23 Ways To Get Free (or Cheap) Exposure For Your Construction SaaS
Whilst any one channel may not expose you to millions of potential customers or lead to an immediate sale, it may kickstart the process of gaining awareness with a handful of ‘early adopters’ who are inquisitive about your product and want to learn more.
Your expectations with early awareness campaigns should be low. You’re unlikely to attract the mass market straight away. It’s by reaching this small group of risk-takers who are willing to try your product that you will slowly penetrate the market as they ‘prove’ it in the market and eventually tell their friends and colleagues about it. This is called ‘crossing the chasm’ (as coined by Geoffrey A. Moore in his book of the same name).
Early promotion which may seem ineffective can slowly snowball over time as the market begins to trust your product and word starts to spread. Don’t listen to the business gurus that say 200,000 people will sign up to your waitlist on day 1. This may be possible for tech products that sell to tech enthusiasts. In construction, you are more likely to be selling tech products to technophobes!
Getting early interest in a construction SaaS or tech product is likely to be a slow, gradual process. It can take some time and many touch points to get prospects to move beyond the ‘awareness’ stage of the funnel and actually take action.
Research shows that when prospects see your product frequently and in a variety of different places and formats (multi-channel marketing), they are much more likely to notice you, remember you and take action by investigating your product further.
A lot of the channels mentioned below are one-off placements, so target as many of them as you can with the time and budget you have available to attain the benefits of multi-channel marketing. Note: This is opposed to your main everyday marketing channels, such as SEO, of which you should narrow your focus to just 1 or 2.
If you’ve recently launched and want to get your construction software out in the market but lack a corporate budget or a marketing hire then here’s a list of ways to get cheap or free exposure.
1. Submit a guest article to industry publications
Some industry publications will accept guest articles from domain experts. Self-promotion is not allowed but usually you can write a short bio about yourself at the end of the article.
Guest articles are a great way to get free exposure, build your reputation as a domain authority and educate the industry in issues relevant to your product.
Publishers are looking for interesting or unique story ideas that are informative or educational and add value to enhance the quality of the publication. The story must be highly relevant to the publication’s audience, so do your homework before you pitch the story angle.
2. Appear on an industry podcast
Appearing on a podcast allows you to tap into an audience that may not have found you through other channels. The long format of podcasts allows you to tell your story, helping the audience connect with you and humanise your brand.
As an interviewee, don’t be salesy or promotional because listeners will tune out. Be genuine and talk in facts instead of fluff. The key here is to prepare for the interview to get your facts in order and memorised.
Fluff: “We are the leading estimating tool in the industry."
Fact: “We helped 30 contractors save half a million dollars in lost time last year.”
Some Australian podcasts you could appear on include:
- Yadda Yadda by Justine Hadj and Richard Jenkins (built environment)
- Inside Infrastructure by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (infrastructure)
- The Voice by the Green Building Council of Australia (sustainability)
- The Business of Architecture and Design by Niche Media (architecture/design)
- The Site Shed by Tradie Web Guys (trades)
- The Master Builders Podcast by Master Builders Australia (contractors/builders)
- Engineering Reimaged by Aurecon (engineering)
- Constructing You by The Construction Coach (graduates & careers)
I will write a separate article with a more comprehensive list of Australian construction podcasts for each sub-sector.
3. Exchange blog articles with non-competing companies
This involves finding a partner who’ll feature you in their blog if you do the same in return. It allows each of you to tap into the other’s audience for free exposure. This is called co-promotion or partner marketing.
Once you’ve found potential partners, ask them if they’d like to exchange articles and what publishing guidelines they have for their blog.
If you lack the resources to write an original article, you may be able to republish an existing article from your website, so ask them if anything you’ve written strikes a cord with them.
Make sure they include a short bio of you at the end of the article and link to your website somewhere in the article.
Exchanging blog articles is a simple way to establish a relationship with a marketing partner that you can develop into a strategic partnership in future.
I will write a separate article on strategic partnership marketing for construction tech companies.
4. Get added to blog lists or listicles
This involves finding articles related to construction trends or lists of contech companies and reaching out to the author to get your product added onto the list.
