The power of ‘what’s next’ is critical to a marketing strategy that’s inventive, active and fun says Head of Marketing Jo Eismont…

Strategy gets the lions share of plaudits when it comes to marketing but tactics should never be over looked. Often it pays to keep it simple, and reactive.

Dundee-based agency BlueLime Marketing, which was launched during lockdown has exceeded forecasts and recorded annual turnover results of £300,000 in its first trading year.

Construction isn’t boring: construction marketing can be exciting, engaging, and effective, when you know how to do it right…

It’s almost a year to the day since United Capital, the investment company which owns BlueLime Marketing, acquired Alliance Electrical and brought them into the growing organisation. For a marketing agency that’s a good day – one where there’s positive news to announce with eye-catching numbers in the headline. What better way to close the year than with news of a new deal that benefits everyone involved – buyer, seller, staff, and customers? It added to the Christmas spirit we all felt as we welcomed new people into the UC family.

By March, those good news days felt very, very distant. No sooner has we celebrated McGill’s one-year acquisition anniversary than our entire group had to go into lockdown, just like companies across the country. Behind the scenes, complex work was going on to help our group companies get the support they needed with furlough, evolving government advice, and keeping core staff for emergency work that might be required.

At BlueLime our immediate task was to help group companies stay on top of strategically communicating with their customers: what did they need to know, how could we best keep in touch with them, what was the critical messaging behind every piece of comms that went out? I’m proud to say that I think our companies all did this particularly well. They stayed calm and focused on what the customer needed to hear from them at every single touchpoint, which few of our competitors managed to do so well.

It was during this early phase of lockdown that I realised: construction marketing is both easier and harder than you might imagine. Let me explain.

Construction keeps calm and carries on

The culture of many construction companies lends itself particularly well to dealing with crises and public health emergencies. Every job and project is approached through the lens of health and safety as an absolute priority; the safety of workers, residents and customers is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, every single day. As H&S legislation evolves, so do working practices. Construction workers are used to folding new processes into their working practices, and so Coronavirus presented a different – but not entirely new – challenge to incorporate into the day job.

The other benefit is that construction doesn’t really do ‘panic’ – or at least United Capital construction companies don’t. Together our group steered a course that meant we had plenty of good news to share as the long summer wore on. United Capital grew once more, with the addition of the super-smart and customer friendly Saltire Facilities Management. McGill set up a new Data and Visual Division due to customer demand. As a group we went on winning contracts and getting appointed to long-term frameworks worth millions of pounds.

Right throughout furlough and in the months since we’ve had plenty of good news to share, and that’s been a gift for us at BlueLime. For that reason, managing strategic construction marketing through a pandemic, surprisingly, often felt sort of comforting. If the world of construction could keep turning amid so much turmoil and difficulty, so could the rest of the world.

Construction marketing is lifted by human stories

That said, there is a gap in the construction marketing world, and it’s one we’re trying to fill using a number of tools, such as tone of voice, content strategy, and branding: the construction culture is so very ‘keep calm and carry on’ that most people in the industry have forgotten how transformative their work can be for customers. Put simply: we need to bring the human back!

In this fairly traditional (some might say dated in some respects) industry, there’s a tendency to focus solely on the numbers. Now, numbers are important: a contract won is confidence built in the marketplace; flashy million-pound headlines are more likely to be picked up by editors. But that’s only part of the story, and for me companies which don’t put any focus on the human impact of their work are missing the mark.

United Capital group companies take on large-scale public sector contracts, and that means their capacity for changing lives is vast. Thousands of housing associations residents might see their homes upgraded each year – the lives of tenants in entire buildings, streets, and neighbourhoods can be improved massively. However, with their focus (rightly) on getting the work done, the huge impact of a new boiler in a home with no hot water, for example, can be forgotten by those who do the work.

Good news stories aren’t just about the numbers

But just in the last few months, I’ve heard of a resident who lived without heating or hot water for three years, and is now enjoying life again thanks to a new boiler via the government’s ECO scheme. I’ve also heard about a tenant who was forced to choose between Christmas presents for her children and putting money into the electricity meter each December; each winter she moved in with a family member so she didn’t have to find the money to heat her home. Through a government affordability scheme she has had an Air Source Heat Pump installed, and for the first time in years, she can afford to spend Christmas at home enjoying family time with her children – and their presents from Santa!

Do construction companies shout about their societal impact enough? Not really! There’s a heads-down-get-on-with-the-job-nobody-likes-a-show-off attitude in this industry that means so much important work goes on behind the scenes. Good news stories from the construction industry tend to go big – new projects, fresh investments, deals reached. But we must also make room for the small but beautiful tales of human impact that unfold quietly, changing lives and turning customers into loyal brand ambassadors for life. Uncovering those stories is our day job at BlueLime, and if we dig underneath the surface just a little, there’s always gold there just waiting to be brought to light.

