General Construction

Put Project Stories in Your Marketing Toolbox

by Fraley AEC Solutions, LLC

The Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry is a results-driven industry populated by some very smart and often pragmatic folks. Yet many firms within and outside of the industry try to sell their products and services by boasting about top notch service, the number of licensed professionals on staff, or how many similar projects they’ve performed. You’ll pick up more yards by building a story around your qualifications.

The age old project story, also known as a job story or a project application story, is one of the most powerful tools to promote your firm. It’s an effective way of delivering your qualifications within a great story about how your product or service solved a problem for a client. Here’s an analogy that will resonate with the pet lovers. How do you get your dog or cat to take a pill prescribed by the vet? Wrap it in cheese, peanut butter, or something else that your friend enjoys to disguise the pill. Ingenious, right? The analogy here, of course, is that the client will have an easier time accepting your sales pitch if it’s contained in an interesting package, like a project story. If a job story isn’t within your marketing toolbox, why not?

Designing, Building, and Storytelling

Storytelling never died. It’s timeless. And it has been launched to the forefront of brand building by a powerful movement called Content Marketing, which is redefining the way marketing is done. I would argue that storytelling is even more powerful in the construction and design sector. Perhaps I’m biased because I’ve dedicated part of my career to writing project stories. After discussions with hundreds of folks in this industry, the conversation always reverts back to a past project or work in progress. We are bound by a common heritage and passion that we enforce by sharing stories.

This is an action-packed industry with a rich history. We have stories of courageous founders, construction feats, and mammoth machinery that shapes our surroundings with blunt force. And it’s visually powerful as well, which complements the project story itself. Even outsiders slow down to witness work in progress. Even the quieter folks from the World War II generation that I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with over the years, broke their silence to rattle on about stories of design and construction projects past and present. My grandfather was one of those guys. He was a man of few words, but his eyes would light up as he shared with me the colorful stories of the old days in the construction industry. I miss those conversations.

Why Project Stories Work

Unless you procure 100 percent of your work via low bid, demonstrating your qualifications to a client is key. Time for straight talk. Telling the client you’re the best firm for the job is a waste of time. They don’t care. Furthermore, there’s a very strong probability that your firm is not the best. Your competition also has the best estimators, P.E.’s, P.L.S.’s., etc. We all need to be knocked off of our high horses from time to time to keep our competitive edge sharp. Stop telling the client how qualified you are and show them instead. A project story is a testament to how you solve problems for your clients.

There are more ways than ever to promote your business these days. Things were a bit a simpler 20 years ago because you focused on traditional, or native, advertising. Now you have Social Media, Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, and more. The project story delivers results regardless of the medium or the approach. It doesn’t matter if the story is in glossy print or online.

The Internet Amplifies the Results

The beauty of the Internet is that we can amplify the power of a great project story beyond a nice print publication. The reach is virtually unlimited. You now have the ability to post it to your website, across your Social Media pages…several times, and in your e-mail newsletter. Better yet, post it on your website and add links across those other platforms to draw traffic to your website. You can also improve your search engine rankings by posting valuable content. That’s powerful. Let it sink in for a minute.

It is also worth noting that many trade publications tend to post high quality stories on their own Social Media platforms, which increases your Internet presence. This is all evidence that the results of the traditional project story have been further amplified courtesy of the World Wide Web.

Share the Publicity, Build Client Loyalty

Sharing publicity with your clients is so powerful. It’s more effective than that bottle of wine you gave them for Christmas, in fact. If you want to build good will with a contractor that just rented a crane, for instance, have a job story done. Diecast models are nice, but publicity with the potential to generate real business is nicer.

I experienced how this model worked back in the early 1990s while working with Fraley Communications. Our core clients were construction equipment dealers and they believed in building client loyalty with project stories. It was a routine and it worked. Any promotional outlet that offers the potential of growing your customer’s bottom line is effective. Period.

Trade Publications are Starving for Good Content

The good news is that there are still many great trade publications serving the design and construction industry. Ready for some insider information? They’re starving for high quality content. That means that your project stories, if written properly and according to their specific needs, stand a better chance of getting published. There is a story behind why quality content is currently such a desired commodity these days, but it won’t add value to this entry.

Let me stress one key point that is vital to your efforts. Don’t waste your time unless you have someone with the unique ability to comprehend, and convert technical content into a story that folks actually want to read. There are many actors that claim they can write good project stories. Remember Charlie Brown and the gang on the old cartoon “Peanuts?” More specifically, do you remember Lucy being lulled to sleep when the teacher spoke because she could only hear”wha wha wha?” That’s what a layperson will hear when they interview your project manager. They may not fall asleep, but there eyes might glaze over. Your author must have genuine interest and passion for your story. If you’re lucky enough to have a technical person that can write well, you’re lucky enough. Otherwise, seek outside help.

Memorialize Your Accomplishments

You don’t have to enjoy history to know that you’re creating it. Every day, you design and build projects that physically alter the landscape of this country. Whether moving dirt, designing a building, or manufacturing the tools to get the work done, your accomplishments are meaningful. Humility is admirable, but these stories need to be told.

Thanks to digital storage, your stories can be preserved and passed down as a family heirloom. Future generations will thank you some day for memorializing the work that you, and perhaps your family, has done. 100 years down the road when we are all reduced to ashes and memories, your children’s children will read about your efforts and gleam with pride. Now that’s priceless.