AEC Marketing

Embracing a Digital-First World with Digital-first A/E/C Marketing and BD

03.02.2023 4 Minutes

The way that business is conducted is fundamentally changing and shifting toward a distinctively digital-first mindset.

If you think about the events and trends of the past ten years, so many things have moved toward apps, websites, and other digital tools. From banking and professional services to even restaurant orders, our consumer ecosystem has transitioned into digital spaces and solutions that have fundamentally changed how we interact with businesses.

Importantly, A/E/C firms are not immune to this trend. In fact, since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, firms have increasingly been forced to go digital to keep pace with the broader needs of the market.

Over the past few years, we’ve helped firms learn new methods for communicating with clients, prospects, teaming partners, and more. Now, we’ve found that most consumers prefer digital interactions over in-person meetings.

As digital transformation trends accelerate toward an online-only mindset, it has become increasingly important for firms to stay ahead of the curve to remain relevant and competitive in the market. Below, I’ll outline a few topics you should consider when positioning your firm for a digital-first world.

Generally, these topics can be organized into three categories — changing the mindsets and behavior of your people, taking time to refine and reorganize your processes for digital-first, and leveraging the right technology to ensure your transition goes smoothly.

People and the digital-first mindset

The biggest obstacle you will face in transitioning to digital-first is a firm-wide change of mindset. Importantly, to change the mindset and outlook of your people, you need to also account for a fundamental shift in culture. For this reason, leadership buy-in is absolutely essential for ensuring your firm’s culture can quickly and seamlessly shift toward digital-first.

It’s vital for you to get your leadership team not only on board with your plan, but actively excited for the shift and participating in the change in mindset. This will help team members further down in your organization connect the shifts in behavior (processes, tools, etc.) with the change in mindset required for a successful transition.

At the other end of the spectrum, you should also remember that digital-first is inherently a client-first mindset. Your clients are consumers too, and their consumer interactions in their personal lives will drive the experiences they expect in their professional ones.

Think about the perspective of the client at every interaction and touchpoint to build a truly client-centric experience:

  • Content — A client-centric approach to marketing necessitates content that speaks to the client’s needs, not your firm’s wants.
  • Interactions — Every digital, offline, and in-person interaction should be beneficial and helpful to the client, meaning that your digital tools should strive to answer questions, reduce friction, and provide value to your client and other stakeholders.
  • Experience — All aspects of your buyer or candidate journey should be optimized to enhance the client experience, meaning that all touchpoints (email, website, social media, etc.) should come together to deliver a holistic, omnichannel experience for your clients.

Establishing processes that allow for multiple touchpoints

Recent research from organizations such as Citrix has shown that by 2025, 75% of the workforce in the United States will be digital natives. Put another way, in a few short years the large majority of the workforce will have grown up with digital technology at their fingertips in one way, shape, or form.

This shift in digital literacy among the population is predicted by — and reflected in — recent trends in how the B2B buyer’s journey has become increasingly digital. As noted by Gartner:

  • B2B buyers typically only spend 17% of their time meeting with potential suppliers when considering a purchase.
  • 90% of the buying process today is done remotely.
  • Digital channels have doubled in importance among B2B professionals over the past few years.

For this reason, today’s buyers need a multi-touch strategy with a digital-first approach — one that allows for touchpoints across multiple channels and formats in ways that all contribute to the customer experience.

In doing so, you can position your firm in a way that highlights your offering online without sacrificing any momentum you’ve built in non-digital spaces. This generally happens through the creation of new internal processes for interacting with clients and the exploration of new avenues for improving the client experience (such as by offering chatbots on your website, diving deeper into social, or other similar digital strategies).

Technology as a means to an end

When it comes to digital-first marketing, it’s important to remember that technology is a means, not an end to your strategic goals.

If you want to reach more potential clients over email through lead nurturing campaigns, you need to do more than just subscribing to an email marketing tool and setting up some automations. Don’t get so caught up in the technology that you lose sight of the fact that the technology is there to help you do marketing and business development better.

If a tool no longer meets your needs, take a step back and reevaluate whether it’s worth your time to switch to a different tool, or to change tactics entirely.

Accelerate digital-first in your firm

There are five general ways to accelerate the adoption of a digital-first mindset at your firm, all of which focus on a different area of the digital experience:

  • Act Now — Change takes time, and the truth is that if you aren’t already heading down this path you are already behind the curve. To ensure you aren’t eclipsed by your competitors, you need to lay at least the groundwork for embracing a digital-first mindset today.
  • Focus on the Client — If you want to become a catalyst for change in your firm, you should start by selling the idea of client centricity. Since digital is now the primary way that clients do business elsewhere in their lives, they will begin to expect it from your firm. Make sure to be prepared.
  • Identify Digital Opportunities — Take a close look at your current client experience and look for ways you can reduce friction and make the customer feel more comfortable through digital means.
  • Develop a Strategy for Digital Enhancement — Transitioning to digital-first isn’t something that happens overnight. Make sure to build out a strategy with specific goals and milestones to help you with the process.
  • Build a Team with Digital in Mind — Digital-first marketing and business development requires a certain amount of digital literacy. Look at your team and structure and ask yourself whether you’re positioned for a transition to digital.

By taking the initiative now, you can help position your firm for the digital-first world of the future.

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