To be a passable marketer today, you need to understand the product or service you offer, devise some sort of promotion, and discover and appreciate the people you serve.
If you want to carve out space as an effective (or even better, inventive) marketer, tack on proof that you’re driving awareness, supporting sales, and influencing repeat and referred business. But how can you accomplish excellence as a marketer in a non-typical, overlooked, or even forgotten about industry?
Tips for marketing in an unconventional industry
My job is pretty relatable—I’m a marketing director at a SaaS startup. As most startup marketers can appreciate, I work with a scrappy, devoted, mixed team of experts and generalists. We work tirelessly to build a brand and attract people through our mission. We support our teams to build new products, sell more, and create the ultimate customer experience.
It all sounds fairly standard...until you factor in who we market to. It’s a profession that often goes often unnoticed and a market that tends to fly under the radar: construction technology.
Worth $10 trillion globally, construction is ripe with opportunity. Growth has been waning for decades due to inefficiency, but technology is emerging as a solution to rectify that loss and makeup time. My team works with project teams and organizations looking to close the gap on waste and make their contributions invaluable in record time.
After explaining what market I work in, I typically receive one of two distinct reactions. The first is emphatic excitement by people connected to the industry who find the idea of construction technology for field teams fascinating. The other is a pacifying head nod that signals that the person I’m talking to is blissfully unaware of the opportunity I have. This often sends me into a marketing-focused chat where I do my best to pepper in new, buzz-worthy strategies, like influencer marketing or local SEO, to hint that I’m an industry veteran, excited to bring more than just the Ps of marketing into play. What I’ve figured out is that because I work in such a robust but neglected category, and I have a unique opportunity.
Marketing in an industry like construction is similar to so many other underrated industries. As consumers, we tend to focus on CPG, higher education, pharma, and even consumer-facing tech like social media—you know, the things that take a front-row seat in our everyday lives. However, it’s the uniqueness of my industry that makes my job that much more exciting (and challenging at the same time).
Harmonizing new-age marketing efforts with classic industries isn’t for the weak. It takes a strong filter to know what opportunities to accept, and more importantly, reject. It takes a curious, patient ear to understand why the industries of yesteryear seem to cling to the good old days of marketing efforts. It also takes some guts to do things that others haven’t tried.
If you find yourself in a marketing role supporting an unusual industry, here are some tips on how to effectively market to your audience.
Use old tactics
What’s considered old in terms of traditional marketing is experiencing a general rebirth right now. What’s interesting is that traditional marketing never seemed to lose its steam or impact to these supposedly unconventional audiences. The reason traditional marketing efforts are so in demand right now is largely due to saturation and overly complex strategies plaguing the entire marketing and sales industries.
For unconventional markets, there are traditional avenues to reach that that feel trusted and familiar. In fact, many of these effective distribution methods are similar to what they experience daily in their industry, and they welcome anything that echoes their cultural norm. Some traditional things to consider investing in are direct mailers, promotional items, print advertisements, plain-text email outreach, and intimate events.
Try new tactics
One of the most energizing things about marketing in an unorthodox community is being able to tap into some of the hot trends once they’ve been tested and proven slightly. A great example is social media. Now that social media marketing is nearly a decade old, there are advancements and strategies that make implementing a paid or organic social media strategy instantly impactful and unique in these industries.
Digital marketing as a whole is still relatively new in most unconventional industries, so things like Google AdWords’ dynamic display ads are profoundly interesting and worth a try. Additionally, technological advancements such as chatbots on your website, customer marketing to capture feedback and reviews, publicized corporate giving initiatives, and email signature marketing can amplify both traditional and new elements.
Dream, test, assess, repeat
Using new and old strategies and tactics isn’t enough—you need to make sure that they’re aligned with the industry you’re hoping to impact. For instance, using a chatbot on our website isn’t enough. We need to understand that by the time people make their way to our site, in order for us to best serve them we need to get a few details,—then we know that they’d rather hear from a person versus continue a conversation through an automated bot.
From there, we get really specific with what our strategy is and who it’s for, and we write that down. It’s incredibly easy to stray from a plan when it’s just spoken about, but if we put a particular person, location, and motivation down on paper it helps prove (or disprove) the hypothesis, share it, and to have a resource to go back to.
And then, we test. AdWords, intimate community gatherings, and even one-off messages on LinkedIn work immediately (and inexpensively) to get the process moving with experts, friends, and industry natives. Customers are also an underutilized and exceptional pool of people to run ideas by and get feedback about those who we are ultimately trying to reach. Find your die-hard, amazing customers and cash in a favor to get their unfettered opinion.
Pro tip: use customer asks sparingly and in rotation. You don’t want to go to only a few customers and wear out your welcome. Conversely, you need to get a variety of feedback, and you’ll never achieve that with a small, repeated segment of users.
Additionally, ask in-house. Our organization has made a concerted effort to hire people from the construction industry in order to create a more dynamic environment. It’s great to get their in-field expertise and feedback. If you haven’t already, encourage leadership to invest in people that have exposure in the industry you market to and want to come in-house to help build something different.
Make sure it’s working
Key performance indicators (KPIs) in marketing are so much more than impressions and clicks. Be really clear on what the (hopeful) outcome is. It can be sales, referrals, or just making a more meaningful and personal connection with your customers or prospects. Whatever it is, understand what the outcome needs to be in order to iterate on ideas and repeat.
Keep it simple
Uncommon industries don’t have any room for jargon or insincerity. Often, they’re more skeptical than other groups and demand clear and concise language to even consider absorbing marketing efforts. This impacts everything from your brand persona to the content in your blog and advertising copy. It trickles into sales pitches and training documents.
Beyond just simplicity, it’s also imperative that the brand as a whole identifies as a comrade in arms rather than overtly declaring self-approved leadership and authority. The best way to earn your right as a leader in a niche space is through proof of success and satisfied customers (in their own words). Try taking reviews you receive and using them to spawn things like advertisements and blog posts.
Effective marketing isn’t always conventional
We constantly work to educate ourselves in the details of construction so we can engage and empathize while simultaneously utilizing ever-advancing, adventurous marketing trends and tools. If you’re motivated by the opportunity of bettering a community, these tips and processes will help you get started, but they are no replacement for having a deep and passionate understanding of who you are reaching, and why you want to connect with them. That should be at the root of all effective marketing—conventional industry, or not.
No matter what industry you’re in, marketing analytics software can tell you how effective your strategies are.
Jen loves integrated strategy and bold thinking. She bites off all things creative from flow to images and content. She’s a leader in shaping the most passionate teams. And the cherry on top? She spends money like a champ both online and in real life. Her stories are epic (at least her dog approves) and at the end of the day, the proof is in more than numbers, but in her relationships. The best part? If she doesn’t know something, she finds a way to learn it immediately.