For most people, renovating or building a home is a very, very big deal. They may plan to do it only once or twice in their lifetimes – or never. Residential construction is expensive, requires numerous decisions, and – perhaps most importantly – it is personal. When a homeowner selects a builder for a major renovation or a custom home, he or she is trusting that builder to fulfill his/her dreams for that home. (Speaking from personal experience, when you are living through a major renovation, you also have to feel comfortable having your builder see you in your robe when the crew shows up surprisingly early.)
Marketing residential construction services provide some unique challenges because you are marketing both a product and a service. Prospective clients need to see the type of work that you do (your product), but they also are buying your experience, your approach, your reputation, your customer service, and your value. It’s no wonder that word-of-mouth referrals remain a significant source of leads for most successful builders, even in this age of online marketing.
The key to developing an effective marketing program for residential construction services is to start with a well-conceived positioning strategy. Think of your positioning strategy as what sets you apart from your competitors in the eyes of your client. Your positioning develops a personality for your company in the marketplace and helps guide the development of marketing initiatives.
For example, here in the Boston area, some builders are known for their work on historic renovations, others are known for their high-end work, others are the go-to builder in certain neighborhoods, and so on. These builders already have a public personality. They can choose to establish a positioning strategy that reinforces the existing company brand or develop a strategy to help them shift into a new market position.
Consider these factors when developing your positioning strategy:
1. Your Target Audience
What size jobs are optimal for your firm? What geographic areas are best? What are the demographics of your target audience? The right answers for your firm will depend upon the size of your firm, the expertise you have both on staff and among subcontractors, competition within particular market niches, and your experience.
2. Core Criteria for Your Target Audience
Once you’ve established the target audience for your marketing, you need to know the factors that are most important in their selection of a residential construction firm. Do they want the very best in design and quality, or are they price sensitive? Do they value constant communication and updates, or do they prefer a more hands-off approach to getting the job done? The more you know about your target audience and their decision-making triggers, the better you can hone your marketing messages and your business policies.
3. Current Positioning
Do you already have visibility in front of your target audience? If so, how are you positioned? If you are known for relatively modest home renovations, it will be very difficult to make a case for why you should be considered to build a high-end addition or custom home. Similarly, if you are known for meticulous historic work, it may be difficult to break into the market for renovations to contemporary condos in luxury skyscrapers. Consider why you are positioned where you are: Was it a well-thought-out strategy or happenstance? Do your marketing channels and messages reinforce a particular position in the marketplace?
4. Positioning Changes
Are you positioned where you need to be or will you need to make service or messaging changes to reach your target audience effectively? Think about the message that you are conveying through your website, job signage, advertising, Houzz profile, social media, and other marketing channels. Is it compelling for your target audience? For example, if your target audience is primarily well-educated, affluent, Millennial homeowners, you need to make sure that you provide lots of quality photography, concise information, and links to review sites (testimonials won’t cut it) to meet their need for visual interest, authenticity, easy-to-consume research, and social proof.
A well-thought-out positioning strategy sets the foundation for all marketing efforts. Armed with the knowledge of your target audiences, their core criteria, and the direction that you want to move your residential construction firm, you have a leg up on selecting the marketing approaches and messages that will resonate with your prospective clients and ultimately set you apart.