Brian Ruehlmann is a senior at the University of Missouri - Columbia, set to graduate in May 2016 with degrees in journalism and sport management. He is currently working as the outreach coordinator for suretybonds.com, a provider of online bonding for clients nationwide.
In an environment as cluttered and competitive as the construction industry, effective marketing strategies can determine the difference between success and failure. Brand development, relationship building and online presence are just a few of the marketing efforts that establish and maintain success. Contractors who utilize effective marketing strategies create avenues through which they can avoid the clutter.
Alisa Bennett, vice president of Bennett Contracting Inc., a full-service excavation and utility construction firm serving commercial and development clients in Sarasota, Florida, has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and public relations. She has worked with her husband to successfully manage Bennett Contracting for the past 10 years. Bennett has witnessed firsthand how contractors the right approach contractors should take to market themselves better. The following are seven answers from Bennett that every contractor should consider when implementing a marketing program.
Q: What is the current marketing landscape for contractors?
Most contractors are skilled tradesmen who have talents and expertise in their specific area of work. However, only a few are marketing experts. For this reason, many contractors don't know where to turn for assistance with important marketing strategies like brand development, online marketing, advertising and public relations. Every contractor should realize that building brand awareness and recognition is important. I recommend that every company invest in professional logo design and use that logo on their website, signage, corporate vehicles, uniforms, hard hats and promotional items.
Q: Which marketing strategies have proven to be more effective for contractors?
One of the most important marketing strategies for commercial contractors is networking and relationship building. Knowing who the decision makers are is important, but having a trusting, mutually beneficial relationship with your potential customer will ensure you are well-positioned for consideration as their contractor. Additionally, having contacts with engineers and architects helps you know and understand what projects are coming down the line and allows your company to get in front of the decision makers in a timely manner. Anytime you can provide resources, information, help and assistance to your customer ensures that your company will be top of mind when your services are needed.
Q: What industry changes have impacted the effectiveness of various marketing strategies?
The availability of information via the Internet has totally changed marketing for every industry, including construction. Today, if you don't have an online presence with a website, it's likely that you won't be considered a professional entity. Now, customers can search for something as specific as "boat lift construction, Sarasota, Florida," and in seconds, find a reliable list of companies that perform exactly what the customer needs. This is great for those who offer a narrow scope of work, but it makes things much more difficult for a large company that offers a broad array of services to stand out.
Q: Should different types of contractors pursue different marketing strategies?
The biggest difference in how marketing strategy is followed in our line of business depends on whether the company primarily focuses on residential customers or if they are a business-to-business entity mostly dealing with municipalities, developers and general contractors. Contractors who replace AC units or fix plumbing issues—those working with the general public—will find a much more challenging and competitive landscape. Those who work in the commercial area should focus more on developing their relationships and positioning in the community to ensure repeat business and satisfied customers. Every business needs to have a marketing plan with strategies for pursuing the jobs that are the best fit for their team, regardless of the type of contract work.
Q: What should be the primary focus of a contractor's website?
A website should quickly and clearly answer the "Who? What? Where?" questions. Most importantly, the website should make a compelling argument that tells the reader why they should hire you instead of another company. In addition, a clean website that is easy to read will encourage potential customers to stay on your site longer. People overwhelmed with information on a cluttered website will likely leave after a few seconds. Clean and simple designs with pertinent information always win out.
Q: What are the dos and don’ts for contractors with regards to marketing?
- DO hire a professional marketing consultant or graphic designer to create your logo.
- DON'T try to do it yourself.
- DO deliver what you promise and return calls as soon as possible.
- DON'T forget that your word and your promise is your brand.
- DO take time to work on marketing your company and determining which projects are the best fit for your business.
- DON'T expect the phone to ring without doing anything.
Q: What can contractors do to help their marketing efforts?
Place a testimonial from your bonding agent on the "Testimonials" page of your website. Bondable contractors and subcontractors have demonstrated fiscal accountability and are perceived as more professional by decision makers. Often, contractors responding to RFPs will include a letter of bonding capacity from their bonding agent with their proposals. Developers and contractors want to do business with companies that are well-managed, fiscally stable and flexible. Bonded contractors are often selected was over competitors simply because of the documented ability to bond work in a certain area of expertise.