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Marketing: Just as Important in the Construction Industry


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Fraley AEC Solutions Owner Brian Fraley and Pile Buck Magazine Editor Alex Smoot have a discussion in a Q&A format on the importance of marketing in the construction industry.

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Marketing: Just as Important in the Construction Industry

  1. 1. marine foundations For a New Bridge in Brooklyn, NY The international deep foundations and marine construction magazine EST. 1984 jul/aug 2016 Volume 32, Issue 4 published 6 times a year PLUS 40+ years as an engineer Bio of Dave Wentland, P.E. loadtest’s innovative rim-cell Verifies Shaft Performance MARKETING:  A guide for companies in the construction industry CONSTRUCTION FAILURES Some of the worst and   what we can learn from them
  2. 2. 38 Pile Buck Magazine | Vol.32 No.4 2016 | Pile Buck Spotlight Introduction Brian and I have gotten to know each other over the years. As the man- aging editor of Pile Buck I’ve worked with him and his architectural, engi- neering, construction (AEC) focused marketing communications firm on multiple occasions. We’re often scratching our heads, discussing the lack of marketing emphasis in the construction and en- gineering industries. We can’t help but wonder: Why do so many construction and engineering firms continue to not market their product? As we witness the changing of the generational guard, it’s perplexing that the industry continues to cling to an outdated mindset. We’ve all been subject to heavy marketing of consumer products like iPhones, prescription medications, cars, and lawyers. Why is this industry on the other end of the spectrum when it comes to marketing? Whatever the reason, we decided to sit down and discuss some key market- ing techniques, what they mean, and how they can help our industry. Marketing is for All Firm Sizes Brian: When you look at the con- struction industry, generally speak- ing, you will find that the larger firms are more likely to have a marketing strategy. They may be advertising, using social media, and investing in a website. Some even have in-house marketing staff. My observation has been that there is a correlation between a firm’s resourc- es and its commitment to marketing. When a business achieves a certain amount of growth, the principals start to feel a need to invest in marketing. The truth is: firms of all sizes should be marketing. MARKETING: just as Important in the Construction Industry A Conversation with Alex Smoot (Pile Buck) and Brian Fraley (Fraley AEC Solutions)
  3. 3. | Vol.32 No.4 2016 | Pile Buck Magazine 39 Marketing is about growing busi- ness. I would argue that smaller businesses should be marketing more aggressively because they need to be on a growth path. Larger firms are often trying to maintain and grow what they have already built. Our discussion will show you some key marketing tactics that construction and engineering firms can use to lay a solid marketing foundation. Alex: I couldn’t agree more. Why should the size of the firm determine a commitment to marketing? I see this all the time, and it is not a pretty picture — a small pile driving contractor does great work in the New England area but the company website is outdated with almost no content. No photos from previous jobs, not to mention testimonials. And no logo! Take a look at Bellingham Marine, one of our PB advertisers. They’ve got the basics down: • A simple, yet a memorable logo. • A clean website that informs the visi- tor of everything they need to know. • A regular print ad in the magazine with a clear call-to-action. • They also release occasional press releases about their recent projects, which I can’t help but read whenever I receive one in my inbox. As a result, I notice their projects around California. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Branding Brian: What do you want your custom- ers to think when they hear your name? That is your brand. Creating your brand is the true foundation of your marketing efforts. Creating your brand has many dimen- sions. It defines how your customers experience your firm. Your brand separates you from other companies offering the same services. It gives you a competitive advantage.
