Marketing for Trenchless Contractors

Marketing is an essential part of the success of any contractor. Whether the marketing effort consists of only making a few phone calls to potential clients or a comprehensive marketing program, the efforts are vital to getting new work.

Researching and understanding the market and presenting one's company to potential clients is what marketing is all about. An effective marketing program doesn't require a great deal of knowledge and doesn't have to cost a fortune. Done properly, an effective marketing program can be developed over time with most any budget.

For the greatest impact a marketing program should include the following ongoing components:

  • Market Research
  • Contact Database Development
  • Creation of Marketing Materials
  • Distribution of Marketing Materials/Advertising
  • Development and Maintenance of Relationships

Market Research
The goal of market research should be to identify the extent and value of the market, the companies and individuals who are potential sources of work, the importance of each contact and the best way to interact with the contact. Each type of company can require a different approach. Some potential contacts for contractors include engineers, utilities, telecoms, pipeline companies and other contractors. Suppliers, such as pipe, conduit and cable vendors can be a good source for leads on upcoming projects. Monitoring financial news can provide clues to future market conditions. The news section of this Web site is a good place to find news about upcoming projects. BidOcean.com is the single best source for bid opportunties and has powerful online market research tools.

If your company is a subcontractor you will need to identify the prime contractors in your industry. A good place to find prime contractors is from planholder lists. BidOcean.com publishes publishes planholder lists on most trenchless projects.

Contact Database Development
The more people that you know and that know your company, the more projects which will be available to you. Keeping track of contacts is best handled by a contact management database program such ACT!, Maximizer or GoldMine. You can also use the online database at BidOcean.com. Maintaining a good contact database is important to keep track of all potential clients and for mass distribution of marketing materials and printing of labels. It is also a good idea to maintain a record of correspondence with each contact so that you know who you sent what to.

One can find names of potential contacts through a variety of sources:

Online Directories - The Internet has a number of directories and yellow pages. One can search by state, company name and type. An online directory of directional boring contractors can be found at www.directionalboringcentral.com. Blue Book has an online directory for some states.

Organizational Membership Lists - ASCE, NUCA, DCCA, DCA, PCCA and many other associations offer their membership list either online or printed form. Some may require membership for access to the list.

Mailing Lists - can be rented from magazines, associations and companies that specialize in mailing lists.

Project Reporting Services - Municipal and other project reporting services are a good source for names of engineers, owners and contractors for specific projects. Some reporting services will also do custom research and sell lists or old reports that can be mined for contacts. BidOcean.com offers up-to-date mailing lists.

Public Utility Commissions - Each state PUC offers its list of regulated utilities either online or in printed form.

State Contractor Licensing Boards - Can provide lists of licensed contractors.

   
Opportunities can be found at various points in a project.
planning-budgeting-design-permitting-prequalification-advertising-bidding-subcontracting-execution
 

Marketing Materials
One of the functions of a marketing program is to create a positive image in the mind of potential clients. When clients think of your company, what do you want them to think? They should associate the name of your company with concepts such as professionalism, experience, value, reliability, dependability, safety and trust. Every exposure to your company will be part of the perception of your company built in the client's mind.

In order for a marketing program to be the most effective, a company should have a consistent image present in all of its marketing materials. A company image is not built only on things like a logo and company colors but also on reputation, rumors, press coverage and relationships. A coherent, consistent positive company image takes time to develop and requires constant maintenance.

Logo - A good company logo should be clean and simple. It shouldn't contain too many different colors or complex images. Many companies try to make their logos depict the directional boring process in some way, but that is very difficult to do and people who aren't familiar with the industry will only be confused. Some of the most successful companies have the simplest logos.

While a logo can be created on most any computer with a basic graphics program, it is worthwhile to have a high resolution copy of the logo on CD to be given to printers. To have a professional create a logo usually costs between $150-$1000. If combined with a print job, many printers will include logo design at no extra cost. One should consider animating a logo for web site usage.

Business cards - Cards should have the company logo, be simple but professional and convey the information needed. Should be given out to as many people as possible. Printing one's own cards using an inkjet printer is often noticed as such and gives the impression that the company is too new and too poor.

Brochures - In the trenchless industry a slick four-color printed brochure isn't really necessary for smaller companies. The cost of a high quality brochure can often be invested more effectively in other media. For most smaller contractors a simple tri-fold brochure or printed brochure folder with a current list of projects completed, equipment and list of references is all that is needed.

