Do you really want the construction marketing success secret? Think of the owners

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Tom Murphy
Tom Murphy at my office

I certainly didn’t put on a success imageshow when Tom Murphy, a senior advisor with Ampirix, which provides software and consulting services for the building products, architecture, engineering and construction community, sought a meeting with me during a family visit to Ottawa.  I invited him to visit our less-than-elegant offices and, without planning things too carefully, had him walk through slush and muck to a nearby Tim Horton’s coffee shop, where he spent a little more than $3.00.

Yet he shared one of the most crucial marketing insights in our industry, one which you should consider carefully in any of your strategies.

“If you can sell the owners on it, everyone else says okay.”

Murphy says the AEC community is wary of innovation. New building products and construction techniques have plenty of risk and virtually no one wants to be first to try things out.  “Its hard to take new products to the construction market.  Everyone in the supply chain, from designing to building to installing the product, never wants to be the first person to use a new product.”  There is the failure risk, plus the cost of training installers.

However, the rules change if the owners say they want to try something different.  Then, magically, everyone co-operates.

This makes sense, of course.  Spec writers and architects won’t hesitate to write into the documentation the need for a specific technology or product if the owner request it.

Of course, Murphy says not all owners are created equal, and there are distinctions in your market. In the health care or retail community, you’ll really make inroads if you can get one or two national owners to buy into the concept. “This is the easiest way to achieve  mass (specification) schedules and multiple constructions.”

BIM technologies are especially appealing to owners, Murphy says, because the data within BIM can be used ongoing to manage and maintain the owners’ buildings and projects.

You might be thinking:  “How can this really help me when my markets are local and regional, rather than national.”

With Murphy’s examples of retailers and hospitals, I asked him about schools. Most school decisions are made regionally and locally, by school boards and districts, he said. This means that the school market is harder for national sales reps to crack, but presumably is more open to local and regional contractors and consultants.

Notably, owner panels and discussions are the  most successful  Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) events — and the association is placing increasing emphasis on attracting owners’ reps to its regional and national conferences (and local chapters are doing the same thing.)

Obviously, you still need to find a way to connect with the owners.

In my years of business experience, I perceive that real owners aren’t that inaccessible, if you have a thoughtful and effective concept and respect their time, and work to build your network so you can communicate via referral rather than hard-rock cold calling.  (Out of 100 people who try to reach me with a selling message, I’d say less than five really take the time to know me, or base their initial call on a meaningful referred communication.)

I also continue to believe that participating and contributing to relevant associations is always helpful. Just realize that the best opportunities are often a little invisible — and you shouldn’t expect magical results by attending a few meetings.

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