The power and limits of data in AEC marketing

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Google Analytics data for our newest website, It’s powerful and effective — but this type of data will be only partially useful in assessing marketing campaigns for large AEC projects

Compared to the good (or bad) old days, we have an amazing access to data and information about our marketing programs. You can track real-time viewers to your website, compile detailed and comprehensive reports outlining the source, nature and behaviour or your visitors and email campaign?responses, and slice and dice this information in demographic and historical categories.

The tools can be overwhelmingly powerful, or utterly useless. More likely they fall somewhere in the middle — helpful in assessing some aspects of your early-stage marketing plans, but not too useful for the big picture stuff (like truly understanding which of your initiatives leads to meaningful business.)

The reason for this discrepancy is simple: It is the scale our business volume and decision-making process. (These issues don’t apply so significantly to higher-volume/smaller sized transactions especially for certain residential service contractors. Here, data can quite reasonably correlate to final sales results, and should be an important if not crucial part of the overall marketing strategy.)

Here is the problem. If you are in the business of building schools, and the average unit cost is $10 to $30 million, you won’t build dozens of them a year — and if you had the capacity to construct that volume, you probably would be working on $300 million to $3 billion projects, perhaps PPP projects with incredibly long time horizons. (I just received a news release from a mechanical contractor which won??a hospital contract with a 32-year duration. The contractor will install the systems during construction and maintain them through the contract life span.)

With these numbers, you simply don’t have enough data points for statistical significance. One email or web message “may” have resulted in the start of something interesting, but I think you would be have real trouble proving the correlation. In any case, really big contracts are won through a matrix of factors including financial capacity, creativity, political connections, and estimating skills. Ultimately your partnerships and relationships, as well as the intuitive and analytical competence of your key employees, will go into the picture.

Of course you should still assess and measure your marketing data. You likely will discover important correlations between the length of relationship you have had with the client before the specific project became public knowledge, and your success in winning the work. You can certainly develop an effective “go/no go” matrix for your project proposals, and you can measure payback in lead generation and accumulation. And if you can break out some small “sampler” type services/business in higher volume, you can really track the beginning-to-end lead generation/cost/value through deep data analysis.

I’ve written some articles about measuring results for The SMPS Marketer magazine. If you would like some of these resources, please email

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