Advances in technology and software have driven radical change in PR and marketing over recent years. In many ways this is a good thing; activity is more measurable than ever before, making finding out what works much easier. However, the wealth of techniques and strategies out there can make it difficult to know which are the most relevant when marketing your property or construction business. So, with that in mind, this blog post looks at the most useful construction marketing and property marketing activities, and why you should consider them in your communications strategy.
In this blog, we cover:
- Content marketing
- Social media
- Media relations
- Events and speaking opportunities
- Brochures and other printed material
- Crisis communications
Construction marketing and your website
Let’s start with a simple truth – it’s 2019, every business needs a website and the overwhelming majority do. But how hard is your website working for you? To get the most out your website, it needs to follow some basic principles. So, go through this checklist and answer honestly …
- Is it easy to navigate? Can users find the information they need/want? As a rule, users should be able to find what they need within three clicks.
- Is it helpful? People come to your website looking for a solution. Your site needs to give them an insight into how to solve their problems and convince them you’re able to do that. Otherwise, they’ll go elsewhere.
- Is it findable? We’ll look at SEO in more depth later in this article, but if no one can find your website, no one will be visiting it.
- Does your website have something to say? Does your website update often? As your team changes or starts new developments, you can update your website’s news channel. Do you feel strongly about a new regulation or a construction or property related topic (sustainability, for instance)? Then write about it and update your blog. It’s harder to get people to talk to you when you don’t say anything. All that content is great for digital marketing and social media, which we’ll get to later.
- Is your site full of great pictures of your work? Property and construction are two of the most visually impressive sectors. Does your imagery reflect the quality of your work?
- Is it quick to load? If not, chances are visitors will click off before the page even appears.
- Is it full of ways prospects can engage and get in touch? If not, you are missing lots of leads.
Volumes have been written on web design, user experience and the mechanics of the website; these are the basics. But if they’re wrong, then fix them as quickly as possible because otherwise, your online presence is not working for you.
From a mindset point of view, we highly recommend you treat your website like a member of staff. Give it objectives and goals, measure those regularly, and make the most of its potential while dealing with any underperformance.
Construction marketing and search engine optimisation
Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is about making your website visible on search engines like Google for key words and phrases relevant to your construction and property business. SEO is one of the most effective forms of digital marketing because it puts your website in front of people when they’re searching for your services.
As a result, SEO is a competitive discipline – everyone wants to win the Google rankings and benefit from the increased web traffic that produces. Couple this with the fact no one outside Google fully understands how its algorithm works, and you understand why SEO is both an art and a science.
Like designing and building websites, there isn’t the space here to go into depth about how SEO works. But there some important and relatively easy steps property and construction companies can take. Good SEO is about matching the content on your website with what your target audiences are searching for. It measures this in terms of authority and credibility. High scores on these translates to high Google search rankings.
So, to start building an SEO strategy, answer these questions:
- Who are my target audiences?
- What problems do they have?
- Can I solve them?
- How do they search for solutions?
- What words and phrases do they use to find solutions?
This enables you to identify what your prospects are searching for and plan the type of content you need to attract them to your website.
Targeting the key words and phrases they use and creating content around those (content marketing) helps build the authority of your website.
Credibility is built by external websites linking to the content you produce (a backlink strategy). And the more quality websites that link to your site, the more Google sees you as a credible source of information for the topics you’re discussing.
Therefore, the building blocks of an effective construction marketing SEO strategy are to research how your potential clients are searching for your services and then create great content based on that research and encourage people to link to it. There is a lot more to SEO but starting here will ensure you put down the foundations for an effective campaign.
Content strategy for construction marketing
We’ve established that for your website to be found on Google, you need a content strategy. But a content strategy is also the cornerstone for much of your digital marketing. To be effective, your content strategy must solve problems for your prospective clients, thus highlighting your expertise and building trust. Content can take many forms, and should include a mixture of:
- Thought leadership articles
- News items
- Photos and image galleries
- Other forms of visual media such as infographics
- Stats and data
- Case studies
Regularly publishing content of this type has many benefits. Firstly, Google loves it when you add new content to your website. So, a dedicated content strategy does wonders for construction marketing and property marketing.
Secondly, it enables you to target specific keywords and phrases to improve your overall SEO. Blogs, thought leadership articles and case studies are a great way to do this. But they also demonstrate the ideas, skills and innovation within your property or construction business.