Even if the article is old, it may still appear in Google search results and therefore can still gain you some exposure. Plus, if they include a link to your website it’ll attract some nice SEO juice.
Obviously, you will need to convince the author to add you and they would only do this out of the goodness of their heart (however, the case can be made that the more items on the list, the stronger the article is and the better for search ranking).
Here are some examples of lists you could reach out and get your company added to:
- ‘On-Site Factories’: The Companies Bringing Assembly Line Production to the Construction Site - This Is Construction
- Construction Tech Trends to Watch in 2021 - Conecta
- Emerging Startups 2021: Top Construction Tech - Tracxn
- How does Contech Startups Growth Influence the Construction Market? - Construction Tech Review
- 5 construction tech startups to watch in 2020 - Qualis Flow
- Building Blocks: 100+ Startups Transforming The Construction Industry - CB Insights
5. Get free press on construction tech blogs
There are many construction tech blogs that would be open to checking out your product and getting an exclusive look at how it works.
Don’t approach them without a story. Do your research into who their audience is, what their editorial style is like, and develop a unique or interesting story that’s consistent with their existing articles.
Try and provide them with something that isn’t publicly available elsewhere so they get an exclusive scoop. Bring relevancy and recency to the story but approaching journo’s off the back of some company news, such as launching into the market, bringing on a new cofounder or raising capital.
Here are some contech related publications and blogs you could approach (note some may be blogs of your competitors):
- Construction Global
- Construction Technology Magazine
- Construction Tech Review
- AEC Business
- Extranet Evolution
- ConApp Guru
- This Is Construction
- Jobsite by Procore
- Constructible by Trimble
- Digital Builder by Autodesk
- Built by Bluebeam
- Construction Productivity Blog by PlanGrid
6. Submit a project case study to This Is Construction
This Is Construction is a media publication that allows you to submit project case studies and link them to your company profile.
As long as the case study is non-promotional and is generally valuable to inform or educate the audience, then the case study will be published on the site and on This Is Construction’s social media accounts to their following of 7,000+ construction professionals and executives for free.
What is great is that your company logo will be on top of the article.
Also your company will appear as a contributor to that project.
To submit an article just go to the ‘submit project’ page here.
Disclaimer: this is my publication!
7. Create a case study which makes your customer look good
Case studies demonstrate how your product can benefit potential customers and are a crucial element on your website. They build trust and help push prospects closer to taking action and contacting you.
But it is also an opportunity to leverage the network of existing customers by making them look innovative so they share it with their network for their own self-promotion.
An article on your blog which focuses on your customer (not on you) and how innovative they are by using tech (including yours) can encourage your customer to share it with their own network.
Here’s a good example from Sitemate Technologies who interviewed Ward Civil’s chief operating officer for a video case study. Note: yours doesn’t have to be a video.
8. Host an event or webinar and invite industry guests
Create an event or webinar either by yourself or with a marketing partner and invite industry guests along.
The aim is that your guests share it with their own networks for self-promotion. By doing so, it’ll create publicity for your event and generate brand exposure.
Events are a good tool for promotion because:
- LinkedIn allows you to invite people directly
- Attendees are willing to register with an email address (which you can add to your mailing list)
- The audience is captive so you have their full attention
- It provides an opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and thought leadership.
Here’s an example of a co-hosted event by construction SaaS companies HammerTech, EstimateOne and PayApps with sponsors Conecta and Build Australia, teaming up to co-host an in-person event with guest speakers such as Leigh Jasper, cofounder of Aconex.
9. List your company on online directories
Listing your company on online directories can help get found by the right people and the fact that they are often free makes it a no-brainer.
Firstly, it will help you get found by potential customers who are actively looking for solutions that’ll improve their business.
Secondly, you can be discovered by various other industry participants such as investors looking for new opportunities or journalists looking for stories.
Thirdly, often directories allow a backlink to your website, improving your legitimacy in Google’s eyes (and therefore your ability for higher search rankings).
