Make CFOs ♥ Marketing | Part 1 – Understand the Construction Industry

ThinkstockPhotos-dv176020b-smConstruction companies are beginning to understand how important it is to have savvy, experienced marketing professionals on their team. However, as more and more marketers enter this peculiar industry, they are experiencing how different build-industry marketing is from marketing other industries. Even if they come from an architecture and engineering background, construction is still very different from the rest of the A/E/C industry.

One of the most obvious challenges build-industry marketers face is the understanding gap that exists between marketing and finance. Generally speaking, marketing and finance often butt heads because finance sees marketing as an expense, and marketing sees finance as a barrier or hindrance to nearly everything it needs to do to accomplish goals. However, both departments must understand the vital role each plays in the profitability of the company. When accomplished, marketing is empowered to bring in the right kind of new work that increases the company’s profits, while finance enables marketing and holds them accountable for success metrics and budgets. For this to work optimally, each needs to understand the other’s tasks and role fully, and there must be mutual respect for the value each brings to operations.

In every talk I give to new build industry marketers, I mention our best practice for getting to know their company before tackling any external marketing task. To earn respect in this industry, you have to build relationships and know your company well. Here are some of our recommendations for getting to know your construction company while establishing yourself as a valued construction executive:

  • Get out of the office! – Put on your boots and hard hat, and go to a few jobsites. Once there… ask questions. This inquiry will help you better understand what your company actually does (construction capabilities vary between companies) and the culture of how they do it. If you do not understand the difference between vertical builders and road construction companies, you need to learn as quickly as possible. Getting into the field will teach you first-hand about what your company does (and doesn’t do).
  • Meet your people – Get to know your team in the field. They will appreciate your visibility, and this will help you understand the company’s culture more in depth. By creating a relationship with the field crews, you can help them understand how important it is for them to take the marketing part of their job more seriously and professionally. Otherwise, most people in the field think marketing is all fluff and a waste of their time and the company’s money. Therefore, they do not respond promptly to requests for project info, pictures, or presentation practices.
  • Get to know your differentiation – Every construction company is different in some way. Marketers know how important this is for other industries, but struggle to apply the principles of strategic differentiation to construction. If you don’t know your company’s differentiation, then your marketing will be “all generic fluff”. Your positioning will be off the mark. You’ll go after the wrong clients with the wrong message, and create a disconnect with clients by setting expectations your field team can’t deliver on.
  • Audit your Department – If you’re a marketer who is new to a company, you obviously need to get your head wrapped around your company’s marketing budget, marketing calendar, and marketing toolkit.

These are specific suggestions for construction markers to help you establish yourself and your department with the other company decision-makers. Construction is a relationships-centric business, so go make some relationships! You’ll also need to work very hard to help your business development team to understand your value and your role, so use some or all of these techniques with them as well.

Keep in mind, you have resources to help you, including my team. Our job is to make your life easier by providing you and your company with the skills and resources you don’t have in-house. Don’t feel like you have to go it alone.

Next, we’ll talk about how to look like a Rockstar by saving the company thousands and possibly even making it millions.