BlueLime is growing with the addition of Marketing Manager Jo Eismont.

Visual Design & Brand Manager

Meet our latest addition to the BlueLime team! Andrew Gavine joins as our Visual Design and Brand Manager.

Fraser Kirk is the Marketing and Communications Director for United Capital, a UK construction sector investment organisation. Fraser manages in-house marketing agency, BlueLime Marketing and is responsible for all communication activity for United Capital and their wholly owned group businesses, McGill, Alliance Electrical and Saltire Facilities Management, as well as a number of affiliate companies.

After 12 long weeks since lockdown began, the UK construction sector received the welcomed news from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that it could move into phase two of the country’s route out of lockdown and restart work. Aside from the huge amount of work already put in by construction companies to ready themselves for the eventual return to work, I believe there is another huge risk factor that many companies may be overlooking…public perception!

Let me start by highlighting that proper health & safety procedures trump all, however I argue that with increased scrutiny and a general collective inability to not comment on things online, damage could be done simply by not considering the perception of your company actions by the general public and work-force. I also want to point out whilst I advocate considering public perception, companies absolutely should not live in fear of what others think…someone will ALWAYS moan and have something to say!

Over the past three months we have lived through some of the most peculiar of situations that (hopefully!) we will ever experience. Each one of us will have a friend, family member or colleague who has suddenly developed an in-depth knowledge of government policy or epidemiology and social media has made it too easy to share our opinions with the world. During this time the power of public perception has been demonstrated for all to see, if you need convinced, you need only remind yourself the current Scottish Chief Medical Officer is not the same one we had at the beginning of lockdown!

The next few months, perhaps longer, will be fraught with uncertainty and caution. Companies will expect the government to show us the path to follow. We will seek explicit guidance, not only to proactively protect our people but also to protect our businesses from potential backlash and public inquiry (this is where the Care Home sector is at present!).

Our teams have been working closely with our clients to find solutions to the complex environment created by this new way of life. Large parts of these discussions centre around communications, and how we keep the public informed and safe. It is not enough for our teams to know the new working procedures; we must educate those whom they meet throughout their working day.

Across our group of businesses, we have increased communications both internally and externally. We are more transparent in our working procedures with the public than we were before. Those living in the homes we maintain, or in the areas in which we work, should understand what measures we have put in place to safeguard them, and our people. Some of this comes at a cost to the business; the extra time taken to phone or write to customers, the cost of printing temporary signs to display in areas where the public are present and adhering to guidance provided by the government and HSE, but these costs will save money in the long-term and protect the company reputation.

As a Communications professional, my job is to ensure we know what we need to say, who we need to say it to, and that we say it in a way that everyone understands and can hear/ see. Emotions are heightened just now, people, including our workforce, are anxious. As a responsible employer and business that operates in public places, it is our job to acknowledge and address the feeling of anxiety and ensure all sensible measures are taken AND communicated effectively.

A few Facebook posts, a LinkedIN update and a short statement on your company website unfortunately isn’t going to cut it. Absolutely do those things, but take time to properly engage with your clients, customers and work force. Take a minute to consider what your company actions look like from the outside and be willing to stick up for yourself when negative comments are made.

In their latest acquisition, United Capital have acquired Saltire Facilities Management, a company with over 320 direct employees and an annual turnover of circa. £30million. This follows the company’s acquisition of Top 500 Company McGill, and Angus-based electrical services firm, Alliance Electrical in 2019, in United Capital’s biggest deal to date.


With their headquarters based in Glasgow, Saltire Facilities Management was founded in 2000 as a public/private partnership with North Lanarkshire Council. The idea was that they would operate as an in-house facilities division. Saltire now stands as one of the UK’s largest central heating and electrical service providers, with offices in Scotland and the South West of England.


As with all of their companies, United Capital only seek to acquire well-functioning and well managed businesses and Saltire fit the bill! They’re a profitable business who deliver facilities management services on large public sector contracts and most importantly have a solid and vastly experienced management team leading the company. United Capital will be there to support with the back office work with everything from marketing, to HR.


United Capital CEO, Graeme Carling commented “Our team are delighted to get this deal over the line, Saltire is an exciting addition to the United Capital family.


The existing staff, operatives and management will remain in place and it will be business as usual. Saltire’s customers will continue to receive exceptional service from the same fully qualified and experienced team. The United Capital Board of Directors will be on hand to support and grow the company moving forwards.”


