View of the Future
So here you are looking at our web site. Have you thought how this might change the way you market your products or services?
One of the distinctive features of the construction industry is that the distribution channels are very long, particularly compared with fast moving consumer goods. But is the 'Net' an opportunity to reach your customers without going through these channels? If this is what you are thinking, then maybe your competitors are too. And just what will you do if you are one of the middlemen? Just as ATM's mean that bank branches are obsolete, the high street estate agent is under equal threat. So, merchants in the construction industry will have to add real value or buyers will turn to the Web for solutions and for best prices. Few of us probably understand the full implications of the Internet. A quick study of how far things have progressed already in the US is a real eye-opener. But there will always be the 'Technophobes', who believe that it won't have an impact on the way that business is conducted. So where do you stand?
We need to understand how the buyer of the future will work, so that we can gear ourselves up to this whole new way of marketing. This means that there is scope for the companies who have developed a marketing culture, and who search to find 'soft' marketing issues to please clients.
Sir John Egan's report says, to meet clients' needs better we have to have a greater understanding of their businesses. Partnering is a move towards this, but is often poorly implemented. Marketers who work for contractors often find their sales-biased role gets in the way. Yet as professional marketers, we have to identify the client's needs and set a brief for the 'production' guys. So it important to have an understanding of the process of design and management, to see where value can be added and where the business can be differentiated.
Sir John Egan's call for more standardisation and off site manufacture ('Rethinking Construction') will focus us on the new 'production culture' needed to drive down building procurement costs. The worry for some materials suppliers and contractors is that they see its potential to damage their margins. Good marketers recognise that top clients expect more from the industry. The presentation by the Clients' Construction Forum at this year's CIB conference made that plain.
We need to place much more emphasis on internal marketing. The ideas may be there but they remain 'walled up' in marketing departments, because we don't have a communications plan to 'sell' them to other members of the team (or are we trying to hog the expertise?). This is probably the biggest failing of marketers – not enough focus on internal marketing! The Egan team's 'Rethinking Construction' is a major business opportunity for marketers and their colleagues.
The construction industry is complex. The scale of the projects, the sheer number of components in them, the range of parties involved in the decision making/ building/supplying process, the legal framework of contracts/ product liability/ CDM/ COSSH all give it a complexity, perhaps only matched by the aerospace industry. So it's not a job for the generalist. To work in this industry you need to understand it.