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Friday, September 26, 2008

How should a builder market to designers and architects (2)

Yesterday, Jeremy Hartje of James Hartje Construction Inc. in Santa Cruz, CA, received several answers to his question about how he could effectively market his general contracting services to local designers. Here are some additional thoughtful observations on this topic from Society for Marketing Professional Services members and a well-regarded Canadian architect.

Daniel J. Caldwell, Principal at Stout & Caldwell Consulting Engineers & Surveyors ( in Cinaminson, NJ, wrote:

  • With six field workers and three office employees, I think that you/they have already established a reputation. What you need to find out is if that reputation is a good one or not a good one (and be 100 per cent honest with yourself)
  • Once you have that established, it's easy
  • If the reputation is not a good one, you need to fix that first by addressing whatever issues may be causing it, i.e. problem employees, poorly maintained equipment, cost overruns etc.
  • If the reputation is a good one, invite some of your best clients to the program and have them showcase the project you did for them. Let them sing your praises, you really shouldn't have to. You just be there to answer questions that may come up
  • People, by nature, love referrals and love to hire people who are referred to them.
Rose Walsh, Business Development at Nolte Associates, Inc. ( in Sacramento, wrote:
To misquote the real estate business: Benefits, benefits, benefits!

We have had a variety of subconsultants provide similar presentations over lunch/breakfast. It's a great initial networking tool (everyone likes free food) and much easier to learn about a new firm/service. However, if you don't have work/leads for us, why should we send work your way instead of someone else (prior relationship)? Have you thought about your follow up plan?
Pamela Rigling Caffrey, Director of Marketing, John Poe Architects, Inc., in Dayton, OH, adds:
If a general contractor ever gave me a lead that I didn't know about or opened the door for my firm into a project, I would FOREVER inform said contractor about any project opportunities I could offer them. Forever. And ever. The same would be true for engineering consultants.

Please consider that an open offer...
Finally, Canadian architect John Davies, in Ottawa, offers these thoughts (which will have special relevance to Canadian contractors):

With regard to your residential contractor inquiry:
  1. there are two major construction sectors at this level - residential and Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI)
  2. the ICI sector predominantly secures contracts through the formal bidding process.
  3. the residential sector predominantly secures contracts by way of negotiation or less formal bidding procedures
  4. the best way to get the attention of architects is to convince them that the contractor:
  1. Is skilled
  2. Exhibits impeccable craftsmanship
  3. Is financially secure (even bonded) and pays his trades promptly
  4. Has a catalog of good references relating to successfully completed work (both Owners and Trade Contractors).
  5. Can illustrate that all his projects have been completed on time and on budget - again with references.
  6. Is properly insured with appropriate levels of coverage ... Worker's Comp.; General Liability; Property and Boiler; Owned and Non-Owned Vehicles; Equipment; Errors and Omissions (if a design component is included in the product - also possesses a MMA license number)
  7. Is registered with the Ontario New Homes Warranty Plan
  8. Has worked with architects on previous occasions and can give references.
  9. Has no outstanding claims or lawsuits pending ... and
  10. Takes his shoes off when entering peoples homes and in all areas of the work that are not under construction.
"Mark ... if he follows the above he won't go far wrong - with me anyway!", Davies wrote

What can you learn from these observations: No direct marketing piece will substitute for personal contact and relationships; and nothing works better in relationship development than the expression of your reputation/referrals, and your spirit of generosity and sharing. And I wouldn't under-rate John Davies' light hearted final remark about taking your shoes off! Courtesy, respect and sensitivity to the ultimate clients are undoubtedly important in this business. These are basic principals and underlie most successful marketing within the industry.

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