Content Marketing Ideas

10 Ideas for AEC Content Marketing

[Video Transcript for 10 Ideas for AEC Content Marketing by Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM. Minor edits for clarity.]

Greetings everyone! I’m Scott Butcher and today I’m going to talk to you about 10 ideas for AEC Content Marketing.

No matter where I go, Content Marketing always seems to be a topic of conversation ­– it’s everywhere right now. I can be out at a conference, or a professional society meeting of a local chapter, or working with firms to facilitate strategic meetings or help with strategic planning, and Content Marketing comes up again and again and again.

And it’s no wonder why – recent research from the Society for Marketing Professional Services, or SMPS, found that within the next couple of years Thought Leadership is going to be the third most important marketing and business development approach, with Content Marketing coming in at number five.

Thought Leadership is subject matter expertise and it’s a subset of Content Marketing. Now keep in mind that this is ahead of traditional sales tools like Personal Selling, Email Marketing, Advertising, Trade Shows.

Our marketing mix is changing greatly and our firms are struggling to keep up with it. I’ve been with marketers and business developers and they’re crying for content. The marketers want it for Search Engine Optimization, to push out on social media, to push out in e-blasts. The business developers want it because they can share content with prospects and clients, and it’s a great excuse to contact.

So the need is there!

Firm leadership in general gets it – they understand that marketing is changing. They understand that we need to reshuffle our marketing mix.

So then all eyes turn to the subject matter experts – these are your project leaders and your project doers ­– and when all eyes are upon them, do you know what they say?

“Not it!”

They simply don’t want to do it, they say they don’t have the time, they don’t have the interest, or they don’t have the know-how.

So we need to evolve beyond that at our firms.

I’m going to share with you 10 quick ideas for finding content – a lot of these are lower hanging fruit, but some are mid- or even high-hanging fruit.

But here’s ten places you can look:

1 – Projects

Number one, projects.

This is the easy path to take – we’re working on projects now; we have new projects that recently came online. What can we talk about? What stories can we share?

Be careful: number one, the story needs to be about your client: they are the hero. You’re not the hero. But if you address some of the challenges faced, the options considered, the end results, you can make them look good while you look good in the process.

And number two, you also have to be aware of NDA’s, non-disclosure agreements, and general client confidentiality.

But you can share some of these stories generically as well.

2 – New Products

Number two, new products. New products are coming online every day – products that designers might specify, products that builders might use during construction. 

Talk about them: what’s the pros and cons? Have you used them? Have you evaluated them? What do you think is missing in the marketplace?

There’s a lot of potential blog content, or video content, or even webinar content out there with the products, particularly the newer products or the time-tested products that will never go out of fashion.

3 – Technology

Number three, related to that, is technology. How are you using technology?

Beware in our industry, a lot of firms have impostor syndrome.

We look at the mega-firms and we say “We’re a contractor, we can’t afford what the big firms are doing, we can’t afford SAM the semi-automated mason – the robotic bricklayer.” 

Or “We’re a design firm, and we’re only this advanced with Building Information modeling, and the mega-firms are way up here.

What you really should be talking about is how you are employing technology – how you are helping to solve your clients’ problems.

Now this could be shortening schedule, enhancing quality, lowering costs … whatever the case may be. How are you integrating technology?

There’s stories that can be told as well, like with new products: What about newer technologies? How could they be integrated into a design process or a job site?

4 – Clients & Vendors

Number four, your clients and vendors. 

They’re doing really neat things – they’re changing the world for the better. How are they doing it and what little part do you have in it? How are your clients serving their clients?

There’s a lot of potential great stories here. Now again, you can’t violate client confidentiality or NDA’s, and also don’t forget to look at your vendors, your sub consultants and subcontractors, the suppliers of equipment, and other items you might spec on a project – whether it’s a type of wood or flooring or other finishes. 

There are so many opportunities out there for content.

5 – Trends

Number five – this is a big one – trends.

What’s happening in this industry in general? What’s happening in your specific markets? As well as what’s happening within the verticals that you serve like higher education or health care or heavy construction or military?

There’s ever-changing dynamic content opportunities here just by talking about what’s happening and what’s predicted to happen moving forward.

6 – Lessons Learned

Number six, lessons learned.

This could be the good, the bad, or even the ugly. We’re all involved with projects daily. We all learn lessons – sometimes a great lesson, sometimes it’s not pretty.

But imagine sharing a lesson you learned where maybe you had a failure of some sort – not a client failure, but a failure on a project to deliver in one way or another.

Sharing that, and the lesson you learned through that process shows authenticity; it shows humility.

Definitely great ideas for content here.

7 – Newsjacking

Number seven – I love this term: it’s called newsjacking.

Newsjacking is looking at a current event and developing content around it.

So an example I often share was a few years ago, the firm I was working for – we had structural engineers on the team. A big snowstorm was bearing down on the region, and we did a blog about snow load. It was things to look for with roof deflection, when to clear the roof, when to call in a professional if you have some concerns.

We posted the blog; we blasted it out via email. And in the end, it actually generated several leads ­– and the leads weren’t about snow load! It was because we were right in front of the client or the prospect at the ideal time, which is why we want content to begin with!

8 – Repurposing

Number eight, repurposing.

There’s tons of stuff you could be repurposing now. The most obvious example is maybe one of your colleagues does an internal Lunch-and-Learn. It could be for their department or for their branch office. And you take that presentation and you turn it into a SlideShare or a webinar or a blog – you pull that content out of it.

But what about all the project-related communications? These are the emails, the memos, the studies and reports.

There’s tons of content there if you know where to pull it out!

Now you typically need a subject matter expert to point it out to you.

An example I often share is when I was working with a lighting designer, he developed a pretty detailed educational study report for a client that was exploring options for outdoor lighting. And he brought it to me and said, “I think we can chunk this into three blogs,” gave me some direction on it. I pulled the content from it, gave it back to him, and he embellished it, added a little more information of substance, fixed what I got wrong, and we had a three-part blog series that established thought leadership.

9 – FAQs

Number nine, FAQs. 

Do you find that you have clients asking you the same questions again and again?

Well, what if you created an FAQ blog post or an FAQ video where you address some of these questions?

This is again low-hanging fruit, and it helps get some content for later in the sales funnel. That might not be the awareness content up here but it could be the interest or the consideration content that actually is going to help you close the sale.

10 – Research

And then finally, item ten is research.

This is where you go out and conduct research. I’m not going to talk about primary research, because that’s very time consuming.

But secondary research is looking at what’s out there already and aggregating it and sharing your opinions and your personal experiences about the research.

Again, this could be a never-ending stream of content.

So I want to share with you a real quick example.

Several years ago, I did an internal Lunch-and-Learn for the company I was working for.

It was about industry megatrends. Afterwards, I shared it with quite a few colleagues in the industry and said, “What did I miss?” or “What do you think I could strengthen?”

It became a blog post for my Engineering News-Record,, blog Marketropolis.

And then I repurposed that content again, and gave it at local professional society sessions, gave it at conference breakouts, and it eventually elevated to a keynote for me, and I’ve given it as a keynote address many times.

So I’m repurposing, but I’m also using multiple content ideas incorporating it into this presentation.

Content can come from anywhere!

That’s the lesson I want to get across today.

What do you think? What are some of the resources you use to find content at your firm?

I’m Scott Butcher. I help design and construction firms improve their marketing and business development acumen through consulting, training, and facilitation.

I hope this little video has been of value to you and I look forward to seeing you next time. Thank you.

[End of transcript.]

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