Construction Marketing: A Blueprint for a Contractor Marketing Plan

Construction marketing is often overlooked in the industry, but having a well-thought-out contractor marketing plan can be a huge difference maker. Laura Patterson of VisionEdge Marketing compares a contractor marketing plan to an architectural blueprint, as it serves as a guide to what you need to do to grow your business. Listen to Dodge’s Ben Johnson and VisionEdge’s Laura Patterson discuss the importance of a contractor marketing plan on this episode of “A Podcast That Builds”. Below is a transcript of this construction podcast.

      Ben Johnson:                    

Welcome to “A Podcast That Builds”, construction industry experts keeping you in the know with news, trends and analysis that will shape the future of building. I'm your host Ben Johnson, and we're happy to have Laura Patterson with VisionEdge Marketing here with us today.

 

Laura Patterson:             

Hi Ben and everyone. It's such a pleasure to be able to be with you today. Thank you for having me.

 

Ben Johnson:                    

Thank you for joining us, Laura. Today we're going to be talking about a blueprint for your company, why you need a contractor marketing plan and what should go into a marketing plan. So just to start out, Laura, what goes into a marketing plan and why would you need to work on one?

 

Laura Patterson:             

That's a great question. And it's one of my favorite topics. I'm glad we're talking about this today. So, I think the title kind of alludes to why and what is a marketing plan. So, for, I'm married to someone in construction. I, I want to make that as a disclaimer. He's a contractor in the commercial and industrial space. So, I'm speaking to people that I feel like I somewhat am familiar with and he, and I've had this conversation about marketing plans because he owns his own company too. And to your point, most people in construction use some kind of an architectural diagram known as a blueprint in order to create and build their building. Well, a marketing plan is exactly that in that it is a blueprint that helps serve as your guide for what you're going to do in order to grow your business. And it's probably one of the most important and powerful business tools we have as business owners. In fact, there's been a lot of research on whether it's worth the effort because making a contractor marketing plan does take energy and it does take time. But research has shown that companies with a marketing plan can experience 24 to 30% improvement over sales compared to companies that don't have one. So, there are real benefits to making this investment of effort and time.

 

Ben Johnson:                    

Yeah, 24 to 30% certainly is nothing to scoff at. So, as you said, a marketing plan isn't without effort. So, what needs to go into the plan?

 

Laura Patterson:             

Well, a contractor marketing plan is really your guide. It's your roadmap for growth. And so, it's has a number of components. And I think I'd like to continue with our metaphor around a blueprint. So, because most of you are probably familiar and have seen many blueprints throughout your career, most blueprints, and I've seen you know, they have a site plan. They have an elevation, they have a floor plan, they include all the dimensions, they tell you where things are going to go, you know, placement. It has construction details and specifications and identify some materials you're going to need. Well, a marketing plan is very, very similar. It identifies your priorities, it helps you understand how you're going to bring your strategy to life. It tells you what outcomes you need to achieve and then what kinds of objectives construction marketing is going to be accountable for and helping you achieve your outcomes and moving the business needle. And it has those layers of same kinds of layers that an architectural blueprint has. It has the programs the performance targets, the tactics and the activities along with the bill of materials, the things you're going to need, and the costs associated with those in order to execute your plan.

 

Ben Johnson:                    

Very good analogy with the blueprint. It's very difficult to build a business without a plan, just as you can't build a, even a decent shed without having some well thought out plans in advance.

 

Laura Patterson:             

I agree. And I think just said something really important than most of the folks that I know in the construction industry, even if it's just a small simple building, they still want to have the blueprint. They want to know how to make sure and they want to make sure there's certain pieces of information they know, like if they're going to dig something that they're not going to bust a pipe, right. Or what the code it might be for a where placement of the building against, you know, for zoning purposes or what not. So, they need information. So, data is like really important to construction and knowing what the requirements are. And so just as data's important in construction, it is just as important in your contractor marketing plan and for your business. And there's really very important data sets on that become imperative because they help facilitate the decision and said that and the priorities that you're going to make. So, I think it'd be helpful since Dodge is so into analytics and data to maybe talk a little bit about the data.

 

Ben Johnson:                    

If you need data in the construction industry, Dodge has what you need from very small businesses to very large corporations. Dodge has solutions from finding projects bidding today to finding trends for the future.