  4. 4. 40 Pile Buck Magazine | Vol.32 No.4 2016 | Pile Buck Spotlight Consistency is key: your logo, slogan, color scheme and type of print font form the public face of your company. All that your customers sees, reads and hears should tell the same story to your target market. Alex: Let’s take a look at another PB client, Equipment Corporation of America (ECA). I’ll never forget seeing their ad in an association magazine years ago. Before I even read the text, their brand was… well, branded on the fore- front of mind. They had this double-page spread with a vintage background that was powerful. The words “BUILDING A POSITIVE FUTURE TOGETHER” was accompa- nied by a line drawing of multiple rigs. A reader browsing through the magazine couldn’t help but stop and read their company information which appeared in the second half of the ad. To this day, when a client is looking for help, I still reference that ad. Website Brian: There is currently no more important tool than to be found online. You need an easy-to-find internet ad- dress, a professional website that shows who you are, what services you offer and up-to-date information. Whether your potential customers are trying to find a company that does the work they need or check you out based on a referral, the vast majority will resort first to a Google search. Not having a good website is akin to lacking a professional company bro- chure in 1980. As digital communication eats the lunch of the traditional phone call, can you really afford to take the chance that a prospect won’t pick up the phone or send an e-mail after visiting your website? An effective website can generate tangible leads. Your content should provide a comprehensive look at your firm and leave prospective customers wanting to learn more. Alex: I still can’t comprehend how any company, regardless of budget size, would not have a website. Or, worse yet, have a website that hasn’t been updated since 1995. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. You’ve placed a rather sizable bid for their project. They visit your website to view photos from previous projects. But there’s nothing there… only “copy- right 2008.” How will they feel about writing a check? Take a look at IdealFoundationSys-, one of my favorite websites. It’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but has everything the potential customer needs simply laid out for easy access. They even upload project case studies on a consistent basis. DESCRIPTION PCS WEIGHT DESCRIPTION PCS WEIGHT W21 x 44# x 36'2 6 9,546 W24 x 94# x 34'4 26 83,902 W24 x 55# x 34'8 99 188,765 W24 x 94# x 34'8 33 107,546 W24 x 55# x 36' 37 73,260 W24 x 103# x 34'8 19 67,849 W24 x 55# x 36'8 7 14,119 W24 x 103# x 35' 4 14,420 W24 x 76# x 33'8 89 227,751 W24 x 103# x 35'8 26 95,524 W24 x 76# x 34' 18 46,512 W24 x 103# x 36' 4 14,832 W24 x 76# x 34'4 43 112,187 W24 x 103# x 39'4 6 24,306 W24 x 76# x 34'8 63 166,005 W24 x 103# x 40'8 3 12,564 W24 x 76# x 35' 31 82,460 W24 x 103# x 43' 7 31,003 W24 x 76# x 36'8 7 19,509 W27 x 368# x 36'8 11 148,423 W24 x 76# x 46' 4 13,984 W27 x 368# x 37'4 2 27,478 W24 x 84# x 34'8 28 81,536 W36 x 231# x 50' 50 tons W24 x 94# x 33'8 42 132,930 W36 x 231# x 66' 150 tons W24 x 94# x 34' 48 153,408 A992 with mill test reports $25.95 Cwt fob California FRED KAHN 1-800-828-5246 TED KAHN 1-800-684-5246 You pick up or we deliver. • Your vendor in the Wide Flange Beams business. • Check us out at ATTENTION CONTRACTORS: SPECIAL BELOW - DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MILL PRICING $39.95cwt
  5. 5. | Vol.32 No.4 2016 | Pile Buck Magazine 41 Neglecting your website is like sail- ing with a hole in the sail. Advertising Brian: Advertising effectiveness for construction and engineering firms is alive and well. The challenge is to straddle two marketing worlds: tradi- tional and online. There is an old school portion of this industry that is nearly impossible to reach online, but they do read print media such as Pile Buck Magazine. If you ignore online marketing, you risk missing the next generation of decision-makers. The quality of advertising for con- struction and design firms has gotten better over the past 20 years, but there is still room for improvement. Good ads today are professionally- designed ads that feature a human ele- ment. People are more interesting than products and services. Hydraulic, Industrial Marine Grade Hose Specialists • Hydrostatic PressureTesting Certification Over 40 years of experience in supplying hose fittings to the Pacific Northwest. Over20yearsofbuildinghoseandfittings bundles forthepiledrivingindustry… We can help make a positive impact on your next job. Petroleum Handling Equipment • Marine Grade Fittings Accessories • Sheet Rubber, Gasket Material Adhesives Toll Free: 800-678-1999 Proud to be Employee Owned. ProudTo Sell US Made
