AEC Marketing: Alexandria Swanson Speaks on the Great Shift in Digital
by Arina Smith Marketing 23 October 2021
The building industry market is continually evolving, which means that AEC businesses face the challenge of having to adapt or sink. We know that it’s difficult at times to know what steps to take to stay relevant and thrive in the face of changing markets, that’s why we interviewed AEC Marketing Expert Alex Swanson for insight into AEC marketing best practices.
As co-owner and marketing director of Bizop Media, a marketing agency with more than 6 years of experience solely focused on the AEC industry, Alex has worked with designers, architects, construction companies, and building product manufacturers to help grow their business via branding and marketing services.
Alex and their husband Nathan both came into Bizop with self-taught skills in graphic design and development. Each chose to study architecture (Nathan) and interior design (Alex) and formed a company that melded the unique knowledge they had procured.
Q: What are some trends that you can see developing which might have an impact on how AEC professionals respond to marketing?
A: In recent years, there’s been a shift in the information that consumers expect to be provided for free, and digitally. In the past, having to request catalogs or inquire about company services meant speaking directly with a sales representative and going through an in-depth qualification process.
For companies, it provided a good way to get leads for sales pipelines and establish lasting customer relationships. With the advent of the internet, expectations have shifted through technology and automation. Clients now expect information to be readily available and easy to find. And being transparent about products and services has proven to be a great way to qualify leads without the up-front manpower.
Post pandemic, we have not just seen this trend shift in the design industry, but all industries across the board. Buyers (B2B and B2C) want to know who you are as a company, what you offer, and the values you represent. All of this information provided guides the prospect through the buyer’s journey in a healthy, non-aggressive way.
Q: What do you think are some AEC best practices that businesses can adapt to best position themselves for future challenges?
There are three best practices I’d say are important- adjusting with the digital turn, embracing true sustainability, and leading with your values. And all of these build upon each other.
By fully embracing the digital turn and the transparency of information as I mentioned before is enormously empowering to AEC marketers. Having customers be able to access information quickly and easily can not only help market products and services, but also saves everyone time, money, and energy in the end. The use of the right digital tools can help optimize sales and internal operations.
Secondly, sustainability and ethical business practices are ideal values that are more than a modern-day trend. Although a hot topic regarding “green” initiatives for global sustainability is to be heard of on every corner, true sustainability goes beyond manufacturing and recycling. Creating solutions that limit waste through quality products or renovating an old building instead of knocking one down to rebuild are both practices that really test where your intentions lie. Remember that people are watching business practices more closely than ever.
Thirdly, it’s becoming more important to create brand awareness led by values. This ties into both the digital transparency age and also sustainable practices. People want to know the story behind the businesses and know that they can feel good about engaging with your business. One of the best ways to do this is to show your business as being one that provides long-term, strategic solutions that consider the wellbeing of all.
3. It’s a challenge in itself to create a sustainable business, but you’ve obviously managed to create a business model that is growing. In terms of long-term strategy, what approach have you found useful that you would like to share?
Great question. In the past, I found that growth is one of the more challenging milestones in business. That’s until I started changing my operational processes in what in hindsight I’ve come to call the 3 Ps of business for sustainable growth.
It’s processes, procedures, and people. Paying attention to these three parts of your business process can really get your business off the ground. And when I say off the ground I mean that like a plane in the air on autopilot, your business can “fly” itself and you can step away once in a while, a luxury that I didn’t have early on in my career.
Procedures are the “how” and processes are the “what”. For a business to run smoothly, it’s not enough to create a strategy. It’s knowing how and with what attitude the individual steps are to be carried out. This enables employees to work independently but in line with the vision and expectations set forth by the company. The third “P”, people, is a crucial element that can further evolve your company in a truly sustainable fashion.
Although all parts of the three Ps are important, I find that people are the heart of making a business truly evolve. At the moment, I employ people from different backgrounds to draw on their passion and expertise- one of our employees is an architect based out of New York City. Another specializes in sustainability in the creative industries and is based in Berlin. The structure we have is non-traditional, but it works thanks to the three P’s of business.
Pulled from the chapter Alexandria wrote in Insiders Know-How: Running Your Own Business
“Processes and procedures are generally thought of as being rigid in nature, giving the structure and stability for employees to be consistent within their daily work. But any process and procedure developed can, and should, be improved over time. This ensures that your efforts are being maximized and adapted as your business evolves.”
Q: So how could an AEC marketing company add value to its clients?
Outside of the obvious, delivering brand and marketing services, AEC marketing companies like Bizop are flexible problem-solvers. They can help create a customized solution to cater to any size of business or industry and even help develop a strategy for scalability. For many SMEs, it’s usually more cost-efficient and practical to outsource the marketing rather than hire full-time employees, and for large enterprises finding the right people to implement the marketing objectives can be a struggle- so that’s where we come in to fill the gap.
Q: The last question is a fun one to help us get to know you more personally. Is there anything that you can tell us that would surprise us about you?
I’m really into sports- especially skiing. Originally a small-town girl from the state of Ga with rarely any snow, I moved to the Rocky Mountains to be able to enjoy the slopes all winter long. I love everything about it- the views, the thrill, the way my body feels after doing it.
I also am a team captain for an adult league kickball team and cornhole team.
I believe it is important to break away from the daily grind to give your mind a reset. I think this is especially true for professionals in an industry capable of bringing such positive change in the world, such as the AEC industry.