Fresh and relevant content will also help attract backlinks. Sometimes, these will be organic when someone links to your content to help them illustrate a point. Other times you will have to ask for the backlink, but that should be part of your SEO strategy anyway, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
Social media for construction and property development marketing
So far, we have looked at your website and how SEO and a content strategy can attract visitors. But it is important to get the most from the content you’ve created. Social media can play a big part in amplifying that content so it reaches a wider – but still relevant – audience.
Social media gives you much more scope to build your identity and tell your story. Regular posts showing completed or ongoing work, and life at the office or on the site, really help to build a picture of who you are as a company.
The most useful channels for property marketing and construction marketing are LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
LinkedIn is great for B2B marketing and networking, as you would expect. Twitter is great for conversations and engagement. Instagram is a fantastic place to share great pictures of your developments and other work, as well as reach a younger demographic (if that’s a goal) and networking with other industry professionals.
Facebook is particularly useful for residential developers as a place to showcase new developments, show homes, individual properties and seduce people with the lifestyle they could achieve by buying one of your homes.
However, Facebook comes with a warning. For commercial developers and construction businesses it’s where you’re most likely to get protestors against developments posting their views, which can range from legitimate concerns to out-and-out offence. However, having all those views in one place does make monitoring them much easier. In our view, Facebook is a valuable digital marketing tool and the benefits outweigh the risks.
Here are six simple steps to follow if you’re starting social media from scratch or just starting over …
- Ensure all the channel profiles are fully filled out with relevant text and pictures. Otherwise it looks lazy.
- Start by following the people/companies you would want to follow you. Some will follow back in return.
- Look at what these people/companies are posting and engage with them. Comment on their posts, ‘like’ their posts, and if you can give insight or solve their problems, do it.
- Post links to your own content, but also post links to industry relevant articles and topics.
- Use hashtags. You might need to research which ones are relevant, but when you find them, use them.
- Don’t leave comments or replies unanswered.
Also, posting opinionated or controversial material can help your content spread, but also has its obvious drawbacks.
Paid-for social media campaigns offer you the chance to take your social media content beyond your normal organic audience and target people based on a variety of key demographics, eg, location, industry, job title or job type, company size, specific interests, etc. This is an excellent way of getting your messages to the people you want to reach.
Media relations and property development PR and construction PR
Good media relations is a cornerstone of effective PR. Essentially, it is generating editorial coverage in relevant publications, and on TV and radio.
Local, regional and national business publications are still well read in print and online. They’re filled with stories about planning applications, contractors appointed, property deals done, and other construction-related news.
A good property PR or construction PR strategy is therefore central to building awareness of your business, developing and retaining a first-class reputation and, ultimately, growing revenue.
Property developers and construction companies often have to deal with the media as a matter of course, as new developments can attract both positive and negative media coverage. So, having a PR and media relations component to your construction marketing strategy is essential.
Use this six-point checklist to put together a media relations strategy …
- Identify and build relationships with key journalists in your sector, both locally and regionally, and in the national trade and industry press.
- Write press releases about your business and projects. This is the easiest way to facilitate the media talking about your company.
- Have a stock of high-quality photographs of your team and projects to go with the press releases. This increases the chances of coverage. If the press release is about a proposed development, make sure you have CGIs available.
- Offer senior personnel up for interviews on property and construction-related topics. Journalists are always looking for experts to give insight on stories. If someone from your company is willing to speak, let reporters know.
- Check out business and industry publications for comment columns. Often, such publications have columns on specific topics written by industry experts. If you approach them with a good idea, the chances are they’ll snap your hands off.
- Newsjacking. If a big property or construction story breaks and you have something interesting to say, draft that into a quote and send it to all relevant journalists as quickly as possible. If the quote gets used and the story escalates, you might find your company name in the national media.
Photography and visual media for construction and property development marketing
Whether your focus is your website, social media, content marketing, or media relations, you will need images to go with your construction and property marketing messages.
Images are crucially important because it’s your images that will attract people to your content. Images will help you stand out. Get the best and most creative photography you can afford – don’t even think of it as a cost. You’ll be able to use it in brochures, on business cards, pop-up banners at trade shows, all over your social and website, in the media – and images can even be optimised to boost your SEO rank.
