of their networks. Adding social sharing buttons to each article is a great way to encourage readers to spread the word and promote your blog posts on their social channels. Finally, you want to build a subscriber-based following, so be sure to include a subscription form on your blog with a clear call-to-action so that visitors can sign up to receive regular blog updates and other relevant communication from your firm.
Blogging at a high level requires a great deal of focus and resolve. It’s not something that can be done well with little to no investment of time, resources or energy. Much like other content marketing endeavors, blogging should be viewed as an ongoing program and not a short-term campaign.