Some of us catch on to new technologies faster than others. The distinction between early adaptors and later users of new ideas and approaches sometimes (for technology businesses) is described as the chasm — there can be a huge and challenging gap before certain technologies achieve mass acceptance, and quite a few businesses in the tech world flounder as they try to break through to profitability.
Characterizing our industry’s overall late-adaptor approach to marketing, we’re hardly setting the adventure curve in applying technology to discovering new clients, building our brands, and attracting and retaining profitabile business. (The industry’s marketing association, the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) only started in the 1970s after advertising restrictions were lifted on architectural and engineering practices.)
Generally, I perceive technological leadership is happening in these areas:
Building Information Modelling (BIM)
General contractors and owners are the drivers here. Architects, engineers and specification writers are lagging behind. The reason relates to economic advantage and cost. GCs can poke holes in the specifications/data before they start work, discovering conflicts/clashes, and inefficiencies, and either suggest solutions before starting work, or (if they are less-than-ethical) plan to bid low, knowing they can make up the difference with change orders.
Ironically, however, architects and engineers could really gain an advantage if they implemented BIM and applied the data effectively for the next point.
Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality
Augmented Reality has some advantages over VR in that you don’t need special headsets or equipment to get the 3-D effect. As a viewer/user, just use a simple scanner (which you can upload within seconds to your cellphone or scanner and you’ll enjoy the power. VR on the other hand can create a truly immersive environment, and I can’t think of many better ways to achieve engagement with potential clients than to allow them to physically visualize — and then suggest modifications — to their proposed project. There’s a learning curve here, but it isn’t too great.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Right now, this is “behind the scenes” for most of us in the business. We’re seeing it more in the search/support and voice recognition tools provided by the internet giants such as Alphabet Inc. (Google). AI in business has greatest value in number crunching massive amounts of data and learning from it. In our industry, much data goes into our work, but not so much into our marketing.
No secret here, social media has been reshaping our relationships and marketing. It allows for incredibly efficient targeting, client feedback and relationship-building, and specialized interest groups. There are tools to automate and simplify your social media participation, and if you aren’t using these now, you’ll be left behind.
Blog/website/search engine optimization
Again, this is a place where if you aren’t reasonably current, you’ll be left behind. I sense websites have a lifespan of three to four years before they need a redesign-rebuild. Fortunately the cost of doing this work can be very low. If you are a real do-it-yourselfer, think less than $500 (plus of course your learning time). If you want someone to take care of everything, add an order of magnitude. But if you amortize that $5,000 over three years, it still is a really modest cost.
There’s lots of room here for you to stand out from the crowd with a bit of thinking and creativity. If you can come up with an application that will provide value and utility to your users, developers can turn it into an actual product for a modest cost (think of the numbers for websites).
In some aspects, you will just be holding your own by making the necessary technological changes/adaptations. If you want to take a leadership role, however, there are some opportunities going forward. I would think about BIM and AI as places where you can take your business in new directions and achieve market leadership with some thought and effort.