8 Simple Steps to Build a Successful Construction Marketing Strategy

We fail to plan, we plan to fail. It’s a simple phrase but one that is true most of the time. This is especially true with Construction.

Think of all the times you’ve had to plan, or had to plan and not planned and it’s all gone a little Pete Tonge (one for the kids there);

  • Going on holiday – Needs planning
  • Moving house – Needs planning
  • Renovations – Needs planning
  • Cooking a Sunday roast – Needs planning
  • Constructing and building – Definitely needs planning!

This final one is what brought you here. You’re in the construction industry, probably within a marketing department and want the inside track on how to plan a successful marketing plan within the built environment.

In terms of planning, marketing is no different, especially within construction where through external forces that are outside of our control, such as legislation, policies, technological changes and social behaviours, things can and will change, meaning that we need to plan for the future. Having a robust plan in place means we can face these changes with more confidence and from a place of understanding, control and focus.

By following these 8 steps you can create your own Marketing plan that will give you a competitive edge now and in the future. Regardless of circumstance, using a plan that is focused on diagnosis, strategy and implementation means you will be best placed to grow within your market and get the best possible results from the resources you have at your disposal.

Let’s get into this.


The 8 Steps to Building a Successful Marketing Strategy in the Construction Industry

Follow these steps to find out how you can create your own Marketing Plan specifically for the Construction Industry.

1. Research

Research

It would be so easy just to rewrite the ‘Pete Tonge’ list here as it still holds true, but I’m not going to be that lazy.

This first step is critical as it defines where you are right now and the circumstances that determine this position. But how do you conduct your research?

We can split this into two sections – internal and external

External
External elements are usually outside your control, but you need to understand what they are and how they can influence your decision making. You should be periodically reviewing the external environment and the ever-changing construction landscape.

Remember to consider the competition here. Although we should always look to lead and not follow, the competition can have an impact on your success and monitoring activity is always helpful.

Internal
Sometimes often forgotten but doing your own internal research is important as to what is achievable and what isn’t – you may want to improve your services, but if you don’t have the skills internally to do this then this will hamper your chances of success. Similarly, if your digital presence needs updating but you don’t have the budget to do this, then you are again limited to what can be completed successfully.

Helpful Resources
https://www.amaresearch.co.uk/
https://www.barbour-abi.com/
https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/
https://www.building.co.uk/
https://www.cic.org.uk/
https://www.cpicode.org.uk/
https://www.constructionproducts.org.uk/

Models and Theory That Can Help
PESTLE (external environmental scanning)
Porters 5 Force (Competition monitoring and other external factors)
McKinseys 7S’s (Internal analysis)

2. Find the Problem / Offer a Solution

Problem Solution

You now understand the market conditions and how your company is best suited to thrive in these conditions. What next?

Many organisations like to start with a product or service and see where it will fit or who wants to purchase it, which is very inward thinking and not focused on what the market, your customers, actually want and what they want is a solution to a problem.

Let you into a little secret here – no one cares as much as you do about your company, mostly they care about how your solution can help them, so let’s focus on this and only this for now.

Firstly let’s find a problem that exists within the construction industry that is within your capacity to help solve. As the industry is so vast this could be an abundance of potential problems, too many to list here, but your initial research should be your guiding light.

This doesn’t have to be a complex issue and you may already be solving it, but making it a priority is what will make you competitive.

Once you understand these issues then solutions will clearly be needed. These solutions should be aligned with what you do and your ability to solve.

Examples
Problem: A £10 million building project needs to be managed to a tight timescale.
Solution: Building Contractor with experience in running large scale projects.

Problem: Expensive equipment is needed to install a new type of building material.
Solution: Provide a rental service on this equipment allowing customers to pay only when they need it.

Problem: Running your software is complex and clients usually end up not getting the best out of what you offer.
Solution: Design a training program that gives clients the ability to utilise your services effectively.

Models and Theory That Can Help
Use a simple table that consists of a list of problems that you know exist. Alongside these consider how you could help fix these problems. If there is no solution you can provide then it probably isn’t for you to fix and other organisations might be in a better position to do this. If so you have two choices;

1 – Remove this problem from the list

2 – Look to diversify and enter this market to solve this specific problem (this can be difficult however and Porters 5 Forces could be used again here to see if entering this new market is worth the risk)

3. SWOT/TOWS Analysis

SWOT-TOWS

There is only one model (well it’s really two as we’ll break it down here) to trust when it comes to making some sense of what you’ve discovered so far and by now you should have a good grip on what your focus is (big picture – problem – solution), but now is the time to get really Markety (is that a word?).

