Push and Pull
One commonly used phrase is "No one likes to be sold, but everyone likes to buy". I don't know if that expression is totally true, but I certainly know that if you are a normal business, you (generally) like prospective clients to call you, more than you like to initiate the communication with the people you think should be interested in your service.
In other words, most people value inbound inquiries much more than receiving outbound "solicitation".
In the AEC business, inbound calls suggest real interest and outbound communications involves rejection. So you look for ways to encourage the inbound calls.
And here, it seems, you have two choices as well. You can create an atmosphere where people find you through their own searching and resourcefulness, or you can put yourself in their face by outbound marketing. In a bad (extreme) example, spam email is certainly outbound while a totally spontaneous referral from a satisfied client is totally inbound. Push and Pull.
Then is Push totally the worst way to do things, and Pull totally the best? Not always.
If your business is so lacking in effective competition that you don't need to market, then indeed Pull may be the naturally best way to proceed-- but there are indications you may be selling yourself short. Exclusive reliance on pull marketing suggests a waiting list of potential clients based on word of mouth referrals and repeat business (excellent) but may also suggest you are underpricing your services or (worse yet) potentially relying on a huge volume of business from one or a very small group of clients or referral sources. (For example, you are playing as a captive supplier to a large corporation.) Bam, things can go very wrong if something goes wrong.
Well designed Push marketing can propel your business forward, drawing high-quality clients, creating referrals, and energizing your organization. In the perfect world, this Push marketing is so apparently natural it appears to be more like Pull marketing. That is, your initiating call is framed within the world of referral, references, and overriding practical value so high that even the most cautious gatekeeper knows the call should be put through.
(My best personal example of this dynamic is the cold call -- by nature, cold calling is at the high end of Push marketing -- I made to an office of a major international organization about a decade ago.
"I've just come from an interesting meeting at (name of well recognized association) where your company's name was mentioned and I was told: 'We would like them to leave town too.'" Needless to say, my cold call resulted in a meeting, and out of that meeting we formed a strategic business alliance, that continues today. Push marketing, indeed.)
Some industries -- especially the advertising-supported periodical publishing business (where I work) depend primarily on Push marketing to sell our services -- we wouldn't be around for long if we waited for the phone to ring from unsolicited inquiries (and we know we are doing very well when we receive a few of these Pull enquiries each year, which brighten our days.) Our skill, and it is a skill that you can develop in the business development area of your AEC enterprise, is manging the Push so it is both effective and not too . . . Pushy.
See marketing guru Seth Godin's blog on this topic. (Seth focuses on showing businesses how to be great Pull marketers.)