Three years ago, I attended a marketing conference in Las Vegas called the MarketingSherpa Summit. Some of the largest and best companies in the world attend each year to improve their marketing, and I was excited at what I would learn to bring back to our team at HCSS.
During one of the keynotes, they presented the Best in Show Award to the healthcare company Optum, and we listened for 45 minutes as they interviewed the head of marketing about all of the impressive ways Optum markets to their customers.
As I sat there listening, my mind drifted a little to think about the creative people on our marketing team, and some of the ideas we were excited about to tell the story of HCSS and its customers. I remember thinking it would be fun to apply for the Best in Show award, and if I did, I would title the submission “Make Your Customer the Hero.”
Fast-forward a year to the 2017 Marketing Sherpa Summit, and I was proud to represent our team on stage as we won the Best in Show award.
So why did we win, and why am I telling you this story?
We won for a few different reasons. One was that we had great team of creative marketers, who were good at telling stories. Another reason is that HCSS has incredible customers, and most people are interested in learning more about construction.
The main reason, though, was that we decided to get over ourselves, and to quit making HCSS and its products the focus of our marketing. Instead, we made our customers the hero of our story, through creative campaigns like I Build America, the Construction Intern Awards, and the Most Interesting Project contest. >>Read more about our campaigns
And I’m telling you the story because I know you can do the same for your company, and I hope that you will.
How to Make Your Customer the Hero
If you really want to make your customer the hero, my first tip would be to do the opposite of what feels right. We’ve been taught that marketing is all about talking about ourselves, our company, and our product or service. And the more adjectives, fluffy statements, and creative taglines we use, the better. As consumers, we don’t pay attention to this type of marketing when we buy, so I’m not sure why companies market that way. So first, do the opposite of what feels right and talk about your customers instead of the thing that you do or make.
How could you do the opposite and make your customer the hero when marketing a construction company? Here are a few examples, and if you know of others, please share them with me:
Goal – Attract Great People to Work at Your Company
Typical way: Create a careers page on your website that talks about how great your company is, how good the culture is, and list all of your benefits and training opportunities. Great information, but this is what everyone else does and your company is the hero of the story.
Opposite way: Make your employees the hero, and feature them on your careers page. Take a few of your best ones and do a feature story on them. Show how important they are, and how they are building a great life for themselves working at your company. If you’re posting on social media, do posts about your employees instead of your company.
Example: Turner Mining Group is a rapidly growing mining contractor and they need to hire lots of employees. Instead of talking about how great his company is, Keaton Turner talks about one of his employees and makes him the hero of this LinkedIn post.
Does doing the opposite work? Keaton had 231 comments and more than 105,000 views on his post, and he’s hired over 100 employees on social media this year. I’ve never met Keaton, but I’m a huge fan and he “gets it.”
Goal – Get More Work By Showing the Projects You’ve Built
Typical way: Create a Projects page on your website with examples of the different types of projects you’ve built with some photos, stats, and maybe even video footage. Again, good information, but you’ve just marketed your company the exact same way as every other company.
Opposite way: Make your customers the hero of your projects story. Put the spotlight on the project owner, and what they were trying to accomplish. Show the impact that this project will make on the local community. Or spotlight a group of your employees, or a subcontractor that played a key role in the project.
Example: Middlesex is a fantastic contractor on the east coast specializing in the heavy civil and paving industries. They recently rebuilt the Kenneth F. Burns Memorial Bridge in Worcester, MA, and they have an excellent project page covering the bridge project including the photo below.
This project won the I Build America Impact Award in 2017, and the HCSS video crews created this video to showcase the award. Notice how Middlesex is featured in the video, but the spotlight and hero of the story is the city, the impact the bridge will have on the local citizens, and even the man for whom the bridge is named.
Goal – Show That Your Company is a Safe Place to Work
Typical way: Create a Safety page on your website, and talk about your safety program and safety culture. Maybe give your safety program a slogan or acronym, and show your safety statistics and awards. This is useful information, and I would never make fun of the incredible work that companies do to keep their employees safe. But this is the same way that every other company is marketing their safety program.
Opposite way: Make some of your employees the heroes of your safety story. Maybe do a spotlight feature on one of them that is really embracing your safety program. If you are trying to encourage a particular aspect like near miss or safety observation reporting, maybe do a feature story about an employee that spoke up when they saw something that could have caused an accident.
Example: I showed this last week, but it’s worth giving again. Achen-Gardner talks about its safety program by making their safety director, Cesar Martinez, the hero of their story.
Final Example – BuildWitt.com
I now work with Aaron Witt, one of the top photographers and social media influencers in construction. We’re working hard to build a different kind of construction marketing agency at BuildWitt Media Group, specifically focused on the heavy civil and mining industries. Aaron is a unique person, and he seems to focus on customers almost naturally.
Our Goal – Grow Our Marketing Agency and Help the Construction Industry Recruit the Next Generation of Workers
Typical way: The normal way to market an agency is to create a services page, a portfolio of our past work, and to talk about how we are experts at helping you grow your companies.
Opposite way: Focus on our customers and make them the hero of our story. Customers that want to work with us will find us, even though we aren’t aggressively marketing our company.
Example: When we built our new BuildWitt website, we specifically wanted to make our customers the hero of our story, so we dedicated 90% of the site to highlighting the fantastic people, companies, equipment and technology that are changing the industry.
If you have other examples of where companies are making their customers the hero of their story, I would love to hear about them. Please email me directly at email@example.com.
Tune in over the coming weeks as I share more tips and lessons about construction marketing. To get each one delivered to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter at buildwittstag.wpengine.com.