Changing Markets Offer Breakthrough Opportunities for Growth
By: Joel Voelkert
According to conventional wisdom, one person’s adversity is another’s opportunity.
Current market conditions are difficult for our industry. But, we also have the ability to turn this into an opportunity for renewed success if the entire metal building community pulls together to sharpen its focus and aggressively approach the marketplace.
In particular, we need an energized, proactive and well-funded marketing program to drive home the benefits of metal building and roofing systems construction and to convert skeptics to customers. In doing so, we at MBMA believe we can grow our market share by 20 percent in the next five years.
Our bread and butter, the industrial building market, as a percentage of low-rise nonresidential construction, has been shrinking since 1978. Couple this with the current recession manufacturing is in, and recovery could be years away. Who among us wants to wait?
The growth markets in construction in this decade are in areas where we have not had a strong presence, namely primary and secondary education construction, as well as private and developer-owned large commercial warehouses and big box retail warehouses.
What do we do about the changing landscape in construction? It is simple: we must follow the opportunities for growth. Taking this route, however, will require all of us to put together a powerful, aggressive redirection of our marketing and product capabilities.
How can we do that? By pulling together in our marketing efforts. In simple terms, we can choose between hanging together or hanging individually. Industry unity is critical if we are to overcome perception barriers and increase our penetration of these growth markets.
A study commissioned by the MBMA’s Systems Marketing task force not only reflects the changing business mix in construction, but also documents many misconceptions decision makers in these areas have about metal building systems and their value.
Financial institutions and valuation groups perceive metal building systems as having a shorter useful life than conventional buildings. We are perceived as offering a less valuable and acceptable form of construction.
The study also shows there is a critical lack of knowledge by these decision makers regarding the advantages and benefits of our systems. The report illustrated loud and clear that these “negative perceptions run deep, especially for standing seam metal roofs and metal walls.”
We must increase our share of these growing markets in construction. To do this we must grow our share of the minds of building decision makers.
Individually this Herculean task would be impossible. But if MBMA manufacturers, industry suppliers and builders unite behind a well-funded industry marketing program, we can:
1. Grow shipments to education from $114 million to $262 million within five years, significantly increasing our credibility and momentum;
2. Increase industry shipments of 150,000-square-feet-and-above warehouse buildings from 5 percent to 25 percent in five years;
3. Conduct a total industry branding program to make it easy for specifiers and owners to understand who and what we are;
4. Develop a Wall Integration Design and Detail Manual to improve perceptions and use of metal wall systems;
5. Create a Roofing Design and Detail Manual covering roof mounted equipment and penetrations;
6. More aggressively pursue building code liaison activity;
7. Develop a useful life marketing initiative to improve metal building value among lending and valuation institutions;
8. Adopt an industry-wide Installation Training Program;
To make all of these essential steps possible, the MBMA is proposing that manufacturers, industry suppliers and builders come together to support an $8 million Market Growth Initiative Program over the next five years. The program would be funded by contributions made by MBMA members, suppliers and builders.
Raising that kind of money should not be difficult. Take the category of builders, for example. There are approximately 8,000 metal building contractors in our industry. If just half of them pledge $300 a year for five years, it alone would amount to $1.2 million a year or $6 million, over the five-year period. Our fund also would include ongoing contributions from manufacturers and suppliers.
In most major advertising media today, $300 would not buy much more than a classified ad. However, the synergistic effect of putting these modest sums together would allow our industry to make significant marketing investments, all aimed at raising the awareness of the advantages of metal buildings and growing our market share by 20 percent by 2007 or 2008.
During March, MBMA manufacturing member companies will be mailing a survey to all of its construction partners to gauge the feasibility of a marketing fundraising campaign, and to solicit participation.
If you’re a builder, please expect this survey, complete and return it promptly, and in doing so, think of the significant long-term benefits of a modest short-term investment.
Your response is critical. Your participation is critical. Your enthusiastic support is critical.
Our industry Market Growth Initiative Program should generate an enormous return on investment for everyone. This isn’t about charity, it’s about increasing building opportunities.
Over the past six months, our country has been inspired to stand together in strength. That’s a message we in the metal building and roofing construction business should heed.
It is how we can make opportunity from adversity.