I recently returned from the Construction Leadership Network conference, where I had the pleasure of spending three days meeting with more than 100 of the best commercial contractors in North America. I have known many of these construction professionals for decades, and continue to be amazed with their resilience to sustain their businesses throughout tough times and boom times. It's a crazy and competitive industry that comes with a lot of challenges. Marketing is one of them.
As I presented focus groups and sat in on panel discussions, I made it a point to carefully listen to the things commercial contractors struggle with. With this in mind, I have assembled a construction marketing list—the top six things you need to know to effectively market your company in 2017:
1. The Internet has changed everything. Have a question? Google it. Need to know how much something costs? Google will know. Have a problem you need to solve? Google has the solution. Now, think about what an owner does when he or she has a problem (lost productivity, high maintenance costs, not enough space for employees or equipment) or an opportunity (merger/acquisition, new product line or machinery, capital improvements). They go online and they search for answers. They look at websites, they read blogs and case studies, and they search for a solution that aligns with their problem or opportunity.
FACT: Owners pre-qualify contractors based upon their online presence.
2. You need a powerful strategy. Now more than ever, you need a systematic approach to attract, convert and close leads. As customer buying habits change, so should your marketing. The old, intrusive outbound techniques (cold calls, placing ads in magazines and yellow page ads) are no longer effective ways to attract new business. Rather, an inbound approach—one where you draw potential customers to your products and services through content marketing, social media marketing and search engine optimization—is a more effective, targeted approach that brings in qualified leads.
(At the CLN conference, I presented a focus group on "How To Build A Powerful Marketing Strategy: The Construction Marketer's Playbook." You can download it below.)
3. Your website can no longer be simply an “online brochure.” Sure, today's construction website needs to show projects and capabilities, but it needs to educate and inform as well. New technologies, materials and delivery systems have emerged, and owners want to know what differentiates your services from the next contractor. Your website has the capability to address your prospects' pain points and should be your most successful salesperson—bringing in qualified leads 24/7/365.
Many of our clients are using their websites as customer service tools. Their websites also play a role in live presentations—directing owners to specialized content that can be browsed any time of day and at their leisure. With downloadable FAQs, case studies, eBooks, videos and infographics, prospects not only learn about the construction company, they learn how that construction company can specifically address their problem or opportunity.
4. Your contacts database is your currency. The thing that surprises me most when I speak with a marketing director or CEO is that they have no system in place for effectively tracking leads. Sure, some have Excel spreadsheets, but few have a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool.
Who is your ideal client? Are you tracking his or her visits to your website? Have they been reading your blogs? Have they downloaded your content? Are they in the awareness, consideration or decision stage of the buying process? You will never know if you aren't tracking your leads in a robust CRM.
5. Sales and marketing need to play nice. Without marketing, sales would dry up. Without sales, marketing wouldn't have a budget. Rather than think about sales and marketing as a two separate entities, think of them as a single team: Team Revenue. Set up a system of communication that enables marketing to pre-qualify leads and let sales know when the time is right for the hand-off. Have a system in place that tells marketing when a lead has turned into a customer and how marketing can help to delight that customer. A marketing automation platform, such as HubSpot, has a built-in CRM and tools that allow Team Revenue to communicate effectively. For a small monthly investment, your team's efficiency can improve exponentially.
6. You need to rethink your budget. Your resources should be allocated to support content development. Writing takes times. Keyword research doesn't happen by itself. Developing relevant content, such as eBooks, tips sheets, checklists, whitepapers and case studies require someone with excellent writing and design skills.
Your website should be the core of your marketing program, and content is what keeps your website fresh and interesting—not only to your visitors, but to the search engines as well.
Remember, in the words of Joe Chernov, "Good marketing makes the company look smart. Great marketing makes the customer feel smart."
Cline Design, LLC has a 29-year history of creating effective B2B print, design and inbound marketing strategies for the commercial/industrial construction industry.
We design websites, create strategic marketing plans, develop relevant content, manage social media channels and perform SEO for clients throughout North America. We also offer the Construction Break newsletter service for general contractors, construction managers and the trades.
Concerned about your company's ability to keep up with the changes in marketing and sales? Talk to us. We help businesses just like yours generate more leads and sales with a powerful inbound marketing strategy.