Here are seven creative ideas to get your construction industry marketing strategy off to a great start.
1. At the beginning, throughout the project, and in the end, it is all in the work you do.
Ultimately, you’ll succeed at marketing because you do your work well. Any amount of ‘selling’ will just fall apart in practice if you don’t do the actual work you are selling well – and excellent on-the-job results give you the basis for repeat business and referrals, and a network of connections that lead to future work.
2. Great marketing gives you change-order power in conventional price-sensitive areas.
As an example, consider the story of an electrical contractor working in a mid-size U.S. city. The local hospital has lots of work, but everything must be publicly bid, and the lowest price always must win the job. How can the well-established contractor make money while coming in low. The key is in the unwritten contract terms which the hospital administrators know and understand. The electrical contractor bids low with qualifications indicating that change orders will truly be necessary for a totally satisfactory project. The hospital, knowing the contractor’s reputation for reliability and integrity, knows that the change orders are to be expected. The contractor wins the job, legitimately, on price, and equally legitimately, change orders are processed allowing the contractor a reasonable margin for the work. Note this only works if there is a relationship of trust and integrity – low balling with the intention of pushing through change orders regardless of the cl!
ients’ expectations at the start is simply uncool and will sour any future business relationships.
3. Your employees, especially your project managers, are your best marketers, but don’t ask them to be your sales reps (unless they really want to do that type of work.)
A lot is made of ‘cross selling, and “getting everyone involved” but the reality is that most people don’t like selling – if they did, they would be in charge of the marketing department (or become the company president). Nevertheless, if you have staff who show ‘spark’ for marketing, give them business development responsibilities – and compensation that matches their contributions. And if they aren’t business developers, encourage them to report on interesting news and client requests to gain insights into marketing opportunities. And, of course, train them in the basics of client service – it is always good to return calls promptly, no matter how busy your employees are.
4. The name of the game is quality AND quantity
A fast growing engineering firm (sales increased by 25 per cent to more than $20 million in one year) discovered its sales volume increased even though the number of proposals it submitted declined from more than 200 per year to less than 100. As well, after several months of expense implementing a sophisticate database system, the company reduced the preparation time for proposal documentation by two-thirds. Theoretically, this means the company could have (at no additional staff or time costs) increased rather than decreased the number of proposal documentations it submits. But this is not the way to go. Focusing on highly targeted and thought through niches, with expertise, the company can turn around high quality proposals without straining its resources, and the ‘hit rate’ has doubled to approximately 50 per cent.
5. Outrageous often works – and can be really effective (but do it right!)
Take for example the Canadian roofing contractor that bought an old Cadillac stretch limousine and uses it as its work vehicle. Lots of room on top of course for ladders and equipment, and reasonably comfortable seats for the staff. And of course the used stretch limo purchased for $4,000 is a shocking billboard for the company. A reporter saw it, and the company ended up with national publicity.
(Unfortunately, this publicity will do the company absolutely no good. Outside of hard-to-find corporate registration information, you can’t find ANY contact information about the business – no phone listing, no website, nothing!)
6. Indirect often works better than direct, especially when the matter is really important (but you nee to be patient and you still need to ask for the business.)
The dance in developing romantic relationships has an echo in the marketing field. You often find you meet the person you love (or the person that you really want to go out with, is ready to go out with you) when your behaviour changes and you connect in ways far away from the individual concerned. Same goes for marketing. Hard rock cold calling and responding to public advertising with RFP submissions can work, and certainly will keep you busy, but the real stuff happens off stage. The challenge is to develop projects and initiatives that bring you close to the decision-makers you really wish to know, without being manipulative. I’m doing this, for example, with my series on marketing ideas and concepts. The research opens the door to suggesting the advantages of our own newspapers and websites – but I know this won’t work if I am just insincerely using my marketing research work for out-and-out selling of my specific service.
7. You’ve got to have fun.
It is really hard to keep going if you aren’t enjoying the work. This means you need to tailor your marketing approaches to your own personality. Perhaps you are sports and social orientation; in that case, you want to look at how you can use tickets to sporting events to draw yourself closer to clients. You may love golf, or in my case, I enjoy writing. Now the challenge is in dealing with potential clients who love golf but don’t like reading. No problem. I would interview the golfers for a story and learn about their golf passion; and, if appropriate, would refer a colleague who loves playing golf to work with the clients to work with them on that level. Whatever, it is very difficult to do it well if you don’t like doing it.