Top 10 Considerations When Selecting an Ad Agency in the Building and Construction Industry
1. An Ad Agency Exclusively Focused in the Building Category Significantly Lessens the Learning Curve.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ad agencies in North America. Chances are you have worked with a few, or at the very least, can recite some of the more familiar names. But how much do you really know about their abilities to effectively take on your own building material brand’s marketing?
Many generalist ad agencies work in several categories. You might hire an agency to work on your building products brand, and the same team is working on a consumer cosmetics account.
There is a clear advantage to hiring an ad agency who is exclusive to the building products category. When an agency is focused on one industry, there are proven learnings and best practices which are discovered and applied to all of the agency’s clients within that exclusive category.
When interviewing an ad agency for the building and construction industry, ask for a client list. The broader their range of clients within the building materials category, the better the understanding, experience, and perspective they will possess. That means they will ramp up more quickly to provide value as your marketing partner.
2. Ad Agencies Rooted in Digital Marketing Media and Technology Allow Brands to Find Digital Maturity Much Faster.
Many brands in the building and construction industry are still transitioning to a digital-first mentality and are building out their digital marketing ecosystems. Hiring an ad agency with significant digital marketing expertise in a variety of areas can help your building materials brand make that digital transition leap much quicker.
Look for agencies who understand and apply a digital perspective to all stages of the customer sales funnel – from awareness-building digital marketing tactics that drive hyper-targeted traffic, to the use of high-UX campaign landing pages and fortified website content that enrich a prospect’s experience as they learn and engage with your building products brand.
Good digital agencies today offer solutions beyond driving traffic. They are knowledgeable about marketing automation and CRM platforms to nurture and qualify leads. And they offer digital tools for A/B testing of messaging, user tracking, and the latest SEO best practices.
When hiring an agency exclusive to the building and construction industry, you get a team that can apply best practices to eMarketing, social media, SEO, SEM, media partnerships, and digital advertising across the board for a multitude of common-interest clients. The agency then gains industry learnings and aggregate data to use as benchmarks to apply to your brand.
3. An Ad Agency’s Measurement and Performance Reporting Rigor Will Tell You a Lot About Their Commitment to Producing Results.
Not everything an agency does should immediately result in lead generation, but the path to those goals should be laid out with specific KPIs identified from upper-funnel awareness efforts through the lower-funnel lead qualification.
Effective ad agencies will be able to articulate a measurement protocol for every activity in the marketing plan, complete with a set of primary KPIs to measure and goals to achieve for each.
The ad agency you hire should have access to your building product brand’s Google Analytics to provide regular reporting for reviewing, analyzing, and recommending ways to continually optimize performance. Further, expect to share your sales performance data with your selected agency with the expectation they will regularly provide reporting connecting the impact of the marketing to specific sales performance.
4. Understanding Building and Construction Target Audiences at a Deep Level is Critical for an Ad Agency to Design an Effective Marketing Strategy.
You can only learn about the target audiences – architects, contactors, distributors, interior designers, developers, DIYers – if you are engaging these audiences on a regular basis. Strong building materials ad agencies have a regular process for providing research – both primary and secondary – to maintain a strong pulse on the latest trends and habits of these audiences, changes in the industry regulations, innovations, and new initiatives.
Look for an agency partner who develops personas on these target audiences, possesses research and thought leadership about trends and behavior habits, and has access to credible building industry research firms who can deliver additional insights and information in a reliable manner.
5. Ad Agencies Who “Put Their Money Where Their Mouth Is” in Their Own Marketing Efforts Says Something About Their Credibility.
With the ability to affordably hyper-target prosects today, there is no reason for an ad agency not to invest in their own marketing. Look for ways they promote themselves with a thought-leadership blog, eMarketing efforts, social media, and other paid and earned media opportunities to target building materials brands they seek as clients.
If they are successful in doing it for themselves, chances are high that they have a deeper understanding for what will work for your building materials brand.
