Choosing the Right Marketing Partner for Your Construction Business

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2015 and was updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on November 28, 2017.

This useful guide, perfect for reviewing your construction business for the new year, has been designed to help you maximise the potential and efficiency of your current marketing function.

More specifically, it has been designed to help the Managing Director of a building product manufacturer decide how best to take their marketing to the next level.

Some of your questions may be:

• Do I need to bring in a marketing manager to lead the activity?
• Does my existing marketing department need additional resource or support in other specialist areas?
• What sort of job functionality is required?
• How can I make the marketing function more measurable and efficient?
• Am I maximising my existing marketing resource?

How to work out what Marketing resource you require

If you already know which elements of marketing you need help with, then that’s a great platform to work from. Don’t worry if not; you can read our post How to Structure an Effective Building Product Marketing Team.

With this information and your gap analysis (from our simple spreadsheet from the post above) complete, then you can look at how best to fill the skills gaps and with what type of resource: freelancer, agency, or new recruit.

There are many points to consider here:

1. How does the business like to operate?
2. Is resource usually brought in-house or outsourced?
3. What budget do you have?
4. Can you increase headcount?
5. Is there internal resource that can be used as support?
6. How much time do you have to manage the resource?
7. Does the business growth strategy impact the marketing function?

Less easy to quantify is the company culture and fit: the complementary values that you share with your marketing partner, whether it’s an employee that can easily integrate into the business or an agency that shares your values.

This is a more subjective element of the decision making process and down to individual businesses and personalities within that business. This will be covered later on within the example ‘score card’.

To start with, let’s take a look in more detail at the types of resource available:


You can download this table of resource types here.

In addition to the advantages and disadvantages listed above, it’s important to note that a larger agency will likely be more expensive than a smaller agency. As overheads increase for larger and/or more prestigious agencies, the associated fee structure usually does too. Bear in mind that this is not necessarily an indicator of value either.

Once you’ve decided the best way to work: employed or outsourced, freelance or agency, then it’s all about choosing who to work with.

Ultimately it really boils down to:

1. how you want to work
2. how much you want to pay
3. how effective you think your chosen team is likely to be

A mix of freelancers and/or specialist agencies might provide the knowledge that you require, but how will you manage and co-ordinate their activity?

At the other end of the scale, a ‘full service’ agency might provide, manage and co-ordinate all your marketing needs, but can you be sure nothing is ‘lost in translation’ between your account management team and specialist teams such as web or PR? What if you’re being advised to go down a path that is easiest for them i.e. the payroll rather than what is right for your business? With a full service agency your choice is limited by their internal skillset, something worth thinking about.

To make the selection process as simple as possible, there are a few basics to cover:

1. Start with a ‘long list’ of potential partners for initial research. At this stage use the resource you already have around you to create a list of potentials. Checking industry blogs or websites, recent work or projects you’ve seen. Tip: Media outlets work with a huge range of marketing professionals so can give you an unbiased recommendation.
2. ‘Short list’ to 3/5 of the above to come in for an initial meeting and briefing on the requirements.
3. Ask for thoughts/recommendations back after the initial briefing meeting.
4. Bring back the 2/3 partners that you’d like to see again to work out the finer points of how you could potentially work together.
5. Check their credentials and, if possible, start with a trial project to see how you work together.

When meeting potential marketing partners you need to score against the same set of criteria for each meeting, even if you’re meeting with a freelancer and an agency for the same activity.

The score card will enable you to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of both. With lots going on for day-to-day activity, this score card will give you a clear picture when you come back to review the meetings:

Marketing partner engagement – example scorecard

Experience and implementation– Maximum Score: 50 points

• Customer insight
• Competitor insight
• Understanding of business requirements
• Strategic capability
• Creativity
• Technical experience
• Communication – internal and external

Company culture and fit – Maximum Score: 30 points

• Company culture
• Management style
• Project team – people
• Project management
• Scope of services
• Ability to learn

Commercial considerations – Maximum Score: 20 points

• Pricing structure
• Contract considerations
• Conflict of interest/exclusivity
• Commercial importance (of the work to be placed with them)

Here is the downloadable version of the above marketing scorecard.

Five great questions to ask a potential marketing partner

To further ease the selection process and obtain the most beneficial information from your meetings, you should consider what will be the most relevant questions to ask them and, this is the crunch, the ultimate question you should ask yourself

1. How would you use the mix of communications tactics to address <<insert business issue>>?
2. What marketing tools or activity would you prioritise for <<insert name of business>>?
3. How are the account management and project teams organised? Do you follow a process that your team know how to implement?
4. How do/would you measure marketing success, can you give examples of previous success?
5. Can you provide client references that I can talk to on the phone?
6. During and after the meeting, also question whether you felt energised; was the conversation two sided, were your theories challenged? Did you feel confident about working with the person or people in front of you?

