“I love it when a plan comes together.” Thriving businesses can point to those famous words by A-Team’s John “Hannibal” Smith as the key to their success. And strategy and marketing geeks like myself help make it happen.
But I don’t just help businesses bring their plans together. Sometimes I get to work with state and national associations, too, like the Women of Asphalt Texas branch. They approached me about the Texas Asphalt Pavement Association (TXAPA) workforce development campaign.
It was the perfect opportunity to apply my Strategic Growth Wheel process. With it, they could better understand the problems they faced and discover things they hadn’t thought of before.
So, what does it look like in action? In this episode of the Contractor’s Daughter podcast, you’ll see how this flywheel plan comes together through each phase. You’ll learn about what we asked about, found, prioritized, and implemented to get the maximum results and best ROI for TXAPA in the short and the long term.
6:08 – The many things we discovered when we dove into the investigation phase for TXAPA
15:23 – Three early opportunities we identified and prioritized for TXAPA in this process
21:36 – How the implementation of this marketing campaign had ripple effects on the company and across Texas
25:51 – How to see the case study for yourself (including quotes, insights, metrics, and results)
Mentioned In How the Strategic Growth Wheel Helped TXAPA’s Workforce Development Campaign
Quotes From The Episode
“All companies have stories. When we’re in the investigation phase, we actually find those stories.” – Jeani Ringkob
“Advertising for jobs is still a form of marketing. Messaging that we use is so critical in order to help somebody understand that we’re the best fit.” – Jeani Ringkob
“Just like making a purchase, buyer’s remorse is real when it comes to taking on a job.” – Jeani Ringkob
More Episodes of The Contractor’s Daughter Podcast You’ll Find Helpful
Welcome to The Contractor's Daughter, your go-to podcast for eliminating random acts of strategy and marketing in your highway construction business. Hello, friends. I'm your host, Jeani Ringkob. I'm a third-generation asphalt contractor and an absolute brand strategy and marketing geek.
Welcome to The Contractor's Daughter Podcast. I'm your host, Jeani Ringkob, a third-generation contractor turned growth strategist and advisor for some of the best companies in the paving industry.
I love working with all the great people I work with, but I don't always just work with businesses, sometimes I actually get to work with state national associations, which is always an incredible experience because you just get to experience so many more people and sometimes we can see the impacts of the work that we're doing really hit on a big scale.
Today we're actually talking about what it all looks like when it comes together because we talked about, in the previous several episodes, the Strategic Growth Wheel, starting with that investigation phase, we're really researching how we're perceived by our customers, our partners, our competitors, our team, our employees.
What is our current brand perception and then what do we want that brand strategy to look like? Also looking at what are the market research and indicators? What do we see as trends coming down in our marketplace, obstacles that are impacting us on an industry-wide or regional level, or maybe just the way our specific company is built and currently designed? All of those things go into that investigation phase.
But then the next phase of that Strategic Growth Wheel, if you'll remember, was identify. When you do all that research, there may be several things that come to the top, things that were challenges or bottlenecks that you want to leverage and turn into opportunities, or opportunities to serve or solve a problem in the marketplace or uniquely take some of your current skills, resources, or assets and turn them into something much bigger.
But we have to always focus on the one that's going to get us the best results, that makes the most sense to start with. We have models, processes, and frameworks that we can filter all that early information from investigation through to help us identify and target that priority area that we want to focus on, that priority opportunity.
Then the final part that we just recently talked about was implementation. I always love to say good intentions don't pave roads. It's so important and the stats are staggering about how many companies go through the process of creating a strategy but don't actually implement.
Or along the way, they fall prey to things like not communicating what that strategy is and making it accessible to their team, to operations, to all the people that are actually executing the tactics that you need to be measuring to actively engage with that strategy and get the results that you're looking for.
The flywheel that we've created, the Strategic Growth Wheel helps you build a process into your system that you're constantly doing this, you're constantly being able to grow, and let your strategy actually be a living organism that you can always be tacking just like a sailboat to be optimizing it and reacting to other opportunities, bottlenecks, or critical things happening in your market, with your competition, or demands of your clients or potential clients in your marketplace.
So many things go into it, but it doesn't have to be that complicated. But today, we're going to do something pretty exciting. We're going to look at this whole flywheel in action and how we actually applied it to a client of mine. But we're also going to tease a little bit about a future series that we're going to be talking about and something that is a hot topic in our industry right now: workforce development, how do we recruit and retain the workforce that is going to allow us to meet the demands of the infrastructure industry that we're trying to meet?
It's going to allow us to grow our business, have a better quality workforce in our business, and control those costs that we see going up so high to recruit and retain the talent. I guess it was over a year ago now, I was approached by TXAPA to be part of their workforce development campaign that they were rolling out.