6. Ad Agencies Offering a Dynamic Ability to Create Content Is a Priority Need for a Building Products Brand.
Content comes in many forms. Successful ad agencies today should demonstrate a strong ability to develop content in many ways for their clients – byline articles, news releases pitched to media, case studies, eblasts, and social media programs. This program should be centered around a thoughtful content marketing strategy with a clear publishing mission and content pillars driving it.
Today’s building product customers are much more sophisticated when it comes to consuming content. Your content must be deeper, more authentic, and compelling. This is yet another reason to hire a firm exclusively focused on the building and construction industry. These firms are continually learning about brands and products at a deep and technical level and often have built media relationships with industry editors and journalists.
7. Building Materials Brands Need to Look for Evidence That the Agency’s Creativity Has a Purpose.
What is creativity with a purpose? It is not just about the ability to win an award. The creative should have a clear connection to the brand and an intended strategy. It should clearly differentiate the brand and/or the product or service being promoted. If it is a digital ad, it should tell enough of the story to pique curiosity to click. Effective creative – with a purpose – should compel a viewer to learn more, engage more, and take the next step.
An effective creative campaign possesses a single-minded message and “has legs” to it by integrating in many forms – ads, landing pages, emails, and more. This demonstrates a thread of continuity both visually and with tone throughout each of the campaign components. Ask for examples of integrated campaigns when evaluating an agency’s creative during the selection process.
8. The Ad Agency Should Provide Relevant Client Case Studies, Testimonials, and References Focused on the Building and Construction Industry.
The importance of an ad agency being exclusive to the building products category is emphasized throughout this article. But what if you are evaluating multiple agencies that each possess an exclusive category focus? This is where it is critical to examine client case studies and testimonials, evaluating how challenges were met with both a strategic and creative solution, and how the efforts ultimately drove positive results.
One of the most important aspects of a client-agency relationship is chemistry – how well you work together and how well the agency responds and fulfills clients’ needs.
A building materials brand should ask an agency how they monitor their clients’ feedback and overall satisfaction of the relationship. Good agencies offer a regular client satisfaction survey. This allows a building materials client to determine what the agency is doing well and what needs improvement. At the very least, a client-agency relationship should have regular relationship-check dialogue and use it as an opportunity to have honest conversations and address any issues or challenges before they become a larger problem.
9. The Agency Should Articulate a Clear Planning and Activation Process Led by a Specific Multi-Discipline Team.
Two of the most important questions a building and construction brand has when evaluating an ad agency are:
- "Who is my agency team that will work on the business?”
- “What is our gameplan for getting started?”
Before selecting an ad agency, it is important to understand and feel comfortable with their onboarding process. Early in the process, the agency should identify the team, including representatives from each relevant discipline – account management, content, media, social, account management, and creative. A role for agency leadership’s involvement and check-ins should also be set.
Additionally, the agency should articulate a plan for:
- Setting the account up for document exchanges and billing.
- Performing discovery and planning activities to learn and inform their marketing plan and creative process.
- Spelling out an implementation process for picking up current work while planning for upcoming activity.
- Presenting a performance reporting structure.
- Finalizing and managing the budget with periodic financial reviews.
- Establishing a regular status meeting protocol – usually weekly – to ensure work is moving along and meeting expected deadlines.
All of this should be laid out in a step-by-step process, complete with target milestones and due dates.
10. Effective Operations Process to Ensure Timeliness, Budget Management, and Scalability.
You must expect that the agency you desire to hire is an agency in demand - they will continue to add clients and grow. Otherwise, why do you want to work with them? The question here is how scalable are they to handle additional growth of your brand, as well as their other clients’ demands?
Three criteria to look for in an agency as it relates to operations and scalability are:
- People – The agency should be balanced to provide an individual client with a cross-functional team of capable professionals, while also having an operations manager function to ensure proper flow of work at a macro agency level.
- Platforms – In today’s ad agency world, project management platforms are necessary to schedule and track all work. An agency should be able to easily describe the platforms they invest in for this purpose.
- Process – Strong processes, which are continually monitored and refined, can be a huge differentiator in how an agency stays on time, on budget, and on strategy.
BLD Marketing is a results-based, digitally-focused, full-service strategic marketing firm exclusively serving the commercial and residential building materials category.