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The New Make Do and Mend

Driving from the CIMCIG event in Swindon on Wednesday night, I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother, knitting her way through two World Wars to the mantra: “Make Do and Mend.”

It’s not a million miles from what’s likely to happen in some parts of construction over the next few years.  As the country does battle with the deficit, thrift, it seems, will thrive - and even deliver some opportunities. 

The CIMCIG event was all about the economy, and as Dr Noble Francis of the Construction Products Association presented his economic forecasts for the next few years, the 40-strong group in Swindon realised just how tough it will be for certain sectors. 

Take education for example.  Over the last few years, it’s enjoyed high levels of spend, and many of us jumped to get a slice of the pie.  Then we lost Building Schools for the Future.  And now the CSR’s brought a capital spending fall from £7.6bn in 2010/11 to just £3.3bn in 2013/14.  But, as Noble Francis reminded us, there’s still £5bn worth of work going through as existing projects are finished.  What happens after that?  Make Do and Mend.  Schools expecting shiny new BSF projects won’t have been investing in buildings expected to be scrapped.  Now they’ll have to – but to what extent remains to be seen.

Same for hospitals.  We won’t be seeing any major new projects.  But the cuts are from historically high levels, so there’s still work there – and again, essential maintenance will play a big part.

The second half of the presentation gave some light at the end of the tunnel.  A railway tunnel to be precise, as Network Rail has £35bn to spend up to 2014 – not including Crossrail.  But before you think, I don’t do infrastructure, there’s 200 station refurbishments in the plan too.  That’s a niche worth thinking about.

In summation, Noble Francis reminded us that despite everything there’s still £100bn worth of work out there.  Someone’s got to get the business – why not you?  There’ll be lots of competition of course, and that’s where some smart marketing will give you the advantage.  Not just promotion – but the kind of marketing that looks behind the headlines and baffling numbers to spot the niche opportunities.  The kind of marketing that prepares the business, from the inside out, to tackle them and deliver value for the client in an intelligent way.

Noble Francis gave a comprehensive, thought-provoking presentation, and if you’re a CIMCIG member, you can download the slides from the website, www.cimcig.orgIf you’re not a member, why not give yourself the marketing advantage and join up?

 Annette Harpham is a CIMCIG committee member; and principal of SharpEdge Marketing, which offers marketing consultancy, project management and copywriting.