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Analyzing the 2017 Construction Marketing Outlook Survey Results

Fri March 03, 2017 - National Edition
Brian M. Fraley

Graph 1- Company Classification.
Graph 1- Company Classification.
Graph 1- Company Classification. Graph 2- Approx. Company Size Graph 3- Increase marketing 2017. Graph 4- PR tactics Graph 5- Internet approach. Graph 6- Lead Generation Tactics.

The Construction Marketing Association (CMA) conducted a national survey of the industry to find out about its marketing plans for 2017 and revealed the results in a webinar on January 19th. The 2017 construction marketing outlook is positive and seems to reflect the overall sense of optimism in the industry.

This Construction Marketing Straight Talker will analyze and dig deeper into those trends.


Among the most important aspects of a sound survey is an understanding of the respondents by segment. The graphics attached suggest a wide cross section with 84 percent working directly within the construction industry. The size of the companies varies from large to small.


Is it any surprise that 96.4% of construction firms plan to increase marketing in 2017? The stock market is soaring, much like the army of skyscrapers under construction in nearly every city across the country. It's worth noting that this 96.4% is up 12 points from last year. Three things strike me here.

One is that most of the industry is very optimistic, primarily due to the impact of the Trump Administration. Most firms are reporting a strong backlog. Consider also that this sentiment is currently being fueled by positive private sector sentiment, as opposed to government investment.

Secondly, the construction industry has historically invested more money in marketing when times are good, and slashed it when things tighten up. This is counterintuitive from a marketing standpoint because marketing works best when practiced consistently over time, but it is what is.

Thirdly, the construction industry has come a long way in terms of marketing. I see some content today that's really impressive, compared to what I saw 20-30 years ago. Fraley Construction Marketing is in an exciting position working to drive this trend even higher.


Seeing public relations in the lead for traditional marketing tactics pleasantly surprised me. I tell our clients that PR is one of the most cost-effective ways to achieve a solid return on investment.

E-mail marketing, while classified here as “traditional,” could also be considered an Internet tactic. It ranks high regardless. Perhaps the construction industry sees what I see: a medium where YOU control the audience list, distribution, messaging, and the tracking mechanism.

It's no surprise to see trade show marketing and direct mail at the bottom of the list. Talking to younger people in the industry doesn't leave me hopeful about the long-term prospects for trade shows as we now know them.

I am; however, a bit surprised to see that direct mail plunged 20% to the bottom of the list. There are two main reasons it still works in the construction industry: 1.) A sizeable old school segment of this industry is unreachable through the Internet, and 2.) As print continues to decline, an actual piece of mail stands out more than ever.


Website development scored a whopping 92.9%, which is refreshing to see. The activity we're seeing at Fraley Construction Marketing verifies this trend. There is no more valuable piece of marketing real estate for a construction firm. Whether someone stumbles onto you through Google or searches for you directly, your website is your first online impression, and it better be good.

Speaking of search, 82% of construction firms are pursuing Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is still important, although not quite as important as it once was, due primarily to firms employing underhanded tactics to improve search rankings. Either way, the construction industry has obviously gotten the message that it's critical to be found online.

I'm encouraged to see social media and content marketing ranking so highly. These two tactics represent the future. The construction industry often lags behind when it comes to modern marketing trends, but these numbers are encouraging.


These trends look to be in line also with local SEO leading the pack at 73%. What is local SEO, you ask? It's similar to SEO, but focuses on your geography with keywords that might include town, state, etc. My gut tells me this was driven largely by small residential contractors serving a smaller geography.

Sales prospecting has a commanding presence, of course, at 70.4%. And yet telemarketing is at the bottom of the barrel with 26.9%. Could it be that e-mail and texting are beginning to supplant phone calls in the construction industry? It's possible. I think you're also beginning to see inbound marketing getting traction as firms create content, tune up websites, and try to improve search rankings to get the phones ringing.

Notice that lead services are struggling. This is the Construction Marketing Straight Talker so it's time for brutal honesty. Some of these lead services are useless. That's not just the opinion of a guy that's used them personally; I hear it from contractors all the time. You pay a large fee, sometimes monthly, and you get mediocre leads. The fact that sales prospecting is so high and lead services are so low could mean that contractors are taking matters into their own hands.


Political change, federal and state regulations, and the overall economy are all interconnected. Despite some unrest and negative media coverage, the construction industry seems optimistic about the new Trump administration. This is no surprise considering his interest in tax reform, streamlining of regulations, and infrastructure investment, and P3.

Workforce development remains a critical concern for most of the construction industry. Technologies such as automation are slowly closing the gap, but the industry still needs more qualified labor. Now is the time to make sure workforce development is among the objectives of your construction firm's marketing strategy.

There won't be a need to preach about the importance of investing in marketing this year. The bigger issue will be to make sure you're investing in the right strategies and tactics.

For now, most of the construction industry has a hefty backlog, a steady flow of leads, and a positive economic outlook. But we also know that a downturn in the economy will return at some point.

Positive times like these present an opportunity to build the kind of solid marketing infrastructure that will keep your firm sustainable regardless of economic conditions. Invest today and thrive tomorrow.

Click here to view the complete 2017 Construction Marketing Outlook Survey Results

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