by Michael Moore
November 2, 2011

Use these six steps to create a simple, efficient and effective construction marketing plan that will help your construction business grow.

Developing a construction marketing plan and strategy is critical to the success of your organization.  The term "marketing" is often misunderstood and used incorrectly.  Marketing is much more than selling or advertising.  Marketing is the strategic plan that you develop for your organization that looks at your construction company's strengths and weaknesses; the areas in which you have a competitive advantage; the market(s) that you will target your sales focus on; the demographics of your chosen market; and the pricing structure that you plan to use.

While advertising is often confused with marketing (as is strictly selling), it is just one piece of a solid marketing plan.  To use a farming analogy, if I may, marketing is akin to analyzing crop prices, field conditions and determining what crop to plant-advertising  and public outreach nurtures the seedlings, and selling harvests the results.  Each component is a part of the larger strategy and depends on the other for success.  As with most issues involving a construction business, planning and preparation are paramount, as well as measuring the results.  We can't take a break from fundamental business practices.

It's important to understand the general steps necessary to create and implement a construction marketing plan for your business.  The size of the marketing budgets will vary, as will the intended target market.  Ultimately the development of a marketing strategy comes down to similar steps that can be used for any size organization.  It doesn't need to be expensive, but it must be thorough and thoughtfully analyzed.  And it must be articulated to your staff and stakeholders. Your marketing plan, just like your financial plan, must be monitored and adjusted as needed, andit must also be adaptable to changing competitive environments.  The construction market looks very, very different today than it did two or three years ago.  Our construction marketing plans must change accordingly in order to capitalize on potential avenues of revenue.

1. Determine Your Objective

What is the goal of your marketing plan?  Is it to increase market share of a particular product or service(such as performing 10 percent of all window replacements in your locality)?  Is it to grow gross revenuewhich means you have to determine what your highest grossing service is and adapt the plan accordingly to sell more of the higher grossing product or service)?  Whether it's market share in a particular industry (healthcare, schools, kitchen and baths) or based more on pure dollars, a solid strategy must first start with a measurable objective that you can quantitatively discuss your results against.  If you have a company with multiple revenue streams, such as a commercial construction group that specializes in healthcare and a residential unit that specializes in historic preservation, you should have a distinct marketing plan for each business line.  They may overlap in places and actually should - but your market for each is very different and should be treated accordingly.

2. Perform a SWOT. Analysis - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Performing a SWOT. analysis will not only help in developing a marketing strategy and plan, butit is also essential for keeping any eye on the competitive landscape that your company operates in.  The overall steps of an analysis are as follows:

What does your company do well?  Where do have a competitive advantage?  How strong is the core of your organizations? (People, processes, etc.)

Where do you need improvement as an organization?  Where are you at a competitive disadvantage?  Are you lacking key team members or processes in your core business?

Where do you see opportunities in your core business?  What services could you begin to provide as add-ons that are tangential to your core business and appear to be a natural fit?  What competitors are weak in process and staff areas where you are strong?  Can you go after their clients? Brainstorm for opportunities and get the entire staff involved-you  will be amazed at some of the ideas field staff sees in the marketplace that you don't see in the corner office.

What market conditions exist to challenge your current business?  Is your core business in danger of becoming obsolete or replaced with new technologies? If so, are you developing strategies to counteract these changes and offer revised services?  What other potential problems exist(financing, overall economy, changing demographic)?

3. Analyze the Current Market

Creating a marketing objective and performing a SWOT analysis provides you with two important pieces of the puzzle:1. A result you want to achieve, and 2. An analysis of areas that you see as potential avenues for new markets or strengthening current markets.  This point in the process of developing your marketing plan involves melding the two together.

Your team should ask themselves what market(s) (opportunities) align most closely with your objective?  Where does your firm have a competitive advantage?  Does this area of strength align with your strategy?  You may find out at this point that your strengths don't necessarily fit into your initial marketing objective.   Don't be afraid to adjust your objective accordingly.  At all times, compete in the areas in which you see potential for growth, that you are strong in and that your company has a competitive advantage.

This approach doesn't mean you shouldn't begin to work in areas you see as having potential for growth that don't yet have an advantage. Your goal should be to develop an advantage quickly. It is also important to considerthe cost and barriers to entry.  If it will cost you tons of equity and take years to implement for a small payback, this market may not be for you.  However, if the Return on Investment (ROI) is fairly quick and the initial investment can be comfortably absorbed by your company, don't be afraid to challenge new markets.  If you see an advantage to building custom cabinets and over the years you have accumulated an entire cabinet