Industry Insights – January 2022: Construction Product Marketing in the ‘New Normal’

By Jen Heil | January 31, 2022

Over the last two years, the landscape for marketing construction products has changed dramatically. Where once tradeshows, meet the buyer and networking events provided an arena for face-to-face marketing and sales, now remote opportunities dominate. Whilst this shift presents many opportunities, it is not without its challenges – and when the success of a remote pitch could be derailed by an unstable internet connection, it is more important than ever that construction product manufacturers employ a suite of tools and strategies to maintain strength and integrity in the marketplace.

In this month’s edition of Industry Insights, we’re pleased to bring you a breakdown of the findings from the 2022 Construction Manufacturers Marketing Report (CMMR), produced by NBS in partnership with Glenigan, and what you can take from it for your own marketing.

The make-up of construction marketing teams

The CMMR revealed some striking variations in the size of construction marketing teams, with 3% of respondents having no dedicated marketing team and 12% having more than nine people driving their company’s marketing. The majority of businesses fall somewhere in between these two extremes. However, 29% have only 1 person driving marketing and 17% only 2, showing that marketing teams do tend to be on the smaller size within the industry.

The tendency towards smaller teams does not reflect the important role that marketing and PR should play within business strategy. This area of work is varied, complex and essential for developing lasting client relationships, including opening dialogue with customers, building reputation, highlighting your offer and maintaining an active presence in the market. Marketing and PR is a big job so if you’re expecting one person (or even two or three) to do it all, you’ll have to be selective about what is prioritised, as delivering everything will be too big an ask.

Primary audiences for construction product manufacturers

Unsurprisingly, the report highlights specifiers, designers and contractors as the primary audiences for construction product manufacturers, with architects making up 41% of targeted specifier audiences. This B2B focus is expected but it is indicated later in the report that reaching these audiences can be a barrier to successful marketing. To effectively reach professionals in these roles, it is important to consider how you can offer them added value. What kind of problems are they facing? How can you help them overcome those problems? Are you targeting those with further specialisms within their profession and, if so, what specific expertise can you provide them with? Although promoting your products is clearly a central objective within any marketing strategy, it’s important to consider more than just the sell. And remember that offering added value for them will lead to added value for you – such as repeat custom and word of mouth recommendations.

Put your money where your marketing is

Budgets are often a sticking point when it comes to marketing and the CMMR shows that marketing budgets are low in the construction industry. 16% of businesses reported a budget of up to £25k and 22% up to £50k. It is generally recommended that a business should dedicate a minimum of 2%-5% of its sales revenue to marketing budget. The CMMR showed that respondents have an average marketing budget equal to around 2.3% of revenue, however there was wide variation showing marketing budgets ranging from anything between less than 1% of revenue to over 35%.

Despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CMMR indicates that 52% of marketing budgets have stayed the same and 29% have increased, whilst 18% have decreased. Interestingly, the percentage of those respondents with a turnover of over £50 million whose marketing budget has stayed about the same increases to 67%, indicating that the marketing budgets of those respondents are lagging behind. Only 15% in this turnover bracket say their budget has increased – less than the other groups.

Allocating a decent budget is essential to the success of any marketing strategy, making it easier to target the right audiences, ensuring better quality work and maintaining consistent output. It is also always worthwhile keeping a contingency pot in addition to your planned spend, to enable responsive marketing.

Of those surveyed for the CMMR, 71% carry out their marketing in house with just 29% outsourcing. If you have a small marketing team, it may be worth exploring outsourcing to an agency – even if you are working with a smaller budget. Remember, they don’t have to deliver everything but could help with certain pieces of work that a small, in-house team may not have capacity for. Find a specialist agency with experience delivering work within the construction industry, as an understanding of the sector is essential for it be effective. Even if you are uncertain whether this is the right way forward for your business, there is no harm in asking the question and you might be pleasantly surprised at the support an agency could offer.

The tools of the marketing trade

Marketing is a broad term and can encompass a wide range of tools and channels. The CMMR highlights certain trends amongst construction product manufacturers, with a high use of social media (88%), and popular use of email marketing (75%) & SEO tools (66%). The research indicates that CRMs are also popular (67%) but that the cost of these systems can be prohibitive for smaller manufacturers.

The increasing digitalisation currently underway in the construction industry is evident in marketing practices as well; 53% of marketing activity is digital but a solid 29% is still dedicated to traditional channels. On average, around 18% of marketing budget is allocated to construction specific marketing channels such as BIM libraries. Maintaining a mix of channels is important in today’s construction industry. Digital avenues are increasingly popular and tend to offer a wider reach, especially in the post-COVID landscape with the rise of remote operations. However, traditional methods still hold great value and investing in opportunities with targeted publications can be hugely beneficial. When it comes to construction tailored marketing channels, these are useful for addressing particular needs, such as reaching specifiers during the specification process or providing details to designers. The key is to focus on getting the balance right for your audiences.

