AEC marketing moving from print to online

In February I spoke at the CIMCIG conference (see post), and I highlighted a presentation given by Andrew Cassie of CIB Communications, talking about a CIB/CIMCIG survey of AEC marcoms professionals. I was looking forward to the full findings being made more public, and – following receipt of a CIB newsletter – I have just been reviewing the findings.

The survey questionnaire was distributed to “just under 1200” construction marketers and achieved a 15% response rate (ie: about 180 respondents), of whom about 60% worked for industry organisations – predominantly building product manufacturers, but also some main contractors, consultants and builders’ merchants (who were the others? agency and consultancy staff, perhaps?).

As you might expect, there was some gloom with respect to the likely impact of the recession, and an acceptance that the marketing mix was changing, favouring more PR and online work, and moving away from print advertising, hard copy promotional materials and exhibitions:

  • Almost half (47%) said they expected their marketing budget to decrease in 2009 (presumably as a direct consequence of the current recession). Only 14% said they expected to increase marketing spend.
  • 57% of respondents regarded their business strategy as marketing-led; 14% felt marketing was an after-thought.
  • 53% said it had been easy or fairly easy to secure their marketing budget or funding – roughly the same proportion as those who said marketing was considered an investment (not a cost – as it was seen by 42% of businesses).
  • Amid a lot of uncertainty about how expenditure was likely to be divided among different areas of marketing, the main winners were web provision, online, CRM and press relations, while the main losers were trade advertising, corporate entertainment, exhibitions and event and awards sponsorships.
  • Looking at the future importance of traditional media, respondents favoured online literature, press relations, online advertising and direct marketing. The losers were likely to be product directories, on-the-page advertising, exhibitions and hard copy literature.
  • Looking at digital communications, the survey found business networking rated most highly (used by 60% of respondents), followed by e-newsletters (52%) and social networking (used by 34%). Only about 12% had used corporate blogs.

Digital marketing

Without access to the core data, I can only guess at the facts behind the digital communications findings but I would suggest:

  • Having done straw-polls at AEC industry events recently, I think the figure for business networking seems a bit high. I am sure there are numerous individuals using business networks (eg: LinkedIn, Plaxo) to connect to other people, but how many are actually engaged in marketing their companies’ goods or services on these platforms? Did some respondents overlook that this question was focused on digital communication and include their offline networking activities? Or was the figure affected by the inclusion of PR and marketing consultancy types predisposed to use of such tools?
  • Similarly, the third of the sample using social networking may reflect the personal habits of the respondents keeping up with their social circles, perhaps including some internal communications with colleagues, and I wonder how many of them are actually engaged in B2B digital communication using social networks? For example, how many of these AEC companies have corporate Facebook strategies, or use Twitter as a B2B medium?
  • The corporate blog figure is about what I would expect for AEC organisations – which have historically tended to lag behind other industry sectors in adopting Web 2.0 tools and techniques as part of their communication mix. This is despite the potential of blogs (and other social media) to boost website search engine performance, raise organisations’ profiles and to ‘humanise’ corporate entities and build dialogues with their audiences (see also Should every business have a blog?).

All in all, an interesting survey (one that confirmed some trends from a Construction News survey last year – see Extranet Evolution post), but it would have been good to get more responses from contractors and consultants, and – assuming the sample was sufficiently large to get some statistically reliable figures – to separate out the responses of the different sectors, including agencies/consultancies and clients. Maybe Construction News, CIMCIG and CIB can co-operate on doing a bigger survey next time.

1 comment

  1. I have found that many of the senior management of AEC firms do not understand that engaging online is the future. Just by leaving comments on related blogs can increase inbound traffic and then increase your audience. We have been building tools for 10 years to help AEC firms come online and it has been a tough slog. For instance, a company website is often thought of as a marketing afterthought. Yet, if an architects website goes offline, they will find out how mission critical it is when a potential client calls and says “Where is your website?”

    Please come to our website at to find out how we can support your online and CRM marketing efforts.

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