Some directories (free and paid) applicable to construction startups include:
- Procore App Marketplace
- The Construction Advisor
- Product Hunt
- Startup Ranking
- Startup Tracker
10. Get free press in niche tech publications
If your product uses artificial intelligence, robotics, LiDAR or another specialist technology, then you can seek free press in technology publications that serve these niche fields.
- WIRED (tech)
- VentureBeat (tech)
- Inside Robotics (robotics)
- AI (artificial intelligence)
- SaaS Mag (software)
- TCT Mag (3D technologies)
- LiDAR Mag (LiDAR)
11. Create a research paper, industry survey or market outlook report
Producing an original research paper may be too time-consuming for you at this stage of your growth. But what’s good about these is that it attracts free press and people love to share and link to these reports. This can attract a lot of attention around your company, traffic to your website and backlinks for SEO juice.
What’s more, if it’s relevant to any industry institutions and associations (e.g. Australian Construction Industry Forum, Australian Contractors Association, Civil Contractors Federation, etc.) you may reap the rewards of getting your report included in their newsletter to their thousands of members and subscribers.
Note: you don’t have to do this alone, partner up with a complimentary company and share resources to produce this together.
Building product directory website, SpecifiedBy, produces a ‘Specifiers Insights Report’ every couple of years based on a survey of architects. The reports are offered free to product suppliers (in exchange for their email) which helps them discover how prospects are finding and specifying their products.
12. Create a short course certifying users in your product
This may sound daunting and time-consuming but the idea here is that this actually saves you time in the long run whilst creating some new promotion channels.
To reduce the time commitment of this, repurpose your demo or tutorial videos (if you don’t have tutorial videos, then you can make them with a tool like Screencastify).
To turn them into a short course, there’s a plethora of learning management systems (LMS) that allow you to create your own course and embed it on your website. Once users finish your course, provide them with a fancy certificate of completion (this part is critical) that you can make in a tool like Canva.
There are a few hidden benefits to this.
Firstly, it allows you to collect emails and develop an army of product evangelists. Those attracted to this course are likely to be graduates or entry level construction professionals. By providing them with a course certificate they are likely to add it to their resume and may even share it on LinkedIn. They are also now more likely to recommend your product to the company they join as a way to make a quick impact and prove their worth.
You now have an army of motivated entry level employees recommending your product to their boss. If they also know its benefits, how it works and how to use it then they will act as your salespeople. They will also feel valuable helping to teach other team members in the company.
Worst-case scenario is that the training will reduce the barriers to adoption. Plus it’ll save you time down the track by making user onboarding autonomous.
Webflow University is a great example of how to use a course to reduce friction, automate user onboarding and create an army of product evangelists.
13. Offer a promo on a flyer and place them in stores
If you’re targeting tradies, then don’t forget about offline marketing. Approach specialty trade stores and offer a promo for their customers.
The promo may be a discount on your product (to increase sales) or a chance to win a prize if they sign up for a trial (to generate leads). Offer to share the emails you collect with the store if they chip in on the prize such as a voucher for materials at the store.
Promote it together on social media to take advantage of each other's network. The store can also add an offer to their Google My Business account for increased online visibility.
14. Offer customers a discount or prize if they give you a shoutout on their social media
If you are targeting small builders or tradies, you could offer them a discount or chance to win a prize at sign up if they give you a shoutout on social media.
This taps into their network but also, and more importantly, takes advantage of the fact that referrals from friends are far more likely to convert than ads or other forms of promotion.
15. Host an on-site barbecue to promote a worthy cause
Get out of the building and pound the pavement to interact with existing and potential customers. You can do this by hosting a barbecue on site.
Use the barbecue to raise some money for a worthy charity or institution relevant to the industry such as MATES in Construction who are working to reduce the disproportionately high rate of suicide among construction workers.
16. Get interviewed on the Construction Tech & SaaS Marketing Blog
I interview construction tech founders and startups about their journey from conception, to building a viable product, to gaining their first customer and scaling to a profitable business.
I publish this on my blog, social media and ConTech Roundup newsletter with links to your website, providing you with some free exposure and SEO juice.
I’m always looking for inspiring stories, so reach out and tell me yours!
