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What’s Missing From your Construction Marketing Plan?

January 30th, 2012 by

Take the following steps to reach your target audience this year.

Many construction firms know what they want their company to be in a year or two. They know how much they want to grow, which 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.

How to Be Happy at Work

January 30th, 2012 by

Truly successful individuals are those that consistently hit their  individual goals and are also genuinely happy. As it turns out, being happy is basically a personal choice. The following article from inc.com will help you prime yourself to be genuinely happy.

Let me start off with a little story.

I once knew a saleswoman–young, divorced–who got a diagnosis of breast cancer.  She had to work and raise two kids while fighting the cancer. Even so, she managed to be happy at work, noticeably happier than her co-workers.  In fact, she not only won her battle with cancer but subsequently became one of the top salespeople at Bristol Myers.

She was not, as it happens, naturally cheerful.  Quite the contrary.  When she started full-time work, she was frequently depressed.  But she turned it around, using the techniques I’m going to provide you in this column.

That saleswoman once told me: When you’re unhappy, it’s because you’ve decided to be unhappy.

Maybe it wasn’t a conscious decision; maybe it crept up on you while you weren’t looking–but it was a decision nonetheless.  And that’s good news, because you can decide instead to be happy. You just need to understand how and why you make the decisions.

What Are Your Rules?

Happiness and unhappiness (in work and in life) result entirely from the rules in your head that you use to evaluate events.  Those rules determine what’s worth focusing on, and how you react to what you focus on.

Many people have rules that make it very difficult for them to happy and very easy for them to be miserable.

I once worked with a sales guy who was always angry at the people he worked with. The moment anything didn’t go the way he thought it should go, he’d be screaming in somebody’s face.  He was making everyone around him miserable–but just as importantly, he was making himself miserable, because just about anything set him off.

For this guy, the everyday nonsense that goes on in every workplace was not just important, but crazy-making important.

I once asked him what made him happy.  His answer: “The only thing that makes this !$%$#! job worthwhile is when I win a $1 million account.”  I asked him how often that happened.  His response: “About once a year.”

In other words, this guy had internal rules that guaranteed he’d be miserable on a day-to-day basis, but only happy once a year.

One of the other sales guys at that firm had the exact opposite set of rules.  His philosophy was “every day above ground is a good day.”  When he encountered setbacks, he shrugged them off–because, according to his internal rules, they just weren’t that important.  When I asked him what made him miserable, his answer was: “Not much.”  When I pressed him for a real answer, he said: “When somebody I love dies.”

In other words, the second sales guy had rules that made it easy for him to be happy but difficult to be miserable.

I’d like to be able to write that Mr. Positivity regularly outsold Mr. Negativity, but in fact their sales results were similar.  Even so, I think Mr. Negativity was a loser, because he lived each day in a state of misery.  His colleague was always happy.  He was winning at life.  He was happy at work.

Make Yourself Happier: 3 Steps

The saleswoman who had breast cancer was happy, too, and this is the method she used to make herself happy:

1. Document Your Current Rules

Set aside a half-hour of alone time and, being as honest as you can, write down the answers to these two questions:

  • What has to happen for me to be happy?
  • What has to happen for me to be unhappy?

Now examine those rules.  Have you made it easier to be miserable than to be happy?  If so, your plan is probably working.

2. Create a Better Set of Rules

Using your imagination, create and record a new set of rules that would make it easy for you to be happy and difficult to be miserable.  Examples:

  • “I enjoy seeing the people I work with each day.”
  • “I really hate it when natural disasters destroy my home.” 

Don’t worry whether or not these new rules seem “realistic”–that’s not the point.  All internal rules are arbitrary, anyway.  Just write rules that would make you happier if you really believed them.

3. Post the New Rules Where You’ll See Them

When you’ve completed your set of “new” rules, print out them out and post copies in three places: your bathroom mirror, the dashboard of your car, and the side of your computer screen.  Leave them up, even after you’ve memorized them.

Having those new rules visible when you’re doing other things gradually re-programs your mind to believe the new rules.  You will be happy at work.  It’s really that simple.

