I knew nothing about marketing two years ago except for two things: I spent money on it, and people were always trying to sell me advertising spots. Pamphlets, coffee newsletters, in-mail inserts, directories, google ads, commercials… I spent money on all of these things. Most business literature agrees that the 10% rule is the closest tied metric to a proven marketing strategy. To an asphalt paving contractor, what is a marketing strategy? There was no blueprint for our industry and after 60 years and three generations, our business, ADC Paving, was ready to gain a more significant share of the Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana markets.
I updated my logo, started flying my drone for content, created new inserts and folders for customer packets, and purchased some advertising space with a few new local publications. Needing a larger presence on the digital side, we fired up social media accounts and started posting what we thought the public might like. In observing company accounts in parallel industries, we at ADC thought the next step was to invest in video marketing. For what? I wasn’t sure, but Instagram, Facebook, and TV seemed to provide an opportunity.
I had listened to a lot of Gary Vaynerchuk and Andy Frisella and was beginning to explore how ADC Paving could use their theories. I have a passion for understanding motivation and I agreed that marketing could mean much more to our company than blindly applying the 10% rule. We could be more than a basic provider of services. I felt confident I knew enough about asphalt paving and the product I was offering, but the question of marketing in a different way or even where to start was something I explored with trial and error quite expeditiously. I had no clue what I was doing, but I wanted to be a more significant part of the paving industry and social media seemed like an avenue. Now, after two years and an invite to take part in the World of Asphalt panel titled “Ask The Contractors – Panel Discussion with Instagram’s Most Popular Paving Minds,” I have a few thoughts for those who are looking to increase their social media presence through marketing in a similar way.
An excellent first thought is to determine the platforms on which you want to grow. This might seem like a no-brainer but most of us in the contracting space must be on our phones and computers all day. Those are powerful computing and messaging tools, but an additional reason to use them might seem overbearing. So, begin on a platform you will enjoy observing or taking part in.
Whether you take on marketing yourself or hire someone, you will need to interact and respond as yourself on at least some social media outlets. I wanted to be a part of a platform on which I enjoy communicating and that fits my style so that, when I get a notification, I become excited, not have the feeling of another work task being added to my day. Also, ask yourself which platforms you enjoy learning from or the ones that fit your personality instead of forcing yourself on the platform. It will also make the process of growing so much easier.
The relationships you develop will be those of like-minded people in similar or connected industries. As those relationships grow, you will notice a natural, genuine feel to your messages because you can envision the people who consume your information. It doesn’t have to be Instagram but that is the platform I chose because of how the Instagram community interacted with the artistic posts and how Instagram stories have a behind-the-scenes feel. The platform caters to my interests and I enjoy the way people communicate positively. Find a venue you like, make sure there is a community, and find a way to present your vision as your company.
If you feel awkward or like an imposter when you start, that is natural. However, to get you through that stage, I think an everyday comfort-phrase needs a bit more explaining. “Fake it till you make it.” can offer you the courage to get past a hurdle but be sure to stay true to your personality and mission as a company or individual. People will be able to tell if you are emphatically faking it. When starting, I would sometimes wonder what the hell I was doing, but I wasn’t going to offer knowledge pretending to be someone else. I went into our marketing push knowing that our core values were in practice, my vision for the industry and company were progressive, and that taking care of my employees was the motivation, not impersonation or my desire to be like someone else. There is something about vulnerability and the work-in-progress nature of business that fosters growth and support when you find your best platform. Getting in front of the camera or stating your mission in a traditionally different way takes courage, and the people who will respond positively are either energized potential customers or like-minded and supporting members of your industry.
Marketing is opportunity at scale and I chose to go deep instead of wide. The reason I have received better opportunities in the past two years is not because I am omnipresent and on all social media outlets and digital real estates. It is because we have focused on reaching both customers and the paving community with a well-thought-out message for the platforms where they enjoy receiving information. This is really why I have chosen my specific marketing partner. We have spent real time and effort in creating thoughtful material that provides educational or entertainment value, followed by designing that material for specific purposes and outlets.
There are companies that use generic marketing material to hit every media outlet, and most people can tell which companies those are. The material is lackluster and it comes across as an interruption in your day, like a spam-risk call or a beeping fire detector that needs to be changed. Make no mistake that the law of numbers will provide you with more opportunities with customers the more you spray your message. However, your favor with the social media algorithms will decline due to fewer people liking and interacting with your post, and you will spend more money on ads and time posting than you need. Though the opportunities from social media (like participating on the World of Asphalt panel) might seem like a personal reward and not one for my company, the dramatic increase in profitable opportunities for my business has come from the genuine, personal messages and not blast-messaging for underqualified leads. If you are sincere, patient, and enjoy the research on gaining the right eyeballs, you will grow.
Whether it is the law of attraction or just the way it turned out, I want you to know that at least a part of marketing should be fun. Marketing and your dreams for yourself or your business should always be partly intertwined. The way you decide to promote yourself should reflect the best in your daily business, as well as display how and why you provide a better option for your customers. You should feel excited talking about your discoveries and methods, and it should reflect good business as a personal decision. When you decide to spend the extra effort and put thought into marketing, you also allow yourself to think about the legitimacy of your dreams. When those dreams are placed in a proper channel, the opportunity for your own personal and professional growth comes more quickly than you can predict.
Lastly, I would like to provide a few people and companies whom I think are doing a great job. First of all, I would like to recognize the other participants invited to the upcoming World of Asphalt panel. Bill Stanley Jr. and American Pavement Specialists do a fantastic job with their photography and video imagery and have a great brand in Raised on Blacktop. Keith Callaway Jr. of K & L Industries provides an insightful view of their why and industry-leading work quality. Marvin Joles with Wis-coat gives us an audio format to improve our paving industry skills through quality conversation on Blacktop Banter. Brian Hess has several outlets for information and motivation and I encourage you to check out his accounts through his personal pages, Top Contractor School, or The Pavement Group.
For those interested, I look forward to seeing you at the People, Plants, & Paving Digital Conference presented by World of Asphalt. Our panel discussion will begin at 1:45 EST on Thursday, March 11, 2021. Tickets for the entire event are available now by clicking this link: People, Plants, & Paving Digital Conference
Thank you as always for the opportunity to communicate and for your time.