 

Laura Patterson:             

Let's talk about that a little bit because I agree that thought you can do that and, and, and there may even be some other sources of data that a company might want to use, and we'll talk about that too. So just stepping back, if a contractor marketing plan is based on what your priorities are going to be, your business priorities and if it's well crafted, it should provide sort of direct line of sight between the marketing activities and the money are going to spend and the business results you want to achieve. And the for the most, the easiest way to think about what those business results are is to think in customer centric terms. You know, which customers do I need to find? Which customers do I need to keep? Which customers do I need to grow and build your plan accordingly? And so, because most companies exist in a market that means there's competitors and very few people we know and work with are so alone in their market, they have competitors. So, the kinds of data they're going to need our is going to be market data, which you guys provide wonderful market data. They're going to need customer data. Yeah, some of that, and you may have particularly around the finding, but then the keeping and growing may have to come from within their own business data. They needed data about their company, financial data and sales cycle data for example. And certainly, data if they've done any marketing about what has or hasn't worked and they need competitive intelligence data. Again, that might be something you guys can provide. Getting a really good handle on the data, using that data to derive some insights you have to analyze it on. Sometimes you need help with that. Sometimes you're able to do it yourself, analyze that data, understand what it really means and sort of internalize it and say, okay, what's the implications of this data to my business? How am I going to use this, these insights to make decisions? And then what are those decisions and how will they affect my, my plan for growth? And, and how do I put that into a plan? So, data is like the primary ingredient to your marketing plan.

 

Ben Johnson:                    

Yeah, it's almost like a, if you haven't done the work internally, you won't know what you have, and you can't know what data you need or what kind of analysis. However simple you need to perform, it sounds like really a data is a basic building material in terms of a marketing plan and one you want to get right. What if I don't have time or I'm not a big complex business, I don't have my own marketing department or anything. What's the minimum I can do? How much, how much work needs to go into a contractor marketing plan to get real results?

 

Laura Patterson:             

That's a really good question and I'm going to answer it, but I'm also going to kind of take a little roundabout path to getting the answer. And I kind of alluded to this earlier, for everyone that's in construction knows that they've heard this from their own customers. Hey, it's just a small, simple building. Do I still need a blueprint to construct it? Do I still need to worry about, you know, permitting and codes and all those other things? The answer is absolutely. You still need to have that. Why? Because the blueprint is what gives you clarity and agreement about what you're building. If you don't have that, then you and the person who you are working for end up potentially with, with, you know, either having a disconnect over what's going to be created at the end, which then results in over, you know, cost overruns extended time rework in all of those kinds of things.

So regardless of the size of the organization, you'd have a marketing plan, but the complexity of that plan might be very different. Just like the complexity of an architectural blueprint might be different based on what kind, what you're building, what the construction looks like. So, at a minimum, as you would really want to know how big it's going to be, so you'd want to know that the placement of things, right? And you'd want the materials, you'd want a floor plan, you want the elevation. And so, if you think about that and translate that to your marketing plan, at a minimum, you need to have clarity around your strategy. Because in marketing plans are your strategies. So, what, what's your overall strategy? At a minimum you need to know the quantifiable outcomes, what the success is going to look like. You want to know the objectives that need to go in to play to achieve those outcomes.

And then some general guidelines around how those objectives are going to be achieved. So, the ta programs that tactics, activities and then you know, you want the, you want to have a sense of what you're willing to invest. You may change your mind just like working with a customer when you're working on certain finishes and you have a budget and then something interesting comes along that they want to add and they're willing to spend more money on that. You know, they want the ice maker for example, or they want, you know, something else that they need in their kitchen. They're willing to give you the extra money to do it because they decided they want it. Then you want to be able to have that kind of flexibility with your plan and, and, and when you know what the initial costs are, that allows you to be more agile and nimbler. And so, it doesn't have to be a long drawn out process. And even if you don't have a person within your organization, there are lots of people, people like us who can help you put it together. But ultimately you have to own it. It's your plan and ultimately have to have thoughts about how you're going to execute it, whether again, you're going to execute it in devote time to work on your business or you're going to get help from external people to help you execute your plan. And my recommendation is, you know, at the, at a minimum, set aside a half a day to a day, if you can't do it on your own, bring someone in, get the whiteboard up just like you would if you were sitting down with an architect and, and cross something. It's better to have at least something on the back of an envelope. So, to say that nothing and just start trying to, you know, scrape the lot and put up a building. So, you know, it's worth a half a day to a day to go through the process and have that kind of internal discussion about how you're going to grow your business.

