The Market At A Glance
7.2 million construction workers held wage and salary jobs in 2008
1.8 million were self-employed or unpaid family workers
68% of construction establishments employ fewer than five people
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Men (And Women) At Work
• 2 million: Number of building equipment contractors
• 987,000: Foundation, structure and building exterior contractors
• 970,000: Number of workers in heavy and civil engineering construction
• 912,000: Building finishing contractors
• 832,000: Residential construction
• 827,000: Nonresidential construction
• 661,000: Other specialty trade contractors
• 451,000: Utility system construction
• 328,000: Highway, street and bridge construction
• 109,000: Other heavy and civil engineering construction
• 80,000: Land subdivision
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Three Main Segments
1. Building construction: These contractors build residential, industrial, commercial and other buildings
2. Heavy and civil engineering construction: These contractors build sewers, roads, highways, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure projects
3. Specialty trade construction: These contractors perform specialized activities including carpentry, painting, plumbing and electrical work
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Lessons From A Construction Pro Turned Promo Consultant
Karen Lubinski has nearly 20 years under her belt working for a construction supply company. Now, as an account executive for Boundless Network (UPIC: Bound784) in Addison, Texas, she’s on the other side of the bulldozers, pitching promotional products to a client base that’s 97-percent construction-related. Here are her insider tips on …
Knowing the market: “Don’t sell something to plumbers that dry-wallers would want. It’s offensive to them because it shows you don’t know their industry.”
Who to pitch: “I focus on subcontractors because there’s not as much red tape. With general contractors, you have to bid everything out. Also, subcontractors tend to spend more than people think.”
What to pitch: “This market is product-driven. They’ll call and say: ‘I need hats and jackets for my safety program.’ About 75 percent is apparel—especially camo and hunting items. They can get safety equipment from their supply houses.”
Being prepared for anything: “At a client meeting, a guy stood up and tried on a shirt sample I brought in. He didn’t have a t-shirt on underneath, and I thought: Thank God I don’t sell pants!”
Get bonus insight from Karen here.
How I Did It: Promoting A Heavy-Equipment Manufacturer
My client, Case IH, a manufacturer of heavy agricultural equipment, wanted a giveaway with universal appeal for its summer farm shows. Bandannas were the perfect choice because they’re so historic.
I combined traditional paisley and bandanna art elements and injected line drawings of combines and tractors. In this case, they are specific Case IH models.
Case IH has a team of people who work the shows, and they hand out bandannas to people who come through their booth. People will come back looking specifically for each year’s bandanna. The power of people’s desire to collect things is evident when you have a strong brand such as Case IH or John Deere. Once people get it, they remember it.
The bandannas are always a huge success. We get requests post-show for more. This is an affordable, effective giveaway—it’s something people really like. We do 5,000-10,000 every year.
The Case IH brand has been around a long time, so it’s a perfect fit. If I gave away USB drives to farmers and people involved in the agricultural community, it wouldn’t make sense. It’s a violation of their brand; it doesn’t marry well with their consumers. A bandanna fits right into that lifestyle. If the goal is to get people through your booth, then it accomplishes this and more.
—Tom Berry, managing director for Kenosha, Wisconsin-based distributor Promo540 (UPIC: Pro540)
Bandannas from Caro-Line (UPIC: BANDANNA) helped promote Case IH at an annual farm show. © CASE IH is a registered trademark of CNH America, LLC
Eight Sales Strategies For The Construction Market
1. Don’t wait—pitch the market now. “Because the construction market is down, now’s the best time to pitch cost-efficient marketing ideas,” says Forrest Fairley, director of promotional products for distributor Deluxe (UPIC: NEB00001) in Shoreview, Minnesota, and Dallas, Texas. “As a small-business owner, you need to advertise now so that customers know who to turn to when things turn around.”
2. Offer low minimums. “We work with preferred vendors that allow us to offer small minimums to one-man construction companies,” Fairley says. “We think of them as one-man road warriors—guys who are running the business from inside their truck.”
3. Touch base often. “Don’t wait for clients to reach out to you, as everyone is so busy. Staying ahead of their needs is a real challenge,” says Grandee Ann Ray, president of Charleston, South Carolina-based distributor Grand Ideas, Inc. (UPIC: Grand213). “What these clients need isn’t on their radar until they look at their calendars and realize they have an important event at which they’ll need branded products.”
4. Show your expertise. “When we’re designing apparel, we think of how the apparel will be worn. Everything you do should be thoughtful about the best way to get the imprint seen,” Fairley says. “This helps you establish credibility and trustworthiness.”
5. Keep a laser-like focus on details. “If the embroidery placement isn’t exactly centered, if the PMS color doesn’t match exactly or if the imprint isn’t exactly straight, don’t present,” Ray says. “If there is any kind of flaw, this group of professionals will find it.”
6. Be consultative. “Don’t assume that your customer knows everything about what we are selling to them, because they don’t,” Fairley advises. “Find out what their challenges are and create campaigns and strategies in line with those needs. The worst thing you can do is sell a company 600 widgets, and when you check back in, there are still 500 left. You haven’t done your job if this happens to you. Products have no value if they’re not being used.”
7. Learn how to overcome budget issues. “Communicate to them that this a good use of their precious resources. Find a way to track back revenue as a direct correlation to the money they spent,” suggests Fairley.
8. Don’t skimp on quality. “With discretionary spending being tightened up, we’ve seen that people aren’t as sensitive to the price of each item,” Fairley notes. “They’re willing to spend for top-quality items.”
ABOVE Forrest Fairley (left) and Grandee Ann Ray
A Different Angle
Instead of safety items, think apparel and promotional items with a construction edge.
1. Available in camo sand and camo green, the Anvil Adult Camo Tee is made for the outdoors. Shoulder-to-shoulder taping and double-needle stitching on the neck, sleeves and hem ensure it will last.
Heritage Sportswear, Inc. UPIC: HERI0002 800-537-2222 www.heritagesportswear.com The promotional pros say: “A lot of hunting goes on in the construction industry, so look at camo apparel.” —Karen Lubinski of Boundless Network
2. The cultured-stone steps on the Cornerstone Award reflect the rise from start to finish of a project, whether it’s the completion of a neighborhood or a hospital building.
Crystal D UPIC: CRYSTALD 800-544-1131 www.crystal-d.com
3. In the construction market, business gets done on the golf course. Men are polished and ready to play in the adidas Golf ClimaLite® Polo, which is a breathable blend of cotton and polyester.
Broder Bros. UPIC: BRODER 800-521-0850 www.broderbros.com
The promotional pros say: “Know your customer. Engineers, architects and corporate leadership will likely prefer high-end, moisture-wicking golf shirts.” —Grandee Ann Ray of Grand Ideas, Inc.
4. Complete with a silver alloy back and front cover, the SeminarPad lends itself well to the construction market. It includes 100 sheets of ruled, recycled paper.
Journalbooks/Timeplanner Calendars UPIC: journals 800-438-3800 www.journalbooks.com
5. Keep staffers warm on the job site with Color-Block Soft Shell Jackets, which feature fleece-lined collars, interior storm plackets with fleece chin guards and two concealed lower pockets lined with brushed tricot.
Ash City UPIC: ash0001 866-274-2489 www.ashcity.com The promotional pros say: “One of the biggest challenges is remembering there are women in the construction business. When I worked in it, I hated getting a guy’s shirt or jacket.” —Karen Lubinski of Boundless Network