Let’s face it. In order to stand out in the highly competitive construction market, contractors must demonstrate to potential customers how they are different from their competitors.

This method of identifying and drawing attention to a business’s distinct features over its competitors is, not surprisingly, called differentiation. Differentiation allows you to offer greater value to customers at a reasonable price, producing a win-win scenario that can boost the overall profitability and viability of your business.


What precisely is differentiation?

Differentiation is a strategy that is meant to set apart a company’s products or services. It is successful by identifying and conveying the unique qualities of a company and drawing attention to the differences between that company and its various competitors.


When it’s successful, differentiation produces a competitive advantage for the company. They actually become recognized for their differentiators.


As for differentiation in the construction industry, it is turning out to be more and more important for long-term survival in a market that’s flush with competition. The difference in getting the work, or being invited to bid, often centers on a contractor’s knack to stand out from the crowd.


The reason that setting yourself apart can work for you is because the construction market is governed by a lot of sameness.



Key benefits of differentiation

Differentiation means that you are the only one, or among the very few, that does what you do. Many contractors deliver on their promises. Many of them, however, fall short.


  • You will stand out. Doing what each and everyone else does makes you blend in. When you look, sound and do the same thing that others do, your potential customers will simply look at your price. Sorry to say, competing on price alone is a race to the bottom.
  • You can highlight the benefits your customers receive when they hire you. Talking to potential customers about your differences is a tremendous opportunity to clarify the benefits they will receive when they hire you. A huge mistake many contractors make is describing only the work they do, and they end up overpowering their potential customers with a bunch of technical facts.


Truth is, your potential customers don’t care about you, your product or your services. They care about one thing only – themselves.


That’s why you have to be sure your differences offer a benefit to your potential customers. Your customers will understand the benefits they will receive. In contrast, they won’t always grasp the technical procedures of even the best contractors.


Okay, the real difference between one contractor and another is well hidden among a variety of overworked marketing slogans and the rush to oversimplify. Over the long haul, if you don’t want the story of your business to sound like every other contractor’s story, you need to come up with a unique way to be noticed.


Here then are some of the best ways you can make your business stand out from the sea of competitors.



Focus on your customer first

It’s rather easy to become overly business-centric. After all, like most firms, you need to defend yourself and your company from others who might be looking to take advantage of you. However, since most customers really aren’t trying to take advantage of you, a better emphasis might be, “How best can I focus on my customers?”


Concentrate on your customers first and recognize both their expectations and pain points. Place yourself in your customers’ position and appreciate what inspires them. At every touchpoint, what might your customer be expecting and how does your business meet those expectations? Examine your business from your prospect or customers’ viewpoint, to recognize what motivates them to decide to employ one construction company over another.


On what do they place the upmost premiums – quality, convenience, dependability or customer service? Also, what are their pain points?



Know more about your customer than anyone else

This goes hand-in-hand with the above tactic. Learn about their organization and issues more than any of your competitors. Take an actual interest in their business – their history, how it works, the customers they serve, the products they sell, the people they hire and so forth. Be curious. Spend time “off the clock” to understand their organization. Learn about their values and beliefs as an organization. Even go talk to a few of their customers.


When you do this, you’ll no longer be just a commodity. This is why most people rarely get rid of their personal physician and find another – after all, they know us, our history, what’s significant to us and what we need. They are worth more to us than the random doctor down the street who may possess impressive credentials but has zero knowledge of who we are.



Say something genuine

Every contractor likes to assert that their results are “second to none,” or they are “top notch.” So, what’s the difference? The difference lies in communicating your value in real ways. Top notch is such a cliche, nobody understands what it means any longer. Is “second to none” first place or last place? Rather than worn-out marketing jargon, start utilizing words and sayings that actually have meaning. In order to do so, think deeper and get more precise. For example:

  • Describe how your approach to project management is superior.
  • Explain why your budget processes rid of surprises.
  • Demonstrate the quality you deliver.
  • Articulate how you reduce change orders.


Everyone is employing catchy phrases with vague meanings. When you get specific, you initiate a better conversation, one that has actual meaning.



Put together an all-star team

Developers and governments alike are going to want to use companies that have fantastic employees from top to bottom. If you find yourself continuously switching your project managers or your best construction professionals, it might just be time to reexamine your hiring procedures and perhaps your overall company culture. Recruitment, in the meantime, should never stop. Constantly hunt for the best construction talent out there and always do your best to keep a firm grip on their services.


