Should Marketing Be a Factor in Selecting a General Contractor?

As an owner, you struggle to identify the premier general contractors (GC) in a very crowded playing field where many of the players look the same on the surface. You most likely have several criteria that you look at before hiring a GC, but have you considered that its approach to marketing might provide a glimpse into the firm’s reputability?

Many construction companies don’t put much emphasis on marketing, so those that do tend to stand out. It would be unfair to suggest that a GC isn’t reputable if it doesn’t engage in marketing; however, those that do tend to be more conscientious, focused on reputation, service to the community, and being helpful to the customers they serve.

Branding
Some GCs look at branding as hocus pocus. Considering that the customer experience is a big part of branding, that’s a big mistake.

Construction companies that understand and invest in brand building are operating on a higher plane. They recognize it as an investment and tend to operate their businesses with a long-term outlook. They care about all aspects of their business, including how they’re perceived by outsiders. If these are among the traits you seek in a builder, look beyond a GCs logo.

Positive Publicity
What is the media saying about this contractor? What kind of headlines come up when you conduct a Google search?

Show me a contractor that’s concerned about how its seen by the outside world and I’ll show you a contractor that cares about other aspects of its business as well. The general media has been known to misquote or misinterpret contractors so reserve judgment until you’re sure you’re dealing with hard facts and have enough information to see a trend.

Charities
Successful businesses believe in giving back and general contractors are no different. Does the GC you’re researching support charities? Do they sponsor and attend events? Do they support the local community? Do they have employees serving as volunteers for industry groups? Many contractors play it close to the vest when it comes to charity, so you might have to do some homework.

JH Greene, for example, demonstrated a commitment to social responsibility in 2017 by establishing a custom hashtag (#JHGreeneCares), which was used by employees involved in supporting positive causes including an online fundraising campaign for the Houston Food Bank in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Any GC can attend a charity event, but only the most dedicated will build a campaign around it.

Social Media
This may come as a surprise, but many GCs are not big fans of social media. Some are there begrudgingly and others embrace it because it represents an opportunity to promote themselves and engage with customers, prospects, and clients.

How do you distinguish between the two? Look for contractors that have a completed profile, an active presence, and engage with followers rather than simply broadcasting. Those that practice the latter are usually on social media reluctantly because they’ve been told they should have a presence.

Content Marketing
Content marketing – an approach that involves sharing helpful information to attract new business – is a tactic that has been slow to catch on in the construction industry. Typical tactics might include blogging, a newsletter, guest articles, eBooks to name a few.

There are two reasons a GC practicing content marketing should matter to you as an owner. For one, it can help you to determine whether they have mastery of their trade, whether it be carpentry or paving. Secondly, it shows that they value generosity and are willing to share their expertise with the market.

Word of Mouth
Most GCs rely on word of mouth to generate referrals because they hang their hat on the quality of work performed. Some get so much referral business that they consider marketing unnecessary, which is one of the main reasons I would never suggest that a contractor isn’t reputable if they don’t invest in it.

As an owner, it would behoove you to find out what clients and subcontractors have to say about the GC. Do they meet deadlines? Are they using competent subcontractors? This will require some legwork in the form of phone calls, emails, and social media.

The bottom line is that marketing is but one of the criteria owners should consider when vetting a GC. While it’s true that aggressive marketing can be used to disguise shortcomings, it’s more often the case that it represents conscientiousness and a holistic approach to business.

ABOUT THE GUEST AUTHOR:

Brian M. Fraley is the owner and chief strategist for Fraley Construction Marketing, a marketing communications consultancy with a unique 100% focus and deep understanding of the construction industry. He has served this niche market for nearly 25 years. Brian is active on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and regularly contributes to the Construction Marketing InSITE Newsletter, Construction Marketing Straight Talker Blog, and various trade publications.

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