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Evan Milberg: How Construction Companies Can Bolster Their Marketing Efforts

Evan Milberg, SmartBrief Infrastructure Editor

This article originally appeared in AGC’s SmartBrief on April 3, 2019.

Many construction companies who market their services throughout the industry generally make three promises – they work safely, on time and on budget. But if everyone is claiming the same strengths, how can anyone tell different companies apart? The answer, is through engaging multimedia stories that “help customers understand who they want to work with,” Atlas Marketing President Chris Martin said at the Associated General Contractors of America’s 100th Annual Convention. These stories home in on a company’s value as opposed to its capabilities.

Martin said a good multimedia story is simple, captures attention, addresses a need and drives someone to learn more. One example he offered was a banner ad Atlas did for the Iron Workers Local Union No. 3 showing a steel beam that says: “We don’t go to the office. We build it.” Atlas built on that ad with its Ironworkers Do More campaign, which included an ad with an aerial view of Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field with neighboring bridges in the background. The bottom of the ad features a tagline that notes union ironworkers built not only the eye-catching stadium, but also the infrastructure around it. Because of those ads, viewers can easily understand who iron workers are and what they do, and likely will be enticed to learn more, Martin said.

Videos offer another platform for contractors to tell their stories. While some companies have vast resources to allocate toward videos, they do not necessarily need to be high-budget productions, said Jessica McKinney, director of marketing at PJ Dick-Trumbull-Lindy Paving. For example, last summer, PJ Dick had an intern rent equipment from her university to produce a video that showed Robert Morris University basketball players touring the construction site of the UPMC Events Center, the venue for the team’s future home games. A big part of why the video was successful was that it illustrated not only how excited the players were to see the behind-the-scenes action, but also how excited PJ Dick was to be involved, according to McKinney. When potential customers can see that a company goes beyond just building a structure to becoming fully invested in its outcome, it goes a long way toward that company’s ability to foster future relationships.

But while the content contractors create is incredibly important, it takes more than going through the motions of advertising, creating videos, designing websites, and crafting social media posts to execute an effective communications strategy. Companies risk telling a shoddy story if they create videos simply because they feel obligated to do so, McKinney says. Each piece of content’s communication purpose, intended result, placement, timeline and cost must be clear. McKinney encouraged viewing the principles of lean construction, reverse engineering and pull planning through a marketing lens. In addition to applying those principles to make construction more efficient, contractors can use those techniques to prioritize and manage items on its communications calendar.

“The biggest thing this does for your company is provide consistency,” Martin added. That way, when unexpected events occur that require a shift in communication strategy, companies can afford to be reactive because they already have plans in place.

Ultimately, the construction industry has a wealth of stories to share in a variety of ways. One video that garnered lots of attention and praise at the convention was a montage of construction work set to a recitation of Eric Borden’s “Ditch Diggers” poem. Through adept alliteration and authentic passion, Borden conveys the pride that comes with working in the industry despite the stigma attached to it. Martin said it is incumbent upon the industry to continue telling those stories and pushing itself to do so more effectively. To McKinney, that means constantly asking the hard questions.

“Just keep asking yourself, ‘so So what?’” McKinney said. “You’re safe. So what? Everybody’s safe. Take that another step forward. Think about your people, dive into those details and find where those stories are.”

Evan Milberg is SmartBrief’s infrastructure editor. Prior to joining SmartBrief in July 2018, he served as the communications coordinator for the American Composites Manufacturers Association for three years.