This was something that I would really love to just note that it was actually started by the Texas Women and Asphalt Branch. I referenced that because I am a huge fan and everything Women of Asphalt obviously, what this organization has accomplished, the things that we see state branches doing, and all the incredible women that are part of this. I love to advocate for them.
I jokingly tease all of the founders, Amy, Ashley, all of them that where was this when I was a young girl out in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico selling in the evenings and working on the crew during the day, all of those things? I would have loved to have this network and the support.
But now it's here and it is so incredible, and it's super exciting for the women that we see moving into our industry and moving up in our industry. I was especially excited to be part of this project and super thrilled to see how these women were coming together and taking something they saw as a problem and really being determined to find the solution for their state and their association.
They were going to be doing a marketing campaign. But what they realized is they really wanted to have a strategy behind it. They could go and mirror what they saw happening in other places, but were they really going to be doing it right? Was it really going to be motivated, diktat, and driven by actual data and research specific to them, their area, to their specific members and the challenges they were having to the current workforce that they had that was engaged in the industry and that they also want to be targeting industry?
We dove deep into the research part of this. We interviewed multiple members. We had a long list of members that we actually did interviews with multiple people in their management levels and [inaudible], to really try to understand what were they struggling with, what were the roles, what did the breakdown of the types of roles they're trying to feel like look like? What were they currently doing to try to solve those? All of the challenges.
Not just understanding what we call the external problem, but also the intern problems, how is it impacting their business? How were they feeling about it? How was making their crews feel? How were their customers feeling about that? How's it impacting the problems that they were trying to solve for their customers? All of those things were critical so we were able to gather lots of information and data, which I like because that actually drives what are the things that we want to implement in this.
We got an idea of what are the top jobs that they're really struggling to fill. What does that look like inside of their business? How do those roles move through their business? All of those things.
Then we looked at why were people leaving. Such things like lack of upward mobility and compensation were two things that we saw. What excited me about those challenges, because we see challenges during this investigation phase, was how do I turn those into opportunities?
Lots of these employers actually really had great competitive compensation packages, but maybe they weren't communicating those. Maybe they weren't showing those well. How did they market those? How did they make sure that the current employees understood them and were leveraging and getting the most out of every single element of that compensation package?
That was something that if we identify that as a big pain point, we can also then turn around and say, “How do we maybe improve our compensation packages? But not just that, how do we make sure that we communicate those better? How do we bridge the gap between what we're doing and how our people are using it, understanding it, or leveraging it?”
Lack of upward mobility is another one. There's actually an incredible opportunity in our industry to accelerate very, very quickly. I actually have a client of mine that I love to tell his story. He started college in the summers, was working on a crew, never even finished college, and now is the vice president of contracting and operations in this company. Really making key critical decisions is a very key central part of the executive team and continuing to rise.
That is a great story. Inside of all of these companies, we have those stories. When we're in the investigation phase, we actually find those stories. Those stories come up in the interviews and the conversations, they help us target the people that then want to do additional conversations with when we're actually creating the strategy, the assets, and the tactics that we're going to be implementing down the road.
All of this stuff ties together. Why would it go back to the lack of upward mobility being something that we saw as a reason for people leaving is there is actually a great opportunity for upward mobility, but what we're doing is we're probably not telling that story very well.
Or we're not helping connect those dots and paint a picture when we're onboarding people to show them yes, here are all the different paths and opportunities that you could take inside of our company and we can help you map those out. If we understand that this is a critical area where we're losing people, then we can actually build processes and systems into our company to tell those stories, to help people see that path, to leverage that path, and really nurture or mentor that path along the way.
We don't know what things we should invest in if we haven't actually done the research and let them tell us where we should be investing. That's some of the great stuff that came out of the first part of this implementation. That's just one specific example and the opportunities that we could leverage.
During those interviews, I actually interviewed employees as well and they were sharing these stories of how they started right out of high school, they were on the labor side, and now they're working in the lab and they're still in their young 20s. How they never thought their career was going to look like this and how exciting it was. But how can we tell that better and bridge that gap to help people get there even faster?
Another thing that we learned during this is where are people spending their time? Where are they consuming and making decisions? How many of them find their jobs through friends and family? Obviously, both for English speaking and Spanish speaking, because we surveyed both in this particular situation, we saw that friends and family so, therefore, referral programs were incredibly important.
Since then, my team has been doing constant research on referral programs, regional statistics, national statistics, how to improve those, we're actually calling and interviewing companies that are doing it well, and really comparing and refining that process because then our clients that we're working with are actually helping them build better programs.
We know that the average is 32% referral for labor workers inside of a company. We can actually set metrics to increase that to numbers like 46% and then we can actually gauge how that's going to actually impact investment, return on investment, reduced cost, and external spend, all of that because we're doing this upfront research. This is a great tool.
