How to reach execs in construction

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Julian Francis, VP-publishing director of Reed Business Information's Building & Construction Group, joined the company last year after a decade at building materials manufacturer USG Corp., where he had been VP-marketing.

Francis oversees his division's print, online, research and event offerings, which target builders and remodelers in the residential space; architects, building owners and managers, and contractors in the commercial space; and large fleet managers and contractors who own construction equipment. Here, he shares a few thoughts on how to best reach these groups.

BtoB: What should marketers know about the construction industry audience?

Francis: It's a more sophisticated audience than people imagined. They are much more attuned to technology than I think is expected. Certain segments have been early adopters of technology, so they're very familiar with that. They are using the Web, they are using e-mail; so don't underestimate their technology savvy. I think that's one thing. The second thing goes to targeting. This is not a homogenous marketplace. You've got a tremendous diversity of people, culture, education, expectations—even within some subsegments. You've really got to decide what you're target audience is and go after it directly. The broad-brush approach is probably not the way to win customers today.

BtoB: What kind of messaging does this audience respond to?

Francis: The things that are working differ across the different segments. Within residential, there's obviously been a massive decline in the new housing construction market. Builders have got to move volume, but they recognize it's going to be substantially lower than what they were [moving a couple of years ago], so they're really focused on how they can do things better, cheaper, faster. Some of the issues that were high on the list a couple of years ago, like molds, have sort of faded into the background. ... The messages that are really picking up in the new residential builder community now are really about products and services that help you run your business better and take cost out of your processes. —Mary E. Morrison

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