Enhancing Marketing Concepts of Construction Firms

Abstract

The marketing of construction companies has evolved. Even though still facing numerous difficulties due to historical aspects of the industry, the changing business environment means that an option of avoiding marketing is detrimental to the growth of the industry. It is also observed that the image of the employees and must be boosted to ensure an effective shot at marketing efforts. In this perspective, what is the role of managers, potential employees, and the perspective of the clients in enhancing the marketing strategies in the construction industry? In other words, the management aspect of it relies on the ability of the managers to enhance skills, creativity, energies, and images of the employees to boost marketability. This is important because it is observed that people form the bedrock of marketing, especially those who are in direct contact with the company like employees. Questionnaires will be used to collect data from employees of construction firms, functional managers, potential employees (public), and clients (contracting organizations). The aim is to ensure that a proper marketing boost strategy is built to make marketing construction products more appealing than they are currently. This will be done through knowledge of the roles played by the employees, managers, clients, and prospective employees.

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Introduction

For many years construction sector was treated as a ‘special and different’ industry, as it was considered ‘unmarketable’ by those in the marketing industry (Honess, 1997). Furthermore, there were few marketing degrees and training courses that were relevant to the construction sector. However, presently business development managers and salespeople have adapted sales skills and learned lessons from other sectors that share similar features: hotel business, aircraft, and ship construction among many sectors (Honess, 1997).

Interestingly, it is evident how the construction industry is viewed less favorably, coming only second to the oil industry. In a recent survey, about 60% of the respondents of 15-17-year-olds believe working in construction is being a ‘builder’, with the notion that the works involved are like bricklaying or being electrician (McDougall, 2004). What is the reason for this poor image of the construction industry?

Research Questions

  1. How can the skills, creativity, energies, and images of the employees be enhanced to boost marketing?
  2. What is the role of managers in this poor image of the construction sector?
  3. What is the role of managers in enhancing marketing strategies for the industry?
  4. What role do potential employees play in enhancing the marketing construction industry?
  5. How do clients view marketing strategies employed by the companies?

The image of a company as represented by the public, comprising of potential employees provides the base for the future of the industry (Howcroft, 1993). Marsha & Adlaka (1992) states that many companies do not use the full palette of marketing and sales tools but employ their image through what they do and build themselves through public image (p.34).

Literature Review

Marsha & Adlaka (1992) state that ideal sales and marketing should be seamless and be part of the picture linked through the management of the firm. In other words, marketing management bridges the gap between sales and marketing, bonding the urgency and importance through that role (Parasuraman, et al., 1985). Smyth (2000.p.122) says that the dimension of marketing construction services is based on consistent management at the corporate level and market management through employees who represent the company by their public image. According to Levitt, cited in Smyth (2000, p.124) states, “the purpose of marketing is to create and keep a customer”. As Eugene & Anderson (2006) observed, management is all about people, who are known to make the difference. In his study, he summarized that people are the differentiating variables in construction and consulting services (Eugene & Anderson, 2006, p.565). In his view, other traditional variables in marketing such as place of delivery and procurement route are determined by the client and the product as designed by the team of designers, and can never be influenced by the contractor (Eugene & Anderson, 2006).

One would therefore ask: how can the skills, creativity, energies, and image of people be harnessed for marketing and selling in the best way. According to Gummesson (2007), it’s the management changes that are important in enhancing the marketing of the construction companies. In his empirical studies, he found out that few management changes in the recent past have been accompanied by changes in structures (Gummesson, 2007). In his view, there have been a series of management changes that have affected all sectors, including construction. It, therefore, means that the construction sector has been forced to respond to the management changes, where one major factor has been dominant: the mechanization of office work through the introduction of information technology (Andreassen, 2005).

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Many studies reveal that any positive change in the construction industry will only come with the empowerment of staff to accept delegation with responsibility for decision making and central support. Andreassen (2005, p.122) observes that proper management of the construction firms relies wholly on the decentralization of management and financial accountability. Eugene & Anderson (2006) on the other hand see success in construction industry marketing through “centralization of policies as well as financial control”. Holmlund & Kock (1996) claim that autocratic organizations have found it more difficult to adjust and embrace the changing business environment. Unfortunately, many contracting consultants are found in this category (Honess, 1997). The implication here is that serious adjustments demand a more flexible approach. Holmlund & Kock (1996) observe that successful adjustments require a greater level of teamwork, especially across functional departments. A typical example would be where sales effort to a prospective client during the discussion in the pre-qualification stages leads to high-quality specification design–and–build project, a scenario that is rarely displayed to estimating department during the pricing stage of the contract negotiation (Holmlund & Kock, 1996).

