The construction industry might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about online marketing, but the fact is more and more people are jumping on the Internet for all of their service and product needs, not just for retail, and any small business who wants to keep on growing in this day and age needs to learn about and understand the potential of the Internet.
Even though there is an upward trend in the global economic market, the construction industry in Australia still has quite a number of challenges that businesses are facing, including increasingly aggressive competition, a slow economy and a rise in the cost of insurance.
You might think that when it comes to the construction industry, word of mouth is the quickest and most effective marketing method – and you would be right. However, small businesses often cannot rely on word of mouth alone anymore. In order to compete successfully in today’s marketplace, any construction business also needs a strong online presence.
Currently, the construction industry is crowded with organisations that use traditional methods of marketing and many have not capitalised on the potential of online marketing strategies to grow their business. Organisations in the construction industry that then adopt online marketing as a way to build business can therefore leapfrog the competition by establishing an early presence in an area filled with possibility and one where competition is still relatively scarce.
That being said, so what are the top five online marketing challenges for small businesses in the construction industry, and how can you overcome them?
1. Not having an up to date online presence
One of the best and most effective online marketing tools is a professional, well designed website that is mobile friendly. If you don’t have a website or rely on your company popping up in local trade or council business sites for jobs, then you are essentially blocking your opportunity for business.
If you have got a website but it is outdated and cannot be easily accessed on a mobile device, then you are quite possibly not reaching the maximum number of customers that you would have otherwise, potential customers that will probably go to your competitors.
Whereas a couple of years ago most people did all their web browsing and online reading on a desktop computer or a laptop, nowadays it’s been found that more people than ever simply use their tablets or mobile phones for browsing the Internet, reading and online shopping.
The first thing you need to do to solidify your online presence is to invest in a properly designed website that is fit for purpose. And that’s only the beginning. To ensure that potential customers will be able to find you whenever they need to, you also need to sign up for any and all relevant online directories and industry websites – and don’t forget to make sure that your contact details are all up to date!
2. Not having an online marketing strategy
You wouldn’t dream of starting your company without a business plan, would you? That same level of diligence and preparation should apply to your marketing but unfortunately many in the construction industry have not – and sometimes do not plan to – give the same amount of thought to an Internet marketing strategy.
Besides giving you a better idea of what you need to do to establish an effective online presence, an Internet marketing strategy will also define your marketing goals and objectives, and set out clearly how you can use the Internet to put your plans into practice.
A good Internet marketing strategy should always list out which Internet options are going to be suitable for your company and what you do. If you are not sure where to start, then talk to your local trade association or business development unit at the council as they will be best placed to advise you. Also, do take some time to check out your competitors to see how they are growing their online presence and what steps they are taking towards marketing themselves.
3. Following the leader without considering your own company
It’s one thing to check out your competitors, it’s another to blindly emulate everything that they do. While it might be tempting to copy what the big companies are doing online, and it is even necessary for you to keep up with what your competitors are offering in order to stay competitive, you do need to focus on your company’s own unique selling points too.
Even though you likely should be using the same online platforms as everybody else, your online presence should have a clear steer to the features, functions and benefits of your particular product or service. You do not have to focus on the same aspects of your service as everybody else – rather, you should be touting the areas of your service or product that are unique, and be sure to tailor your Internet marketing strategy accordingly.
For example, if you have a product that is exclusive to your company, be sure to make that exclusivity clear. If you are targeting a certain demographic, such as business owners for instance, make sure that your Internet marketing strategy is geared towards reaching those potential customers and not other demographics like stay at home mums or university students.
4. Not having a presence on social media
Why should a small business in the construction industry bother to have a Facebook page, you might ask? The answer is simple: word of mouth is, like we said earlier, the quickest and most effective marketing method. In an Internet age, where so many people are spending more time talking to others online than face to face, the Internet is where a lot of “electronic word of mouth” advertising is taking place.
These days, websites are a low cost avenue to start your Internet marketing strategy, and social media platforms are free. Electronic word of mouth advertising is a quick, effective and cheap way of reaching potential customers, so make sure you have a professional presence on platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as a minimum.
At our organisation, we have successfully utilised LinkedIn, particularly to develop partnerships with complementary businesses and for outreach to commercial clients to effectively grow our business. Of course, signing up for an account is the easy part – once you’re on, don’t forget to stay current, post regularly, and most important, don’t be afraid to sell yourselves!
5. Sending mixed messages
Because so many companies in the construction industry are small businesses, some even being family businesses, branding isn’t always a priority. However, it’s important to ensure that your company isn’t sending out a mixture of branding elements, and that your hard format branding doesn’t differ from your online presence.
Be consistent with a theme, logo and brand for your small business. If you don’t have a logo, invest in one. Come up with a company motto and adopt a fixed colour palette for your logo, theme and other branding elements. As best as you are able to, tie these elements in with your small business so that it represents what you do and who you are.
Once you’ve decided on a fixed branding image and message, be consistent with them. Make sure they are the same across all your online platforms, as well as on your hard format materials such as invoices, name cards and so on. It is a bit of an extra effort but it will be worth it in the long run.
As your small business grows, you’ll find that being recognisable and accessible will go a long way towards keeping your customers’ loyalty and patronage, as well as gain you new customers. And at the end of the day, that’s what marketing is all about, isn’t it?
About the author:
Grant Wigney is the owner and director of National Waterproofing and Industrial Flooring (NWIF), one of Melbourne’s leading waterproofing, epoxy flooring and commercial/industrial flooring companies. With more than 25 years of experience in construction and building under his belt, he has seen the industry evolve over the years and knows what it takes to keep a company current and successful.