It is positive to see almost universal use of company websites but it’s vital to make sure you’re getting this platform right. Your website will often be the first place that potential customers visit when they want to know more about your offer, so ensure your site is useful to your audience: Is your content search engine optimised? Is it easy for users to find information? Does the structure of your site make sense? Does it load quickly? Is it up to date? Does it look professional and cohesive? Your website should convey your brand, showcase your offer, provide relevant, accessible and up to date information and it must be easy to navigate – remember that if users can’t find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, they will simply head elsewhere.

Brochures remain an important channel for manufacturers, however it is worth noting that only 54% of those looking for construction product information use brochures when looking for this information. As the shift to digital continues, employing digital brochures will provide a good hybrid solution, as links to product pages or specification platforms can be embedded within them. It also offers a more sustainable solution, reducing the carbon and waste impact produced by printed brochures, and means that product information can be kept up to date more easily, ensuring compliance with the Code for Construction Product Information (CCPI) . If you are still wanting to employ printed brochures, consider how you can ensure people access the most up to date information – for example, by printing product pages with QR codes that will take them to a regularly updated web page. Also consider the environmental impact by sourcing printers who use recycled materials, and by printing lower volumes of the brochure.

Substance driven sales

It’s great to see content marketing and PR being employed by around 50% of respondents on a regular basis, however, these work types are being underutilised by the remaining 50%. Content marketing is essential for providing added value to your target audiences. It demonstrates your expertise and position as a thought leader in the industry and forms a central part of any public relations strategy.

PR is often misunderstood or conflated with marketing but, whilst they are connected, they play very distinct roles. PR activity is about building a dependable reputation within your sector and creating lasting relationships with your target audiences. It underpins any business’s marketing activity, demonstrating to customers that you have more to offer them beyond your products or services. Throughout the construction industry, there is an increasing interest in – and need for – considered content that seeks to provide insight and useful information. Thought leadership, CPDs and other content that makes technical topics accessible are all valuable ways to meet this need, and each manufacturer will have expertise to offer to the industry.

The measurement game

Measuring return on investment is always complicated and even more so in construction because conversions tend to be a long game. As the CMMR highlights, measuring the impact of marketing therefore tends to be focused initially on reach and engagement through metrics such as website traffic, literature views and downloads. Over time, however, factors such as customer retention, number of specifications and lifetime value of a customer also come into play. Customer retention and lifetime value are particularly useful in understanding the impact of your marketing spend, as they take into account not only the initial conversion but also the ongoing value of that relationship. This is also why PR work is an important part of any marketing strategy, as this is what will keep your brand and products at the forefront of customers’ minds even when they aren’t at the point of specification or purchase.

Ability to demonstrate return on investment was identified as one of the biggest barriers to successful marketing, closely followed by available budget. This can be a bit of a catch 22 as without putting in the investment, there won’t be enough of an impact to measure. There also needs to be room for a degree of trial and error, especially when targeting new markets or using new channels.

Breaking down barriers

Other key barriers to successful marketing include limited in-house marketing resources and difficulty reaching target audiences. To address both these issues, you may want to consider engaging industry marketing specialists to either deliver certain aspects of your strategy or to provide consultancy support to ensure your approach is as effective as possible. Whilst budgetary constraints may put some businesses – particularly SMEs – off engaging an external agency, it’s important to recognise that part of the value of engaging a specialist team to conduct the work is that they can advise where marketing spend is likely to offer the greatest return.

Moving forward with marketing

Thinking about the future of construction marketing, the CMMR shows there is a clear feeling that marketing will increase in importance and that the construction marketing sector will grow in strength in the coming years. However, there is also a feeling that construction marketing is not as well respected as it could be and not of as high a quality as in other industries. With the growing importance of construction marketing, it is going to be essential that businesses prioritise quality output and demonstrate integrity in their marketing and PR activity. 89% of respondents to the CMMR felt that marketing strategies will need to change in the coming years, with a continuing shift to digital and an increasing number of businesses branching out into new channels such as CPD and thought leadership. Some of the macro-environmental factors perceived as contributing to the change include the move to digitisation, the increasing importance of sustainability, the requirement for a golden thread of information, changing regulations and the CCPI. These factors all indicate that marketing and PR will play a pivotal role in the culture shift that has long been called for in the industry.

To read the report in full, download it here.

If you’d like to explore how specialist PR and marketing support could help you achieve your business aims, get in touch with our team for a no obligations discussion.