The Ultimate Guide to Construction Content
Updated: Jan 9, 2020
Who reads what, when? In my last post, I briefly touched on the content that may be interesting to your audience, but here I’ll go into more detail about what types of content interest these audiences at various times.
How interested your audience is in your product and where they are along their buying journey will greatly influence the type of content that they’ll be interested in at a given time. Much like how you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you as soon as you meet them, you’ll want to build a rapport with your readers before you get anywhere near a sale (in whatever form a “sale” takes, such as specifying your products.)
If you’re not familiar with the buying journey, it’s a four-stage process that most customers go through before committing to buy from a company. It’s actually mostly common sense, particularly if you think of your own buying decisions – you can probably recognise these steps in your own purchasing process.
Here’s an overview of the various content types you are likely to produce, and how interested each audience type would be in them depending on how close they are to buying. At the end of the post, you can download a handy cheat sheet of this information, to help you focus your content creation efforts.
A journal article in a popular industry publication is a great way to spread the word about your company and what you do. And by article, I mean a piece written about your projects, and not just an ad – ads have their uses, but a well-written article allows you to demonstrate exactly what your company offers.
If you’re new to the market, this is an indispensable way to reach readers and potential customers. If you’re more experienced but want to refresh people’s memories or give them an update on your latest offerings, this can be a useful way to do it as well.
Do It Yourself
You’ll first need to pitch your idea to the publication you want to be featured in, so you’ll want to make sure that the subject you want to write about will be of interest to that publication’s audience. An editor is unlikely to publish a piece solely about your company offerings without there being something in it for their readers.
Because the publication will want to maintain their reputation, it’s essential that your article is polished and relevant. On top of that, you want to impress your readers, so don’t let typos and poor grammar distract them. Double and triple check your submission before you send it off.
To do this, make sure you have:
An interesting solution to a common industry problem that readers will want to know about
Researched journals that your target audience will read, including editorial contact information and submission guidelines (length, format, etc.)
A good pitch that describes what you want to focus on and why the editor’s readers will want to read it
A well-written article that has been thoroughly proofread
Next to articles, blogs are a great starting point for raising company awareness and building relationships with readers. (If you aren’t sure what the point of a blog is, see this post.)
They are great for the beginning of a customer’s journey while they are researching your company and offerings. The more information that you have on your blog, the better informed your customers will be and the more trustworthy you make your company appear.
Also, continually providing interesting or useful information that keeps your readers coming back to your site or engaging on social media is a great way to keep your company at the forefront of their minds. What qualifies as useful or interesting completely depends on your audience: an engineer might want to know how your pre-cast units are made, while a contractor wants to see examples of your past projects.
Do It Yourself
Getting started with a blog isn’t difficult, but it does need a strategy. Content that is planned and underpinned by a solid strategy is generally better performing than posts that are just off the cuff. That doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible – absolutely include spontaneous news if it fits with your aims – but sticking to a plan will help keep you consistent and in line with your goals.
Because you control the publishing, you can choose the tone and style, and be more informal if you want to. Personally, I feel as though with a journal article there is pressure to be perfect and formal, while a blog is a license to be yourself. Get some inspiration here.
Finally, just writing a blog doesn’t mean people will automatically read it. You’ll need to share it on social media, or even within a link on your email signature (which is a great way to share your content with existing clients). Think about what social media platforms you’ll use, and who will be in charge of them.
To start your blog, consider the following:
Where you will publish your articles: on your own site, on LinkedIn, or another publishing site like Medium
What your strategy and goals will be: the goals of the blog (i.e. more site visitors, increased enquiries, etc.), how you will measure success, who you are writing for, the subjects they want to read about, how often you will publish posts, and who is responsible for writing them
How you will share your posts: which social media platforms you’ll use, and who is responsible for sharing content
The term “white paper” probably brings to mind a lengthy, government-commissioned document about a fairly dry and complex subject, however those aren’t the white papers I’m referring to. White papers – in the marketing sense of the word – are generally found more often in IT and other industries, but they are a valuable selling tool that construction companies can also leverage.
Depending on what you want to achieve, a white paper can educate readers about various buying options, provide thought leadership on industry developments, or provide in-depth technical knowledge – their uses are diverse. Once written, a white paper can become an evergreen resource that continues to draw people to your company for some time.
They are excellent for putting on your website as a free download (thereby attracting visitors or gathering contact details), linking to in your email signature (to attract more business from existing customers), or for handing out at industry exhibitions (far more interesting reading than a data sheet).
Where a white paper falls in the customer journey depends on what the goal of the paper is:
If it’s to educate readers about options in a particular market (of which your product or service is one), it’s likely to fall under raising awareness.
If it’s a thought leadership paper, it could be either customer awareness or maintaining interest.
A technical white paper is likely to be more geared towards helping customers consider their buying options and making their final purchasing decision.
