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Keeping Up with the Trends

October 20, 2011

“Voice from the Trenches” is written by Karen Euler, director of marketing at TRO Jung | Brannen. She has been active in SMPS for many years, most recently serving a two-year term on SMPS Boston’s Board of Directors. She can be reached through Twitter @karen_e or LinkedIn.

It is no easy feat to keep up with trends in Architecture/Engineering/Construction (A/E/C). One year, you are LEED-savvy, the next you are scrambling to become literate in IPD and BIM. Social media marketing trends move even more quickly. Barriers to entry to develop new web services are quite low; computer software engineers are hotly in demand to improve existing web services and develop apps for mobile devices. Hardware such as Apple’s iconic inventions drive development of faster and better web-enabled software and services. Architects and clients alike can be seen brandishing tablets and smartphones while in meetings, giving presentations, and casually sharing information, thus indicating the utility of these tools.

One of the latest services to be funded by smart venture capitalists, SoundCloud, demonstrates the quixotic nature of new services that pop up. As Flickr was built for photo-sharing and YouTube for video sharing, SoundCloud is becoming a large social platform to share sounds — not music necessarily, but speech or ambient sound. Imagine it used creatively by a construction firm marketer. A member of Skanska USA’s marketing team, Allison Brooks Scott, notes that “Construction sites are naturally intriguing to people, so it’s easy and eye-opening to realize that business can engage with the end user via social media when buildings under construction are the topic of conversation.” Perhaps someday soon a firm like hers will harness the sounds of a construction site to build excitement online via SoundCloud.

The aspect of social media that is unchanging is the marketer’s mandate to bring interested customers back to home base, or the home website. As rich and developed as a firm’s Facebook page or Twitter stream might be, the best part about social media is usually bringing potential clients and partners back to the fully branded home environment, whether that is a traditional website or a hybrid blog/website. Once there, sophisticated firms engage prospective clients and set up compelling calls for action. One example of a call to action is found on consultant Erin Carlon’s new site, www.ideaworks.is. Instead of asking for site visitors to sign up for a newsletter, the site asks a simple but unusual question which is surely aimed at the principals and marketers who are her clients: “When do you typically start your marketing plan for the following year?” The question is followed by a multiple choice answer options and a field for the participant’s email address. This approach feels fresh and friendly.

As the gurus of Hubspot here in Boston say, in order to “get found” by people already learning about our firms and their value propositions, we need to “set our websites up like hubs for our industry that attract visitors naturally through search engines, the blogosphere, and social media.” In simple form, that means thinking critically about keywords and carrying good links to your site out into the world to drive readers and viewers back to your hub. Of course it is not so simple to think backwards from the customer, but in highly competitive times like ours, it is possible that there is no other choice.

 Last month in Boston some A/E/C marketers were lucky enough to attend the Inbound Marketing Summit conference. Participants were treated to keynote speeches by luminaries like Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki’s current talk is based on his book Enchantment, and addresses such timely issues as winning people over through a great smile, a firm handshake, and telling great stories. We have heard it before: we must create compelling content to enchant our constituents!

 An emerging new style of inbound marketing is exemplified by the personal Facebook page of tech reporter Liz Gannes, which takes advantage of both the new timeline layout and the new subscriber feature. As Mashable recently reported, one of her first posts to subscribers “noted her uncertainty about the mix of personal and professional updates on Facebook as well as what kind of posts they should expect from her. Gannes even let subscribers know  her comment moderation rules, helping to foster intelligent discussion about the topic at hand.” This is inbound marketing because the reporter’s individual brand presence helps drives traffic to her publication (AllThingsD). And for those who wonder about the line between personal and professional social media, well, it probably is getting blurrier.

 Karen will develop these ideas further during an upcoming talk entitled “The Rules of Engagement: Inbound Marketing Essentials for A/E/C” at Build Boston. This SMPS Boston-sponsored workshop will be co-presented by Erin Carlon of ideaworks and Allison Scott of Skanska USA. Please join the dynamic group on Wednesday, November 16th at 6:00 pm.

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