Cutting Through the Noise

BuildingConnected

We shortened this case study to accommodate humanity’s collective inability to focus for a long period of time. For the full monty, click here.

 

DNA: Mother

Spoiler Alert! The big breakthrough, or Aha! as we like to call it, for BuildingConnected was discovering their corporate DNA. This is a great example of how important it is to understand what you’re made of, so you can make something of it. What’s your corporate DNA?


The Challenge

How to describe the company as a national player and illustrate its differentiation in the market.

As a new player in construction bid management software—a specific and highly segmented industry—BuildingConnected was out to challenge a decades-old set of paradigms that dictated how general contractors and subcontractors communicated with each other. The San Francisco company, which launched in 2015 and was acquired by Autodesk at the end of 2018, sought to differentiate itself in the market with its free and easy-to-use system, which allows general contractors to vet and prequalify potential subcontractors, send invitations to bid, and communicate directly with everyone on a project. “Our question was, ‘How do we describe ourselves so that people understand how we’re different?” said Dustin DeVan, the company’s CEO. 

In short, the executive team wanted to know how best to position BuildingConnected in the market. And, more specifically, how to position with an eye toward how that positioning might shift over the years.

The company also sought to overcome a perception that it was little more than a regional player not yet ready for prime time. To that end, BuildingConnected sought to reach a finite universe of general contractors—a thousand people in a few dozen markets—which would get the company to the point at which scale would become inevitable. 



The Aha!

During a meeting between our team and the BuildingConnected C-Suite, the executives learned that a customer had called with a concern about vendors. “Everyone dropped whatever we were doing to attend to the problem,” recalled Zac Hays, the company’s product manager. “Dustin jumped up and said, ‘I’m calling this guy right now.’ And your team is like, ‘Hmmm, the CEO is interrupting our meeting to call a single customer in Texas. Interesting…’” 

It was immediately apparent that BuildingConnected was a Mother—a Mother focused on taking care of a particular market with a specific need. 

Although initially resistant to the Mother designation (“‘Mother’ just didn’t seem to fit our image,” said Hays), the executive team soon came to embrace it. “It was like, Yes, we really do care about our customers and the user experience they have—more than anything on the product side,” said Hays. 

Understanding all that, it was just a short step to putting together BuildingConnected’s positioning (“Construction bid management with a refreshingly different experience”) and elevator story: Building Connected is a construction communication platform with a refreshingly different approach. It’s ridiculously easy to use. It’s free to find, communicate, and share documents with general contractors and subcontractors securely. Its analytics help everyone get smarter every time they work together. And you never have to update a contact database again. It’s about time

 

The Outcome

Post-aha! positioning included helping BuildingConnected zero in on the focused differentiators and reasons to believe that would move its initial target audience to think differently—all without overwhelming existing customers with change. It also helped the company evolve its go-to-market approach as early adoption conversions tipped into the scale stage. With a new position, brand, marketing plan, and website, BuildingConnected reached its goal of more than a thousand general contractors across dozens of markets using the platform by the end of 2016, and in 2018 the company was acquired by AutoDesk.

The impact of DNA-based positioning extends well beyond the numbers. “We consider position in all of our designs.’” said Hays. “It becomes a filter for everything we do.’”


Sound familiar?


Cutting Through the Noise

 
 
 

The Challenge

How to describe the company as a national player and illustrate its differentiation in the market.

 As a new player in construction bid management software—a specific and highly segmented industry—BuildingConnected was out to challenge a decades-old set of paradigms that dictated how general contractors and subcontractors communicated with each other. The San Francisco company, which launched in 2015 and was acquired by Autodesk at the end of 2018, sought to differentiate itself in the market with its free and easy-to-use system, which allows general contractors to vet and prequalify potential subcontractors, send invitations to bid, and communicate directly with everyone on a project—messaging, sharing files, and getting proposals from their subcontractors and vendors. BuildingConnected’s system also enables owners to store and share documents, track the bidding process, and view project history and analytics. 

The key factor is that all bidding, communication, and tracking mechanics take place without anyone ever having to think about contact database management, a feature no other commercial construction software offered. Think LinkedIn, but specific to the construction industry, said Dustin DeVan, the company’s CEO, who came up with the idea during the six years he spent in commercial construction before launching BuildingConnected. 

Although the long-term goal was to layer additional features onto its bid management solution so as to become a formal network operating system, BuildingConnected wanted to figure out the best way to talk about itself based on its current offerings. DeVan knew he had a good product, and he knew where he wanted to go with it. “Our question was, ‘How do we describe ourselves so that people understand how we’re different? How do we get across that we’re not offering the same bid management solution as everyone else?’”

