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Six tips for staying ahead of the game

It’s not been a great start to 2013. The economy continues to struggle, with GDP falling by 0.9 per cent in the final quarter of 2012 and retail sales under pressure; fears of another recession are all too real.

Despite construction output rising by 0.9 per cent, the outlook for the industry looks uncertain. The government’s 2012 pipeline figures show a 33 per cent decline in the number of capital projects from £11.6bn in 2011/12 to £8.7bn in 2014/15.

Private sector developer schemes aren’t fairing much better and financiers still seem focused on their own troubles rather than releasing project financing.

You’d be forgiven for retreating into a dark room with your ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ mug. So how can the construction industry deal with this ongoing crisis of confidence? Firstly, the world isn’t going to end; after all, there are still public sector and private sector projects going ahead.

Secondly, the current troubles and upheaval can be seen as an opportunity. Times of crisis can be an excellent time to re-assess your business model, look at your market and sector positioning, review your product range and perhaps consider new markets.

The important question is: how does what is actually happening impact your business? That is where firms can benefit from the power of marketing, which examines those vital questions. Here are 5 top tips to invigorate your marketing efforts:

  • Who are your customers? Not just their names but the type of businesses they are – big? Small? Specialist? General? National? Local? Can you organise them into recognisable categories, do they behave in similar ways and do you know the economic value of each customer?
  • Do you understand your customers? When presenting to potential customers, do you know what they want, does your product or service add value, and does your vision match theirs? Do they want your products, your services or both?
  • Who are your competitors? Often it’s not just a company that does the same product or service as you. Construction clients often have a lot of choice in how they build a building. For example, modular, offsite and standardised construction are possible substitutes for main contractors on certain projects.
  • Why do they buy from you rather than a competitor? It’s not always price. Availability, specialisation, services, quality and reliability can all be factors that get you the order rather than a competitor.
  • Do you meet their needs? And is this better or worse than their expectations? Make sure your products add value to your customer’s business.
  • Can you satisfy their needs and make money at the same time? Is the price the customer prepared to pay too low? Can they use an alternative that is more cost-effective (not necessarily cheaper) than what you can offer?

The construction world remains a tough place to do business, but understanding the market and focusing your marketing efforts will help you remain competitive. To paraphrase Kipling, “If you can keep your head while all around are losing theirs, then you have clearly misunderstood the situation.”

Do you understand the current situation? If not, ask your marketing team – that’s their job!

David Mycock is the head of marketing for Shepherd Gilmour, an international engineering consultancy based in Manchester, as well as a national committee member of CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group, chair of the Lancashire branch of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a committee member of TARGET, a construction marketing organisation based in Leeds

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