Construction Marketing: A Counter Narrative

We open the door to the counter narratives we hear from construction companies in response to the typical digital marketing hype. See how a blended marketing approach answers the call.

Let’s discuss blended marketing. There’s no denying that digital marketing has become a staple in today’s construction industry. And there’s also no denying that a counter-narrative has pushed back, claiming that ‘the old way’ of doing things is better. 

And digital marketing is crucial to almost any company’s strategic success. But if digital marketing is all you’re doing – especially in the construction industry – you may find it’s a bad idea to put all your eggs in one basket.

What many marketing agencies don’t acknowledge is that the construction industry is its own beast – with a unique set of rules, expectations, and language. This means that what works for another industry might not be as successful in construction. Have you seen other agencies who “do” marketing and miss the mark by applying a wrong approach? We have.

We recommend a blended set of strategies that take advantage of both traditional and digital marketing tactics. This approach capitalizes on the industry’s successful history of conventional marketing while taking advantage of all that the digital world can offer.

Read on to see how the narratives play out and why we think this blended approach works so well.

5 Conversations Not Being Had by Other Marketing Agencies

So while we believe in the power of digital marketing, neither the typical position of the digital marketer or the counter narratives from the construction industry get it quite right. Here are some of the positions being thrown back and forth and our take on how neither (fully) gets it right in the construction world.

#1: ROI Challenge: Why Metrics Can Be Misleading

Typical Marketing Agency POV: 

The promise of dramatic improvements in traffic, lead generation, and even revenue through standardized packages or strategies.

Construction Industry Counter Narrative POV:

The emphasis on digital marketing metrics can be misleading or overly optimistic. The direct ROI (Return on Investment) from certain digital marketing initiatives in the construction industry can be elusive. 

Critics might suggest a return to print media, project site signage, or more traditional relationship-building strategies. These strategies have historically driven the construction industry, such as personal networking and referrals, which are less quantifiable but thought to possibly be more effective.

The Blended Marketing Approach

Construction services typically engage in a long sales cycle and have multiple factors to consider. This can make it difficult to determine which factor leads to a contract – and ROI difficult to quantify.

And earning business in the construction industry isn’t like marketing for a direct-to-consumer brand. Selling to consumers can usually be accomplished by tapping into the “I want it, I’ll search it, I’ll purchase it” desires of the target audience.

But that formula doesn’t work in construction; and yet we continue to see marketing agencies execute that ‘template’ as they chase results.

Exaggerated Value

So do some digital marketers exaggerate their (proposed) results and value? Perhaps. Have some marketers in the construction industry gotten a little desperate to prove their value through vanity metrics? Yes, we think so. 

We also warn against agencies that insist digital marketing is the only type of marketing your company needs. Don’t believe the hype that traditional marketing cannot live in harmony with digital marketing. 

Here’s the truth: digital marketing agencies will have difficulty nailing down your ROI because portions of the sales cycle continue to rely on relationships, word-of-mouth, and even the lowest bid. Instead, look for marketers that promote strategies that complement your existing company culture, target your concrete goals, and emphasize actual deliverables.

Marketing As a Process

Your brand’s reputation is like your own: it’s going to take time to build (or rebuild) it.  And that’s not going to happen overnight.  For example, if over the years your company has earned itself negative feedback, for whatever it may be, repairing that damage will take time.

Yes, we absolutely believe that our team will facilitate an increase in metrics. Things such as website traffic and social media followers will absolutely begin to tick upward. But we’ll also tell you that sometimes those numbers are just vanity metrics

The real value in what we do for your company is in telling a story that makes your ideal client want to do business with you, so they do. Or, to make your company culture seem so attractive that you receive an influx of applicants.

#2: The Limitations of Social Media 

Typical Marketing Agency POV: 

Your company has to have social media or it will not survive.

Construction Industry Counter Narrative POV:

Why should my company focus so heavily on social media if there are more industry-specific platforms or events which may align more directly with my audience?

The Blended Marketing Approach

Facebook boasts a monthly active user base of over 3 billion users – a whopping 60% of all social media users around the world. That doesn’t even cover the other platforms like LinkedIn, which has 900 million users worldwide, with approximately 200 million in the U.S. alone. Either for a few minutes or a few hours, social media is a fixture in many people’s routines.

