The Power of Personal Branding in Construction
Are you ready to break out of the low bid nightmare and retain your best employees? Consider personal branding. “Branding” is still a relatively new term in the construction industry, so to bring everyone up to speed, branding is any and every experience someone has with your company. This brand experience is unique to each person, and everyone has a different brand perception of your company, including your clients, prospects, employees, subs, and community. Personal branding is similar, but instead of the experience with your whole company, it’s someone’s experience with one person or a small team. It is marketing your team members as experts in the industry.
Marketing an individual or a single team rather than your entire company may sound counterintuitive at first, but positioning your team as the expert and showcasing that expertise will cut your company to cut through the clutter and make a personal connection. This allows you to break out of the low bid mentality and actually demand higher rates, because potential customers need reassurance that the job will be done right. Going with a tried-and-true expert” ups the percentage of the job being done right exponentially.
Does your business development team have trouble getting prospects to take their calls or secure a meeting? That is because you’re just like the other 15+ construction companies beating down their door. If they gave 30 minutes to each company that wanted to work with them, they’d never get their own jobs done. You have to be unique and give that prospect a real reason to talk to you. Having an expert on your team allows your company to create true value for that prospect by giving them worthwhile advice. Prospective clients want to talk to your experts, and your team can assist them in writing the RFP, ensuring a better chance of winning the bid regardless of price. If the prospect normally has to put bids out, even low bid, you will see them work to do a direct hire because they do not want to chance it with a bid. Avoiding low bid because the prospect wants to hire your team is music to any construction company’s ears.
As I previously stated, prospective clients want to talk to your experts, and they will seek them out for bids, presentations, and articles in their trade publications. They will also follow your social media channels, read your blogs, and care about your company because you’re valuable to them. You supersede the normal client/vendor relationship and become a trusted advisor.
A big fear companies have about personal branding is that the added exposure will give competitors an opportunity to find and poach your best team members. This can be true, but even if you don’t highlight your best and brightest, your competitors will find them anyway. Promoting your experts like the rock stars they are will make them feel valuable and appreciated, which will make them want to stay. People work for more than just money, and appreciation and support are two key elements of happy employees.
Besides making your experts feel appreciated, personal branding will attract other experts to you because they want to be part of your winning team. Think of it as “the Miami Heat theory”—champions attract more champions. You can also groom younger employees under your experts as the next generation of superstars, ensuring your company’s positioning even after key people retire.
Allow me to provide you with a few examples:
- Bertucci Contracting Company is a fifth generation company that builds flood control and coastal restoration along the Gulf Coast. Their president, Tony, regularly speaks at coastal conferences, is very active in the Associated General Contractors (AGC), and regularly consults with the Corps of Engineers. His expertise ensures him an open dialogue with the Corps, and his company does nearly all of the coastal restoration work along Louisiana’s coast because of his knowledge and reputation.
- A good friend of mine is the VP of Business Development for JDB Engineers in Pennsylvania. They promoted their engineer with an extensive background in chocolate process design because they are in the heart of chocolate country. If you run a chocolate factory, wouldn’t you want the expert in chocolate viscosity working for you? Thought so.
- We see this with within my own company because we are a construction marketing firm. Our expertise in marketing large general contractors is the main reason I am writing this article. Most marketing & design firms can talk about personal branding, but they wouldn’t know much about how it works in the construction industry, and they probably wouldn’t have any examples.
Now that we’ve talked about the why’s and though through a few examples, I’m sure you’re wondering how you should go about marketing your team and implementing this “personal branding” stuff. Start with some of the easier items, like adding your experts’ bios & areas of expertise to your website. This will build credibility for your company, and those bios are great for search engines. Next, add those bios and any other credentials to your proposals. You’d be amazed how many people skip these two easy steps because they think everyone already knows. However, you need to be sure to educate any prospective clients about everything your team has to offer, because many times people don’t know an expert like that exists. Did you know an engineer could specialize in chocolate or that there was a firm that specializes solely in construction marketing? You know what they say about assuming…
Take “personal branding” a step further, and create flyers or brochures specifically for your experts. If your company is massive, this will personalize your approach, showing your prospects that you have a team dedicated specifically to their needs. If you’re a smaller company, a niche expertise is a great way to beat out the Goliaths of the world. Remember, people buy from people they like and trust to get the job done. Your expertise will promote your experience and know how, putting doubts in your prospects’ minds about your competitors. After all, who is the safer bet?
A bigger step is into PR (public relations) and promoting your experts in your prospects’ trade groups. Usually, these trade associations are always looking for presenters and writers – being the expert in their industry is much more powerful than being a generalist in your field. How great would it be to have 1,000 prospects read your article, or to present to 150 people that want to hear about your expertise? It is amazing exposure for your company, and each time you do it, it positions you closer to your prospects and prevents your competition from inching in.
Personal branding isn’t so foreign now, and you’ve probably seen it in action several times and didn’t even realize it. Think about your local insurance agents, doctors, and real estate agents – they work for a parent company or brand, but they are promoting their own names and faces. Use this tactic to promote your best team members and it will open doors for you with prospects, ensure that your clients remain loyal, and help you retain your best employees.