A SWOT and TOWS analysis allows you to gather all your research so far, collate it in one place and also make sense of it all in a way that will assist in future decision making and future planning.

Let’s take each part in turn.

SWOT
The SWOT analysis is broken down into four parts which make up the acronym:

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

The idea behind here is to provide a detailed listing of;

1 – Internal factors that may have an effect on how a business moves forward. These are factors that the business has some degree of control over. We call these our Strengths and Weaknesses.

2 – Factors that can influence a business’s decision making, where the business has little or no control over them. They are simply environmental factors that could contribute to a business’s success or failure in a given market. We call these the Opportunities and Threats.

TOWS
The TOWS is your secret weapon here. Most will utilise the SWOT, but not the TOWS. SWOT is great but it offers nothing in terms of analysis of ways forward. TOWS does.

Develop your TOWS and uncover the strategic pathways that are available to your organisation. This is where you start to shape the future of your business, based on valid research and reliable data.

To utilise the TOWS, this is what you need to do:

Take a strength or weakness and match it with an opportunity or threat, allowing you to create a number of different strategic directions. So you may take a strength and an opportunity as they complement each other (i.e. the strength will help maximise the opportunity). You can do this for all the elements you have uncovered in your SWOT but remember that not all elements are made equal or will be needed, so use your analytical brain and combine those elements that make sense!

・Strengths and Opportunities (maximising an opportunity by using a strength)
・Strengths and Threats
(minimising a threat by doubling down on a strength)
・Weaknesses and Opportunities
(focus on an opportunity that reduces a spotted weakness)
・Weaknesses and Threats
(avoiding a threat by removing a weakness)

Example:

Strength: Distribution of your products locally is exceptional – 99% deliveries on time
Opportunity: Some wider geographical locations are pockets where your products and services are seen as desirable
Strategy: Implement trails in distributing to these locations with the plan to roll out a wider delivery network.

Models and Theory That Can Help
SWOT and TOWS Explained by me 🙂

4. Set the DIRECTION You Should Take

Direction

By now you should have a list of potential options that you have identified as strategic directions from your TOWS analysis. It’s time to decide which of these should be taken forward. You can’t choose them all, it’s all about analysing which of these is the most appropriate for the business and which is most likely to succeed.

The DIRECTION you aim to take shouldn’t just be anecdotal, up to this point nothing has been so why start now.

We can put some method and analysis behind this by way of looking at each direction’s suitability, feasibility and acceptability, marking each one out of 5.

Suitability – How suitable is this direction to what we are trying to achieve?
Feasibility – How feasible is the implementation of this direction?
Acceptability – How acceptable to the rest of the business is this direction?

By scoring each of the above you will end up with a total score for each direction. Literally, the highest score wins!

Models and Theory That Can Help
SFA Matrix (Suitability, Feasibility, Acceptability)

5. Detail EXACTLY What You Want to Achieve

Exactly

‘If you want it, measure it. If you can’t measure it, forget it’ – Peter Drucker

You now know in which direction you want your business to go, which is great – it gives you focus, clarity and drive. But focus, clarity and drive alone might not be enough, especially when you can only think or assume you’ve made or are making progress.

You need to set some objectives. Good objectives. SMART objectives.

An objective should cover all the elements of the acronym SMART (Specific, Measureable, Agreed Upon, Realistic, Timed), but before we do that it is important to say that you DO NOT (bold and italic so it must be important) need to break an objective down into its relevant SMART elements and explain why each one matters.

The objective itself should be SMART, which means a sentence or maybe two that covers all the elements not a table or sentence to explain each element.

Some Rules of Thumb
– Be specific about your goal
– How will you measure the success of this
– Make sure it is achievable. Don’t go mad!
– How will this be relevant to you now and to achieving the objective in the future?

P*ss Poor Examples
– Increase turnover by £1 million
– Improve customer engagement
– Enter a new marketplace
– Produce 3 new products

Reet Good Examples
– Achieve at least a 95% excellent customer service rating each month by those visiting all our physical merchant stores by the end of the year.
– Launch 25 new ancillary insulation products into the market in 2020.
– Increase the number of customer website enquiries by 10,000 per month until the end of the year.
– Reduce average distribution costs on orders over £25,000 to less than 5% of gross revenue on all roofing products by the end of the month.

