I’m third generation in the construction industry and in 2012 ran part of a project myself.
The experience opened my eyes in a lot of ways.
Right now, more than half of all web users get to it on mobile devices.
As well, a lot of folks are only now getting to spend significant time online for various reasons:
- they’re in remote areas,
- still-unwired age groups or
- industries that haven’t yet digitized in the field (read: construction sites and more.)
Now, based on my summer on the jobsite, I don’t think those folks are suddenly spending a ton of time on brand-new computers. I do think they’re getting smartphones and tablets – but mostly phones. They’re skipping the desktop experience entirely.
So – some questions:
How can you seize the moment as construction sites move from clipboards and dumb phones to smartphones and tablets?
This will happen. Phone stores are going to stop selling dumb phones pretty soon.
At first, folks on the jobsite are going to do a lot of grousing about how they hate their new phones.
What favorite phone tricks and apps can you and your reps show folks – just as part of everyday conversation? Best if they’re not product-related. (My favorite iPhone app is Flashlight.)
When a foreman shows you damaged product fresh off the truck, on video chat, how much sooner can you get the new stuff in the works?
Not only will you and your field reps save that three-hour drive. You can even get that foreman in on the reorder in real time – resources depending, of course.
Of course, nothing replaces that three-hour drive from time to time. I believe construction is a high-touch business, if only because of the financial risk involved.
Got a new feature in that latest product release? You could be Apple and lock everything down.
Or you could be a whole lot friendlier. Shoot a little demo on your own phone from the R&D lab. Get it out to key reps within the week. Have them showing key accounts from a button on their smartphone the next week – just in time to code up the Tell Me More button on your site.
Which can be a button on their smartphones the following week.
So does branding cede the field to quick-and-dirty video and quick mobile web themes? Only if you’re trying to sell cheap, in which case – where are you going to get the margins?
If anything, current design trends that stress typography and texture – especially tactile richness and retro style that takes us back decades or more – will intensify. Layout, the grid and expansive white space is a second step, if it happens at all. So the details we spurned in design school as mere decoration now have to carry the ball, making or breaking an emotional connection with your new prospect in about half a second.
Video for your brand. Video for customer service.
I think a big reason some folks have resisted the desktop in favor of the phone is that they’re not visual – they’re auditory. Video on a mobile site is made for them.
The kind I like shoots real people at your company, talking about real things that are going on in real time. Important: Anyone you interview should be ice-cold. No script, no preparation.
Then, all you need before upload is a touch of the brand at the beginning and the end, and every time you need a break from all the talking in the vid.
You can do a lot of the same thing with your quick-and-dirties on the fly. And for a little polish, see if your communications partner will upload a version of your brand intro and outro to YouTube or wherever, so you can tack them onto the end of your smartphone masterpieces. It takes about 20 extra minutes when you’re used to doing it and helps prospects remember who exactly showed them that cool new thing.
Construction customers are automating, just not the way we did.
The last dumb phone will walk out of a phone store sooner than we think.
Construction folks will upgrade when they have to.
Let’s get ready to help them upgrade their workflow – and our bottom lines.