Backfilling an Aging Industry

The construction industry is aging. About one in five construction workers are 55 or older. It’s time to think about who is going to take their place. How do you find, inspire, and introduce those new people to how cool the construction industry is?

A great place to start is social media. A supplemental approach is attending career and job fairs. The new, younger breed of construction worker or project manager prefers texts to phone calls, online job applications, and the ability to get to know you as a company by scrolling your Instagram pics or LinkedIn posts.

Lead Generation

If a core component of construction is relationships, consider social media as an easy way to get in front of your ideal client to introduce yourself. While these platforms can have an overly broad reach initially (i.e., they may reach people who will never use your services), there are ways to target and nurture a smaller, more relevant audience.

And social media efforts often yield real results. On more than one occasion, our clients have credited social media with an invitation to bid, quote request, or even just the start of a fruitful conversation.

For instance, a client of ours reported receiving the following just last week: “I just sent you two bid invites. The jobs may be too far from your office, but was impressed with [company’s] Instagram so was inclined to send them over.”

In addition to social media, trade shows and job fairs are a great way to facilitate one-on-one conversation. They are the original lead generator, offering a venue whose audience is tailored to the industry’s specific interests. You’re more likely to find industry leaders and other like minded members of the community there.

And you don’t need to ditch the digital altogether. Industry-specific platforms like BuildingConnected and Houzz are online networking tools that give access to thousands of users and community members. Houzz even acts as a hub for homeowners looking to hire a professional – with a community of millions of homeowners, design enthusiasts, and improvement specialists, it’s a networking goldmine.

Using social media as a ‘one stop shop’ for all of your marketing needs is limiting in construction, but it also shouldn’t be discounted as a viable tool for lead generation.

Instead, consider the market holistically and meet people in all the places they are: social media, trade shows, or industry-specific platforms.

#3: Confusing Terminology and Jargon

Typical Marketing Agency POV: 

The use of jargon and complex terminology may not be immediately clear to clients. Terms like “SEO optimization,” “conversion rates,” “click-through rates,” “sales-enablement”, and “engagement metrics” sound impressive and mysterious.

Construction Industry Counter Narrative POV:

Critics argue that the heavy use of jargon serves more to obscure than to clarify what digital marketing agencies actually accomplish. The link between metrics and tangible business outcomes, such as new contracts or increased revenue, is not always straightforward, particularly in the construction sector where relationships and reputation play a crucial role.

The Blended Marketing Approach

Sometimes the most baffling terminology used in today’s marketing world is just simple jargon. Other times the words get a little more made up – like when someone claims that they specialize in ‘sales enablement’, which is just a fancy way of saying ‘providing you with various pieces of content that will help you promote/sell your services’.

These words make good marketing seem like a confusing science or a mysterious magic.

No Hocus Pocus

But there’s no magic. Successful marketing is actually kind of straightforward. It’s a combination of goal-oriented thinking, strategic planning, and effective implementation that results in a good story. 

And that story is our client’s. Among other things, we do it through clear and concise website design, relevant social media posts, and visual documentation that shows the good work our clients are doing. And then we change course or double-down based on what the resulting metrics tell us.

To make an analogy, marketing agencies are like football teams. Everyone’s playing within the same set of rules and with the same referee (i.e., Google). It’s the strategy, skills of the quarterback, and strength of the team that moves you in the right direction. No magic.

At SBC, we value a teaching mindset and will explain not only what our marketing jargon means, but why/how those terms impact your business. Additionally, we’ll be honest from our first interaction with you that digital marketing is a slow burn, not a silver bullet.

#4: Oversaturation of Content Marketing

Typical Marketing Agency POV: 

Content is king. Publish, publish, publish new content as often as possible.

Construction Industry Counter Narrative POV:

Much of the content produced is generic and doesn’t address the specific issues or pain-points of construction clients. 

The Blended Marketing Approach

There’s been a big push in recent years for the production of content to impart ‘value’ for potential clientele and to rank for search engines. And content is certainly a way to not only broaden the reach of your message but to remain relevant in your industry.

Adding Value or Padding with Fluff?

This firehose of content has left ‘ghost towns’ all across the internet. Have you ever gone to a website only to find thirty blogs written five years ago? Or three articles posted on the same day – seemingly to pad the website rather than producing consistent relevant content over time?