6. Detail the Course of Action to Achieve Results

Details

The devil is in the detail.

This is where you start to document what needs to be done to follow your strategic direction and achieve the objectives you’ve just set – what we call tactics.

The best way to document these tactics is by using a tried and trusted 4 P’s model (a lot of marketers now chat about the 7P’s which is correct and includes Physical Evidence, People and Process, but for simplicity, I’m just discussing the 4 here);

Product
You need to understand what new products are in development or likely to be launched/phased out during your planning. A fundamental error is not to consider this or indeed ask your customer base what products they’d like to see (when I say products, I actually mean products and/or services, but I’m being lazy so we’ll just stick to classing both as ‘products’).

It could be that you’re planning to update a popular product that is declining in sales or release complementary products to coexist with a current range. Regardless, if you are not part of this conversation your planning will be changing quite quickly.

Price
Pricing and expectations within the market are critical as a misstep here can mean being seen as too cheap and the quality of the product is missed or too expensive and the benefits not seen as outweighing the price tag.

For these and multiple other reasons, such as the actual pricing structure (bundling, skimming, cost-plus, high-low, premium or otherwise), Marketing needs to be part of the conversation. Your research and competitive understanding give you a front-row seat as to what will work and what won’t.

Place
In an industry such as construction, the supply chain and distribution networks are critical to the whole industry, not just certain stages within it. Consideration must be given to customers;

– Preferences to purchase
– Preferred delivery option
– Expectations of this service

Promotion
This is the icing on the cake, or should I say the cherry on the cake. The bit that stands out, gets noticed and its execution is critical to your whole plan. Within the promotional element of your plan you need to consider;

– Communication channels
– Type of creative
– The message you want to get out there
– The tone of this message
– Its consistency and being on-brand
– A call to action and that particular creatives main purpose

A lot of marketers only ever consider the final P here, PROMOTION, the communications part of tactical execution (many start and end with this and this alone)! As you can see it is a vital part of the plan, but just that, part of it. You must consider each element for a plan to work.

7. Go Do It!

Go do it

Implementation, Implementation, Implementation.

That should read tactical implementation, tactical implementation, tactical implementation!

All this planning, preparation and understanding of the organisation, its competitors and the wider construction market is nothing without actually putting things in motion. This is not to say you just ‘go and do it‘. However, careful preparation is key here. Having a plan that covers the following is very important. If you don’t have a plan like this then things start to get messy, no one quite knows who is doing what and when;

– What actions are needed
– Who is responsible for these actions
– When should they start and be completed by
– What is the cost of each action

Check out the helpful links below where you will find a number of templates that will help you plan and prepare.

Getting Buy-in
Planning and assigning tasks to individuals helps gain their buy-in, especially when some tasks may be above and beyond their current workload.

Helpful Resources
Gantt chart (a Gantt chart is a planning chart that in its simplest form tells people who does what and when – a more detailed explanation can be found here. It can get more complex than this and you can find some great examples and templates of more complex Gannt charts here)

Customer Journey Planning – Another good resource to help with planning is a customer journey map, this will help in understanding the touchpoints a consumer has with your company that you need to consider creating content for and the type of content that is needed. This will keep you from veering off track and producing content that isn’t fit for consumption or doesn’t fill the information gaps needed at each stage of the journey.

8. How Did You Get On? Analysis!

How did you get on

There are a few little bits that we need to cover before we’ve finished with our Construction Marketing Plan; working out how you are getting on and, in the end, did you achieve your objectives?
 
If you think about this like driving a car, you have a destination in mind (Objective) and you know you’re going to take a car to get there (Strategy) and you also know how you are going to get there (Tactics), you can start your journey (Implementation), you still need to sense check things along the way such as the fuel, tyres, water, refreshments, etc which will be your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that let you know if you are on track to reach your objective or if measures need to be taken to get you back on course.
 
So, what does this look like?
 
We can use the same layout for both monitoring KPIs and measuring if we are going to achieve the objective(s) we originally set.
 
Check out the link in the helpful resource section for a template that covers the following elements needed for monitoring and measuring a Construction Marketing Plan.
 