Do It Yourself
A white paper is more than just a longer blog post, making it one of the more difficult options to write in-house without a dedicated content team. Much more thought needs to be put into your goals for the paper and your audience, as this will affect the structure and content. If you haven’t written white papers before, it’s worth getting some advice – at the very least.
Although there are no hard and fast rules, white papers tend to be one of the longer forms of content, typically running into several pages. Within construction, your audiences will tend to be busy people, so a good range to aim for is between 5–10 pages. Mace Group’s Moving to Industry 4.0 – a great example of a thought leadership paper – is 8 pages of text and infographics, discounting the front, back, and reference pages.
You’ll notice that I mention a reference page in the Mace report, and that is because a lot of research goes into a white paper. While you may get away without including a references page as Mace have done, this extensive research is another feature that sets a white paper apart from a blog post – you want to ensure you’ve got a logical case and strong facts, not just subjective opinions.
To write a white paper, make sure you’ve got:
A well-thought out plan and goal for the white paper, including your audience, problems addressed, solutions proposed, and desired outcomes after your audience has read it (i.e. book a demonstration or call your company expert)
A strong writer who has time to dedicate to creating the white paper (allow at least a couple weeks just for writing)
A graphic designer who can make the white paper look professional and attractive – technically, this is optional, but if you are putting this much effort in, why not make it look the part?
Someone available to edit and proofread the paper – again, you don’t want to distract your reader from the messages in your white paper with glaring typos
A plan in place for promoting and sharing the white paper
Probably one of the most used content forms in our industry, and it’s easy to see why: these are a great way to show how your product or service has been used on previous projects, and the invaluable benefits you brought to the companies who you worked with.
Because you want to demonstrate the value that you bring, case studies are best used when the customer is considering their buying options. However, in engineering and construction we tend to be more “show me the facts” kind of people, so depending how much time your readers have to research, they may jump right in to a case study if your services look like something potentially useful.
This can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great that you’re now in their minds as a potential option, but on the other, if your case study doesn’t immediately show how they can benefit, they may lose interest quite quickly. This is where building a relationship with your readers through other forms of content can really pay off.
Do It Yourself
Case studies are pretty straightforward to write in-house. Unless you are a brand-new company, chances are you probably already have some written.
Gather the facts of what happened on the particular project you’re writing about and identify what the challenges, solutions, and outcomes were. Wherever possible, try to include numerical data to support your case, particularly in the outcomes section. Numbers are excellent proof.
You’ll also want to ask the company you worked with if they are happy to have their project featured, and if they would consider providing a testimonial to include.
Here’s what you need to write your case studies:
Projects that clearly show the value you add to your clients (for example, increased outputs or decreased maintenance)
Facts about the project, including what the problems were, what solutions were chosen and why, and what the outcomes were for the project
Numerical data to support your claims
Permission from your clients to showcase their projects, use their data, and (hopefully) a testimonial from them
Data sheets are another popular content form in construction, but I personally think they are used too early in the buyer process. Often, I’ve received these at industry exhibitions, when I’ve only just heard of a company and what they do.
While I’m the first to admit many engineering and construction professionals just want all the facts to make a decision, a data sheet assumes that your reader understands the benefit to them when they start reading it. While that may be true, that’s a huge assumption to make, possibly losing potential customers before they’ve had a chance to properly evaluate your offer. Once you’ve lost them, it’s much harder to win them back.
For engineers and contractors, a data sheet is one of the final things to check to make sure that you’re within their specification before they’ll consider your company as a possible option. The data sheet should confirm that you could provide a potential solution, but to convince them may require additional content such as a demonstration video or return on investment analyses. It may also play a part in convincing the budget holder to commit to a purchase, if your audience is not the decision maker.
Do It Yourself
Data sheets are short, factual pieces of content, and generally only a few sides of A4 at most. The goal here is to inform rather than impress, though ideally your reader will be impressed at the features on offer – perhaps the strongest concrete mix they’ve seen, or shortest curing time, for example.
Because you will know your products best, data sheets are fairly easy to create in-house. Aim to list all your features, but an introductory section highlighting the benefits is useful as well. A good way to include this is an Applications section, so you can show the reader the best uses of your product.
Because this is a critical piece of content as it will help confirm you as an option or be used to inform a decision to buy, make sure that these are absolutely free from typos and other errors.
When writing your data sheets, you’ll want:
All the technical specifications
The best uses for your products
A short introduction or benefits summary section
Proofread, proofread, proofread!
(If you made it this far – congratulations!)
Content has a crucial role to play in informing your reader’s purchasing decisions, but what they need and when depends on who is reading your information. While everyone is different, these generalisations can help you decide what to prepare for each type of audience.
What will you do differently at the next industry event as a result of reading this? I hope to see more case studies and white papers, and more people saying, “Yes, that’s a concern, but we have a great blog post about this on our site…”
And, as promised, you can download a quick and easy cheat sheet for this below. All the content is organised by audience, to make it easier to plan your content strategy.