In many construction companies marketing is seen as just sales promotion, but an important element is strategic planning – a process which should be ongoing, not just reserved for the annual budget.
A well-used tool for this is Ansoff’s matrix, he first developed it 60 years ago, but it is still as relevant today as it was then. Ansoff defined four areas of growth for a company to focus on.
For existing products and markets you can stay in safe territory, with the products and customers you already know. Marketing activity is focused on either defending or increasing market share. Consider how you can encourage your existing customers to increase their usage, perhaps at the expense of competitor products?
Very often, if your product has not changed, and is similar to that of your competitors it is necessary to create differentiation or build customer loyalty. This might take the form of additional services such as helping architects with design or logistical improvements for contractors. All of which are about making it easy to specify or purchase the product. As the retail experience changes, we are getting to expect better levels of service in the construction sector and will not compartmentalise our lives into personal and work. When Competitive Advantage conducts customer satisfaction surveys we often get told “they are the best of a bad bunch” that is just not acceptable in today’s world.
The vulnerability with this strategy comes if there is a new market entrant, with a product which does things better or in a more cost effective manner. If you do not want to wake up one morning to find your market has been decimated it is important to be constantly researching the market to know what your customers think of your company, your products and your competitors. Also consider conducting regular market share analysis. All of this will help you to identify changes in competition at an early stage.
Of course one response to the risk of alternative products entering the market is to develop and launch them yourself. Companies tend to be nervous of killing the cash cow, but if you don’t do it someone else might. It’s important to be regularly gaining feedback from customers – and non-customers – concerning the challenges they face, new products they are considering and generally getting ideas for new product development. But don’t expect your customers to tell you what they want, they probably don’t see the solution, just the problem. You need to understand their issues and then think of solutions. It might be that it’s not a replacement for your existing product but something complimentary that can be sold alongside.
It may be that your existing products have an application in a new market, either overseas or in a sector you currently don’t target. Again research can help identify sectors where customers might already be using your products without you realising. Or, as the economy recovers, markets that had been in decline which are now growing again.
Finally there is diversification into new market sectors with new products. Perhaps through acquisition if not new product development. Before committing to an investment of this nature it is important to fully understand the market, its needs and expectations. And if it is an acquisition, what are the existing perceptions of the business you plan to acquire? An investment in research at an early stage could avoid a lot of wasted time and money later.
As I said at the start, the wise business is constantly reviewing the situation, following a continuing process of review. This is particularly important as the construction market recovers, changing the opportunities represented by the different sectors. With changes in regulations and demand for sustainable products, for example, changing the trading environment.
Remember to review and monitor:
- Are you maintaining share, what are your customers’ issues and what are your competitors up to?
- How can you make your products more appealing to customers? This might be achieved through product evolution, adding additional services or introducing a loyalty scheme.
- Review alternative markets, what opportunities do they represent?
- How can you adopt or adapt your products to make them suitable for new markets?
This report presents the construction education sector’s structure and the opportunities following Chancellor’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement issued in November 2015. The report was compiled in January and February 2016 and is an invaluable resource for informing your marketing strategy for those wishing to supply the construction education sector. The report costs £500 + VAT.