Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Construction industry marketers are adapting strategies to better harness digital

by Robin Cordy, Marketing Director at NBS, a construction technology platform 

Construction product manufacturers are coping with specific marketing challenges in an industry facing both rapid digitisation and sweeping regulatory change. Construction has lagged behind other industries when it comes to marketing and to digitisation generally. It needs to play catch-up, and a major incentive will be the forthcoming building safety legislation. This will act as a powerful catalyst for change, as digital records of building projects become mandatory. 

With changing working practices also having an impact, it’s a sector in flux. Last year, McKinsey said that Covid-19 would be a major accelerator for construction’s transformation and predicted the sector will look radically different in a decade. This poses a massive opportunity for construction product suppliers and their marketing teams, particularly in the context of the push for housing, and ambitious infrastructure plans driving demand. 

Construction product manufacturers are keen to reach specifiers (architects and designers) who decide what items will go into building projects. Manufacturers have traditionally spent large amounts on un-targeted marketing activity in the hope it will lead to specification. Often specifiers receive inaccurate information and it’s too difficult for them to get essential details such as performance criteria in a correct and timely manner. 

So, while the future for construction shows encouraging signs, according to our study,  ‘Construction Manufacturers’ Marketing Report’ produced in partnership with Glenigan, there are major challenges ahead for construction product manufacturers’ marketing teams. Nine in ten say that they expect their marketing strategy to change in the medium term. 

One problem is that the construction materials sector underinvests in marketing, at just over 2% of revenue. This is low when the average investment for all types of manufacturing ranges between 6% and 12% according to Gartner’s CMO marketing spend surveys from the last two years. 

While a sector like retail e-commerce has largely digitised when it comes to storing and utilising product data, construction product manufacturers, and their customers are still on a journey. 

Our survey found that one in three of our respondents said that managing product information was a barrier to effective marketing, and just 23% stated they use product information management (PIM) systems. The relatively low uptake of digital tools around product data management is perhaps surprising as it is against a backdrop of forthcoming building safety regulation changes and the CCPI, which while voluntary, will likely push towards the digital provision of product information becoming a standard expectation. 

As you’d expect, the toolkit for construction marketing is different than for B2C marketers. While over half (53%) of construction product marketing is now digital, this is low compared to more highly digitised industries. Around 18% of activity is allocated to construction specific channels, such as product information libraries and project leads services. Looking at detailed marketing channels, owned ones are most popular – such as website, organic social, email and brochures. Slightly less popular are SEO/PPC, perhaps because of challenges of targeting to such niche target audiences. 

While most manufacturers say they want to digitise their marketing, and know they need to digitise their product data, this doesn’t seem to be supported from a spending point of view. Perhaps this is because senior management need to move their mindsets from seeing marketing as a cost to an investment.

More resources and improved skillsets within marketing teams would improve the accuracy and quality of product marketing content and attract more audiences. This will be a virtuous circle with better marketing leading to improved compliance and higher sales.