17. Create a short video series featuring industry personalities
Producing video doesn’t need to cost the earth these days. A creative idea with low production value can still be impactful.
You could create a short video series where each month, industry executives answer 5 questions on their predictions for the future of construction.
This isn’t about getting thousands of views, but about engaging with your audience, building relationships and gaining some exposure through your interviewees’ networks (as they are likely to share the video). And for the interviewee, it’s an opportunity to show they are thought leaders in the industry.
Whiteboard Friday is an example from the SEO industry, where software provider, Moz, invites an expert on each Friday to talk in front of a whiteboard (in under 10 minutes) about a concept in SEO, bringing value to the audience of SEO hopefuls. The videos have attracted a cult following.
18. Offer incentives for referrals to spark word-of-mouth
Referral programs are a powerful tool that have been used by the likes of Uber and Morning Brew to propel their growth. They involve providing incentives, such as gifts or discounts, to those who refer your product to one of their friends.
Whilst they are usually for consumer products, they shouldn’t be ignored for B2B, particularly if your product targets small businesses such as home builders or subcontractors.
The incentives provided can increase with the number of successful referrals. For example, for 1 referral you may provide the referrer a mug, for 3 referrals a shirt and for 10 referrals a coffee machine. Suddenly you’ve turned your existing customers into your sales team.
I recommend you read this case study written by Morning Brew’s senior product lead on how they grew their reader base to 1.5 million with the help of a solid referral program (they attribute about 30% of subscribers to the referral program).
19. Film on-site videos for LinkedIn (and TikTok)
Selfie videos posted on LinkedIn are acceptable these days (unfortunately). And construction professionals stuck in the office love seeing work happening on site.
So take some videos capturing some cool shit related to how your customers are using your product on site to achieve some benefit. Your product may not be as cool as Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog, Spot, but if you show some real-life construction on an interesting project you’ll quite often get good engagement on LinkedIn.
Download a video editor app to your phone so you can dress it up a bit and add some captions. And don’t be scared to post it on TikTok - you’d be surprised at how many future construction decision-makers are using it.
20. Send care packages to early customers
Sending care packages builds relationships with existing customers so they connect with your brand, stay loyal to your product, and start a conversation about you with their friends and coworkers.
It is also a great way to position your company in a strategic way.
A great example of this was by capital works and portfolio management platform, Mastt. Mastt positions themself as a solution for project managers and asset owners to eliminate the use of spreadsheets.
They created a cheeky tagline “Spreadsheets Kill” and superimposed it onto a cigarette packet, which was sent out to customers on branded products. This was shared on social media by one of their happy customers.
21. Speak at an event or webinar
Tap into the networks of companies in the industry who may be hosting events or webinars and see if they need guest speakers for upcoming events.
To find events, jump on LinkedIn and go to the “My Network” tab in the top bar. Scroll down to the panel that says “Online events for you” and click “See all” on the right-hand side.
LinkedIn should serve you events relating to your industry, the tags you follow and groups your in.
22. Get reviewed on a YouTube channel
YouTube has a channel for almost everything these days. This means you can get in front of some pretty niche audiences - carpenters, civil engineers, surveyors, you name it.
If you are looking for more than just a pre-roll ad, you might want to sponsor a channel and get them to review your product. If finances are an issue, target some smaller channels that have recently started and are happy to give you a good deal.
I’ll write a separate article with a more comprehensive list of YouTube channels for each type of target customer you can sponsor to promote your product.
23. Sponsor a Club Hibernia event
Club Hibernia is an organised quarterly meetup of construction professionals consisting mostly of commercial contractors talking all things construction. They accept sponsors to come and talk to their captive audience.
Club Hibernia which is a good way to reach many high level executives and catch them while they are drunk and in a receptive mood!
Richard Fifita, CEO of construction logistics solution, Veyor, recently gave a presentation at Club Hibernia to teach construction professionals about their platform (below).
So hook in and start promoting!
By the way, I recommend you subscribe to the ConTech Roundup, my fortnightly newsletter for construction tech founders and entrepreneurs, to stay in touch with the latest news in the contech scene from around the globe.