James Ellis, chair of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group (CIMCIG), discusses the vital role marketers can play in helping the UK construction industry get back on its feet
Construction underpins both our economy and our society, contributing just under £29.5bn to the UK in Q1 of 2020. This is equal to 6% of total UK economic output.
But due to Covid-19, the construction sector has suffered heavy losses due to supply chain disruption, a marked decline in output and a reduction in new order volumes. While construction activity has been allowed to continue throughout lockdown, many contractors temporarily shut down to undertake risk assessments, review on-site operations and implement new measures.
As a result, total construction output plummeted by 45.2% in April 2020, according to figures from the ONS, but it would be a misstep to save on marketing efforts now.
Looking at 600 companies from 1980 to 1985, McGraw-Hill Research found those which maintained or increased their marketing spend during the 1981 recession enjoyed sales 256% higher than those that didn’t by 1985. Kantar also estimates that brands who decide to ‘go dark’ until the storm passes in a bid to save costs will likely see a 39% reduction in brand awareness.
Your audience, and how they prefer to be communicated with, has changed during the course of the pandemic. Marketing communication professionals have access to customer insight and data, making them ideally placed to collaborate with commercial functions to drive and quantify the pipeline of opportunities coming into the business.
For forward-thinking companies, the marketing function will already be collaborating successfully with technical, operations and sales divisions. However, there has been a change in dynamics, with the marketing function often playing a more significant role in the business, whether managing crisis communications, developing new communication tools or channels, through to providing customer insight.
Now is the time to leverage your marketing communication professionals and recognise the opportunity in this crisis to collaborate and innovate, delivering targeted communications through your digital channels.
Innovate to communicate
The pandemic has forced us all to take an unprecedented leap forwards in terms online communications. Whether we’re attending a virtual event rather than a trade show, or using Zoom for meetings, traditional face-to-face encounters are looking increasingly archaic.
Just as designers and engineers are relying more heavily on digital collaboration tools such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), construction marketers can successfully utilise technology to clearly communicate with your customers, suppliers and colleagues.
The key is to pay attention to the needs of each individual stakeholder and prepare programmes for their specific needs. For example, manufacturers and sales teams have traditionally focused on face-to-face interactions.
Marketers can help them navigate this new normal by providing training in online presentations and webinars. For customers, using drone technology to create video footage at a safe distance is an effective way to showcase project progression.
There’s a lot of competition out there and you need to stand out. PowerPoint slides and a shared screen are not progress. We’re all up to our eyes in video calls, so mix it up. Graphics, sound, video, animation, podcasts – be different.
Then, of course, measure everything. Before you initiate any activity, establish what you want to achieve. Is it video views or engagement? Are you looking to drive traffic to a particular point on your website and, if so, what do you want people to do once they get there?
Marketers can use campaign tracking links to understand which activity is most effective and test all the time, trying different presentations, different headlines and different images until you find the one that really resonates with your audience.
Once you have the right measuring tools in place, you can finally understand the paths your audience take to move from awareness to purchase and helpfully demonstrate to your CEO the value of your communications efforts.
Investment to drive growth
Significant investment is being made into the industry. The housing secretary recently announced the government was attempting to fill the £5.1bn hole caused by the reduction in output by approving thousands of infrastructure and housing projects with a £1.3bn investment. The move is part of the government’s plan to deliver upgrades to local infrastructure and boost skills to help trigger a green economy recovery.
There have also been significant investments by the government in projects such as HS2 and the Green Home Grants.
These projects have the potential to drive further investment into the industry, encourage the development of skilled professionals and make the industry more attractive for those wishing to join.
Marketers are key to communicating news of these projects and demonstrate the confidence the government has in the construction industry and its role in the economy. This confidence can help enhance the image of the industry, ensuring it continues to thrive in a post-Covid world.
From virtual events to networking, why not join the CIMCIG group by keeping up to date with the latest trends of the marketing profession in the construction industry. Find out more by clicking here.
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