The AEC Business podcast had its 50th episode and the blog started its fifth year. Below is an interview with the author and founder himself – Aarni Heiskanen. Interviewed by Larisa Topalo.
Aarni, can you say a few words about yourself?
I’m Aarni Heiskanen, writer and founder at AEC Business blog and interviewer at AEC Business podcasts. I began my career as an architect, designing buildings, but moved into the Internet business and later into management consulting. Today, in addition to consulting, speaking and writing, I am the managing partner at AE Partners and a co-owner at Thinking Portfolio. AE Partners helps built environment trailblazers succeed. Thinking Portfolio develops software as a service for project and IT portfolio management.
You started the AEC-business.com blog and podcast four years ago. Both the blog and the podcast have won awards and recognition, and been featured by media as well as other construction industry bloggers and companies. What inspired you to start blogging?
Well, I think there were several reasons.
The number one reason is that I wanted to spread ideas. I’ve been in the construction industry since the 1980s. I’ve always been interested in innovation and development, especially as digital technologies started to change the game. The industry has been going from mostly local, to more global every day and ideas no longer have borders. Through my work I’ve been lucky to come in contact with visionary firms and individuals in the industry that want to invest in the future and are always looking for better ways to do things. I wanted to use the Internet’s vast reach to help AEC innovators by spreading the word about them and their ideas to a global audience.
In addition to sharing other innovators’ stories, I also wanted to share my expertise. As a management consultant for many years, I have a lot of experience in helping real estate and construction industry firms succeed. I decided that through the blog I could educate more professionals on how to develop their business through innovative thinking.
Finally, digital transformation presents many opportunities for construction companies and has become a big theme in my blog. As a partner at a software company, I’ve seen how networked digital technology not only improves productivity, but also creates opportunities for new business models. I want to help other construction companies understand and implement digital technology in new, beneficial ways.
You’re active on many social media platforms. How has that and your blog advanced your business?
As a consultant, I have not needed to do much promotional marketing here in Finland. When you do your job well, existing clients fill up your calendar.
However, because of my social media activity and blogging I have actually started receive consulting inquiries from people that I never met in person. I successfully sold my course “The Management Consulting Blueprint” online, thanks to great marketing by my friend, Michael Zipursky, whom I also met through social media.
I feel that I’ve been able to connect with awesome people from around the world, both thought leaders and industry professionals. These connections have created a lot of new opportunities for me and my companies, and have also given me a chance to have a more global impact.
Blogs and podcasts are tools for content marketing. What makes content marketing successful and important?
Content marketing is creating and distributing educational or entertaining content that builds trust, improves loyalty, and leads to favorable customer actions. The concept is age-old, but it’s booming because of the many new channels that are now available. These include blogs, social media outlets, videos, audio programs, e-books, mobile apps, and so on.
Content marketing works when it is made, as a starting point, to benefit the customer, it is of high quality, it is delivered in a consistent manner, and it is strategically right for the business that it is supporting.
I think that construction industry companies are just warming up to the idea of content marketing despite the big opportunities that it presents. I’ve seen many companies struggle with creating high-quality content regularly.
I’ve done it for many years with a very small budget and I think it’s not a question of money; it’s more a question of a mindset and persistency. It leads me to believe that content marketing is often misunderstood by the industry and I see this as my opportunity to be an educator on this topic.
What are you planning to do next?
My ultimate mission is to make the built environment better. To do that, we need innovative companies that can improve and change the way we build. It means doing things smarter, with less energy and by eliminating waste. It also means offering great user experiences, and healthy and productive environments. The companies creating these opportunities must themselves be able to prosper.
What can I do to advance the mission? I can share my knowledge and experiences and coach those who want to improve and innovate.
I have launched and helped launch several successful businesses that have been based on productized services. Productization means that you design and systematize the way you market, sell, and deliver your services. Both you and your customer benefit from this. I gave a presentation on the topic at last year’s Architecture Business Summit. There are posts and interviews on my blog about productized services.
As I said earlier, digital transformation is a big trend impacting the industry and it has made productization even more possible. Big and small companies have new opportunities to stand out and thrive in this new environment.
I’m planning to offer online education and remote coaching on productization, digitalization, and business innovation. I will also be doing more public speaking.
How can readers and listeners contact you?
Follow my blog aec-business.com and subscribe to my monthly AEC Business newsletter. It contains all my contact information as well as my social media channels, like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can email me directly at aarni(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)aepartners.fi.
Aarni Heiskanen photo by Anna Dammert