Additionally, exhibiting know-how in particular construction niches or techniques can set your business apart from competing companies. Whether it’s green building approaches, historic refurbishment or cutting-edge construction techniques, showcasing this knowledge can appeal to customers in search of specialized services.


Always bear in mind that your staff will be one of your best (or worst) competitive advantages. The benefit of having sociable, well-informed, proactive staff should never be taken too lightly.



Be fresh, be imaginative

I don’t know about you, but I am oh-so-tired of cliches such as: “Think outside the box” or questions like “what keeps you up at night?” or better yet, “What would it take for us to win your business?” These are lackluster expressions and hearing them is similar to listening to one of those 1970s radio hits for the umpteenth time.


Be fresh. Be imaginative. Even be provocative. Take your experiences, pick a topic of importance to your customers, and boil down your ideas to four or five insightful points to share with them. Go against the grain: Is there a professed “best practice” or technology that’s all the rage? Inform your customers why it may not last or be right for them. Again, sound fresh, not monotonous or mind-numbing.



Get out of your comfort zone

Contractors need to get out of their comfort zone and offer more. You have to take on more trades and more risk. Let’s say you’re a metal building contractor, you need to look at also providing the demolition, earthwork, complete site work and guarantee the completion date. You should also look to offering essentials such as annual maintenance and property management, or perhaps offer financing.


You have to think about offering more turnkey and value-added services to make your company more appealing to both customers and prospects.



Get to know your suppliers

Being on good terms with your suppliers is an oft-overlooked vantage point over businesses that simply haven’t taken the time to develop this closeness. A good relationship will offer:

  • Improved service and support
  • Better supply and faster delivery
  • Useful return policy and customer support
  • Early notification of special or discounts.


Consider strategic alliances and joint ventures

One of the best ways to compete in the construction industry is to form alliances and joint ventures with other companies. For example, by banding together with other firms in your marketplace, you can frequently acquire bigger group discounts from suppliers than you might do if you ordered on your own.

The capability to develop alliances and joint ventures is an increasingly essential and distinct advantage in the success of many businesses. Joint venture marketing is simply another way of sharing advertising costs. You can also brainstorm lots of variations on this theme with your staff.


Emphasize quality and craftsmanship

Emphasizing an assurance of quality workmanship and attention to detail can differentiate an experienced builder compared to a less experienced one. Customers appreciate consistency and superior craftsmanship, and contractors with a reputation for quality can sometimes command premium pricing and repeat business.



Showcase prior work with a professional portfolio

Quality over quantity. Rather than exhibiting photos or videos of every job you’ve ever done, showcase your best work. Would-be customers want to grasp that you take pride in your work and can deliver results.

Add in testimonials: A couple of words from a delighted customer can have a giant impact on the decisions of potential customers. This also offers a degree of credibility to your services.

Before & after photos: Showcasing makeovers can visually signify the value and know-how you bring to a project.



Make marketing mandatory

Traditionally, contractors would anticipate a developer or general contractor to call and say, “Come on in to pick up a set of plans and offer us a bid.” That was the entirety of their marketing program. And after they’ve submitted the bid, their only sales effort was to call and ask, “How does my bid look?”


That was it. Period. No continual marketing effort was necessary to win a contract. The problem is that approach no longer works. Okay, most contractors don’t have a dedicated full-time professional responsible for producing revenue and on the lookout for new opportunities, new customers, new services and new projects. Is your current estimator responsible for generating revenue or simply bidding what comes across his/her desk from conventional job sources, referrals or your lonely yellow page ad?


When there is no one person in charge of generating new and various revenue streams and customers, all you’ll get is the same old easy jobs to bid on with too many competitors. You might like to mull over hiring a professional who will focus 24-7 on building your business, or maybe put yourself 100 percent in charge, 100 percent of the time, plus investing enough money and time to produce glossy sales brochures, printed postcards with photos of previous projects, videos of successful jobs and customer testimonials, plus a potent interactive website that conveys your value-added services, a targeted list of potential customers and draft of a working marketing development plan.


Don’t continue to look for work to keep you busy. All that lifeless strategy will do is keep you busy and broke.


Get uncomfortable and stop doing what you’ve always done.


Need some help in putting together a marketing plan? Talk to the professionals at PDDM Solutions. They have the know-how and experience to steer you in the right direction.