“Cater-To-You-Construction” The Future of Marketing the Construction Industry
The world of marketing might perhaps be one of the most volatile industries to work in. Not only does the rise of technology and social media create this unpredictability but even in the past, the marketing world has certainly seen some drastic changes. Not all that long ago billboards and newsprint reigned supreme as the most effective way to market your product or business. Today, most companies would not be caught dead marketing their products in the newspaper (unless they are targeting a local market). Not only is having a web presence crucial but being active on a regular basis is vital to survival in such a competitive market. Since the tech world is on a constant change process, the future of marketing is never a set path. In fact, this is often a heavily debated topic of discussion. It seems difficult to determine what will come next in the marketing industry especially since marketers cannot make predictions and strategies without knowing what the latest and best technologies are. Just six months ago I was faced with a similar topic of the future of marketing and even since then a lot has changed in technology and marketing. Although I do agree with my previous standpoint, it is already time to consider new strategies moving forward. One thing we do know (and from the help of Kevin Kelly’s “The Inevitable”) changes in technology and in marketing are inevitable. We might not know what these changes will be but if we are better prepared for the changes, they will come as less of a surprise.
I think it is also important to realize that technology and social media trends don’t affect sole industries, rather, they transform every industry in their own unique ways. Some industries change at a slower rate than others so techniques across each industry will differ. However, no matter the industry, it is astonishing to see how these trends have changed and will continue to change the marketing world. These days, there is an influx of content everywhere and in every way imaginable. There is almost too much content to the point where it can be overwhelming. Now, we see so much dilution, so much copy-catting, everybody flooding social media with the same content or irrelevant content. It is very difficult to break through the mold with original content anymore. Most of what works currently is consistent, high quality (10x) content. Basically, putting out content that nobody else has done or seen before. The content pioneers of social media and marketing were able to set the bar as they were the first into the field. For example, YouTube stars come and go so quickly because viewers are constantly wanting new content. Even athletes and artists can turn to YouTube to create a following and make a name for themselves. Each star to come into the scene must make a name for themselves in their own unique ways. Whether it is better quality videos, new content, etc. Content creators must wear many hats from marketing and management to original and quality content. All of this combined and external factors are what drive the changing forces in the tech, marketing and content industries.
“The Inevitable” is a book written by Kevin Kelly who is an editor and founder of Wired Magazine. It covers 12 technological related forces that will shape our future, particularly in marketing. My personal opinion towards this book is that it is a difficult read but full of outstanding insight and information that makes it worth the read. I wanted to set the preface to the rest of this post by stating there will be a reference to this book (and so I don’t sound like a crazy person later). Overall, it is quality information and great perception on the inevitable changes most likely to occur in our future of technology.
FUTURE OF MARKETING
This part of the post I am going to kind of flip a complete 180. Rather than talking about the general future of the marketing industry as a whole, I am going to narrow my focus. My aim is going to dial in towards focusing on how marketing in the future will affect certain industries. A particular industry that interests me in how marketing works currently and how it will work in the future is the construction industry. Compared to other industries like retail where you see online advertisements on just about every platform possible, construction never really follows that lead. So how are companies in this industry so successful and continuously finding work if we don’t see advertisements? One of the oldest industries in the world that has tremendous significance works almost “behind the scenes”. Obviously there is some sort of marketing play in this industry since there seems to be continuous building across the world with a huge number of companies. This action just goes unseen to the common eye. However, with a world so dependent on the growing technology we might see a new future in the construction industry. What will the future of construction marketing look like? Will technology play a part or will construction companies let their jobs speak for themselves?
Some more to take into consideration is just how much constitutes to be considered construction. There are so many different branches of construction that marketing will most likely work differently for each branch. The industry is separated my three sectors of construction with buildings, infrastructure and industrial. These three sectors are then broken down even further into individual categories unique to each. Highways, dams, bridges all belong to infrastructure while building is broken into commercial and residential. Industrial construction includes refineries, mills and manufacturing plants. Just from the very few examples provided we can already start to process just how marketing might affect each segment. Personally, I have about 7 years of construction experience. I was in the market of grain bin construction which most likely classifies under infrastructure or building construction depending on the specific use of the silo.
