What Doesn’t Change

Marcia Untitled 1By Marcia Gruver Doyle

It’s been a continuing discussion in an industry marketing committee I’m on: How do construction equipment manufacturers reach across the generations and send out messages that attract both Baby Boomers (the vast majority of today’s construction company owners) and their up-and-coming counterparts?

Believe me, figuring out winning ways that prompt you to try and buy equipment can keep these marketers mighty restless at night.

The Internet has been a factor in this mix for more than a decade, and is now a given, especially in equipment research. In two reader surveys we conducted in August, more than 85 percent of respondents say they used the Internet for research.

And buying equipment online is way past the novelty stage, as Arkansas contractor Larry Davis tell us on page 47: For the past three years, he’s bought every machine except one online.

What about the newer ways of relating on the Internet? This is where marketers are really curious.

But what about the newer ways of relating on the Internet? This is where marketers are really curious. While they know contractors tend to be a conservative group, they wonder if they’re missing a significant entry into contractor consciousness if they aren’t making the most out of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the industry-associated blogs out there.

According to our new survey on Internet and social media use, contractors are at least intrigued by these sites. A tad more than 35 percent of our respondents say they have visited a social media site, with Facebook the overwhelming favorite (95 percent of the 35 percent). Of those who say they’ve gone on Facebook, 20 percent say they visit it several times a day.

But when you drill down into why they are visiting Facebook, business reasons come in a distant third. Respondents listed “family and friends” as the overwhelming type of information viewed (78 percent). When we asked how many construction-related sources (manufacturers, groups, individuals, and yes, magazines) they had friended on Facebook, 38 percent said zero, and 36 percent said one to five.

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Beyond the social media questions, what most intrigued me about the survey is how respondents are accessing the Internet: more than 52 percent say they had a smart phone (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc.). They use these phones to check email (85 percent); text (81 percent) and visit websites (71 percent).

Business activities on their smart phones include getting bid information, 26 percent; general equipment information, 22 percent; industry news, 19 percent; and equipment specifications, 15 percent – although the majority of smart phone users (58 percent) say they do none of the above.

And less than two years after the iPad was introduced, iPad and other tablet use is at 11 percent.

While this offers an interesting look into our reader practices, we realize that it’s only part of the picture. The most intriguing question is still to be answered: what about the incoming generation of contractors?

It’s a question we share and will be exploring. But we know whatever the age, contractors are individualistic entrepreneurs. Whatever medium we use – print, digital or the next gee-whiz technology – the information we give has to be easily read, concise and compelling. That will never change.