Now let’s review these questions…

1. How would you use the mix of communications tactics to address <<insert business issue>>?

This is a key question regardless of whether the partner is full service or specialist. You need your specialist, for example a PR , to understand the impact of their activity on the rest of the mix. Is content created to support the website activity for SEO? Is PR correctly sent out with UTM tags to measure effectiveness?

2. What would you prioritise for <<insert name of business>?

This will always be an interesting question to demonstrate the understanding of the partner – just be sure to ask the question AFTER you’ve given them an overview of the business, its targets, challenges and objectives! For example, it may be that your website is well structured but needs thank you pages and forms setting up correctly. You may need to prioritise content or a specification tool to help get the engagement you are looking for from potential customers.

3. How are the account management and project teams organised? Do you follow a process that your team know how to implement?

It’s all very well buying into the senior team member standing (or sitting) in front of you, and the process he’s waxed lyrical for the past hour, but who will be running or working on your account on a day to day basis as part of the account management process? And what will they be reporting back to you and how often?

4. How do you measure marketing success?

This is the really important one. All the briefing planning and implementation in the world could be completely useless if we don’t know what has actually worked… has the six figure budget spent on advertising done what is was supposed to do? (that’s if it even had an objective in the first place!). Did the high levels of traffic driven from a campaign achieve any ‘goals or outcomes’ on the website? If so, how and when did those goals convert into leads for projects or CPDs and prospects or whatever?

5. Can you provide client references that I can talk to on the phone?

It’s good to get an understanding of the partner that you wish to work with from someone who already works with them. It’s important to make sure that their credentials stand up. This is often a good place to find out the more ‘quirky’ elements of who you’re going to be working with or if they can manage smaller budget campaigns as well as big ones.

5 important commercial questions to ask before partnering

As well as asking questions to decipher how you could work alongside a potential marketing partner, you also need to consider what commercial questions to ask during the selection process…

1. How will hours/activity be billed?
2. What are your/their payment terms?
3. Do you have standard Non-disclosure Agreements (NDA’s)?
4. Where do you have additional buying power that could be beneficial?
5. Are there any conflict of interest/exclusivity issues that should be considered? (especially pertinent when working with vertical specialists)

Again, let us review these questions…

1. How will hours/activity be billed?

It’s important to define how hours and activity will be billed. There are a number of common options.

• Hourly/day rate – time billed in hours for work carried out
• Project rate – fixed price for a defined project with any additional hours requiring further discussion and sign off.
• Retained activity – a fixed (usually monthly) rate for activity set to a defined set of goals with service level agreements and agreed output

Each type of billing activity comes, like the different type of resource, with a set of Pros and Cons. The most complex part is hourly/day rates, which requires a timesheet type system such as Toggl to keep track of billable hours.

The easiest to manage and budget for is a retained service with a fixed monthly fee. Just make sure that the appropriate measurement tools are in place for any retained activity so you can be sure that your activity is all on track.

2. What are your/their payment terms?

These terms are likely to be influenced by the way that activity is billed. It’s usual to receive invoices for hourly/day rates at the end of the month when the activity has taken place.

Project rates are usually split into stages for the project with a relevant portion being billed in advance; retained fees are typically billed in advance with a minimum period of retained activity and a notice period for both sides.

3. Do you have standard NDA’s?

It’s important when working so closely with a marketing team that NDA’s are put in place. This protects both sides and enables transparency and flow of information which is critical to the success of the partnership.

Here is an example of what an NDA could look like; however make sure that you check this with your legal representatives.

4. Where do you have additional buying power that could be beneficial?

Your chosen marketing partner may be able to offer additional cost savings, not associated with the work that you’ve asked them to get involved.

Things like media buying or consultancy can see big savings made, perhaps they have good print or digital suppliers that you can benefit from using. These are not the main drivers for working together but could bring additional commercial benefits to the working relationship.

5. Are there any conflict of interest/exclusivity issues that should be considered?

It’s important to have a true understanding of any potential exclusivity or conflict of interest issues.

It’s fair to say that most marketing partners worth working with will have a professional attitude to any conflict of interest and the completion of an NDA (see question 3) will ensure that your information remains confidential. That said, it may be preferable to work with a partner that understands the area in which you work but without any direct competition.

Here is where you can download all of the above questions to ask a potential partner.

Choosing your marketing partner

So now, with a range of tools from the skills gap analysis spreadsheet, to the partner score

card and important questions, you should have all you need to begin the marketing partner recruitment process.

If you feel this post has been helpful, we’d really appreciate you sharing it with your social network using the share buttons on the side or below – or for further construction marketing tactics to kickstart your 2018 business plan, take a look at our Essential Guide to Construction Marketing here.

About Pauley Creative

Pauley Creative is the digital marketing agency for the construction industry. We create, build and manage brand awareness and lead generation strategies for building product manufacturers within the construction industry. You can follow us on Twitter here - click here.

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