Marketing with integrity is vital to the livelihood of your business. Word of mouth travels quickly within the walls of a narrow market segment like the foundation construction industry. No lead, client, or project you gain by stretching the truth will be worth the damage you will inflict because a fouled customer is more likely to share their discontent with others than a satisfied customer is to sing your praises. Click To Tweet
Today’s buyers are more informed and skeptical than ever. This was largely spawned by the Mad Men Era of the 1960s where sensational claims, and in many cases outright false advertising, were commonplace. Ad Age Magazine used the term “informed skepticism” to define this phenomenon in a 2007 article about the importance of marketing integrity.
Understand that marketing is an umbrella term. We’re talking about claims made through the messaging on your website, emails, social media, advertising, proposals, and all other public-facing marketing communications. In the foundation construction market, these assertions are typically based on things like machinery performance, integrity of materials, or construction methods.
Word of Mouth Travels Quick in the Foundation Construction Market
The foundation construction market, while global, is small and closely connected. The drilling segment is even more so. Trying to stop bad word of mouth is like trying to contain slurry overflowing from a drilled shaft. Click To Tweet
Operating with a lack of integrity is even more dangerous in this sector than it would be in larger marketplace where there is more anonymity. Negative word of mouth has the potential to quickly reach into every crevice of the market.
If you don’t deliver on your marketing claims, you run the risk of not only losing a customer, but also triggering a negative word of mouth campaign. Bad word of mouth can spread rapidly on the internet, but in an industry like foundation drilling, most of the vitriol will be conveyed through phone calls, meetings, and trade association events.
The internet has changed the game. You can’t hide from bad word of mouth by opting out of social media and having no online presence. Disgruntled customers will still spread vitriol there, in addition to any other online forum they might find. Some portion of your customers and prospects will see the negativity and your business will suffer real consequences.
Negative word of mouth, regardless of how it spreads, is insidious because you can’t assess the damage. Many customers and prospects will leave without revealing what they read or heard. Sadly, some will accept the claim and pass judgment without verifying the source. Bad word of mouth isn’t the only factor that shapes perception, but it does play a role, which makes the impact that much more difficult to measure.
The Marketing/Customer Experience Disconnect
Cambridge Dictionary defines integrity as: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” The line between integrity and marketing is easy to cross. The disconnect is exposed when your marketing doesn’t match the customer experience.
Lack of integrity is a slippery slope. It often starts as an innocent stretch slightly beyond the capabilities of your company or the results produced by your products. It ends when the work is underway and the customer realizes you can’t deliver on your promises.
Using absolute words is a major culprit. Consider these hypothetical examples. Jackson Machinery advertises that it offers the “first large-diameter drilling rig in the world,” when in fact that isn’t the case. O’Donnell Drilling claims to be the “only contractor in the U.S. that specializes in installing helical screw anchors in the transmission line market.” Absolute words should never be used unless they are founded on undisputable factual information.
The prevalence of companies using absolute words like “first” and “best” is more common than you think. It’s an attractive proposition to claim that you have no competition or that you’re the best in a certain category, but it’s an insult to the intelligence of your target market. It’s far better to practice integrity by promoting facts over opinions.
There are and always will be a minority of companies that operate without integrity. They tend to be nearly impervious to negative word of mouth because, for example, they’re large enough or procure work strictly within a public sector low bid environment where dishonesty doesn’t affect project awards.
It’s far more common for an ethical, well-intentioned firm to accidentally cross the line. Laziness, apathy, and truth stretching are the more common culprits.
Laziness and apathy come into play when a company resorts to false advertising because it’s easier and less costly than making the internal moves needed to back up the claims. Click To Tweet For example, consider the contractor that claims it can install drilled shafts of up to 2,500 millimeter in diameter when in reality 1,500 millimeters has been their largest hole to date. Or the equipment manufacturer that advertises drilling bucket teeth that will last for 10 years, when in fact, the longevity of the teeth will be largely determined by unpredictable factors such as changing soil conditions.
Shrewd buyers will remember these claims and cry foul if your products and services don’t live up to the advertised expectations. More importantly, they are likely to penalize you by reducing spending or terminating the relationship altogether. It’s impossible to estimate the revenue you stand to lose. Will the business you gain offset the business you will lose? Are you willing to gamble?
How Marketing with Integrity is Done
Feeling the need to push the limits with your marketing often suggests that you have operational, product, or service issues that need to be addressed. In other words, you may be intentionally or unintentionally covering a problem.
Perhaps your bucket teeth are failing too quickly when drilling hard rock. Or you really want to expand your micropile work but you don’t have the people and work experience required. It’s better to focus on correcting those issues rather than being dishonest about your capabilities.
There tends to be a stigma around the term “marketing” unfortunately, especially in the construction industry. Much of that damage has been done by companies and agencies that abuse the true meaning of marketing.
Marketing is not selling. Selling is about moving the product regardless of market demand. Marketing is a holistic, customer-focused process that seeks to create demand and fulfill the needs of the customer. The concept of integrity has a completely different meaning in sales versus marketing.
Integrity in marketing is really about truth. It’s about fine-tuning your product, service, or company as a whole and accurately representing the benefits to the market. When you have done so, there will be no need to spread misinformation.
Have the confidence to stick with the facts and avoid sensational claims. Your customers deserve an accurate representation of your capabilities. Integrity is the underpinning of your marketing efforts. If you undermine it, the company it supports could come crumbling down.
Foundation Drilling Magazine is the official publication of ADSC – The International Association of Foundation Drilling (“ADSC”) and is published for Anchored Earth Retention, Drilled Shaft, and Micropile constructors. The audience includes owners, project managers, superintendents, foremen, civil and structural engineers, soil engineers, public engineering officials, architects, manufacturers and distributors of industry related equipment. The magazine contains job history and technical features as well as industry related articles, safety information, personnel and management solutions, a calendar of ADSC and industry events, and other related topics.