Metrics
How will you measure your KPI’s and objective(s) will depend on what is being measured and what is the most important thing to measure which will come from your objectives. Did you want to see an improvement in bounce rate? (then you should really monitor…. bounce rate), or perhaps an increase in sales, whereby you’ll look to use some financial measure.
 
Tools / Software
Once you know what you will measure, you’ll need to find the tools/software that will do this for you. This could be online or platform-based such as Google Analytics (classic) or Facebook Insights, or it can be as simple as a spreadsheet.
 
Target and Results
This is why we are here!
 
What is/was your target. That number or figure that you wanted to achieve. This is where you write it down, followed by the result. The only true way to view what you have achieved and if you have reached your objective or not.

Helpful Resources
Metrics and Analysis Template

There are a bucket load of tools and analytics to help you measure and monitor, but as mentioned earlier, this really depends on what you are measuring. Below are a few tools to check out that might help you:

Dashboards – Using a dashboard is a neat way to view what is going on within your plan at any given time. It may take a while to set one of these up so using tools such as Klipfolio and Google Data Studio help.

Onsite Analysis – The majority of online platforms designed for either communicating or selling will have their own analytics from which you can draw from such as WooCommerce and LinkedIn

FAQ

What are the 8 elements of a construction marketing plan?

The 8 main elements are;

1. Research
2. Find the problem & offer a solution
3. SWOT/TOWS Analysis
4. Set the Strategic Direction you need to take
5. Detail exactly what you want to achieve
6. Detail the course of action to achieve results
7. Go do It!
8. Analysis

There are many ways to structure a Construction Marketing Plan. You can go down the traditional route (SOSTAC or RABOSTIC) or you can use something created more recently such as RACE. The most important elements to follow are documented above in much more detail.

Do construction companies need marketing?

The short answer is – Yes.

The construction industry is mainly a B2B industry, which historically is seen to be less about Marketing Planning and more about selling. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The same Marketing principles are true in the construction industry as in any other.

We are still influenced by the same things regardless of the industry; branding, perception, cost and availability, which are all influences on our purchasing decisions.

Although within a B2B environment there might be more than one decision-maker or more people influencing the decisions within a business and the purchasing life-cycle is longer than in a B2C context, there is still a need to understand the problems businesses face and provide a solution to these problems while communicating that our solution is the best – or put in another way – Marketing.

Who is the target market for construction?

The construction industry is vast, from large multinational corporations to DIYers, you don’t get a much more diverse industry.

This diversity leads to a number of target markets of which there are multiple subsections, but for the purposes of this answer we will focus on the main roles that you find within construction, in order of how they would appear in a standard supply chain;

– Manufacturers
– Architects
– Specifiers
– Engineers
– Trade Associations
– Surveyors / Inspectors
– Contractors
– Sub-contractors

When viewing this from an on-site or ‘on the tools’ perspective we start to look at specific trades such as;

– Labourer
– Bricklayer
– Plumber
– Electrician
– Scaffolder
– Carpenter / Joiner

How do construction companies get clients?

There are many different ways to gain clients within the construction industry and this all comes down to three simple questions:

1 – What problems do you solve?
2 – Who are your solutions for?
3 – What is the best way to get your message across?

Once you understand the answers to these questions you stand a much better chance of getting new clients.

The first two questions only really you can answer, but the third we can look at more closely.

3 – What is the best way to get your message across?
There are two things you will need to consider here:

1 – What messages do you need to get across to your target market?
What are the benefits of your solutions and how does it actually solve someone’s problems? These are questions you may need to know in order to communicate effectively with your audience.

2 – What channels are needed to get these messages across?
Here is a list of some of the more popular channels:

Social Media
Website and Search Engine Results (mean you will need to focus on SEO)
Forums
Review Sites
Podcasts and Audio
Blogs
Advertising (online and offline)
Direct Mail / Email
Print – Trade Publications and Newspapers
Exhibitions

What is trending in the construction industry?

Here are the main topics that are trending within the UK construction industry at the moment (these topics are the ones that are creating seismic shifts within the industry for various reasons).

Doing your own research into these will help you understand how they may impact your own organisation:

Brexit
Grenfell enquiry
Golden Thread
Digitisation
Labour shortage
Skills shortage
Rising costs of materials
Sustainability and building green
Smart Cities
HS2

Note: This list was created April 22