And this boom has also generated repeat content – which begs the question: how do you stand out in a digital world where everyone is saying the same thing?

Writing with Purpose

While many industries may have some serious thinking to do about how to overcome this challenge, the construction industry lucks out. A more personalized and less frequent content strategy that focuses on depth rather than breadth will work here. Posting less and encouraging a community around posts can lead to building not just brand awareness but also brand trust. It shows care and commitment, two qualities people definitely want in their construction partner. 

While writing blogs, posting on social media, and making a detailed website portfolio is definitely something that construction companies should do, that’s just the base. 

To truly stand out in a competitive, and often repetitive, environment means going beyond simply regurgitating what’s already out there. According to Google, and due in part to the advent of AI, we’ve entered the age where writing for people instead of search engines is preferred.

#5: The Misguided Use of Technology

Typical Marketing Agency POV: 

The buzz around the latest digital tools (such as AI and Advanced Analytics) means that they’re valuable to all industries and should be implemented for guaranteed success.

Construction Industry Counter Narrative POV:

Some might question the push towards full digital transformation, noting that they may not serve the actual needs of the more traditional construction industry.

The Blended Marketing Approach

We will assume that you’ve at least heard of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is the backbone behind advanced analytics, machine learning, and other cutting-edge tech that has recently surfaced in the form of Apps, cloud-based software, and solutions for everything from health care to manufacturing.

Untapped Possibilities

Construction companies in particular have been slower than other industries to adopt new technologies. Two reasons are the reluctance to discuss a complicated, hard-to-understand topic, as well as concerns about how effective these high-tech solutions actually are or are not.

In the absence of this discussion, leadership may fall back on ‘the way things have always been,’ leaving a marketing gap of untapped possibilities.

At SBC, we use AI in a variety of forms, such as helping us gather our thoughts, streamline processes, build the framework for target personas, suggesting alternate phrases, or to help us interpret data. But we never allow it to ‘drive the bus.’

For example, if you are a builder are are looking for some good AI software to add to your marketing strategy, here are a few we’ve heard good things about:

Don’t Be Fooled

Digital marketers have responded to the industry’s technological hesitancy with a surge of data-centric practices that see numerical analysis as the ultimate strategy for success. These pitches present baffling numbers and scientific lingo that represent clientele as manipulatable statistics rather than human beings.

These ‘data obsessed’ strategies are the opposite of conventional construction marketing, which sees clientele as partners with whom an equitable relationship is essential for the best outcome. 

We’re not saying that metrics like ‘earned market value’ can’t be useful. But think of market cultivation like a garden. Is science needed to grow a good garden? Certainly. But so is personal care.

Blended marketing, a mix between traditional and digital marketing, would involve using data in a supportive role. Rather than have it lead our strategic thinking, data provides feedback and measurement so that we may intelligently consider our future options. In this sense, we don’t use data to create an abstract goal, but instead use it to inform our progress toward a goal we’ve already made.

Digital Marketing Is Still Important

The global market for digital marketing was valued at $321 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $887.2 billion by 2032. This represents a 13.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2023 and 2032, with sales projected to reach $1,118.9 billion by 2032. North America has the largest market share at 36%, with social media marketing accounting for 31% of global revenue.

Clearly, digital marketing isn’t just important – its importance is growing.

Tried-and-True Is Still Viable

That said, digital marketing will only take you so far in the construction industry. It isn’t a plug-and-play cure-all.

So while many construction companies may be signing on to the latest strategies for digital marketing, it’s important to remember that tried-and-true methods still bring in revenue, too. The caveat here is that they both need to be done well. 

As marketers, it’s our job to make use of all possible methods, even those that aren’t digital for a true blended marketing approach. Yes, there are the obvious necessities of today’s digital world: SEO/SEM, email marketing, value-laden lead captures, and ads embedded in social media feeds.

But networking – the process of slowly building clientele by cultivating inter-industry relationships – is as relevant today as it was half a century ago. Consider joining an American Subcontractors Association chapter near you, which holds monthly events attended by subcontractors from your area. 

Blended Marketing for the Win

Blended marketing is the right approach in the construction industry. Modern marketing efforts shouldn’t dismiss the efficacy of traditional tactics. Such a complete dismissal weakens a strategic marketing position by limiting options. Which, ideally, we should increase, not limit.

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