In the pre-internet days, the culmination of what was known as the “buyer’s journey” was actually just that—a journey to the grocery store for food, to the department store for clothes or to the hardware store for tools. But since the day in 1989 when British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the worldwide web, for many, the buyer’s journey now consists solely of the journey to the chair that sits in front of the computer screen.
The internet has not only changed how people make their purchases, but it has also helped create a more informed client base. The ability to perform background research on companies and their goods, compare prices for similar items and clandestinely shop around for the best deal has permanently altered the relationship between the provider of goods and services and the purchaser of those goods and services.
New Game, New Rules
While the nuts and bolts of winning projects for contractor and construction companies essentially remain the same—RFPs are sent out, cost estimates are determined, responses are submitted and the job is awarded through either low-bid, qualification-based or best-value selection—the roadmap for how the end result is reached has undergone a transformation.
With so much information readily available to the consumer via the internet, the bid process has become more streamlined, with the contractors that are successful bidders using their depth of knowledge to help the client reach what is known as the “zero moment of truth” (ZMOT). This is the point, after all the background research has been completed, when the actual buying decision is reached. Often, the ZMOT can be reached without the provider even knowing that the buyer was interested in the provider’s goods and services in the first place. This means that if the buyer doesn’t know you exist or cannot find you, then they cannot study your business or even make ground-floor contact with you.
This means that contractors who have grown accustomed to doing things a certain way for many years must be open and accepting of the new dynamic that is driving buying decisions. Fortunately for them, there are many easy, painless ways to let potential clients know you exist, and many avenues available to highlight how you may be the best choice for their particular construction needs.
One of the most popular strategies in this new world of client relations is marketing automation, which is the combining of email marketing technology and a structured sales process. Successful marketing automation programs use software platforms and technology that make it easier to effectively market online across a wide range of communication channels, such as websites, email and social media.
Marketing automation also allows you to automate repetitive tasks, such as updating a news link on your website or sending out prescheduled email blasts to tightly targeted current or potential client lists. For the construction business owner, marketing automation software has been designed so that promising leads can be scored and tracked as they move through the system, with an end goal of identifying sales-ready leads.
This allows these promising leads to be nurtured and followed, and software can be programmed to send out client-specific messages that will illustrate the contractor’s knowledge of and interest in the client.
That’s Not All, Folks
Keep in mind, though, that marketing automation is not the be-all-to-end-all of 21st century marketing programs. While it is a good starting point in an effort to take advantage of the communication opportunities that the internet creates with savvy consumers, a marketing program is ultimately successful when it not only identifies potential clients, but also helps turn them into actual ones.
Marketing automation programs can be augmented with a series of ancillary tools that can be utilized to optimize the marketing automation program. Those tools include:
- Focus on segmentation and personalization—People receive thousands of electronic communications per day, but behavioral studies have shown that, on average, they retain only four of those communications. For this reason, the information you are providing them must not only be eye-catching, but also relevant. This can be done by dividing your market into specific audiences and segments, and then creating content that is interesting, relatable and directly appealing.
- Map the buyer’s journey—Though the ways we shop have changed, there are still three distinct stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration and decision. No buying choice is made without moving through these three stages as the consumer becomes aware that he needs to buy, considers the available options and then makes the final purchasing decision. This demands that the information presented to the buyer is in tune with the reasons that a purchase needs to be made. Generalities are of no help here; you must identify the driving force behind the looming purchase and let the consumer know how you can satisfy his or her needs on the way to reaching the desired end.
- Hone your business-to-person (B2P) marketing—Abbreviations like B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) are well known to most consumers, but in the end, the key to influencing a buying decision will usually be made by one person. All buyers are human and will be motivated to find a solution that makes their lives easier. A personal touch at this stage can help close the deal, which makes the ability to persuasively deal with the consumer on an interpersonal level key to improving sales.
- Optimize omnichannel—Enhancing this tool will help keep the potential buyer aware of your presence and capabilities. Most people will start, leave and pick up conversations at different points of time and in different locations on the internet, so a compelling presence on the web, on social media platforms and in targeted email messaging will keep the consumer engaged with your name and brand.
- Consider lead management/warming/nurturing—To be successful, you need to be able to put a next-generation spin on the old dynamic that marketing generates leads and sales closes leads. As mentioned, advanced lead-tracking software can help validate, nurture and “warm” leads before they are passed to the sales staff, which can give the sales team a valuable playbook that can help them close the sale.
- Remember the millennial shift—Buyer profiles are constantly changing and you will need to make yourself aware of how different demographic groups (baby boomer, Gen X, millennial, etc.) arrive at their purchasing decisions. You must also be willing to change your approach to reach new or evolving buying groups.
There is one thing constant about change—it will occur, whether you want it to or not. It is stunning to contemplate just how much the world has changed since the invention of the web some 27 years ago. In that time, thousands of businesses have been born, a similar number have faded away, and they have all had to come to grips with how the internet has and will continue to influence the purchasing process.
By embracing marketing automation and its popular offshoots, the construction business owner can stay ahead of the competition, while simultaneously mining new sources of revenue through an enhanced client base.
Remember that you can use the power of the internet to do your own research on potential subcontractors or other channel partners, which makes the web a powerful tool that can help deliver win-win results in a sales atmosphere that is becoming more and more competitive and immediate.