Oh, and by the way … That saleswoman? She was my mother.

 

 

Retain the Best Construction Employees

January 27th, 2012 by

Follow these three steps to retain the best employees.

The current economic climate has caused a certain amount of business upheaval. Nowhere is that more evident than in the construction industry.  This is the time to look at your employees and make sure they are the ones you need. Owners should take actions to dismiss those employees who are a distinct drag on business and hire employees who will be needed both now and in the future.

It is important to focus on acquiring and maintaining the right complement of employees-those who are technically capable but who also invest themselves and their efforts into your business. When a business owner has employees who value the business endeavor, then that owner will also have a group of employees who will remain with the company and promote its growth, as well as their own growth. By learning the steps required to reach a “value-added” level of doing business, you will maintain a strong employee base to sustain in the current business climate.

Getting Started

Unless you have gone through a drastic lay-off process in recent months-to the extent that only two or three employees remain-then you will be able to look around at your current employees and determine those who fall into one of three groups:  1. Those who have the best intentions but never quite function at the level needed; 2. Those whose attention has drifted from the work at hand and the company’s best interests to focus instead on alternative pursuits; and 3. Those who actively engage in the organization’s purpose and try hard to put forth their very best effort at all times.

Evaluate Your Construction Employees

Now is the time to look closely at those in groups 1 and 2 to make a serious determination of who should stay and who should go.  For those in group 1, it is a straightforward decision; however, for those in group 2, it will require a serious effort of determining who could be re-engaged or retrained.  You will also want to estimate what portion of your employees can be maintained on part-time status-this is another critical decision because part-time employees often are not as loyal as those in full-time contracts.

Once these employment decisions have been made, you will know the size of the pool that requires retraining as well as the number of new employees that you will be seeking.  Both of these groups will then join with employees from group 3 to form your pool of “valuers.”

Step One

Once you have a wholly competent group of employees, you are not automatically ensured that you will have employees who know how to add value to your company.  Employees generally have to be taught how this is done.  To provide this instruction, you will need to decide how it is done.

The first step is to understand what it means for an employee to be considered a “valuer.”  The three checkpoints are as follows: 1. An employee who goes beyond normal duties by offering more-either in the form of better quality or enhanced production; 2. An employee who seeks solutions independently, without being prompted to do so; and 3. An employee who acts responsibly.

Let’s take these factors one at a time.  Going beyond normal duties means that an employee is not satisfied to simply work at a minimal level but will actively seek ways in which he or she can enhance the job by adding embellishments-taking the time to continually enhance his or her work until it is of superior quality, coming up with new product ideas, contributing service to other employees and so on.  Seeking solutions is the act of knowing the intent and purpose of the work so well that one does not wait for a supervisor to assign work tasks but takes the initiative to actively look for solutions to challenges and problems that arise without being directed to do so. It is this level of accountability that identifies an employee who will add value.

Step Two

The second step in providing an employee base that adds value is to set actions in motion that will allow all employees to grasp what the company is all about-what it stands for and what it is trying to achieve-as well as for employees to fully understand what they can do to contribute to the company’s well-being.

The best way to provide this critical understanding is to have employees engage with you in planning for the company’s future. Only employees who have a good functional knowledge of the company’s goals and directions can fully understand their roles and potential for adding value.

Step Three

Leaders who create sound companies are absolutely clear about what the direction should be and what will be required for employees to contribute to the process. The third step, then, is to set the company’s clear direction and invite employees to join you in determining the strategies and goals that will facilitate achieving the purpose.

This step is accompanied by reviewing where your company has been and where it needs to go.  During this process, you and your employees will also determine how to carry out the goals and how to measure when they have been achieved.

Construction company owners are sometimes reluctant to invite employees to participate in the tough decisions about the company’s future for fear of overloading employees beyond their level of interest.  In fact, the opposite is true-only when employees are engaged in the heart of the company will you be able to maintain a company comprised of employees who care about the company’s future as much as you do.  This is a critical juncture-making the decision to have a company of “valuers” is making the decision for a better future for your company.

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