Back in the days of the Wild West, the term “branding” meant leaving your unique mark on your cattle, identifying ownership among the herds on the open range and creating loyalty for those who graced the saddle. In today’s business environment, the concept of branding takes on a slightly different meaning. Instead of leaving a differentiating mark on physical property, brands today need to make a deep mental and emotional impression on their customers. It is, therefore, up to you to make sure your brand not only sends the message you wish to convey but also cuts through the noise of the crowded construction field to get you noticed.
What Is—and Isn’t—a Brand?
Let’s start with the basics. Company brands are created through perceptions and associations. That means a brand is NOT a logo, corporate identity, a product…or especially, what YOU say it is. Rather, a brand is what your customer feels it is because it is defined by individuals and is emotionally based. Bottom line, your brand is the sum of all the experiences your customer has with your organization.
Recent data indicates people are now exposed to over 5,000 different brand messages per day. Brand proposition and brand purpose are still important, but given the sheer amount of competition both within the construction industry and simply out there in the atmosphere as individuals’ daily digital intake increases, your brand really needs to stand out in order to be noticed.
A winning brand is one that is remembered. A key strategy to do that is through an innovative brand campaign. Even if you have a service that stands apart, no one will know about it if you don’t also have a brand campaign that stands out. As individuals, we only retain 10% of what we hear three days later, but we will retain 65% if it is paired with a relevant visual. So, your brand strategy needs to be something that is shareable, memorable and breaks through the immense chatter out there.
To ensure it is your message customers and prospects are clicking on and engaging with, you need to sear your brand into people’s memory. Statistics show that it takes five to seven impressions before a brand is even remembered. So, it is your job is to get people to take notice of what your brand is doing, talk to each other about it, and share your story with their own channel. If you can do that numerous times each week, you’ll be in a winning position.
Tools to help build that brand awareness include traditional marketing, website development, search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, social media, and other digital marketing.
We know marketing is important and provides results but be aware that not all traditional marketing approaches (ex: print newspaper, radio, television, billboards, yellow pages and trade shows) will produce the desired results. Yes, they’re tried and trusted, but due to the vast digital playground and the lack of trackable performance results, traditional marketing platforms are losing popularity. Additionally, traditional marketing doesn’t give you the opportunity to engage in a conversation with your audience. That said, it can still be a viable option for brand awareness in some circumstances—which is why traditional approaches remains popular with builders—but only if used in conjunction with other strategies.
Having a website is key to any modern business and can be an incredibly valuable piece of marketing real estate for a construction firm. Although you might guess the obvious reasons as to why, there are some you might not have considered. A few are:
- Smart economics and practical application. Websites are an affordable, expected and easy way to help people find and learn about your company.
- Accessibility. Your website is there when you aren’t and can help sell your product and/or services. People can study your expertise at their leisure, including after-business hours. If readers like what they see and can find the necessary information about you, they may take a chance on you.
- Trustworthiness. Today, without a website, you’re behind the curve. If you don’t have a website, the persona you deliver is one of an outdated, indifferent, unprepared and questionable business—all of which could have a negative effect.
- Marketing. A website is an integral part of marketing your business, and that leads us to the design of your website; 75% of users make judgments on a company’s credibility based on website design alone.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines. It includes anything that can enhance your online presence, aka your content. SEO can be overwhelming, which is why many marketing experts recommend hiring a professional that is well versed in SEO methodology. But, until you get to that point, there are a few basic steps you can take on your own to get started:
- Include keywords in strategic places on your website, such as title tags, page headings and site content.
- Publish custom content on your site to address relevant topics for potential customers.
- Streamline your site’s navigation to make it easier for visitors to find the information they need and contact you.
- Probably easiest of all: Be human. Think like your customer. What do they want and need? How can they get it? What are they interested in? How would you go about finding that information?
Now that you have a website with good SEO, you’ll want people to visit your site in other ways, not just through online searches. For this, try putting your time into an email marketing campaign. Advantages of email marketing include:
- Email is part of everyday life. Unlike other digital platforms that people may not embrace, most people are email savvy.
- Email marketing provides solid, trackable metrics, such as growth of lists, open rate, click rate, complaints and unsubscribes. With the right provider, you can even track your company’s sales and revenue earned from your email campaigns.
- Messages can be personalized to each audience member and provide answers that they want to hear. It can be simple, or sophisticated, with automation so that when the reader takes an action, e.g., downloading a white paper, a follow-up email is automatically sent to that same person with information about what they just downloaded. With an auto-response feature, these can all be sent automatically, without you having to be at your computer or on your phone 24/7. All you have to do is think like your audience. Consider what actions they will take and create automatic “if, then” scenarios.