The company I was a part of was very seasonal as these are best erected in the summer and warm temperatures so it was more of a summer gig. While we did keep plenty busy in the summers, looking back I can see how if we were to do any sort of online or even newsprint advertisement, we would have certainly been overwhelmed with jobs. I think we were small enough to see significant growth from simple marketing techniques to work in our favor. This does not mean that this is a universal tactic to use to grow construction businesses.
Road construction is another fair-weather project, however, since they are contracted with the government, online marketing would have done absolutely nothing. With that being said, my opinion is that marketing will affect construction businesses that cater to an individual’s unique needs. Residential and even commercial building construction will be able to use marketing techniques efficiently as well as some infrastructure construction (such as grain bin construction as each project can be modified to meet the needs of the customer). Personal home building and business building projects are on the rise to being fully customizable with the help of technology. We are starting to see a world where we don’t rely so heavily on architects since this generation would prefer to be recognized as ‘designers’ (probably sounds cooler) but that is an entirely different topic on its own.
MARKETING AND CONSTRUCTION
At this point you might be wondering: “how does any of this apply to marketing or technology?” With the help of Kevin Kelly’s book and a number of other outside studies on construction trends, it will be much easier to see how construction might be affected. First of all, technology is changing the construction industry in many ways. Obviously the creation of electricity and machine-power has allowed performance to increase astronomically. However, incremental changes cannot be made very easily anymore so we must turn to technology in order to improve work efficiency. The next thing to mention is that the current construction world is “plagued” by the shortage of skilled labor. Not only are companies struggling to find laborers but they are having a difficult time finding employees of all levels in the business. Workers did not return after the recession hit and now companies are faced with depleted work forces. It seems to be a balancing act. Even though we have efficient machinery, we see a shortage in workers to utilize the machinery. Companies must then come up with strategies to make up for the shortage of workers with the help of technology. A couple of trends that are currently leading the way are BIM (Building Information Modeling) and Green Building (LEED certification) technologies.
The world of sustainability and the development of green alternatives are on a tremendous rise. It is very appealing to have buildings that are not only more efficient but can sustain themselves. BIM technology is a contributing force that seems to disrupting the architecture world. This technology is a 3-D representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a building or other production. “It used to be a nice thing to have, and now it’s a necessity.” BIM provides more involvement from the designers and engineers to make sure a project is as accurate as it possibly can be. In “The Inevitable” Kevin Kelly discusses the term “tracking”, although related to human functions (sleep, steps, calories, etc.) I think BIM is similar. BIM provides data that can be captured and monitored which is what makes it so attractive. Kevin Kelly stated: “Data about customers is the new gold in business, so one thing is certain: companies will collect more of it” (pg. 255). This can easily tweaked so that it is attractive to the construction industry. “Data about buildings is the new gold in construction, so companies will collect more of it” could be the construction industry version of ‘the inevitable’. Continuing improvements to BIM and Green Building will continue to alter the construction industry and provide platforms for marketers to use to help the industry grow. Another big innovative technology trend this industry sees is the implementation of laser scanning and digital reproduction. Construction Dive does state that BIM is still dominating the market but laser scanning provides a new look. I believe there is room for innovation in other places within the industry as well that just haven’t been discovered but soon will be.
TECH INNOVATIONS & CONSTRUCTION
From personal experience and personal opinion, I think the most effective innovation that the construction industry will see is not a platform or new practice. I believe augmented reality will reveal undiscovered avenues for construction companies to capitalize on. Augmented reality is truly the future of technology and not just for the construction industry. Luckily, this industry is seeing some implementation of AR and in successful ways. This article provides a great example of a company using Microsoft’s HaloLens AR system to their advantage.