We're also seeing social media, how that can play a role. What types of advertising? Advertising can be a huge expense and it doesn't mean it goes away completely but how do we do it better? How do we actually have better copy or words in our advertising? Advertising for jobs is still a form of marketing. Messaging that we use is so critical in order to help somebody understand and make the decision that we're the best fit.
This is the type of research that we come across: where should we be spending? Instead of Indeed, maybe actually having social media advertising campaigns that are run for us that are driving traffic back to a landing page that we can actually own as an asset in our business, instead of paying third party could be a really viable asset, or strategy to take on.
This is the kind of stuff that we're finding out during the investigation phase. I could go on and on just about this TXAPA example and all the things that we learned. We also learned a little bit about what did they want to know before they started a job? What were they looking for? What were the gaps that they wished they would have learned very early on, or that they wanted to fill to be able to get to where they wanted to be in this job?
Even with those laborers that came in early that were new to the industry that had to learn some of those very early basic job skills and get familiar with our products or services, the safety criteria and training, and all of that stuff, but what were their aspirations of that next thing?
One thing that we saw was huge was they wanted to learn how to operate equipment. How do we include that in our onboarding? How do we tell them, “Here's where we go to get you there. We have to do A, B, and C. It's going to take about this long and then if you show these types of aptitudes, we can put you there”?
Those are kinds of things that can really accelerate, not just recruiting and getting that person that door, but early retention. Just like making a purchase, buyer's remorse is absolutely real when it comes to taking on a job and if we can show this past, they're going to have a lot more early satisfaction. During those first 90 days is actually a great time to increase referral rates and really boost your referral program too. All this stuff is really interrelated.
Let's start moving on and cruise a little bit further down this process. When we got to the identifying, we found so much great data, but we had to narrow it down to a few things and then also prioritize those things. The recommendations that we came up with based on opportunities we found during the investigation phase were creating a marketing campaign and member content that we could control as an association on a state level to educate about the opportunities in our industry.
All those things that we were learning were things that they were looking for that they didn't even know existed in our industry, and also helping us actually own the asset of collecting the information and driving it straight to our jobs. That was one opportunity that we saw that we wanted to pursue.
Another one was events, how do we actually create events where we can engage? We know that engagement with these younger generations is supercritical. Our industry really lends itself to showing and telling. How do we create events, especially if you're geographically bound and you can target those types of things?
Directly related to that was our third opportunity and recommendation that we had on the top list, which was partnerships, how do we actually leverage the power of partnerships? We're not the only ones in this industry, or in this environment that are really trying to build these connections, find ways to leverage this, understand it create knowledge, awareness, and career paths, so how can we find those partnerships and amplify all the work that we're doing to get faster and better results?
Those are some of the early things that we found that we really wanted to target. How do we prioritize those? Well, first off, we knew that it was going to take some time to build the marketing campaign, but not just that, all the elements of that marketing campaign would make events function better and partnerships function better.
If we had the right branding, the right messaging, all the right words that were consistent, cohesive, that were tested based on the research that we knew that they were going to get results, they told the right stories that actually connected with the right prospects and move them into action, I cannot really stress enough how important getting good messaging is, being consistent, and holding your brand to that messaging. That all happens when you're doing the strategic development for a marketing campaign.
Also, it was going to give us an asset in the form of a funnel and a landing page that we would own as an association. We wouldn't actually be therefore beholden to third-party advertising in using their assets, their pages where they were actually collecting all of those leads by using our job postings, we wanted to have that internally.
We also wanted to have a strategy to be creating not just content that moved the needle, educated, attracted, and started filling that pipeline for this campaign as a whole, but also content that was based on that messaging, based on the strategy that could be leveraged by all of our members.
As an association, it was really important that they create value for their members, and that they got results for their members. If they're going to go through all this work, we wanted to make sure that the content we're creating was something that they were going to be sharing and amplifying as a strong wide membership and then also that they could use and create value with themselves. We knew we wanted to start there.
Another thing to understand is once we had all of that in place, and it was functioning and working, then when we went to an event, it was just an extension of that same strategy. We could use the events as an additional filler to that pipeline, to that funnel that we were trying to bring all these workers in to educate, nurture them, and encourage them to be part of our industry.
Then also partnerships wanted to see that we have that kind of infrastructure. Once again, if they were building a path to construction to the paving industry, we needed to have somewhere to still send those people to. It was essential that we get all of that started because it was actually going to cover a lot of the work that we would have had to do to make events and partnerships successful in the long term anyway.
We started with that. That's how we knew exactly where we needed to start. We can actually physically map out and draw out that from the research, we could create personas of what those employees look like, we create the messaging, which I talked about being supercritical. We could build a funnel, we can have consistent content moving all the time, content that can be repurposed and highly leveraged by not just this campaign and this association, but also by the members.
