My grandfather was a brick mason. If he met you on a jobsite, you would be greeted with a handshake from deeply calloused hands and a smile that would not betray the amount of work he was about to put in. He was a “Good Old Boy” and ran his own company while working in the field. He knew how to do things right, and he lived off a reputation that would earn him credibility with complete strangers. People learned his name, his quality of work, saw his logo on his truck, and eventually called him up to quote work or even gave him a no competition award as a subcontractor. The trust he earned with owners and GCs and the friends he made, spread the word to second degree connections who trusted these contacts.
Isn’t this the goal of business development? To build a reputation, and win work based on relationships. These are old school values, and there is no “quick fix” to building your network of trusted partners. LinkedIn, and the services it provides, though, can supplement the work you are doing to be known by owners, subs, or GC’s.
What’s the Value?
Most contractors usually ask, “Can this actually help my business? it’s just social media”. This might all seem like a gimmick, especially to people who think like my grandfather. It doesn’t replace relationship building, especially the face-to-face connections in the field, but LinkedIn can amplify the business development of any sized contractor.
For every contractor who is not using LinkedIn, I want to present a compelling case to you that this platform helps build relationships, brand recognition, and offers insights into what we do. I also want to encourage you to get employees involved to some extent, and some tricks of the trade that may change your results on this platform. Just like Lean Construction, you will have to chew on these ideas and identify what is feasible for your business, but it is clear from a host of examples that Linked In can be a game changer for a construction company, even with limited work on your part.
For evidence of the value of this platform, simply look at the volume of registered and active users. As of 6/9/2020, there were 690 million users on this platform, 40% of whom use it daily (2). With 106 million unique users a month, you have access to top talent, thought leaders in your industry, and a place to build your name recognition. If you are looking for an indicator of LinkedIn’s value, also notice that Microsoft purchased the site in 2016 (2).
Aside from all of this, Linked In also offers an amazing learning suite on premium. The crowd sourced classes include certified CE courses for a host of licenses and certifications including but not limited to the PMP CE courses from the Project Management Institute. LEED Certification, Lean Building, CI, and more are offered in well defined classes with industry renown experts.
We have three primary goals regarding business development on LinkedIn. Brand recognition, hiring, and networking with ideas. These are accomplished by building a network, working on your company page, and getting your team involved. Remember to take all of this with a grain of salt. The goal is to build relationships and get your name out there. Insofar as any of these recommendations here helps that, use it. When it takes away from that mission, takes too much time, or is proven ineffective for your situation, stop using them.
Build a Network
“Connect” with everyone you do business with. If you talk with someone, you have made a connection. Now remind them of that conversation by connecting on the platform and send a personal message. This will ensure that you are growing your network organically, but it’s making you a more prominent person in their memory. This is the digital equivalent of handing them a business card, but much more effective. Over the course of a year, you will begin to see a volume of connections that better reflects your real connection base.
You can also get your name out there to build this network by appearing on podcasts, writing articles for well known organizations, and connecting with influential people on the platform. Creating good content is hard so people with a big reach will jump at the chance for you to join them as a guest. You can become a thought leader, no matter the size of your company. Do all of this and be active in groups. You will find like minded people by sharing success and failure with your peers.
Important contacts are looking for people just like you (reporters, podcasters, subcontractors, GCs, potential hires, etc.). Your goal should be to add the right keywords to your profile that make you pop-up in the appropriate searches (3). To do this, review the profiles of the best in the business. Find the thought leaders who you want to be and copy all the text from their page. You can enter that text into a word cloud generator to get an idea of what words or phrases are repeated on their page frequently. I personally use word clouds.com (https://www.wordclouds.com/). You can then assess these words alongside the skills they have featured (change which of your skills are featured). By imitating these profiles, you will show up in the same searches as them. You may even become a “People also viewed” profile on their pages!
Work your Company Page
Start with the basics! Make your company page, get employees connected to it, and post a free job opening if there is one. Even if you don’t desperately need an employee, put a position out there that, if you found the right person, would open a role at your company.
Your page can be simple but make sure to use your logo, post an introduction, connect your website, and write an informative About section. This gives an air of legitimacy to your business and helps ensure that those searching for your business will see your logo and can ensure that they can connect with any employee connected to the page. This is your jobsite signage, the sign outside your office, and the digital equivalent to getting people to see your business, not just a group of contractors.
Some employees may not see the value in a profile but encourage them to create one and connect with your business. The more people you have on the page, the more clearly this online tool reflects your team, culture, and employee make up. This will also help job seekers see what it takes to join your team and who they may expect to work alongside. In this industry, its key to always keep your eyes open for new talent. For the field, management, accounting, estimating, or design, there are opportunities here that may shift the nature of your business.
Get the Whole Team Involved
Get your people on the platform! By having your employees on the platform, your company gains a friendly face for the outside world. You can building an identity and show off the talent you have brought onto your team. This is similar to building a “Key Personnel” section for a proposal.
Make sure your team uploads a picture. If possible, get a professional headshot. Ensure your employees know the importance of having a headline that matches their work, a summary that tells their story, and skills that match others in their role at other companies.
In closing, remember that all these tools are just that… tools. LinkedIn needs to be approached creatively in order to connect you with partners, clients, and employees. You are a construction professional; you figure things out. We learn as we go in our field. Architects solve issues on the drafting table, Project Managers coordinate challenges every day, Estimators work on buildings that are planned, but with no exact formula. In the field, we wedge, correct, adjust, and make things work. This is how LinkedIn must be approached. Use these pieces of advice and implement what works. Keep in mind the goal to build relationships and create visibility and know that people are the most important part of this industry.
“Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves.” – Adrienne Clarkson
“Use the best possible materials and reveal the quality of those materials and the craftsmanship of their assembly.” – Karl Friedrich Schinkel
“You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it requires people to make the dream a reality.” – Walt Disney
- Herman, L., 2021. 8 Linkedin Secrets You Haven't Heard Before. [online] The Muse. Available at: <https://www.themuse.com/advice/8-linkedin-secrets-you-havent-heard-before> [Accessed 11 January 2021].
- Smith, C., 2021. 220 Linked In Statistics And Facts (2020): By The Numbers. [online] Expandedramblings.com. Available at: <https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/by-the-numbers-a-few-important-linkedin-stats/#.U7_VYMYnhg0> [Accessed 11 January 2021].
- Arruda, W., 2021. How To Make Linkedin Work For You. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/2019/10/20/how-to-make-linkedin-work-for-you/?sh=73945b8149bc> [Accessed 11 January 2021].
- Arruda, W., 2021. 18 Reasons Why You Need Every Employee Using Linkedin Every Day. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/2015/04/19/18-reasons-why-you-need-every-employee-using-linkedin-every-day/?sh=42c53c1f7e41> [Accessed 11 January 2021].
About the Author: Johnny Savage lives in Southern California with his wife and 3 kids. He is the chief estimator at DBR General Engineering, running the business development, procurement, marketing, proposal making, and bidding processes for the company. His background includes a host of construction and real estate positions and provides business development and social media strategy as a consultant.