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August 4, 2022
When you think of careers in construction, does your mind go to construction management, the trades and craft labor? What about those of us who have business, marketing and communication degrees as well as a passion for the built environment? Enter the marketing and business development professions that are vital to the construction industry. Successful and rewarding careers are plentiful in the construction industry, and there is a strong community of like-minded professionals who are ready to guide you on your journey.
FINDING YOUR WAY
If you ask just about any marketing professional in the construction industry how they got their start, you’ll hear some version of, “I just fell into it.” Marketing and business development in the construction industry offers a variety of career paths depending on your skills and interests. From positions that call on strong writing and storytelling, to creative graphic design endeavors, to coaching team members on public speaking and building relationships with clients, there’s a place for diverse professionals.
If you’re early in your career, you may enter as a marketing coordinator or proposal coordinator. This is an essential role for producing the proposals and statements of qualifications (SOQs) that construction firms need to secure projects. From there, the next progression could be into a marketing manager or proposal manager overseeing a team of coordinators. Because of the depth of industry knowledge acquired in the coordinator role, another progression from that position is a move into communications and public relations, where you tell the stories of your company to external audiences to strengthen the brand in the marketplace.
Marketing directors play a critical role in the success of construction companies. Managing marketing teams, creating marketing plans and budgets and overseeing the execution of those plans make for a professionally challenging and rewarding career. Marketing directors may also find themselves representing their firms through service on boards of industry professional associations.
GRAPHIC DESIGN IN SPADES
Regardless of the industry, the Adobe Creative Suite is the gold standard for graphic design yet working in construction as a graphic designer is not a well-known career path. The advantages of our industry for graphic designers are the wide variety of projects you may design early in your career. Designs for proposals and advertisements, graphics for social media, large scale pieces for jobsite signage, and display boards for award submissions are just a few of the myriad design projects that graphic designers work on daily. Opportunities to create and refresh brands are plentiful, too, as the construction industry has been slower to recognize the importance of branding when compared to other business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) industries.
“Whether your focus is on visual or written communications, I encourage all AEC marketers to get comfortable with both writing and graphic design,” said Wendy Simmons, founding principal of Middle of Six Marketing Consultants. “Being able to compose a compelling caption for an infographic or sketch out an illustration for a case study will amplify your career opportunities in AEC,” she said.
While nearly every other industry calls it “sales,” the construction industry has dubbed it “business development” and there is huge demand for business development professionals. As marketing professionals advance in their careers, some make the move to business development. These roles involve building and maintaining relationships with clients, potential clients and project partners to ultimately win project work for your firm. This can involve attending professional association events and conferences, participating in community events, hosting clients at social outings and researching upcoming projects. Business developers work closely with marketing teams to share what they’ve learned so that the knowledge can be applied in the firm’s marketing strategy.
Business development roles are also a natural progression for project managers and other construction professionals who want to evolve their career toward helping capture new work for the firm. The knowledge, relationships and networks that construction professionals build in their careers lend themselves well to successfully pivoting into business development.
A PROFESSIONAL COMMUNITY
The architecture, engineering, and construction industry is fortunate to have a strong professional association to support people at every step of their career in marketing and business development The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). The Seattle Chapter is one of the largest, most established and fastest growing chapters in the country. If you want to make the leap to marketing and business development in construction, SMPS Seattle will provide you with a network of incredible people to help you learn and grow.
The Puget Sound region is fortunate to have a deep bench of construction firms from nationally recognized companies and regional firms numbering in the hundreds of staff down to small, locally owned firms with a handful of employees. Given this diversity of companies, the sizes and compositions of marketing and business development teams vary widely, yet one thing is certain, there is always demand for talented business- and design-minded people who want to help set these firms apart in the marketplace.
Melissa Richey English is a principal marketing strategist at Middle of Six, a marketing consultancy dedicated to the AEC industry.