As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the economy, businesses in the construction industry face dynamic challenges. Many firms are tightening their belts and cutting expenditures. During challenging economic times, communicating with prospects and clients is more important than ever. While activity has slowed, companies still need resources, solutions, information, products, and services provided by firms in our industry. Continued investment in marketing is important.
COVID-19 has disrupted all facets of business and life. From a marketing and business development perspective, the methods and approaches we have relied on to communicate with and engage our clients have changed-some forever. Trade shows and networking events are cancelled; in-person client meetings and sales presentations are not happening; and our prospects and customers are working from home. Even if you could reach your audience, your message may not be appropriate and relevant or have the right tone.
The current environment presents an opportunity to review your marketing efforts and ensure your approaches are appropriate to what clients are dealing with now. Proceeding with marketing messaging as if everything is normal will not resonate. We need to market and communicate, but we need to do it differently. During these uncharted times, marketers should:
Engage with leadership: Regularly communicate with your firms’ leadership to ensure consistent internal and external communication. Gain alignment on your approach to external messaging, frequency, and tone.
Review marketing messaging and approaches: Challenging times require us to change how we communicate. Messaging needs to be compassionate, educational and solution oriented. Communications should be positive and share a sense of gratitude.
Support your community: Expand your efforts to provide resources to your local community. Reallocate dollars planned for a trade show, golf outing or other event to support the front-line workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic, and other organizations. With the economic slowdown, organizations of all kinds are feeling the impact. Consider supporting local business by buying gift cards and donating them.
Engage with clients: Buying decisions are still being made and relationships are still being developed, albeit differently. Focus on showing gratitude for their business and building trust, versus selling. Work with your business development staff and client-facing operations staff to identify and learn what you can do to better support your client’s needs. Let them know your company will be there for their projects when we begin to return to a sense of normalcy.
Be visible: Uncertainty is the only certain thing now. Clients want to know your firm has a proactive approach to safety serve their needs. This does not mean oversharing COVID-19 best practices, but let your client know you are there for them and can safely work on their projects. Measured efforts on social media can help project a consistent presence and build a sense of confidence.
Create relevant content: As most people are working from home, they are searching for a range of things. More importantly, they are learning. Produce engaging content including: articles, white papers, blogs, Q &As, webinars and videos. If your firm produces educational, training, or continuing education material, this is a good time to promote it. This is an ideal time to tap your internal subject matter experts to contribute to content generation.
Reassess your PR efforts: Now may not be the right time to do a press release on your company anniversary, new website or celebrate a big announcement. Consider delaying these efforts when the timing is more appropriate.
Assess and optimize your digital efforts: Social media is a mainstay for everyone working from home during the pandemic. Carefully review your messaging, tone, frequency and approach. Consider sharing images and stories about how your employees are working from home. This is easily relatable and humanizes your company. Use this time as an opportunity to assess your digital assets. Improve or enhance your social media, SEO, graphics, videos, email marketing and digital efforts.
Master virtual meetings and presentations: Many business development people are turning to virtual meetings using Zoom, Teams, Skype and other tools. Virtual meetings require different approaches than in-person presentations. If your business development staff is moving to move virtual meetings, provide them with coaching and training. Offer to do dry runs and create engaging backgrounds and graphics.
Expand your network and strengthen relationships: Utilize LinkedIn, other social tools, and trade organizations to build your network. Reconnect with former colleagues. Reach out to colleagues at other firms and discuss the marketing and communication approaches they are taking.
Audit existing marketing plans and update your tools: This is also an ideal time to audit your marketing efforts and perform general marketing housekeeping. Use this time to update your marketing materials, qualification packages, templates, resumes and project reports.
Learn a new skill: If your marketing workload has decreased, use any extra time to learn a news skill or take a course. Many organizations and companies are making educational and training resources available at low cost or even for free.
These are unprecedented times. There is not a playbook for construction marketers for dealing with a pandemic. However, marketing will play a critical role during this pandemic and beyond. Research from previous recessions demonstrates that firms that continue to market during challenging times rebound faster than those that cut marketing expenses. Use this time to look at your approach, activities and initiatives. This is a very healthy process and forces us to look at our marketing efforts. A critical evaluation of marketing investments will result in greater efficiencies and more effective programs.
Consistency is important in marketing. This is still true despite COVID-19. Consistent investments in marketing yield consistent results in terms of leads, opportunities, brand building and relationships.