As building product marketers, we keep a close-eye on construction trends and forecasts. What we’ve seen in 2017 is a bit like the children’s board game Chutes and Ladders—with each roll of the dice/new day you might land on a square that allows your business to climb towards greater profits, or as economic circumstances change, you might land on a square that makes you slide back. 2018 will likely bring more of the same, but there are some broad industry trends to keep in mind, especially as you plan your marketing efforts for the year.
WHAT’S IN STORE IN 2018?
The key construction market trend for 2018 appears to be steady, yet moderate, growth. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Consensus Construction Forecast, which combines several leading non-residential predictions, foresees 4 percent growth in spending for commercial and institutional construction. This is above a predicted 2 to 2.5 percent growth rate for the overall U.S. economy, but scales-back the association’s earlier predictions for the year, driven in part by rising material costs and ongoing skilled construction labor shortages.
The Associated General Contractors (AGC) drives home the labor shortage problem with survey results showing 70 percent of construction firms are struggling to fill hourly craft positions. “Contractors in most states still report they are busy and expect to stay that way for the foreseeable future,” says Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist. “These reports suggest employment would be rising in more states if contractors could find enough qualified workers.”
In another especially frightening labor statistic, for every five skilled tradespeople who retire in the U.S., only one enters the workforce, reported the Memphis Daily News this spring.
MARKETING MESSAGE IMPLICATIONS
The severe labor shortage means contractors will need to add a new component to their marketing messages. Contractors are already well versed in competing on price and quality. Now, savvy contractors have an opportunity to highlight their ability to complete jobs on time—whether from having a fully trained crew or by implementing innovative construction methods—as many of their competitors will not be able to make this claim, given labor shortages.
Leading contractors are already implementing work-arounds to labor shortages, which allows them to meet their customers’ demanding schedules. Such contractors have a clear marketing advantage over competitors, and should strongly promote that ability.
For contractors that haven’t found a solution to the labor shortage problem, one of our clients offers this advice on his company’s blog: “Going forward, every single thing about construction will need to change given that labor isn’t coming back,” says Bill Seery, director of business development for Oldcastle SurePods modular bathrooms. “Construction will need to evolve ever more rapidly to assembling plug-and-play components on site, versus today’s method, which focuses on hand crafting the building.”
Whether you build with fully modular components, specialized materials like structural insulated panels (SIPs) or other methods that help you streamline jobsite construction, highlighting your ability to complete projects is a key marketing differentiator. This is an approach that several of SurePods’ contractor customers, such as Golden Construction (Birmingham, Alabama), have adopted, marketing how the innovative building methods they use benefits their clients.
Showcasing your use of cutting edge building methods also can help you attract new workers, who otherwise might not give much thought to the construction business.
RECOMMENDED MARKETING METHODS
In line with highlighting your ability to complete jobs on time, it is important to use professional-looking marketing to help make you look “big,” regardless of your company’s size. This doesn’t have to be expensive or deceitful, but should include “signals” that show you’re a reputable choice.
One of the clearest ways to do this is with a well-designed website. A crisp and organized design signals to potential clients that you can deliver for them. We recommend including testimonials from clients, and case studies of successful jobs, to show that your innovative building methods work.
Although trying to respond to ever-changing construction market forecasts can feel like a game of Chutes and Ladders, with the right marketing messages and methods you’ll be playing another popular board game, instead: Pay Day. ν
About the Author:
Troy Brown is public relations director for Brandner Communications, a full-service marketing agency specializing in construction products for commercial and residential buildings. He has ghost-authored more than 300 articles and blog posts for clients ranging from insulation and geosynthetics to building controls.. Scott Donnelly is account service supervisor for Brandner Communications. Scott advises clients on integrated marketing efforts ranging from online and print advertising to tradeshows, social media, webinars and more. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Modern Contractor Solutions, December 2017
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