Marketing is not just for large companies with big budgets to spend, it is for companies of all sizes. Within the construction industry many large companies have relatively small budgets compared to other industries. Many construction companies are actively engaged in marketing tactics but they don't think of them as marketing. For example, taking customers to a baseball game is a sales activity because it builds stronger relationships, allows you to better understand the customers' needs, and gives you an opportunity to promote your company. Using a systematic approach to market can help accelerate your business. Here's how you set up your marketing blueprint:
Begin with the Situation Analysis:
Start with a view of what is going on in your company and industry at the current time. Use market research, visit and study your competitors, identify any market barriers, and then develop an overview of the situation. Look at your customer base and identify changes in your target market. Next compile data from your last year of business and describe how successful your plans and budgets were compared to your plan.
Most people find this the hardest part of the plan. Strategies require a clean-sheet approach that defines "how we do marketing," which in turn drives the objectives and tactics of your plan. Three examples of strategies that should be addressed are:
- Pricing visa-a-vie the competition. Are your prices lower, the same or higher than your competitors?
- Defining your company image. Do you have a different image than your competition? Does it differentiate you from your competitors?
- Having a strong sales strategy. In many companies the estimating group takes the lead in sales. Sales and marketing should be everyone's job with specific responsibilities given to specific individuals.
- Service strategy is crucial to building a strong relationship with your customers.
Identify Key Objectives
Objectives should be measurable and tie back to your strategies. Objectives usually focus on finance, image, branding, product/service launches and public relations. Objectives are often tied to market share.
Build Your Plan of Action
The plan of action ties the blueprint together and supports speedy reactions to marketplace changes. The execution of your plan must deliver consistent, cost-effective marketing programs for your company. The construction industry has a complex set of relationships with influencers as well as customers. You need to know who makes the decision to buy and who influences that decision. If you are operating through intermediaries (like distributors) remember to consider the needs of the end customer. Intermediaries will be interested in different aspects of your offering to the final customer. Promote the appropriate benefits to each group.
In this section, identify how you plan to bring on new customers and how your sales department (estimating group) should be organized. Outline the ways you will achieve your revenue targets and the marketing tools you will use to help generate your backlog. This is the section where you decide if you should advertise or spend more money on your web site, whether you will use public relations (and what kind), promotions, or direct mail to generate leads. There are a number of options for communicating your company's capability and the details of your products and services:
a) Literature describing your offering is important, often supported by case studies giving examples of what has been achieved. Some of this information needs to be downloadable from your web site and also used in your bidding documents.
b) Advertising is used by many organizations, but this can be expensive and public relations is often a more cost-effective alternative.
c) The Internet is now firmly established as the principal source of reference information for customers, making a web site a necessity. It is also worth being aware of any chat rooms where subjects related to your sector of the industry are discussed. These can provide valuable market information as well as offering low cost methods for you to communicate with your customers.
d) A newsletter also provides a means of communicating with your market. This can either be hard copy or sent by e-mail. If using e-mail ensure that all recipients have requested the newsletter, otherwise it will not meet anti-spam legislation.
Needless to say, all forms of communication should be consistent and present a positive image. Communication is a two-way process. As well as telling your customers and potential customers about your company's products and services you need to be listening to what they think of you. This can be achieved through sales feedback and customer surveys.
In this section, show current and historical financial data, projected income statements for the coming year, and balance sheets. Some companies forecast product needs in this section.
Gaining day-to-day control is the advantage of doing a plan. We can all fool ourselves and insist we know what to do and are doing it. Yet there often is not enough time in a day, or the right people to implement your plan to ensure success. Entrepreneurs are creative, out-of-the-box thinkers and risk takers. So monitoring your plan will let you gauge how well you are truly doing.
A marketing plan is important to your businesses' long-term health. It should be reviewed quarterly to ensure you are meeting your objectives and to "tweak" it when necessary. If you do not have specific tactics you are leaving your company vulnerable to the competition and may find that your competitors have evolved leaving you with a declining or unprofitable business.
The more time you spend on planning and implementing your plan of action; the greater the growth, the lower your marketing expenditure, and the more proactive and healthier your company. Very often the weak link in this will be your own people. They need to be informed about, understand, and be committed to the company's vision and values.
Linda Hanson, CMC, is a certified management consultant and author of 10 Steps to Marketing Success. She writes, speaks and consults on marketing, management and customer service issues and can be contacted at www.llhenterprises.com. Sign up for her free newsletter The Superior Performance Report.