As chairman of the Construction Marketing Association, Neil Brown is focused on providing marketing managers and executives in construction-related industries with professional development resources, networking opportunities and recognition. Brown also founded Construction Marketing Advisors, a partner marketing agency for the association, as well as the Construction Marketing Institute (CMI), a continuing education and professional certification provider for the construction category. BtoB recently spoke with him about trends in construction industry marketing.
BtoB: How have construction marketers responded to the economic recession?
Brown: A lot of construction brand marketers ended up cutting budgets [in the past couple of years, and especially in 2009]. A lot of traditional companies that are owners of construction-related brands—such as tools, earth-moving equipment and architectural services—were experiencing severe sales declines, almost without exception in the double digits. So there were some pretty severe reactions to that. We saw such things as cutting all advertising spending, or laying off 50% of your marketing department or just cutting marketing budgets back in general. Companies moved more activity to publicity, social media and promotion, so those tactics became more prevalent, and advertising ended up taking the brunt of the budget freezes or eliminations.
BtoB: What media and messaging tactics are proving most effective in reaching this audience?
Brown: The market is still very difficult. There are a lot of brands that have dropped out of traditional advertising. One of the good things about that is if you're a surviving brand, it's a little quieter in the market. In general, we're [helping marketers] be more aggressive with their messaging and focus on direct response and promotions—promoting sweepstakes and contests to break through the clutter, for example.
Social media is a pretty major initiative in all b-to-b markets. We're doing quite a bit of social media with our construction clients and starting to get pretty interesting case studies and measurable results. I think that's the result of two things. [First,] there's hype about it and discussion about it. The second thing is that it's relatively inexpensive. It's not a budget hog like display advertising or trade shows. —M.E.M.