Then we can move into partnerships and events. We could map this out physically and draw a map of what this was going to look like as we got started. We also had some great examples of existing partners that we knew we wanted to target early, which was super exciting. But once again, we knew we had to do the work and those partners were going to want to see that we had done the work in advance.
We've done the investigation. We've done all that research, we found those top few opportunities that we knew we wanted to leverage, but we narrowed it down and determined which one was the one that was going to get us the maximum results and the best ROI, not just right then but also long term and why we wanted to start with that one.
Then we moved into implementation. We also had a design partner for this campaign. We had that messaging that was created as part of the strategy. Then we were able to bring in all of the outside resources, we created videos. We actually did physical video interviews of some of the people that we had discovered during the research phase and we wanted to share and tell their stories.
That could come as part of the core content of video that was really powerful on the landing page. There was actually something, an asset in place. This campaign was such a success, it actually turned into a statewide initiative. Now it's not just TXAPA that is involved in this but we have TxDOT who came in as an early partner and AGC Texas who also followed in, and now there's actually a board that manages this campaign statewide.
Statewide, we're actually seeing a lot of awareness being created, and they're gaining incredible momentum. I'm sure it felt really slow at first, but now they're starting to see a lot of really good traction across the state because they've established some great partnerships.
Those are the three core primary partners that are involved in this and there are a lot of secondary partners both regionally and statewide that are getting involved more on that grassroots boots on the ground level. But even there, out in those grassroots areas, when they're creating a flyer or brochure to take to schools or to have in an event, they are using the messaging that was created in that very first strategy development.
They are using all of the colors and images because we want to have it cohesive. We want people to know, “Hey, this is the paving industry. I heard about it over here and hearing about it here again and I'm experiencing it at this event. I watched that video, and I can see that they're all together. They're taking me from unaware of the opportunities here to kind of aware and then to more aware and educated and really piquing my curiosity, filling in all the questions and concerns that I have, and then they're moving me further down.”
Now what they're seeing is this campaign is actually bringing leads directly through that funnel and straight to members' job postings on their own websites. They are actually taking that straight into their own hands, their own ownership where they can start having those conversations much more quickly. They're owning those and reducing the costs of individual members for this whole state industry.
It was an incredible example of how we can use this process and really also continue to focus on implementation, which implementation will be ongoing for them, it's getting better and better. They've identified some metrics that they're seeing success with, they've narrowed down on which metrics they're measuring, their A/B testing, what works better and constantly refining that, listening to their members, and even continuing to educate and create content for their members to use.
It's an incredible thing to be a part of. I have loved the process. I've met incredible people, watched businesses really better understand the problem that they're facing. Even during those early conversations, we uncovered things that they realized “I hadn't thought about it that way,” and just having those conversations was powerful for them, but then to be part of something where they're really moving the needle on a state level but also seen direct results for individual members in filling those jobs.
They've created this process that they can manage and make very sustainable for the entire industry. It's a statewide initiative that trickles down all the way to getting results on behalf of and for their members. It's an incredible example and we're actually in the process because we've gotten far enough in this now that we're seeing those in metrics, watching those results really coming in that we're actually going to be creating a case study that you can look through.
If you want to get your hands on that case study, you want to actually review it yourself, you want to see some of the quotes, the insights, some of the results, and the metrics that are being measured, you can actually get your hands on that case study. We have a whole section on our website and this case study is featured in that section. You can go to storybuilt.marketing/casestudies.
Right there, you can actually see that this is one of our showcase case studies, but there are other case studies that you want to get your hands on. We have some about really taking that messaging element that we talked about in that strategic development phase, that early research phase, and how we use that to write better job descriptions.
You can also see case study examples of the Strategic Growth Wheel being used not necessarily for workforce, but for supporting and leveraging sales, for creating brand strategy and awareness for launching new products, for getting more market share, all of those things, things that we tackle with our fractional CMO clients all the time.
There are some great case studies there but you're going to love this one about the TXAPA workforce campaign, and how it's become a statewide initiative. Be sure that you grab that. Make sure you've also subscribed to The Contractor’s Daughter, that you're listening to all the episodes.
Like I said, we're teasing that we're going to move into a whole new series about this hot topic on workforce development. If you've listened to me speak about this topic anywhere at an industry conference, you know that I have a different approach to this. I love to think outside the box. I love to figure out how can the different parts of our business come together to solve this problem?
I'm a firm believer that all the challenges we face are also opportunities. The companies that figure out how to really own this workforce development process internally, and build their own strategies are going to be the ones that win, not just win the battle for talent, but also for growing and sustaining successful businesses. Make sure that you're subscribed so that you get all of those upcoming episodes.
Thank you so much for joining us for this episode of The Contractor's Daughter. If you liked what you heard, be sure to subscribe and review. But most of all, share this with all of your friends, partners, and customers in the highway construction business. Thank you for building the infrastructure that we all rely on.
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