Reflections

The study will rely on the results from administration of questionnaires to employees, functional managers of construction companies, and individuals who have participated in the tender committees of contracting firms. However, construction industry stakeholders have been known to be mechanistic, with inability to respond both flexibly and adequately. Effective management is linked to communication and that communication is identified as a major problem for most people in workplace. Smyth (2000) states that management and communication issues represent 75% of all problems that face researchers in construction industry; very few stakeholders are willing to actively participate in the interview process. Such a trend may present a challenge for the successful completion of this study. This is perpetuated by the fact that insufficient communication in construction industry is an international concern for many in the construction industry. This is because the stakeholders are not known to discuss issues openly, preferring to keep most information to the relevant authority. This is likely to jeopardize information gathering.

Today, marketing is dominated by the marketing mix approach of 4Ps, with primary ingredients of: Product, Place, Promotion, and Price. In principle, blending these variables provides that basis of the market place offer. However, product and place are typically not in the domain of the contractor. To some extent, this also applies to architects and design engineers, because consultants will only wait until the contract is secured to complete their design work. In theory, price has been primary focus for any contract negotiation. However, in the perspective of a marketing mix, a final price and the final professional fee has little to do with estimated or original tender price in most cases. Yet in practice, price has been a powerful tool of selection among clients.

The development and administration of research tool (questionnaires) is likely to expose some ethical issues in the process. At forefront is the nature of the industry as represented by historical knowledge; the targeted respondents are likely to be anxious and in the long run withhold important information on some issues (Morse, 2001). This may be as a result of inability to observe things differently as there is a general belief that construction industry is a special and unique industry. The other aspect is the fear of intimidation by their employers, especially if they reveal some specific company details. To counter the possibility of such a problem occurring, a proper and sound scientific approach will be used to ensure safety of the all respondents and a follow up be done where necessary (Morse, 2001). Care will also be taken to avoid such problems as misinterpretation and exploitation of the respondents.

Conclusion

When a construction company negotiates with a potential client for the first time, it is critical to note that the company would possibly sell their track record, size of the company, reputation, financial stability, quality of service, and many more. In reality, this area that places a company at a competitive advantage is based on management. As stated earlier, management is all about people. The recognition that management of Construction Company begins with selling of the product is a sure way of knowing what is critical in this industry. It places the roles of managers and employees of a construction companies at the center of everything; selling being the center of all activities to improve image of the company. It is people who add value and create competitive prices, thus an image created by an employee will be critical in enhancing the marketability of the company. Although construction companies do not practice the 4Ps of marketing mix to the latter, it is notable that it occupies critical part of marketing the new construction firms. The study will therefore focus on the important response from the respondents on the need to boost the marketability of the construction industry. Strategies to build image will be analyzed to establish the areas of weaknesses for further analysis. By knowing the role of employees, managers, potential employees in addition to the view or perspective of the clients on the marketing roles and effectiveness, it is expected that the marketing soft point for construction companies will be unlocked.

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Reference

Andreassen, T.W. (2005) Service Marketing: People, Technology, Strategy. International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol.16, Issue 1, pp.122-124.

Eugene R & Anderson, R. (2006) How effective Are Public Policy Decisions? Genral Evalaution Model, Volume 4, pp.554-565.

Gummesson, E. (2007) Quality of products and services- a tentative synthesis between two models. Research Report 87: 3, Karlstad. University of Karlstad.

Holmlund, M. & Kock S. (1996) Relationship banking: the importance of customer perceived service quality in retail-banking. The Service Industries Journal, Vol. 16, pp.287-296.

Honess, S. (1997) Marketing for Construction Firms. London. Institute of Civil Engineering.

Howcroft, B. (1993) Staff perceptions of service quality in a UH Clearing Bank: some empirical findings. International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol.4 No.4, pp.5-26.

Marsha, T. & Adlaka, V. (1992) Attributes of service quality: the consumers’ perspective, Internationa Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 3 No.3, pp.34-47.

McDougall, G. (2004) A revised view of service quality dimensions: an empirical investigation, Journal of Professional Services Marketing, Vol. 11 No.1, pp.189-210.

Morse J.M. (2001) Are there risks in qualitative research? Qualitative Health Research. Vol.11:3-4.

Parasuraman, A., Zeithaml, A. & Berry L (1985) A conceptual model of service quality and its implications for future research, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 49 pp.41-50.

Smyth, H. (2000). Marketing and Selling Construction Services. New York. Wiley Publishers. Pp. 121-129.

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