A dozen or so years ago (who’s counting?) I co-wrote an article aimed at marketing and the heavy civil construction industry. Luckily I had 40-year veteran project manager Paul Cunningham of Skanska Underpinning and Foundation to help me bring the contractors’ perspective. Paul is currently with Tutor Perini Civil, working as Project Controls Manager. With some revisions and Paul’s blessing, the revised article follows…
Involve everyone in your organization
Imagine a typical construction firm with no marketing department, no Director of Marketing, and little marketing effort except what the principals and a few key individuals can muster when time permits. Sound familiar?
Some construction firms have the luxury of dedicated marketing and business development departments. Many organizations get by with cooperative efforts by talented individuals who have developed promotional skills outside their specialties. It is these skills that contribute to the marketing of the company’s expertise and professionalism. What many companies can do without a fancy department or Director of Marketing is project their brand into the industry. A company brand is a reputation, yes, but more so, when the construction industry sees your company name, logo, collateral, trucks, etc., what message does it communicate?
Everyone contributes to the marketing and PR of the organization!
Project superintendents, for example, often serve as ‘ambassadors’ to the communities they work in. A superintendent whose highway project runs alongside a neighborhood with an extremely active group of ‘sidewalk superintendents’ may use his public relations skills as frequently as his construction skills. Adjacent neighbors and curious bystanders can often be counted on to oversee the project from their side of the fence. The superintendent should plan on spending a fair amount of time talking with and answering questions, politely running interference so the task at hand, ‘on time and under budget, can be accomplished.
“Good Morning, this is ABC Construction Company; how may I help you?” – a positive, professional receptionist is the first person many of ‘Joe Publics’ the people on the other side of the phone, are introduced to within the organization. This person is the voice of the company. Customers prefer a pleasant, professional, helpful voice on the other end of the phone. We all know that trying to undo a poor first impression of your business is no way to start a successful relationship.
Consider the Accounts Receivable specialist collecting from your customers, walking the fine line between “Give me the $#@% Money’ and ‘We look forward to working with you again!” These vital individuals represent the company daily. AR Specialists contribute best by developing positive relationships with their counterparts at the company’s customers. Construction is a relationship-based business; positive relationships result in positive results across the board, and especially while trying to collect money! This is practical public relations.
Ever hear, “Do you have any current photos we can use for ‘x’?”, The PM, taking progress photos, week in and week out, is measuring and reporting the project progress. If you are going to take photos, you may as well take good ones, usable in a promotional context. “Yeah, Dave took some photos. E-mail Dave.” Listen, Dave’s photos stink. Project progress photos and promotional photos are not the same photos. Someone in your office is dying to get on a jobsite and scratch this itch for good promotional photos.
A financial analyst, who is talented not only with spreadsheets and the accounting platform, may also enjoy the opportunity to acquire desktop publishing and presentation software expertise.
What about the IT person, no doubt proficient with systems software, but perhaps Social Media as well? Becoming aware and proficient in the flourishing Social Media environment of today will provide a significant boost to your company’s communication and marketing efforts.
They might ask, “How about a little background on the workers performing the work for this social media post?” or “What are the specifics of the project itself for an article?” Before long, you’ll have job reporters ready to tell your company stories, 1 project at a time.
Is it fair asking your receptionist, superintendents, accounting staff and your technical people to contribute to the marketing process through these indirect roles? Is it good business to know that they in their daily duties, are working towards marketing the company? You bet.
With a small cultural shift…
In a small company, a few talented people who can take the photos, write the text, and arrange the layout and design while also interfacing with the associations, editors, advertising departments, et al., may successfully market their organization. Hundreds of construction companies rely on such a process. This formula of “coaching up” latent talents, combining skill sets, and building internal culture can present your organization with the means and a method to promote your brand effectively and authentically.
The assets you require to market your company may be closer than you think.
You’ll need a quarterback, schedule keeper, lion tamer, goat herder, and or someone organized, committed, and responsible to consistently hold this process accountable. Herein is the key to sustainability and successful marketing.
Everyone within your organization has something to offer the marketing process, and take some ownership of the responsibility, including ownership. If principals, et al., are behind this, supporting the culture and the promotional point person, treating it as important at the project behind schedule, waiting for steel or concrete, then you have the means to an internal marketing engine.
OK, you may need help in website development, search engine optimization, digital and traditional advertising, and design – areas for specialists, but remember – they need you as much as you need them, possibly more. Professional marketers may be experts in navigating the channels of communications, reaching the right market, design, art direction, or in capturing the essence of the message, but do they know construction? Have they ever called the concrete plant looking for the last load of concrete to be told the ‘truck just left the plant? Have they ever worked on a three-year project calling a 10′ x 36’ office trailer “home” for 12-hour days? Because that stuff translates into genuine marketing in the construction industry.
A construction company’s employees can and should do their part to further the successful deployment of a company’s brand name, corporate image and most importantly, corporate identity where it relates to safety, ethics, environmental responsibility, and social commitment.
What if you keep doing a great job for your clients, and nobody knows it?
Tell your stories.