  6. 6. 42 Pile Buck Magazine | Vol.32 No.4 2016 | Pile Buck Spotlight Also, there’s an adage which should drive your approach. It is from Theodore Levitt, renowned marketing thought leader: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want to buy a quarter-inch hole.” In other words, promote the solution. Alex: A question we get on a regular basis: “What’s better, a print ad or digi- tal ad?” My answer: “Neither. They’re both just as effective.” Not better or worse but different. Digital marketing is great and we certainly offer it to our clients at PB by email marketing, web ads, and other services, but I caution people to take it with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, these days digital marketing seems to be pitched as a deus ex machina1 , or a marketing ploy that is going to save your entire business… for the right price of course. I want to be clear: Digital advertising is an invaluable tool. I encourage you to invest in it. But don’t underestimate a print ad. An email blast to thousands of recipi- ents often produces fast and reliable leads. This is the case with plenty of our clients. But, on the flip side, we have clients who still receive more leads from their print ad. Last week, an excited client in- formed me that they received a lead from their magazine ad for a drill. I reminded him that he had been placing an ad in each issue for over a year. Pile Buck magazines land on the desk of CEOs, sales representatives, DOTs and others. They’re picked up at conventions. Not to mention, the digital edition is promoted through email blasts and social media. It’s only a matter of time. Consistency is key. Whether it’s a print or digital advertisement, an ad that runs for a long period of time produces better results than the ad placed once. 1 “God from the machine.” The term means a device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the inspired and unexpected intervention of some new event or object. Public Relations The Internet has redefined public relations, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the need to consistently seek and distribute news from your company. The trade publications your audience reads are always looking for good con- tent, especially from subscribers and advertisers. Write a basic press release, volunteer to be a source, or pitch your project to an editor. Make sure to distribute that content across your own channels as well in- cluding your website, social media, and email. And make sure to have a plan in place among your staff to respond to un- expected situations such as accidents, environmental issues, or incidents. Social Media Marketing Brian: If someone had told you 30 years ago that you would be able to influence thousands on a free platform, would you have believed it? And yet that is exactly what social media has allowed. The construction and engineering in- dustry is fairly well represented, yet too many profiles are as inactive as a job site where fossils have been uncovered. Being successful on social media requires time, patience, focus on your niche, creativity, and willingness to learn best practices. Do your homework on the nuances of each platform or run the risk of damag- ing your brand. And don’t dilute your potency by trying to be everywhere. Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome and focus on the handful of platforms where your target audience partici- pates. Most importantly, avoid broad- casting, focus on engagement, and measure your results. Alex: I have to admit, since the begin- ning, I tried to avoid social media and may still be reluctant to indulge in its various forms. But it works. When you buff away the dirt — SPAM posts in a foreign language, shameless promotion of products, bick- ering of irrelevant matters — a valuable communication tool takes shape. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, there are audiences who want to know about your latest marine project, latest hammer, or new promo- tion within the company. I want to reiterate what Brian said: Be careful about spreading everywhere. Quality before quantity. Be sure your company website, Facebook and Twit- ter pages are stable before exploring more outlets.
