By Kirk Stelsel
Have you ever wondered how trade associations started? Trade associations in North America have a rich history that can be traced back to the late 1700s and the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York – which, amazingly, still exists today. Historically, they performed many functions and have evolved as the needs and demands of members have shifted.
Some of the traditional roles of trade associations such as establishing common ground among peers and networking are still vital. Building awareness of member products and their benefits also remains a long-standing goal, and is particularly important in today’s society of constant interpersonal connection and 24/7 information dissemination.
NPCA has approached marketing in many different ways over the past 49 years. Most recently, a task force was created in 2012 to discuss specific ways to help NPCA and members tell the story of precast concrete to a wider audience. The task force hired a national marketing firm to conduct research on the precast concrete industry and to recommend a marketing plan. The research uncovered the need to better explain the benefits of precast and advances in products.
With the theme “Take a New Look at Precast” as the defining message, the campaign started with the distribution of a free Marketing Toolkit to members. The Toolkit, which is still being distributed, includes resources that enable precasters to create custom messages in a variety of different formats.
Today, the Toolkit is in the hands of nearly 250 members and a new, two-year campaign is at its halfway point. The current task force includes Chairman Greg Stratis of Shea Concrete in Amesbury, Mass., Chris Hindley of A.L. Patterson in Fairless Hills, Pa., Greg Roache of Gainey’s Concrete Products in Holden, La., Jen Burkhart of Arrow Concrete in Granby, Conn., and Mike Hoffman of Lindsay Concrete Companies in Canal Fulton, Ohio.
The task force developed a national marketing plan last year to further the message using traditional and new media. The campaign positions precast as a versatile, modern, high-tech material to make it “top-of-mind” in the specifying community.
The national messages target engineers, DOTs, architects and other specifiers. The campaign includes a limited print component and a heavy focus on electronic advertising. Placements in the media were selected based on audience to effectively reach individuals that are most likely to purchase precast products manufactured by NPCA members. The outlets chosen include Roads & Bridges, Water & Wastes Digest, Storm Water Solutions, Architect, Public Works and Civil + Structural Engineer. Pay-per-click advertising on Google AdWords was chosen to enable NPCA and the marketing message to appear prominently in key searches. NPCA is also advertising with the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers and has increased distribution of Precast Solutions, the marketing publication of NPCA, by 10,000 recipients.
In 2014, the two-year campaign reached more than six million impressions. What does that mean? It simply means the ad appeared on the screen of an end user. Even more importantly, 25,000-plus clicks on those ads led back to the precast.org website. If you’re doing the math, that’s a less than 1% click rate, but in the world of electronic advertising that is respectable and every click is a person who has made a conscious choice to learn more about precast concrete. Online, that is the start of the conversion process that ends with an action such as signing up for a newsletter or buying a product. These numbers far exceed the goals of 100,000 impressions and 10,000 clicks set for the entire campaign.
The task force reviewed a number of options to add to the campaign in 2015 including adding to the budget allocated for the Google AdWords campaign due to its cost effectiveness and success; investing in re-marketing, which targets those who have visited precast.org; conducting a survey of Precast Solutions readers to find out how to enhance the magazine; and an enrichment of the campaign’s landing page on precast.org.
Marketing is a tough business to get right and is anything but a refined or exact science. Solid research and analyzing statistics help but marketing can be a bit of a quixotic effort in an irrational world. Consumers make decisions for a wide range of reasons that shift constantly. But, the only thing more frustrating than trying to figure out marketing is wondering why the competition is winning and then realizing it’s because they’re marketing and you’re not.
The driving force of the entire program is the understanding that competing materials are out there marketing and that the precast industry needs to better equip itself with plans and tools to overcome those challenges. If you have questions about the campaign, please feel free to contact task force chair Greg Stratis at [email protected] or staff liaison Kirk Stelsel at [email protected]
Kirk Stelsel is NPCA’s director of Communication and Marketing.