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Now is the time for the corporate cuddle

The vast majority of the readers of this column will have missed out on a cracking construction marketing conference at the Building Centre in London on Wednesday (2nd December).

The CIMCIG strategy conference provided an extremely insightful day full of presentations covering many aspects of the marketing process from strategy through to planning to implementation. The general consensus of opinion from the speakers being that next year is going to be another tough year but for many the corner is turning or has possibly done so.  But we won’t be bouncing back to 2006 / 07 levels of activity for a number of years.

Despite the poor predictions for 2010 there were some really positives messages for construction marketing practitioners. I don’t mean that sales are going to come rolling in or that resources such as budgets and staff numbers are going to double over night. The clear message that came through from the conference was that the construction businesses need good clear marketing strategy to position companies to come out of the downturn in a stronger position than when they went in.

This means that marketing strategy development and planning needs to start now. Investment in time and effort to truly understand markets and customer needs must be carried out to ensure that businesses are able to get ahead of the competition when activity levels start to recover. The conference heard one particular case study where a very successful product launch took as much as 7 months in customer research and campaign development before the creative work and implementation could actually start.

The people that will be given this task are almost certainly working flat out covering the jobs that long lost colleagues did before the recession kicked in. So these guys and girls will need motivating.  One speaker explained that research has indicated that almost a third of the workforce in business (not just the construction industry) will be looking to change jobs when the recovery starts. This will include the people who are working flat out now and are grateful just to have a job. If businesses want to keep talent, they will need to work on these people now to let them know that they are valued not just for the short term but also for the long term.

And how many managers are good at doing that?

For the marketing comms guys, we heard one very renowned speaker predict that next year digital advertising will surpass tradition print in terms of spend. Well worth taking note of as this very same speaker predicted the demise of a leading weekly construction journal 9 months before the closure of Contract Journal. Looks like good advice to me.

Ian Exall is the Marketing Communications Manager at insulation manufacturer Rockwool and a committee member of CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s construction industry group.