 

Ben Johnson:                    

That's great. It sounds a lot like over any overall business planning, which any business requires, can easily include a contractor marketing plan.

 

Laura Patterson:             

Absolutely, you get to your point, you know, your business plan is going to be much bigger and broader. It's gonna look at many things beyond construction marketing. But you know, in the words of Peter Drucker, the purpose of a business is to create a customer. And the two most important factors in doing that are the product or your innovation, your services and marketing. So, at the minimum, your business plan needs to include those two things.

 

Ben Johnson:                    

Okay. So, as we sit down in front of this whiteboard, what kind of questions do we need to be asking?

 

Laura Patterson:             

So, let's see. You said to sit down and have this conversation. What should, what, what should be on the whiteboard? Well, the first thing on the whiteboard is sort of your mission and vision. What do you see your company looking like, you know, 12, 18 months out? And then what, which customers do you have today that you want to keep and how are any of those customers that you can grow and if you could grow, where would you grow them? So those would be some good questions. If you need new customers, are those, where would you go to get those new customers? What would be those? What would those new customers look like? And that ties back to what your focus of your business is going to be on. And how you might expand into new markets, whether those are new markets in terms of verticals or new markets, in terms of geographies.

If it's about growing customers, you know, it might be looking at which customers, which of my customers are actually growing and then how might I grow with them. So, if you're in the commercial space, for example, and you're working with a come with companies who make, who create our construct buildings, office buildings for example, knowing which ones are going to be wanting to expand their business so that you can be working with them in partnership. You may say, look, you know, I want to, I maybe I'm a plumber like my husband. And so, which general contractors to I want to have strong relationships with might be really important. And then looking at which of those general contractors working on teams. So maybe some general contractors, if you're have teams of subs that they tend to work together as a team. And so building tighter relationships and, and doing that, and you have to think a little bit about how operationally you're going to work in order to deliver a good result so that you can get that repeat business if you're on camera, whether that's as a general contractor from the, from the market or a subcontractor from a general contractor.

So those might be things you want to look at and you might think about other things that go into your marketing that might affect your decision strategically. If you're wanting to grow and you're needing to reach out geographically, what does that mean in terms of your talent and your operations? So that might be something you need to take into consideration. So those would be big questions. And then once you know what those are, then you can say, well, how would I go about doing that? Will I be doing that expansion by a connect? For example, my strategy is to join them, become a member of the chamber in each of those key markets. Well then what does that look like and how do I go about doing that? And what, how will I participate might be some of the programs and activities that you put together. And another instance you may say, look, you know, I, what I, what I'm going to do is work with my existing customers who might know other people in those markets and do a referral program. So, there could be any number of different examples. And you want to be careful not to get too much in the weeds right away. Like make a poster, make a flyer, do a, you know, send a postcard. You want to back up from those activities until you really have clarity around your objectives, your strategy and your program. And then those kinds of things like direct mail, like an email, like an advertisement in a publication. Like sponsoring, you know, a local event, those things you want to wait until you can connect them to the program that you want to put in place so that it's seamless and integrated and, and you will have the best results.

 

Ben Johnson:                    

And results are definitely why we're all here. Thank you so much Laura. How can we learn more about Vision Edge Marketing?

 

Laura Patterson:             

I appreciate you asking, and we welcome anyone to come visit us at visionedgemarketing.com. You know, we really focus on B2B. We work with all size companies and what we really want our customers to be able to do is, is grow, create more value for their company and their customers. And make sure that they're using marketing to help them grow organically. So, if that's of interest to your listeners, we would love to hear from you. And we do facilitate working work, working sessions, we call them collaboratories to help people frame up their marketing plans and they, they range anywhere from let's do something really quick and you know, back of the envelope to something much more extensive. We kind of think of ourselves very much like architects. And so, you can, if you think of us as architects, then that might give you some insight into how we might work.

 

Ben Johnson:                    

Well, thank you very much. And from what you've shared today, I think vision edge is very well set up, especially with your background and your husband to help construction firms of many sizes.

 

Laura Patterson:             

Thank you for having us. And if there's any way we can be of service to you or, or to your customers, you know, just reach out and ping us would happy to hear from you. We welcome emails. You can email me directly at laurap@visionedgemarketing.com. We hope all of you have a great rest of the day and welcome hearing from you.

 

Ben Johnson:                    

And that'll do it for this episode of "A Podcast That Builds". We'll see you next time.