It’s more than building a website or ordering business cards. Start with strategy.
When you’re running your own construction company, it’s not enough to be a master of your particular trade. You also need to know how to work on your business, not just in it.
One of the most valuable skills to learn is marketing—getting the word about your services out to target clients. This is a job that’s bigger than building a website or ordering business cards.
To develop a marketing plan for your company, you need to thoughtfully research your industry, the needs of your market and your competition. You need to think carefully about your skill set, your value proposition and your pricing and promotion strategies.
It takes hard work. But, done right, a solid marketing plan can open the doors to a wealth of opportunities for your company.
Start by Understanding Your Brand
Branding is the foundation that marketing and advertising are built upon. A strong brand will articulate your promise to your intended customer—your strategy for earning their business. Marketing, meanwhile, is the tactical approach that educates your target market on your products and services.
A well-developed brand communicates consistency and generates loyalty. In construction, a brand communicates why you’re in business, your value system, your scope of work and why a client should hire you versus your competitor.
From that knowledge, homeowners and general contractors can then use your
marketing tools, such as your website and capabilities statements, to determine if they want to work with you.
At first, when a construction company is just starting, the brand and the marketing plan will probably be the responsibility of the business owner. As the business grows, the owner can work with a branding expert. These experts can ensure you’re using the right tools—website, email newsletter, trade show booths, direct mail, etc.—to send a clear, concise message.
Designing and developing a marketing plan doesn’t happen overnight, but having a clear promise for your residential, commercial or government clients will pay off.
Build Your Reputation
Having a strong, positive reputation is crucial in the construction industry. You can build one by consistently delivering a quality work product, being true to your word and responding professionally to challenges that crop up during a job.
You can also develop your reputation by networking.
Lisa Garney, owner of LMG Construction, encourages contractors to attend social and industry events and to join organizations. Being active in professional industry shows consistency and helps contractors meet decision-makers. After the relationship is established, it’s crucial to keep your word and maintain your reliability.
Not all networking is done in person. Having a professionally created logo and website, along with an active social media presence, makes it easy for customers to find you and to refer clients to you. Posting regular updates on new hires and new projects communicates that your business is thriving and that you are dependable.
What Happens After Marketing?
After you understand your brand, create a well-articulated marketing plan and build a solid reputation, the real work is just beginning. Marketing gets your foot in the door; business development gets (and keeps) you inside.
“Marketing is about positioning yourself to be ready for business development,” said Eric Danielson, who works in business development at JE Dunn Construction.
Business development is the process of working with clients to alleviate their pain points by using your good or service. Effective business development is shown through follow-up from the networking events or estimates. It’s about building relationships.
When contractors are faced with a business development opportunity, they should use the time to listen to the client and determine how they can provide value, not just a good or service. The more you understand about your clients’ needs, the easier it will be to communicate and deliver value. In practice, this is shown by being mindful of your client and taking steps to encourage a long-term relationship.
In residential construction, this may be shown by going the extra step and clearing the gutters before repainting a home. In commercial construction, working with the project manager to include LEED points in your scope of work shows that you have an understanding of how the entire project works, not just your scope.
Marketing is an important element of overall business planning. Taking time to work on the business, and not just in it, helps facilitate the shift from contractor to businessperson.