The delivery of a construction project involves many different decision makers. Often this group of people are brought together for one project and then disbanded when the project is complete. Understanding the dynamic of the Decision Making Unit (DMU) is important, this is where knowledge of the market sector and contract types can be useful. As the nature of the relationship between the members of the project team will depend on the type of contract used (Traditional, Design & Build, Management, PFI or Prime Contracting).
This blog reviews each stage of the construction supply chain and the role of marketing in influencing specification.
Concept & Definition
The first stage, as described in the RIBA plan of work is to create the client’s strategic brief and business case. Next is to develop the project objectives. In these early stages of a project the client will define aesthetic and functional needs. The architect has significant influence, guiding the client through the decision process. Although not directly selecting products, this stage can have a significant influence on the products used, with 70% to 80% of the cost of a project decided at concept stage. Those clients with a large portfolio of buildings may also, at this early stage, define specific product brands.
For the construction marketer it is important to develop content that raises awareness of your construction product. This can be done via channels such as relevant web content that is SEO optimised and blog posts. Another option is PPC advertising, or advertising in relevant trade publications and product directories.
Preparation & Design
At the RIBA plan of work stages 2 – 4 the design is formalised drawing on the expertise of the design team. Traditionally the architect is responsible for taking the client’s brief and combining it with the advice of the specialist consultants to develop the building’s design. Specialist consultants responsible for areas such as fire, acoustics, security and sustainability will define the performance requirements for their area of expertise, but at this stage will not nominate products. Also working with the architect will be engineers responsible for structural, mechanical and electrical design. All have an influence on specifications and hence selection of building products. The architect will define performance specifications or list products. The engineers define specialist requirements.
This stage of the construction project is a challenging time for the construction product marketer. There are many members of the design team that have influence on product selection. It is important to tailor your direct marketing for each persona, providing strong content that promotes your product’s credentials. Tried and tested methods include CPD seminars, case studies and testimonials, you can extend exposure beyond your website via social media campaigns, gaining endorsements.
When moving from the consideration stage to the selection stage it is important for the construction marketer to support the sales team with relevant tools. Tools that demonstrate the sustainability credentials of your product, as well as other relevant benefits that help meet building regulations for example. Well designed, easy to use product literature is a must, whether this be as a brochure design and/or as an easy to navigate website. Increasingly companies are also being asked for BIM content, although selecting the best format is challenging, with a number of organisations promoting their solution.
Stage 5 of the RIBA plan of work is defined as Construction. Main Contractors will bid to win the work. They will interpret the requirements of the design team and may influence product selection.
The Main Contractor will select Sub-Contractors based on capability, availability and price. Remember to identify who is bidding and ensure they, or the specialist Sub-Contractors who will be providing budgetary prices, have quoted based on your product. It is important to know the alliances between Main Contractor and Specialist Contractor.
Depending on the nature of the architect’s specification the sub-contractor may be responsible for making the final product selection. He will be influenced by technical support, familiarity, speed of installation, availability and price – trying to achieve construction cost savings within the scope of the specification.
At this point your specification is at its most vulnerable. There must be a dialogue with all of the specialist sub-contractors and close monitoring must continue to ensure the specification is not changed. The specialist contractor will want reassurance that your product is cost effective, has good availability and is easy to install. These practical requirements should be supported by marketing that demonstrates the benefit of the product and its supporting criteria, such as installation guidance, installer training and delivery updates.
Specifiers are generally receptive to new products but they often lack the time to fully evaluate them. They tend to stay with solutions they have used successfully in the past or draw on colleagues’ experience recycling past specifications. The construction pipeline and the Decision Making Unit (DMU) present some unique challenges for the marketer.
The construction marketer needs to know their product dynamic, how it sits in the marketplace and how it measures up against competition. Through relationships with specifiers they need to identify influences. They also need to understand how the type of contract impacts specification and know the players involved and where the decision making authority is. Through this a comprehensive marketing plan can be drawn up to target relevant decision makers at each stage of the construction process.