In this expert interview, we talk to Darren Jarvis, founder of ConstructUK. If you work in construction marketing and don’t know ConstructUK yet, then your life is about to get a whole lot easier. 

Let’s start with the elevator pitch – what is ConstructUK? 
We’ve developed a hub for construction marketing companies, professional marketers, managers, directors. It’s an online directory that disseminates information on exhibitions, journals, professional bodies, and so on. It’s a comprehensive directory of information relevant to marketing and promotion in the construction industry, and it’s useful for manufacturers, service providers, anyone who needs to research their market and work out where to focus their promotions.

What’s the backstory to ConstructUK?
We started back in 2003. My background was in exhibitions, for the Building Centre. I was there for 20 years and it became clear to me that we were spending a lot of time researching the market – which exhibitions to look at, which journals to advertise in, who are the right contacts to approach about the product. It was very convoluted, the industry is very fragmented, and we just spent a lot of time researching. We needed something that pulled all of this information together. So I left and established the directory. 

Initially we published it as a book, and sold it through industry bookshops. Companies used to buy it as a standalone thing, or they would subscribe and we would send them updates, which were extra pages that they could insert. Then we compiled databases of architects and house builders and so on and made them available on CD-ROM. 

Obviously time has moved on and we’re now totally online. We went fully online just under 2 years ago and stopped publishing the directory in hard copy format. The ConstructUK website, as you will see, is very comprehensive. It includes all sorts of specialist agencies, for example marketing agencies, PR, sales agencies such as Contractors Marketing Services, all sorts of organisations that would be relevant to the sales and marketing activities to a construction organisation. There’s also all sorts of articles and advice, on topics from designing literature, to getting products accredited. It’s much wider than when we started. It’s grown and grown. It filled a gap in the market. What we wanted to do was create a single source of information and I think we’ve done that. 

Who is it for?
It's for the grassroots up. Whether you’re a one-man band or a FTSE 100 company, you will find this useful – provided you have a product or service which you need to sell to architects or house builders or whoever. 

We have clients across the board from blue chip manufacturers to small start-ups targeting niche sectors. It’s appropriate and relevant for anyone targeting the construction sector. You need to be able to navigate the industry, and this cuts out so much research time as well as informing people on events and services and products that may be useful and that they wouldn’t otherwise know about. 

It’s not just British companies that use it. We have a wide international usage, particularly European companies that supply to the UK market. We now have a lot of embassies, which generally have within them trade promotion agencies for their own national industries. They will subscribe and use it to help their own domestic exporters get information on UK markets so that they can sell here. We’ve just completed a project for a Spanish door company, and they’re now specified for some major projects here in the UK. It’s gratifying to know that we can help people get established in the market.

We have users all across the world who want to export to the UK. They’re at an even greater disadvantage in navigating the market because there’s just so much to know – I mean, we’ve got over 240 different exhibitions, covering every sector and subsector in the industry. The journals, where you might advertise a product, there are over 300 of those. There are journals for windows, journals for doors. For a product manufacturer, most of them will be targeting architects or contractors or house builders, and they want to make sure their products and their brand is known. It’s hard to get to the right professionals. ConstructUK provides British and international businesses access to the information on all those different journals targeting each of those sectors. You could spend days on it otherwise, trying to work out how to target architects working on the flooring sector, for example. This will take you straight there. 

I’m struck at how much information there is to cover…
It’s a vast industry. It’s just huge, and because there are so many professionals involved and the supply chain is so diverse, I imagine to the newcomer it seems overwhelming. That’s something we try to overcome. For those that are new, we provide information on how they can learn about it. There are courses just dealing with construction marketing and promotion, because it’s complicated enough that basic marketing knowledge isn’t going to be enough. We provide details of all those courses too.

Aside from how comprehensive it is, the other thing that gives ConstructUK its strength is that it’s impartial. All the content on the site is chosen by us. We choose who is listed, and it’s not determined by who would pay for it or not. 99% of the companies listed within the directory don’t pay us a penny. They’re there because they’re relevant and we put them there. That keeps it impartial and all the more valuable.

How do you suggest people get started with ConstructUK?
People pay to access some of the information, but we provide an awful lot of free information too. If you go on to the website and look at the directories tab, that will give you a basic introduction to the topics covered by the site. There’s also an events calendar that covers hundreds of conferences, exhibitions, meet the buyer events, and that’s always something that people find useful. Meet the buyer events are great. If you’re selling bathrooms or kitchens or flooring or whatever it is, you can go along to one venue and meet architects and contractors, and talk to a dozen of them or more in one day. We provide details of those sorts of events, free of charge. 

We support a lot of those events too. We’ve moved from small beginnings where we published a book that was sold in bookshops and we’ve now evolved to a much larger brand. We’re able to support lots of the trade shows and we’re media partners to many of them. We also support the Construction Marketing Awards, conferences, and we’re keen to support more. That’s all about awareness for us, as there are still plenty of people who haven’t heard of us!