For many construction product manufacturers, achieving product specification early on in the complex design and build process is a key sales and marketing objective. Early involvement from product manufacturers allows the education and collaboration process with Specifiers (Architects, lead engineers, designers etc), a key influencer, to become easier and to ensure the best product is specified for the job/project whilst also providing the manufacturer with the ability to better manage the process and ensure there is very little room for a change in specification.
Marketers are required to develop marketing communications plans and campaigns which focus on targeting Specifiers in order to communicate a businesses core competencies, service and value whilst also raising awareness of it’s product offering and technical capabilities. This can be achieved in many ways through the use of offline and online channels and delivering the right content and messages at the right time to the right people. Campaigns need to be targeted and relevant to provide Specifiers with information which is of value. It is still not uncommon for valuable budget to be spent on the wrong channels ie. mass direct mailings, creation of emails with irrelevant value propositions and websites which contain poor content of no value to visitors. In return, you receive poor results and Specifiers begin to find your brand messages annoying – you are sending them spam.
For product manufactures, brand and product marketing is not easy as there is such a wide audience to deliver your messages to. If the core marketing objective is to raise product awareness to achieve product specification then the question is, which segment has the most influence over product specification and what do they already think of your brand?
A recent survey conducted by Construction News reported that Main Contractors were emerging as a key influencer for products and materials that are used in projects and this trend is likely to accelerate over the next few years. What does this mean for the product manufacturer and where should their marketing efforts be focused?
Product manufacturers whose efforts lie in marketing solely to Specifiers, consisting of Architects, Engineers and Designers, may have less of an impact as opposed to targeting Main Contractors from the outset. More and more Specifiers are producing ‘performance specifications’ allowing the Main Contractor to specify or influence the brand or product used for the project. In which case a complete shift in strategy or marketing initiative is required.
The survey reports, 39% of Main Contractors think they will become more influential over the next 2 years on the make or brand of products used. Main Contractors particularly influence the final choice of products by suggesting an alternative to the one proposed, this being their main influence according to 59% of the top 100 contractors surveyed.
The industry has already seen the like of Costain (and their strategy to expand significantly in consultancy and engineering design) to offer clients the ‘full life cycle’ of services and it won’t be long before other Main Contractors follow suit. 43% of the top contractors surveyed said that they employ their own Architects, Engineers and Designers on a permanent basis. This number is likely to grow.
So it is clear that brands must work harder. Budgets must also work harder and your audience or market to has to be better segmented. Yes, brands must still look at developing communications to Architects, Engineers and Designers but outside of the Main Contractors where should your marketing strategy be focused? Knowing that product specification influence may be shifting towards the Main Contractor should you apply the 80-20 Pareto rule to your marketing strategy? 80% of your efforts on targeting Main Contractors and 20% to Specifiers not within Main Contractors? Where do the majority of existing opportunities lie?
The survey also reported that 88% of the top contactors and medium contractors believe that sustainability credentials of products will become more important going into this year and next. Again, what content can you create to prove such ‘green’ credentials? Every product in the market claims to be ‘green’ but can you prove it? Can you show tangible results and build a strong enough case to put forward to Main Contractors?
A company blog is a good place to start. A blog is a perfect platform for product manufacturers to communicate product and brand related information to various influencers, whether within Main Contractors or outside. A blog is where you can talk about technical capabilities, value engineering projects, in-depth analysis on product performance and important testing criteria audiences should be aware of. Back all of this up with a website with online calculation tools, white papers, technical data sheets for download and you’re onto a winner – with Google Caffeine right around the corner the better your content strategy now the easier it will be to stay ahead. By providing your target audience with information of value and at the same time positioning your company as experts within the industry you will be developing a noteworthy and remarkable brand name.
On a more product level, the results from survey found that 51% of Main Contractors had a significant role in influencing the products used for Partitions and Ceilings whilst only 29% stated they have a minor role. 42% stated they have a significant role in influencing Roofing Materials and 37% believe they have an influential role in the choice of Renewable and Energy Saving products, 37% with a minor role.
It’s when it gets into I.T systems, Security and Fire Systems and Leisure Equipment where Main Contractors have very little or no influence on product specification.
Segmenting your audience is crucial in order to understand where to put your marketing efforts. With the growing and changing influence of the Main Contractor on product specification will your marketing strategy change at all? How much of your valuable marketing budget has been lost because all of your efforts were focused on targeting the least influential segment?
I am interested to hear your thoughts on marketing to and targeting the Main Contractor, especially if you do actually believe their influence in product specification is growing and impacting how you market your products, brand and service.