  7. 7. NASA WALLOPS ISLAND ROCKET LAUCH PAD PILING WITH 65-75 ft. PILES USING EMECA PILE SPLICES Tel. 302.875.0760 Emeca/SPE USA 200 10th Street Laurel, DE 19956 EMECA/SPE USA manufactures high quality, easy-to-install and cost-effective pile splices for concrete piles in 12”, 14”, 16” and 18” standard sizes Sun Piledriving Equipment 35322 Bayard Road Frankford, DE 19945 Tel 302.539.7187 SPE USA brings Dutch high-end technology to USA and Canada with PVE fast and efficient pile driving machines. Contact us for more information to arrange a FREEto arrange a FREE demo WINNING COMBINATION USING PVE 40 PR PILEDRIVING RIG AND EMECA PILE SPLICES NASA WALLOPS ISLAND ROCKET LAUCH PAD PILING WITH 65-75 ft. PILES USING EMECA PILE SPLICES Tel. 302.875.0760 Emeca/SPE USA 200 10th Street Laurel, DE 19956 EMECA/SPE USA manufactures high quality, easy-to-install and cost-effective pile splices for concrete piles in 12”, 14”, 16” and 18” standard sizes Sun Piledriving Equipment 35322 Bayard Road Frankford, DE 19945 Tel 302.539.7187 SPE USA brings Dutch high-end technology to USA and Canada with PVE fast and efficient pile driving machines. Contact us for more information to arrange a FREEto arrange a FREE demo WINNING COMBINATION USING PVE 40 PR PILEDRIVING RIG AND EMECA PILE SPLICES
  8. 8. 44 Pile Buck Magazine | Vol.32 No.4 2016 | Pile Buck Spotlight Email Marketing Brian: The power of email marketing is your ability to fully-own the content, distribution and mailing list. You don’t have that luxury on social media. So what qualifies as good content? You might consider a monthly eNews- letter, company news, a recent project, a blog, or perhaps tasteful promotion of a product or service. Limit your distribution to no more than twice monthly and avoid blatant promotion, or your subscribers will quickly unsubscribe. Alex: Email marketing can be extremely effective, but approach with caution. Out of all marketing methods, I can’t stress enough the importance of doing your homework on this one. As Brian mentioned, limit your distribution frequency. Email marketing platforms are stricter than ever — too many complaints and your account will most likely be shutdown, not to mention damaging your reputation with clients. Use this tool wisely. Remember, if one tool could do all, there would be no need for a toolbox. Content Marketing Brian: There is a pendulum shift underway and it’s been formally labeled content marketing. We are moving from an interruption- based promotional approach to gener- ating business by being helpful. It’s important to note that this is a mindset that should flavor many of the marketing tactics discussed above. In a market crowded with op- tions, it’s easy to see how customers started to demand more than just a product or service. Educate your clients on how they can get the most out of your product or service and you will be well served. Alex: As a magazine editor, I’m obvi- ously a strong proponent of content marketing. Despite its effectiveness, it’s another marketing tool that is usually ignored. Too often I see a contracting company miss out on an opportunity to showcase their project to the world, even when they express a strong desire to do so. It’s the same with products. Most product developers have a great new product and they think a photo on their website will suffice. They show no in- terest in contributing a press release. Why? I believe in a lot of cases, most firms don’t want to put in the time, even when it’s free. They lose interest. Stop calling. The emails are forwarded around the office(s) until it fades into the abyss. Conclusion Marketing takes time to learn and, some could argue, years to master. It’s not a bad idea to hire a firm for assistance. Whatever you decide, we can’t encourage you enough to pick up some of these tools yourself. And feel free to contact us with any spe- cific questions.  Alex Smoot has served as the manag- ing editor of Pile Buck magazine for over five years. Prior to that he served as a freelance journalist for ten. In addition to producing the magazine, from concept to completion, Alex also shares marketing duties with the Pile Buck marketing team. Brian M. Fraley is the owner and chief strategist for Fraley AEC Solu- tions, LLC, a marketing communica- tions consultancy that builds solutions on a foundation of industry understand- ing for the construction and design marketplace. He has served this niche market for more than 20 years. Brian also authored the eBook, Designing an A/E Brand that Drives Selections. He can be found on LinkedIn, Twit- ter, Google+, and regularly contributes to the AEC Marketing InSITE Newslet- ter, The AEC Straight Talker Blog, and various industry publications.