Brand Constructor Blog
Sample of a construction company’s advertising campaign. Source http://pzrservices.typepad.com.
Advertising in construction is more foreign than marketing for most construction companies and understandably why. I met with one of my clients this morning about restarategizing an ad they’ve done for over 10 years and it got me thinking more about advertising in construction. The Construction Marketing Association has done some great webinars & educational materials on marketing in construction, but they’re geared more for product & residential contractors.
Here are a few reasons why a commercial general contractor (GC) or sub-contractor would want to advertise:
- Recruiting - Recruitment is one of the biggest reasons companies engage with my team and even consider marketing, especially with low-bid public contractors. You can’t make any money without any employees and if you want the best, the best need to think you’re at the top of your game. Hard working, highly-skilled people interview their potential employers more than you’ll interview them because they have the power and the desire to work for someone that matters.
- Awards & Recognition for Employees, Partner Companies, & Clients - You can keep your best employees, subs & clients by honoring them with sponsorships to award banquets or ads in publications announcing the awards. Your clients will feel appreciated and other companies like them will see you care and seek you out for future projects. Everyone wants to be thanked and recognized, its human nature and advertising can be part of that. Ever thought of a billboard outside of a large project that says, “Job Well Done. Thank you to our great teams”?
- Niche audience - If you have a specific industry that you work with, a trade publication and/or event can be an efficient advertising buy. For example, if you build casinos, advertising in Gaming Floor would make sense and show your expertise over other generalist firms. (We do this in the construction industry by sponsoring select events, writing for industry publications, etc. None of our competitors do this because they do not specialize in construction like we do.)
- Brand Awareness - Clients want to hire a company they trust and they don’t trust companies that they’ve never heard of regardless how good your price and qualifications may be. Your proposal shouldn’t be the first time they’ve heard of you and if it is, you’re climbing uphill the entire time. Brand awareness is vague, but it can help with recruitment, retention, and get those future clients.
- Show Strength - Most companies have cut marketing & advertising due to the recent down turn in the economy, those advertising & marketing now are showing they are strong enough to survive and prosper. The people who see this strength are your employees, competitors, clients, prospects & potential employees. Advertising is cheaper than five years ago and companies would be wise to position themselves as a leader as we all come out of the recession.
Advertising is just one tool in the toolbox of the overall marketing strategy, but it shouldn’t be overlooked just because you’re a general contractor. Even within advertising, you have numerous options from print (publications), online, outdoor, TV and radio. Has your construction company used advertising to accomplish any of these objectives?
Rest of that advertising campaign:
To most, this image would illustrate that Facebook isn’t as high and mighty as most think because it took them so long to get to 1 million. Facebook changed people’s mindset and moved them online socially. Also, Facebook started with a very small group of people – Ivy League college students and it was required to have a college email address to subscribe to Facebook for quite some time. Also, Office 365 already had name recognition and a built in user base day 1.
It would be interesting to see how long it took AOL to get to 1 million users and then compare that to gmail. With a difference of over 10 years, gmail had to switch people to their system while AOL had to get people online; a much bigger hurdle for AOL, much like Facebook.
Have you see these awesome ENR covers for the Top 400 Contractors and Top 500 Design Firms? Well done ENR!
The past few years, I’ve seen a shift locally with construction companies hiring marketing people for the first time. In the past, these companies had done good work, maintained relationships, and been profitable. The market has changed and the recession has made everyone work harder, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Although some desperate companies will do anything for nearly nothing, they are educating clients that you get what you pay for and bids are transitioning to best value. Best value requires marketing.
This past month, I’ve fielded calls from three construction companies in different markets all transitioning to a proactive marketing. I ask prospects what changed to make them call us today and not before or not later. All three marketers that I spoke to were fairly new and now that the fires have been extinguished, they’re moving to more long-term goals. One of the marketers had been a proposal coordinator and was underutilized. She and the CEO are transitioning the company to proactively attract prospects and actually do marketing.
The amazing thing to anyone outside of the construction industry is that each of these companies make well over $100 million a year and rank in ENR’s Top 400 Construction Companies annually and they do not know their brand’s personality or their company’s differentiation. These are highly successful companies and they’re missing some of the core fundamentals of branding. The good news, they realize it and are doing something about it.
Best value proposals and negotiated require construction companies to differentiate and sell value instead of low bid and the days of being a client’s only contractor are probably gone unless you have a highly vertical niche and no one else does that kind of work. Even then, you probably have other contractors doing the work that is not in your niche.
What is your company’s personality? How do you differ from your competitors? Do you need to transition your business model or offerings to be unique? (We did, hence a sub-brand, Brand Constructors being a division of our parent company.)
Having trouble getting moving today. Have some coffee and check out this breakdown of the social media scene with coffee. Enjoy.
Lately I’ve had a lot of discussions about proposal design with clients, prospects, and my team. Yesterday, Matt Handal (who has a great blog about marketing, proposals, and business development in the A/E/C industry) wrote a post entitled “The Purpose of Graphics and Images in a Proposal…It’s Not What You Think.“
Images are an amazing thing for readers, they can explain the words on a page or paint a picture in our minds. After all, they say, “A picture says a 1,000 words.” Pictures are great in proposals for a multitude of reasons, but one of the most obvious reasons is the most overlooked – they make it easier for your reader to actually read your proposal. Think about when you read a magazine. You probably read the titles & captions first, then maybe the sidebar and finally the text. Imagine reading 25+ proposals about the same thing. What do you want? A break. Pictures give readers a break in the text and gives you, the author, a spot to call out specific information via the picture and/or caption.
Pictures also help make your layout easier to read. Remember your school days when you had 1″ margins (or 1.05″ if you needed to add a little more)? Those papers are hard to read because they are 6.5″ wide and most people don’t want to read more than 4″ across. This is why newspapers, magazines, and the Bible use columns. My team even uses columns on our internal documents because they’re easier to read. Images give you a reason to have 4″ of text and not have your boss yell at you for leaving half of a page of white space. (If you’re in construction marketing, you know what I mean, they want to fill the entire page.) I remember reading in my certification for SMPS, to immediately stop using the old standard 1″ margins because the most readable text runs 4″ or less (Marketing Handbook for the Design & Construction Professional, page 315). Ironically, that statement was written at exactly 7″ wide.
Look at this blog post, there is no image in the top few paragraphs like I normally include. I intentionally left that out to show you the difference in having images or not. Look at the proposals below (don’t worry about reading them). Which would you prefer to read? Which do you think is more credible with a multi-million dollar project?
I ran across some great quotes pertaining to Construction today. I thought you’d enjoy as well.
It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.
Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves.
Never worry about the delay of your success compared to others, because construction of a palace takes more time than an ordinary building.
The four building blocks of the universe are fire, water, gravel and vinyl.
Only after destruction there is construction.
The road to success is always under construction.
If a building looks better under construction than it does when finished, then it's a failure.
Life is like a highway, no matter what they say, the construction is never finished. There's always gonna be bumps in the road and detours every now and then.
If life is a highway, I wish someone would finish construction already. I'm tired of the detours, road blocks and pot holes.
About this time last year Carol Hagen with Hagen Business wrote a great post listing the Top 30 LinkedIn Groups for Construction Business Development. I wanted to make this list available to our readers (by writing about it & linking to it), add a few of our favorites, and provide links to each of them.
If you have any suggestions, please add them in the comments below.