3 Stories AEC Marketers Must Tell

As mentioned in the previous post, Why AEC Marketers Must Master The Power of Story, stories that connect on an emotional level are persuasive. But does this mean stories about your cat will help you win new business? No, there are three specific stories all AEC Marketers should master. These are the About Me, About Our Firm, and Who We’ve Helped narratives. Telling these stories well will make you and your firm more memorable, build authentic relationships, and demonstrate your ability to solve problems that prospective client may be facing.

Where To Tell These Stories:
Where To Tell the 3 Stories

The About Me Story
This is the story that introduces you to someone new. You want to make your first impression memorable and meaningful because people hire people they know (and trust). The only way to build trust is to share who you are in an authentic manner. The key to this story is to move beyond a list of your accomplishments, or a chronology of your work experience. Cold facts lack the emotional impact needed to connect with your audience.

The point of the About Me story is to explain why you do what you do. For example, tell why you are a marketer for an architecture firm that specializes in higher education. Once you answer why you do what you do, go back and build your story to arrive at this conclusion. For more information on story structure, read this post: How To Structure Stories To Win New Business.

The following story archetypes can give your About Me story a head start in connecting with your audience because there is built-in familiarity. The challenge plot has you overcoming a formidable challenge. Examples include David vs. Goliath, any underdog, or Star Wars. A rags to riches plot describes you as a normal person achieving something extraordinary. Examples include Cinderella, Annie, or Oprah. The what I’ve learned plot shows you, as the main character in struggle (often with yourself). An example of this is Abraham Lincoln and what he learned from the many failures he overcame.

David Lecours’ About Me Story Example

The About Our Firm Story
This is the story of your firm’s journey. Try to resist a historical timeline. A better approach is to focus on a few key milestones that add emotion, not just facts.

The About Our Firm story doesn’t tell what your firm does, or how, it tells why. The point of this story supports the purpose of your firm. For example, KAA Design’s purpose is to “design beautiful warm contemporary homes that enrich people’s lives.” Their next step to develop their story is to mine the company history for events that led them to arrive at this conclusion.

A good story involves conflict. This could be an internal strategic struggle such as trying to be experts in too many market sectors. Or, this could be an external struggle such as responding to a changing marketplace. Companies typically resist including struggle in their stories because they fear it will make them appear weak. But the opposite is true. Showing vulnerability adds power by showing that your firm is real and can overcome challenges.

There are a couple of timeless story archetypes that fit really well for About Our Firm stories. A vision plot that describes the future of your firm or the future your firm can create if hired. The recommendation here is to take a bold position, be polarizing. People don’t follow tepid leaders. A great vision plot is the I Have a Dream speech from Martin Luther King Jr. This vision plot is great for attracting likeminded clients and employees.

A revenge plot can be effective. Apple employed this strategy in their famous Mac vs. PC ad campaign. It can be more effective for AEC firms to seek revenge on a societal or building problem, not a competitor. For example, if sustainability is a core value of your firm, then taking revenge on inefficient buildings and climate change is a compelling story.

The Who We’ve Helped Story
This is not one story, but a series of short stories. These stories are so essential for Professional Service firms to tell because they demonstrate your ability to solve problems that prospective client often face. It allows prospective clients to see how your firm thinks, and deals with problems.

All you can sell is a future promise. The best way to demonstrate a future promise is by telling stories of your firm fulfilling past promises.

Challenge plots work well because they demonstrate overcoming adversity. Another option is the classic love story plot where boy meets girl, boy messes it up, boy works hard to get her back. This is a great opportunity to show vulnerability. Aquatic Design Group tells a story of specifying a pump that their vendor recommended without doing their own due diligence. The pump turned out to be insufficient for the massive university swim stadium they had designed. Aquatic Design Group took responsibility for the error, had the pump replaced at their own expense (costing half of their design fees), and won lifelong loyalty from the client.

Mine your past projects for bright spots. Share stories where clients adopted your firm’s unique value proposition, and how they benefitted. Develop your story by first establishing your point: why the client chose to hire your firm. The resolution is how your firm delivered, and what benefits the client received as a result.

I recommend that you have a Who We’ve Helped story for each of the main objections you consistently hear in your business development efforts. For example, if you consistently hear that your fees are higher than your competitors, share the story about how a previous client had the same concern, and how your firm added so much value to their project that any incremental fee difference more than paid for itself.

Randy Mendioroz, Aquatic Design Group, Who We’ve Helped Story Example


As Professional Service Marketers, our enemy is commoditization. Stories are the antidote. Nobody can legitimately tell your About Me, About Our Firm, and Who We’ve Helped Stories. Your stories are unique and they will set you apart from your competition.

What Do You Think?
Have you used one of these stories? Was it effective?
Did telling your story inspire your prospective client to tell you their story?

Next Posts To Read
Why AEC Marketers Must Master The Power of Story
How to Structure Stories To Win New Business (coming soon)

Recommended Book That Inspired This Post
What Great Salespeople Do: The Science of Selling Through Emotional Connection and the Power of Story 
by Mike Bosworth, Ben Zoldan

LecoursDesign is a branding and digital marketing agency helping A/E/C* firms attract clients and talent.
* A/E/C = Architecture / Engineering Construction (but you already knew that)
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