In short, the executive team wanted to know how best to position BuildingConnected in the market. And, more specifically, how to position with an eye toward how that positioning might shift over the years.

The company also sought to overcome a perception that it was little more than a regional player not yet ready for prime time. To that end, BuildingConnected sought to reach a finite universe of general contractors—a thousand people in a few dozen markets—which would get the company to the point at which scale would become inevitable. 

 

The Aha!

Although BuildingConnected’s executives were initially focused on branding needs—specifically, a website and product marketing video—they quickly recognized the importance of pinning down the company’s precise strategic position and go-to-market strategy before focusing on the brand’s creative expression. 

“And that’s when the fun began,” said Zac Hays, the company’s product manager, referring to the process of bringing the company’s underlying DNA to light. Hays and DeVan agreed that the DNA exercise was particularly eye-opening, with most of the executive team initially seeing the company as a Missionary. In the end, however, the team was shocked to discover that it was actually a Mother —and overwhelmingly so, based in large part on the personality and concerns of its CEO.

Here’s how it unfolded: During a meeting between our team and the BuildingConnected C-Suite, the executives learned that a customer had called with a concern about vendors. “Everyone dropped whatever we were doing to attend to the problem,” recalled Hays. “Dustin jumped up and said, ‘I’m calling this guy right now.’ And your team is like, ‘Hmmm, the CEO is interrupting our meeting to call a single customer in Texas. One customer is having a minor issue and the whole team just drops everything and runs off to deal with it. Interesting…’” 

It was immediately apparent—to us, if not yet to them—that BuildingConnected was a Mother. And that it was a Mother focused on taking care of a particular market with a specific need. For this reason, we genotyped the company as a Mother focused on Segmentation rather than Customer Experience Mother. 

“Our true colors showed through that day,” said Hays “although it took us a while to accept and then embrace it. The last thing most of us wanted was to be a customer company. ‘Mother’ just didn’t seem to fit our image.” 

But embrace it they did. “We’re always looking for what is the best solution for the customers,” said Hays. “We want to make sure they’re happy. You guys said, ‘Just look at the feedback you’re getting from your customers.’ It was all about how customer service was great, how great the experience was. You told us, ‘Every product that you run, you’re talking about the user experience. You’re not asking, “How can we hit different price tiers?” or any other product-oriented question. Once we got that, it was like, Yes, we really do care about our customers and the user experience they have—more than anything on the product side. We don't have a suite of products. We have one cohesive solution.”

Understanding all that, it was just a short step to putting together BuildingConnected’s positioning (“Construction bid management with a refreshingly different experience”) and elevator story: 

Building Connected is a construction communication platform with a refreshingly different approach. It’s ridiculously easy to use. It’s free to find, communicate, and share documents with general contractors and subcontractors securely. Its analytics help everyone get smarter every time they work together. And you never have to update a contact database again. It’s about time.

One of the exercises DeVan appreciated most was seeing BuildingConnected placed within Steve Blank’s petal diagram, which offered a wide-angle lens on competitive differentiation. The diagram did a great job of mapping the landscape of the construction industry by showing the team the space BuildingConnected inhabited, identifying where competitors and those in neighboring industries fell on the diagram, and encouraging the company to assess where it might want to extend its reach. It also offered a reminder to consider that the companies inhabiting other petals were equally determined to extend their own reach and might set their sights on BuildingConnected’s territory.

The Results

Post-Aha positioning included helping BuildingConnected zero in on the focused differentiators and reasons-to-believe that would move its initial target audience to think differently—all without overwhelming existing customers with change. It also helped the company evolve its go-to-market approach as early adoption conversions tipped into scale stage.

With a new position, brand, marketing plan and website, BuildingConnected reached its goal of more than a thousand general contractors across dozens of markets using the platform by the end of 2016, which it said made the company the largest provider of bid management services.

The impact of DNA-based positioning extends well beyond the numbers. “We consider position in all of our designs—the issue of whether or not they’re ‘refreshing,’” said Hays. “It becomes a filter for everything we do. We even talk about it: ‘Is this pricing model refreshing?’ And often we’re like, ‘No, it’s actually kind of annoying.’ Other times we’ll look at the design and say, ‘Yeah, it works, but it’s just not refreshing. Back to the drawing board.’”

Any of this sound familiar?

 
Andy Cunningham