Published On: Tue, Sep 18th, 2018

Coming to terms with the changing landscape of marketing

Marketing for companies operating in the fenestration sector has always been extremely competitive in both the retail and trade environments. However, there has been a recent sea-change as organisations come to terms with the opportunities provided by online platforms and social media. When targeting the retail market online, tradesmen directories such as ‘Check A Trade’ and ‘Rated People’ and social media platforms such as ‘Facebook’ have become essential components of a firm’s marketing activity. Although it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out on such platforms, consumers are drawn to these areas in their initial searches for tradesmen. Nonetheless, savvy homeowners are becoming less trusting of these platforms and still rely heavily on a first-hand personal recommendation when seeking a home improvement professional.

In the trade market the story is very similar, where tradesmen look more favourably on tried and tested methods of engagement and sources of information. Recent research has revealed only 10-15% of tradespeople use social media, while a survey by Close Brothers Asset Finance showed that only 32% of SMEs in the UK have a social media strategy in place. This is not likely to change soon because only 37% of those surveyed answered ‘yes’ to the question ‘do you see the commercial value of social media in your business?’ I am constantly engaging with tradesmen, and I hear the same response across all age groups on their social media usage. ‘If I have time I may look, but I am busy in the day on-site and rely on catalogues and printed information for product information.’

Coming to terms with the changing landscape of marketing in construction-related markets is a massive challenge. It is important the mix is right and doesn’t alienate segments by assuming what is effective in the retail market is transferable to the trade. Organisation such as Screwfix and Toolstation, that are at the forefront of marketing to tradespeople, have acknowledged the needs of their customers. Printed catalogues and newsletters are vital in their engagement with customers; they also see online marketing as essential in the ordering process. What is evident is that printed activities and online capabilities work hand in hand, but we should not lose sight of the intended audience. Also, it’s good to talk, so never underestimate the power of a telephone call in the overall customer-service process. John Cowie – Editor