Marketing is one of the oldest tools in the book; think about Egyptian hieroglyphics, spreading important information as a forerunner for the press we know today, or Roman traders carving their initials into amphorae, both as a mark of the quality of the wine they sold, and a brand awareness exercise.

After all, why choose a wine of unknown origin, when you can become a repeat customer of Marcus? His wine might be a bit more expensive, but you trust its quality, and it comes in that lovely pitcher.

Cut to today and marketing has been elevated to an art form. Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme sent a Tesla Roadster into space two years ago, complete with a spacesuit-clad Spaceman and David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ on repeat. As a space adventure it takes patience; we have to wait until it comes back into Earth’s orbit (in 2091!) to find out how the Roadster has fared. But as a brand exercise the impact was immediate; footage beamed back from the Roadster dominated the media for days, and Tesla brand name recognition soared (into the stratosphere? Too many space references? I’ll stop).

Since the dawn of trade marketing has been employed in some form or other, which makes marketing an integral part of the human experience. Every single buying decision we make, whether it’s a new bottle of perfume or a £100,000 extension to our home, has been informed by marketing. It’s curious then, that in the construction industry, marketing is still often viewed as an expensive nice-to-have which offers no real return on investment.

The construction marketing mix

That attitude is a real shame, because marketing in the construction industry can be a brilliantly effective and engaging mix of so many elements. Some of the most potent can be good old tried and tested tactics: site signage, vehicle livery, branded workwear, radio advertising for local companies. Even newspaper adverts, when targeted at the right audience, are still worth considering.

Then you’ve got the hygiene factors that are non-negotiable, such as a functioning website – and the good news is that a website which is modern, interactive and represents a great user experience has the power to make you a standout in the industry. After that, the world is your marketing oyster: digital advertising, highly targeted social media advertising, podcasts, eBooks, a smart PR strategy, ambient advertising used for brand awareness, advertorials, and on and on it goes.

There are almost limitless ways to make your brand stand out in an industry which can be highly marketing-sceptical. However, it’s not quite as easy as ‘if you’re marketing, you’re winning’. There are some things you’ll have to get right to win the confidence of construction clients.

Adapt, adapt, adapt

If you’ve come fresh from a sector which thrives on communicating by Whatsapp or Slack, you may have to adapt your approach a little (or a lot). Much of the communication in this industry takes place – gasp – face-to-face. People are often out of the office for much of their working week, meeting clients and overseeing projects, and they don’t necessarily have time for your Zoom call or to read over the blog you want them to sign off. Adapt to their preferred communication style, adjust your expectations, and soak up every minute of dedicated conversation you can get.

Prove your worth

In this sector which thrives on numbers – who has the biggest turnover is a real yardstick in construction – be ready to have your work interrogated. If you can’t provide ROI, you’re playing into the stereotype of the marketing ‘guru’ as someone who is useful with pretty colours, but not so good when it comes to converting leads into solid profit.

Be rigorous in your own decision-making. If your digital ads aren’t delivering, be prepared to work out why and make the changes needed. If your client is suggesting content that you know won’t convert leads, make your case, and suggest an alternative strategy that you know will give them the conversion rates they’re looking for.

Construction isn’t boring

This is key: the construction industry is more fast-moving and innovative than you might think. New technologies are constantly changing what is possible. In this tricky economic landscape, there are brand-new challenges to face every single day, and I think that’s exciting. What’s more, construction is about the future; what the infrastructure of our nation will look like in the decades to come, and how we’ll help the country to meet its climate change commitments, for example. It’s also about changing human stories: lives can be changed by a working boiler, or affordable fuel bills. There are large and small stories for you to fold into your construction marketing content, to great effect.

The construction industry definitely has its own unique nature. It can simultaneously move at warp speed, and feel like change comes at a glacial pace. Your challenge – our challenge – is to take construction marketing into the future, and evolve it in such a way that your clients understand it, are excited about it, and are willing to pay for it.