Gilbane Company estimated that the move will save the company about $5,000 in labor costs. Senior manager of Gilbane states “that one catch paid for the HoloLens”. A $3,000 headset might seem like a lot of money to an individual consumer. However, when a business can pay off the headset in its first use, then it is worth the investment. It also seems to be far more accurate to see structures in “real” time and the dimensions of how it will actually be in comparison to how it might be in model form. This new technology platform will also promote efficiency in the field. Early on, models that needed adjustments would take a fair amount of time until the model meets the specifications. Then, as technology improved, the models could be altered digitally and quickly. These models are still representations of the projects even though companies are saving time with digital modifications. This is where augmented reality is the saving grace. Not only can companies make changes quickly but they will be able to see the changes happen before their eyes. With this technology, construction will see the opportunity to advance to the next level by altering provisions quicker than ever. Having this power will ensure that work-sites are more efficient. Augmented reality will provide companies with the advantage of distributing materials with more accuracy which will save time, energy and money by eliminating waste. Overall, augmented reality is innovation many industries are looking for. Not only is it a fresh new technology, but it provides ease for the user and efficiency in the workplace.
FUTURE MARKETING OF CONSTRUCTION
Lastly, we will get into how all of this new innovation and technology relates to the marketing world, especially in the construction aspect. As mentioned before, the future world of marketing is ambiguous. New platforms, practices, and technologies are constantly changing how marketers do their job. When a company is contracted with the government to do a job such as bridges or highways, the concept of marketing might become a little fuzzy. Who knows, that world might not ever reach to the point where marketing sways a government’s decision on which company to pick over another. However, when a consumer wants to build a house from the ground up to their specific standards then I think we will see competitive marketing. There are already a number of ways to customize houses (thanks to HGTV shows) but in the near future we will see this become a competitive market. Not only for new houses but technology platforms will improve so drastically that a few uploaded pictures of your current house will allow anyone to go online and completely renovate their house digitally. To take it even further, these platforms will compile a list of available construction companies capable of tackling the job. In an ideal world, a customer could sort through companies based off several aspects such as price, completion time, and even quality of work. From there, customers will work with the company’s engineers and designers to make sure every specification is met.
When you Google “house customization” or “custom home building”, these are the types of platforms we will see in the future. They will be so advanced to the point that it will be anything from homes and businesses to infrastructures and even tree-houses. I don’t see a lot of “traditional” marketing in the future. I don’t believe we will see ads for “best construction companies near you” but rather marketing techniques that will provide these companies to consumers to satisfy their needs. A lot of my previous construction experience is similar to this but with grain bins/silos. Prior to building, it is important to know the exact specs the customer wants to fill their needs. It is all catered to consumers and what they are willing to spend in order to solve their problems. “Cater-to-you-construction” is the future of marketing in the construction world.
Finally, the last thing that will be discussed are the little things that will separate good companies from the best companies. Construction is an old industry and even though it is needed, it is very obvious how old it really is. Companies have horrible websites that do not showcase what they are capable of. Most of the time construction companies seem so blue collar that not an average person should communicate with them. There is not a lot of social media or well-known affiliation with local communities (for the most part). In order for this future plan to work and be successful, which it easily can be, companies must update their websites, establish a social media presence, and build subscription services among a number of other things.
This might seem like a lot of fluff and random information but in order to fully develop a successful future plan, it is wise to start broad then narrow the focus. It is necessary to understand tech and marketing trends in general to better apply how construction as an industry will be affected. Construction is broad so there is a lot that can happen in the future. Some things can be controlled and some things simply cannot. As this world becomes more customized and individualized, it is safe to say that this industry will follow a similar path where it can. Who knows, maybe even cities in the future will completely overhaul their strategies to become more sustainable/efficient. For now I think the future will start small by focusing on individuals before reaching city level. Finally, who knows what we will see in exactly one year from now. Tech and marketing change so quickly that this point of view could be a glimpse of the past. It will be very interesting to see what will happen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dawson Auck is a senior at the University of Montana in Missoula, MT. He is studying business management & marketing with the intention of obtaining a certificate in small business management/entrepreneurship.
Kelly, K. (2016). The Inevitable. Viking.