Many Firms Not Capitalizing on Digital Marketing, AIA Report Finds

Many Firms Not Capitalizing on Digital Marketing, AIA Report Finds

Many Firms Not Capitalizing on Digital Marketing, AIA Report Finds

A new report from the American Institute of Architects has found that business marketing remains underutilized among U.S. architecture firms. The finding forms part of the newly released Technology, Culture, & the Future of the Architectural Firm report, which explores the influence of technology adoption on workflow and profitability in U.S. practices.

The 69-page report, available to download for free, notes that cultural and technological barriers currently hamper firms’ embrace of business development and marketing as a way of securing growth. “89% of respondents agree that relationships matter more than marketing for winning new business, and only 43% agree that digital/social marketing is important to them,” says the report. “However, firms that use social media are successful at driving leads through these channels.”

When asked what factors expect to drive their growth over the next three years, 86% of architects noted existing clients as being very important, while 85% cited client referrals. Only 24% noted digital marketing as being very important.

“Architects expect future firm growth to come from the same sources as past growth,” the report notes. “Only a minority consider proactive sales/business development efforts or digital marketing important. This is a big opportunity for firms.”

In particular, the report points to the finding that only 25% of firms under five employees are on Facebook, with less than 20% on Instagram. The report also notes that only 20% of firms use CRM (customer relationship management) or ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, which use data analysis to drive interaction with clients and business processes. Firms that do adopt such solutions were found to perform significantly better in terms of project management, and also feel more confident about future growth.

In its analysis, the report also found that the adoption of digital technology by firms correlated with the firm’s size. Small firms with fewer than ten employees tend to manage IT in-house, relying on ad hoc support from third parties. The report recommends that firms of this size prioritize the embracing of cloud solutions to increase collaboration capabilities as well as take advantage of social media.

For mid-size firms of between 10 and 49 employees, approximately 50% of which also rely on ad hoc tech support, the report commends establishing a stable, contractual relationship with a managed service provider (MSP) in order to streamline firm operations. In contrast, 68% of firms housing between 50 and 99 employees contain a dedicated IT department, with contracted third-party providers also common. The report recommends that such firms prioritize the embrace of project management solutions and cloud migration.

For the largest firms, employing over 100 staff, 94% contain dedicated IT departments and rarely outsource the role. The report recommends such firms prioritize the embracing of emerging technologies and better marketing solutions.

“Firm leaders can no longer assume that technology in practice refers to CAD, BIM, AR, VR, XR, drones, and project management/ERP systems,” the report warns. “There’s more to the story that must be considered for many firms to grow and thrive.”

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