Our recent research, Construction Media Index, identifies communication channels used by the key decision makers in the UK construction industry. It looks at the readership of hardcopy and online trade journals, industry blogs and websites and the use of product directories, as well as attendance of technical seminars. It also provides an insight into Twitter and LinkedIn usage for work and Apps.

In this blog we look at the trends indicated by the research and interview leading communications agency CFA asking them to comment on the findings, drawing on their experiences of communicating with construction industry key decision makers.

David Ing from CFA Marketing is experienced at delivering multi-channel marketing campaigns and I wanted to ask him how he decides which media to use and what channels work well in partnership when delivering an integrated communications plan.

Below are his answers:

Q: The CMI 2013 research demonstrates the acceptance of social media as a work tool, the increased readership of eNews and blogs, as well as use of video and webinar, and rapid uptake of Apps. How has the growth of digital communications changed your approach to developing a communications strategy?

Digital communications has provided us with more ‘tools’ to use to target client audiences. However they should be seen as supplements to existing, traditional tools, such as PR, advertising, direct mail and exhibitions, rather than replacements. As such, our communications strategies are broader in terms of marketing activities, combining traditional with digital.

In addition, customers have become increasingly hungry for information and digital means they don’t have to wait for it – it’s just a few clicks away and with so many people having mobile devices, it’s just a click away wherever and whenever.

In terms of a communications strategy, this hunger has to be considered. Whilst some marketing activities are designed to influence and inform, other activities need to be created to fulfil the desire of information.

There also needs to be consideration given as to how digital works with traditional. Whilst they are very different approaches they need to complement each other and work together.

Q: And what impact has it had on creativity; budget; timescales?

Digital has had an effect on budgets in a number of ways. Where traditional activities didn’t include digital but do now, this extra work has to come out of a budget that unfortunately in many cases is shrinking, so it really is a case of trying to do more with less. That said, digital does have many desirable attributes when it comes to costs i.e. many digital activities are less expensive when compared to traditional – hard copy DM versus email marketing.

As well as affecting budgets, digital has also had an effect on clients as they require enhanced evidence (which digital manages very well) of returns on investment. There is also a timescale issue. Digital does have the perception of instantaneous results, in some cases, but as such it needs to be managed carefully to ensure that digital activities are part of a plan, rather than knee jerk responses.

Finally, there is a creative issue as digital has to work on so many different levels and there is a greater need to think of the journey and also integration with other activities.

Q: Our research shows a decline in the use of product directories, hardcopy journal readership and the use of search engines to source product information. In your experience what channels complement each other to maximise results? Is there still a case for traditional channels?

Firstly, there is very much still a case for traditional channels, and in terms of traditional I’m talking PR, direct mail, advertising etc. All of these channels complement each other and digital activities such as social media, email marketing and video complement the traditional channels further. However, to make them really work together you need to understand what part each contributes to an overall campaign, how different channels may require different content or message and how each part can be measured.

I can understand the decline of printed product directories – why walk to the book shelf in your office when you have Google at your fingertips. Some product directories were widely used in site offices but now that internet connectivity is so widely available, they are virtually nowhere to be seen.

I also understand that hard copy journal readership may have also declined, although I would have thought this will have been replaced with online news readership. However, I find the decline of search engines somewhat surprising. I believe there is still a ‘hunger’ to search for information and search engines are the first port of call although users’ patience has shortened – if it’s not on the first or second page of Google, people assume it doesn’t exist! I think most people will be very surprised at how many times they visit Google on an average day – try counting it one day, I’m sure you will be amazed.

Q: In these austere times and with the advent of digital channels is there still a requirement for large marketing budgets?

Depends on your definition of large! What is large for one company is small to another. We work with clients that have budgets of all sizes. The consistent theme however is that you must see a value and return on investment.

It is possible to get great results from small budgets (see the Celotex app campaign that won the ‘best mobile campaign’ at the 2012 Construction Marketing Awards – fantastic results from a small budget); you just need to have a well thought out plan and execution.

The challenge is that client requirements and returns have never been so demanding. Whilst it is easy to say that any budget is never enough, the trick is to make whatever budget you have meet these high demands.

Bottom line is that austere times have made us make sure that every penny works, which isn’t such a bad thing.

Further reading:

The Construction Media Index

The Construction Media Index report, now in its third year, is the only impartial research report for the construction industry on traditional and digital communication channels.

The four key reports, each containing over 150 charts, looks at communication channels for Architects, Civil Engineers, Main Contractors and Roofing Contractors. The research reviews online and hardcopy journal readership, usage of; websites, blogs, eNews, social networks, video and webinars, Apps and QR codes, technical seminars, product directories and devices used.

There is a detailed, impartial report on journal readership and another that focusses on digital communications and a further 8 reports that look at journal readership for key sectors. In total the report consists of 14 sections that can be bought separately or as a set. The whole report contains over 1500 charts of data, for which 550 targeted telephone interviews were conducted during April 2013.

Purchase online now!

CFA Marketing
As a full service agency we’re now able to provide clients with a single source for all marketing requirements – from PR and copywriting through to creative and print production services, web design and build to SEO and social media, media planning, buying and event management.

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