If your project or development has attracted significant interest, there will always be an audience for images that show the progress of the construction as well as the finished project. Depending on the nature of the project, photography might be people’s only chance to get close or inside the your development.
Construction and property development are both incredibly visual, so make sure your photography reflects your aesthetic and your commitment to quality.
Events and public speaking as part of your construction marketing
Speaking at property or construction events enables you to communicate directly with a highly relevant audience, which builds awareness and demonstrates expertise.
There are a lot of property and construction networking opportunities available as the built environment is ever-changing. Find groups, go along, get a feel for them and if you think they are relevant, approach the organisers for a speaking opportunity.
If you secure this, make sure what you say is original and well-rehearsed. If you don’t like public speaking, consider hiring a professional speech writer who can also help with delivery.
Don’t forget to take someone with you so get some pictures of your delivering your speech or workshop. You can then include that along with speech snippets in social posts.
Brochures and printed material for construction and property development marketing
Brochures have been a feature of property marketing for generations. Despite the advances in digital marketing, brochures are still popular and are a worthwhile addition to any property marketing or construction marketing strategy. They offer a great opportunity to showcase schemes through high-quality, creative photography and to tell the story of your business and/or projects.
The enduring appeal of brochures is, we think, down to shelf life. Leave a brochure with a prospect after a meeting and it will likely remain in their office as a regularly reminder of you and your business.
Leaflets are a useful tool in communicating with stakeholders, particularly the general public. Not everyone is on social media or reads the local press. Residential leaflet drops are an essential part of stakeholder engagement when seeking planning consent for a new development.
When creating brochures or leaflets, go for a simple design and use striking imagery. The important thing is getting your message across so don’t distract the reader with a cluttered document.
Great images of your developments will draw their eye and impress, so make sure you have professional shots taken that show your schemes in the best possible light.
Crisis communications and your construction marketing or property development marketing
All property developers and construction businesses need a crisis communications strategy. Whether to have one or not, isn’t even a discussion. This is because there are many threats to property companies and contractors throughout the lifetime of a development.
The main areas of threat for developers include:
- Protests against the developments in pre-planning and planning phase. These can range from community groups to environmental organisations and pressure groups. They can and do have a bearing on the success of an application.
- The construction phase causing major disruption to commuters and other stakeholders for long durations.
- The scheme falling behind the stated time scale.
- The scheme going over budget (especially if there’s public money involved).
For construction companies, major threats include:
- Accidents and other incidents on site.
- Sub-contractor disputes.
- The work schedule falling behind stated time scale.
- The scheme going over budget.
- Disputes with the developer.
Any of these can have major consequences for the reputations of both property developers and construction companies. So, to minimise this, a crisis management plan must be put in place.
The plan should include:
- Dealing with the media – when to use written statements and when to field candidates for interview.
- Consider media training senior personnel in the business.
- Someone to take media calls 24/7 during the initial phase of the crisis. Journalists working evening/night shifts might well be writing about this long after the office is closed.
- Monitoring social media channels for false information and correcting this wherever possible.
- Putting media statements on social media as well as sending to the press.
- Any legal ramifications of public comment. Is there an investigation ongoing which prohibits your company making a statement?
- The sensitivities of a situation in which someone has been injured on site, or worse, died.
- Short term reputational damage and how that will be addressed post-crisis.
Dealing with a crisis is never easy but having a robust plan can be the difference between getting through it and not. If you don’t have a document outlining procedure in the event of a major crisis, we recommend starting on that straight away. Then share it with all relevant individuals in the business.
Some companies even role play their response to ensure everyone knows what they are doing if it happens. In our view, this is good practice because you can never be over-prepared.
Tying your marketing all together
We have broken down the fundamental elements of construction and property marketing individually, but it goes without saying that all aspects should be interconnected. For example, media releases about new developments should be timed alongside online news pieces and social media announcements. Blog content should demonstrate skills and expertise, but at the same time feed into your keyword SEO strategy. Every part should work for the good of the whole. That’s the difference between marketing with a strategy and ad-hoc piecemeal marketing.
Tying all your components together will give you a communications strategy your target audience cannot ignore, and that will lead to a major competitive advantage. It is the most comprehensive and effective way of marketing your property or construction business and done well, will yield fantastic results.