Saltire Facilities Management General Manager, John Reynolds added; “The team at Saltire are happy to have completed the sale of the business to United Capital, but of course, the work doesn’t end. Our experienced team of staff, operatives and managers will continue to run the business on a day-to-day basis with the added support of Graeme and his team. It is an exciting time for Saltire as we join the United Capital family.


“This deal is also great news for our customers who will not only continue to receive the same high level of service that they have come to expect, but with the added expertise of the United Capital board and resources of the wider group of businesses, will see Saltire continue to grow and strengthen its position as one of the UK’s largest and leading central heating and electrical service providers.”


This is a great addition to the United Capital family, which announced its ambitious ‘buy and build’ strategy in December 2019, which aims to achieve a collective turnover of £300million over the next three years. The addition of Saltire, makes the three year plan, well on target.

We look forward to joining Saltire to the family!

 

 

Fraser Kirk is the Marketing and Communications Director for United Capital, a UK construction sector investment organisation. Fraser is responsible for all communication activity for United Capital and their wholly owned group businesses, Saltire Facilities Management, McGill and Alliance Electrical, as well as a number of affiliate companies.

The UK construction sector has never been particularly quick to adopt certain new technology or challenge the status quo, especially when it comes to communications and marketing. Despite the sector investing heavily in operational efficiencies, workforce training and plant & equipment, the “fluffy stuff” has been neglected. This presents a huge opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

What is employee advocacy?

Employee advocacy may be a relatively new phrase and initiatives to facilitate are becoming more common in workplaces, but the concept isn’t new. Employee advocacy is simply the promotion of the organisation by its workforce. Where employees share information about the company and its culture both on and offline. Whilst most companies, including in the construction sector, have invested in branding, PR and social media, most have yet to consider employee advocacy despite its proven value.

Here’s the interesting bit…your employees are more effective at spreading the company news than your business channels! Take a minute to consider that. Think about how much you have invested into developing you company communications channels; Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, that expensive re-development of your website, that time that marketing team convinced you Tiktok was a good idea! Your employees are a valuable and under-utilised marketing resource.

Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by 202%

It’s pretty standard stuff that you want to engage your people and that when they are, company productivity would improve. There is a difference between engaged employees and those whom advocate for the company, though it is impossible to have the latter without the former.

Employee advocacy is especially interesting in the UK construction sector when we consider the fact that the sector is (obviously!) labour intensive and that company communications channels like social media, typically, don’t have many followers.

Employees are connected to at least 10x more people than the company

Company messages reach 561% further when shared by employees vs. company accounts

Company messages are shared 24x more frequently when distributed by employees vs. the company.

So what?

It’s a valid question, and like all other marketing you need to know what you are trying to achieve before you start. For smaller contractors maximising exposure of the company across your local region might be important, and your marketing budget might be small, or zero! Employee advocacy isn’t costly and it is significantly more effective than many traditional forms of marketing. It is also a great way to recruit, something the industry struggles with.

How do I start an employee advocacy programme?

Firstly, don’t call it that…you will lose the attention of most of your team immediately. A few facts you should know;

About 50% of employees voluntarily share company content

So it isn’t really about starting a programme rather you should think about the type of content that you make available for your employees to share. What do you want them to share, and remember their networks might have a different audience to the company so simply copying content isn’t always the best idea. Consider where your employees will get the content you want them to share, it is reported that

only 2-8% of employee social networks overlap with your company

Many employees in the construction sector will not be on LinkedIn so you may need to look at what channels you use.

Why aren’t they sharing our content already?

The most honest answer is probably the one you don’t want to hear…because they can’t be bothered, or that it isn’t their job. However stats show that there are other reasons:

21.6% don’t know if the company wants them to share the content

16.4% feel they don’t have time to share

15.7% don’t know what to share

15.6% are worried about sharing the wrong thing

Having a chat to your teams can address these quickly and will encourage more employees to advocate for the business. Do you have a company e-newsletter that goes out to your teams? Let them know what to do…most people want to help!

Does this only work online?

Absolutely not!

Many companies are forgetting the basics. Even calling this employee advocacy puts people off, it is simply encouraging your people to tell others about the company. Have a think about your business, and your employees. Where are they having conversations? In the tea room? On the bus? In the gym? At the shops? By keeping your teams informed of what is happening in your business you are curating these conversations and helping your employees contribute to the marketing of the company.

Keep it simple!

  • Think about what you want shared
  • Keep your people informed by telling them about company news and developments
  • Let employees know they can help by sharing company news
  • Show appreciation to the team for helping

Employee advocacy can help spread your company news further and more efficiently than traditional company channels. Communications is not a strong point of the UK construction sector with investment often directed elsewhere, so this is an effective and cheap way to get ahead.