Kevin Miller develops marketing and communication strategies, writes copy, oversees development of award-winning print and electronic promotional materials and manages the operation of Frost Miller Group, an ad agency based in Washington.
Steps to reach your target audience with the right message.
Many construction firms know what they want their company to be in a year or two. They know how much they want it to grow, what services they want to offer and which markets they want to go after. In other words, they have developed a solid plan.
But most firms do not have a marketing communication plan—the bridge between establishing your marketing goals and achieving them. This plan enables you to get to know your target audience, and it helps you determine the best strategy for developing marketing materials that will drive your competitive advantage and encourage your prospective clients to take action.
Step 1: Establish Your Goals and Objectives
Before you advertise, print a brochure or build a website, you must establish your marketing goals to know which marketing materials will work best for your unique situation. Your goals define where you want to be in a given time period. For example, your goals could include entering new markets, introducing new services, starting a firm that specializes in renovation projects or increasing market share by 5 percent.
To accomplish your goals, you must establish clear communication objectives—the responses you desire from your target audience. Develop as many communication objectives as possible for each of your marketing goals because they will help you determine which marketing communication materials will achieve your goals. Some communication objectives might include creating an awareness of your company in the new market, establishing a need for your products or services or generating inquiries.
Step 2: Identify Your Competitive Advantages
If you fail to identify your competitive advantages, you will have a hard time convincing potential prospects to choose you over your competitors.
Every company that is at least modestly successful has competitive advantages. Your company would not be in business if it did not stand out from the competition in some way—perhaps it is the quality of your work, the experience you have had on a particular building type, your technical know-how or your pricing.
Step 3: Define Your Target Audience
Once you have established your goals and competitive advantages, you need to determine your target audience (the group of people most likely to buy your products or services). Your target audience should consist of individuals who would benefit most from your particular products or services.
Define your target audience by their demographic and psychographic characteristics. Demographic characteristics can be measured or quantified. They include broad characteristics like business type, geographic location, number of employees, etc., and other specifics like job title, age, sex and income.
Psychographic characteristics group people into homogeneous segments based on their psychological makeups and lifestyle characteristics. This might include interests, hobbies, beliefs, etc. Psychographic characteristics, while harder to define than demographic characteristics, are often more important to understand. Since people make purchases based on how a product satisfies their needs, understanding your prospective buyers’ psychographic traits will help you better understand their needs and motivations and how your product or service can satisfy them.
Step 4: Develop a Creative Strategy Statement
A creative strategy statement simply explains what you want to accomplish, what you want to say, to whom you want to say it and how you should communicate it. The creative strategy statement defines the overall look and feel of your efforts.
For example, an interior contractor might have this creative strategy statement:
To establish preference for our services and generate sales opportunities by communicating that we are the best interior contractor for private companies with 5 to 100 employees, particularly if they need work done in occupied spaces. We will speak primarily to people within these companies who have little experience in retrofitting their office space. Because they are probably very anxious about this process, we will create marketing materials that communicate how choosing our firm will ease their minds. We always try to find new and creative answers to solve construction challenges, and our designs have a cutting-edge look, instead of something stodgy and conservative.
Step 5: Produce a Creative Platform
Now it is time to put all the information you have gathered into a format that can be used by you and anyone else who may develop your marketing communication materials. You will create a document called a creative platform. The creative platform is an essential outline that lists:
- Marketing goals and the communication objectives that will achieve them
- Competitive advantages (and their benefits)
- Key selling point
- Other selling points
- Target audience, defined by their demographic and psychographic characteristics
- Creative strategy statement
This platform should serve as your guide.
Step 6: Select the Most Effective Marketing Materials
Once you have created your marketing communication plan, you will have all the information necessary to decide what types of promotional materials you should produce to achieve your objectives.
Advertisements, for instance, are effective for establishing awareness but do not always generate action. A brochure creates desire and action but not awareness, and websites generate desire and interest.
Step 7: Develop a Budget
The objective-task method is the most accurate (but complicated) way to develop a marketing communication budget for your firm. This budget is an essential part of the process.
The objective-task method requires you to develop a marketing communication strategy and assign costs to each item. This is very time-consuming initially, but once you establish your first budget, you can measure your strategy’s effectiveness, and then subsequent budgets will be relatively easy to develop.
If you do not learn how to develop a good marketing communication plan, all your marketing materials will be off target and your valuable resources will be wasted.
Construction Business Owner, November 2011