Mailers - A simple mailer explaining the benefits of trenchless technology with information about your company can be quite effective. Think of the questions most asked by your customers and put the answers in a mailer with an offer of more information available upon request. A mailer should get your name in front of people and encourage them to call you.

CD-ROMs - A cost effective way to convey larger amounts of information. Can include numerous photos, video and audio. While the cost of mastering can be significant, duplications costs are usually about a dollar or less. One of the things which makes CD-ROMs effective is their novelty. Most who receive a CD will view it, while the same can't be said of brochures or mailers. Many of the larger as well as some smaller directional boring contractors use CD-ROMs extensively as marketing tools.

Videos - For larger companies, a good video can be instrumental in opening doors which might otherwise be closed. Videos can be easily distibuted on CDROM.

Caps (hats) - In the construction industry, a company cap is a powerful marketing tool. A cap can create positive feelings, and create negative feelings in those who aren't given one. It is surprising how "getting a cap" and not getting one can be such an emotional issue for some. Yet, many contractors consider caps too great of an expense and reserve them for only "really important" contacts. The ultimate value of a company cap given as a gift can greatly exceed the investment. The cap creates good will and if worn serves as a walking billboard. Caps are generally kept around longer than brochures or business cards. Often times they are given to children, exposing future generations to the company name. Company's should avoid buying the least expensive caps, which are less likely to be worn.

Website - These days, a good website is an important part of marketing for any trenchless contractor. A website doesn't have to cost a lot to look good and present the right information. Bid Ocean offers a special starter package of only $250/year for site creation and hosting (not including domain name registration).

Distribution of Marketing Materials/Advertising
One of the goals of a marketing program should be to reach as many people as possible with the most effective message at the lowest cost. A marketer has to weigh distribution costs with cost of production. It might be more effective to distribute a higher quality message to fewer contacts than to distribute a less effective message to more people or use a combination of approaches and invest more in the most valuable contacts.

On one end of the spectrum there is the personal visit and on the other mass mailing. A single personal visit can cost hundreds of dollars while a postcard can be printed and mailed for less than fifty cents. It should be considered whether it is better to mail a thousand postcards or physically call on a dozen people. If sending more than a few dozen mailers, the use of a bulk mailing company should be considered to take advantage of their automation and lower mailing costs.

Mass Faxing or Emailing can be counter productive unless the message contains useful information rather than just advertising. Sending unsolicited Faxes and Emails can be illegal, but generally tolerated if recipients can opt off the list easily.

Development and Maintenance of Relationships
When an engineer, owner or prime contractor finds a contractor that they can trust to do a good job they usually prefer to use the contractor again whenever possible. Low-bid regulations can sometimes be bent or circumvented by owners or engineers so that the favored contractor gets the work. Maintaining good working relationships with clients is an important part of success and should be made a priority.

In order to initiate a good relationship with a new potential client it sometimes helps to offer assistance or advice in the development of projects. Most project developers can use expert advice from an experienced contractor to improve a project's constructability. While offering such assistance may not result in contracting preference, it can help in the long run.

Trust is an important part of any relationship and Clients want to be able to trust their contractors. Contractors should be up-front about the progress of the job without giving a potentially adversarial client something to use against the contractor later.

The Job Site in Marketing
No matter how professional a company's marketing materials are, the images presented by a job-site can have the greatest impact. Think of a job-site as a living three dimensional ad which will be seen by the client's representatives and those who pass by. Remember that your company will be judged by how the job-site looks.

Little things such as beat-up dirty vehicles and equipment, crews working without shirts or hard hats, trash littering the job-site, can give the impression of incompetence and unreliability. Once such an impression is made in the mind of the client, that becomes the basis of the relationship. No matter how competent the contractor, the client will think less of the contractor and act accordingly. Small issues can become big issues.

Given the lack of understanding of trenchless technology by many clients, it is important that a contractor give the appearance of competence. Initial perceptions on the part of client representatives can set the tone for interactions during and after the project. If the contractor appears to be competent and knowledgeable, the contractor position will be stronger when it comes time to resolve any issues pertaining to the job.

If it is OK with your client, have an open-house on the jobsite and invite local engineers, owners and others who might be interested in trenchless technology. Be sure to have clear walkways and keep any keep visitors away from any hazards.

Media Exposure
Positive exposure in national or local media can really help get your company noticed. Whenever you have a significant project that could be newsworthy you should send a press release to all local media and industry publications. If your company has a website be sure to post the press release and any photos to your site.

For marketing assistance contact us.