- Email marketing is cost effective. Many email providers are free to use or have minimal costs based on how detailed you want your campaign to be. If you’re not seeing results, you can take steps to switch things up, such as changing the frequency of your emails, changing the copy, or stopping the campaign completely until you are more comfortable with the process.
- When choosing a provider, make sure you pick one that will clean your email lists (meaning scrub for duplicates, errors, etc.), as well as provide analytics and automation so that there is less for you to worry about after the initial setup. Mailchimp and Sendinblue are examples of popular email marketing services that are easy to use and offer free basic plans that will help get you started.
Social media channels are excellent at increasing brand loyalty, creating engagement, generating piles of hot leads, managing your reputation, creating a community and making sales. Studies have shown that social media has a 100% higher, lead-to-close rate than traditional, outbound marketing methods. Social media is a way to hear what your customers think about your business—for free. Here are a few suggestions to consider when creating a social media presence and how to track success:
- The best way to capture your audience’s attention is with simple and short messaging.
- Be visual! Use photos, videos, infographics, colors, etc. instead of just text. For example, based on your product or service, you may be able to create valuable, interesting videos. If so, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest are very useful, due to their visual nature. If you are very focused and known in the community, Facebook or LinkedIn may be better options.
- Create your social media goals based off your overall business goal, and determine your key performance indicators to see if social media is working. Success can also be measured in how your audience responds to messages and how much interest you’re creating for your brand.
- Create a content schedule and consider your resources. If you are a one-person shop, it’s better to choose only one social media channel to focus on before branching out. This will keep you from becoming overwhelmed, because to succeed, it’s all about updating your content on a regular basis while ensuring your content is high quality and engaging.
- Tailor your content to each social media channel. If you’re running Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, post content that is different to each channel. Your followers and the type(s) of content they are looking for is not the same on every social media channel. For example, if you want to promote a blog you posted to your website about a new completed project, consider posting the link to the blog post on your Facebook or LinkedIn page, but a picture with no link to your Instagram page.
- Find a tool that lets you auto post. Some great ones are Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Buffer.
- Keep the conversation going with your audience. What other people say about you boosts your credibility as much as what you say. Also, don’t be afraid to position yourself as a thought leader. Provide your audience with content that will encourage them to come back again and again, thus becoming their source for industry information.
- Engage with influencers and other businesses. Share posts from others that are relevant to your business and social media pages. Tag other people and pages in your posts when appropriate. Involving others in your posts is a great way to gain more organic interactions with your content.
- Utilize the analytics on each channel to see how your social media is resonating and how much engagement you have. Each channel has some form of analytics. Use them. If you want to dig deeper, there are options you can purchase for social media analytics.
- Consider the 60/20/20 rule, which suggests that 60 percent of your time should be spent engaging your audience in some way, 20 percent should be sharing relevant content for your audience and another 20 percent should be spent talking about your brand.
When you have a great organic presence built and want to continue seeing growth, you can consider building a digital marketing campaign to place advertisements across different platforms. All of these will require a budget behind them, but with the extensive targeting options available and large audiences, you will be surprised at how far your dollars will go with digital marketing tactics. Some examples are:
- Paid social media ads. Facebook is a great place to start a digital marketing campaign for businesses of all sizes because of the easy-to-use platform and the fact that worldwide, there are over 2.6 billon monthly active users (MAU) on Facebook.
- Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, is the placement of ads on search engines like Google and Bing. These ads, often known by the term pay-per-click ads, come in a variety of formats. Some are small, text-based ads, whereas others, such as product listing ads are more visual, product-based advertisements. SEM’s greatest strength is that it offers businesses the opportunity to put their ads in front of motivated customers who are ready to buy in the moment.
- Programmatic advertising is the automated buying and selling of online advertising. Targeting tactics are used to segment audiences using data so that advertisers only pay for ads delivered to the right people at the right time and depend less on the “spray and pray” method of digital advertising. Programmatic advertising is typically bought through a demand-side platform or DSP by a vendor who can help make recommendations on targeting and tactics based of your business goals.
Great Marketing Means Business
Hopefully, you are now armed with a clear understanding of what branding is and why it’s so important to the success of your construction business. With a wide spectrum of marketing tools and platforms available to help you connect and engage with your target audience, now is the time to find the right path for your business in order to rise above the noise with clear, compelling messaging—one that will leave a positive, lasting impression.