Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 5:56 PM
Monday, July 30, 2007
Some years ago, when I first heard about the Ottawa Executives Association, I grew excited about the business potential of this group. Founded in the Great Depression, it has survived through booms and busts with a powerful formula. Only one member is permitted within any business category, and that member is (supposed to be) the president or senior executive officer of the business.
In our case, the reality of the association did not match my expectations and I dropped out after about a year, but this could be less to do with the association than the nature of our business. Since we earn most of our money selling business-to-business advertising (within the specific construction industry sector), there is relatively little value of our belonging to a closed network that believes relationships are the best ways to find new clients, rather than advertising. Notably some contractors -- including a local electrical contractor -- have remained members for decades -- even though membership requires a weekly (expensive) lunch.
However, there are still problems -- namely, issues such as 'category creep' (should you let a member in who is in a supposedly distinctive but very close area), the awkwardness of competition since many businesses now overlap sectors, and, perhaps more challenging, the erosion of the owner-is-present situation so that you find your business counterparts are salespeople with absolutely no purchasing authority. Certainly these associations are not "quick hit" organizations -- so you need to invest lots of effort at the start -- and continuously --to get any value. I think for some members, in strong categories which provide essential business needs and services, the associations can be highly lucrative; again, they appear to work for trades with a high service orientation.
But since this is the Construction Marketing Ideas blog, I need to reference the potential of this type of group to you since it could be a truly effective source of leads -- especially if you are looking for maintenance-type work and wish to escape the dog-eat-dog "low bid wins the work" competition.
The OXA belongs to a network of similar associations under the International Executives Organization banner.
Today, our North Carolina publisher Bob Kruhm introduced me to a similar type of exclusive organization, but one dedicated to the construction industry only. The Construction Professionals Network of North Carolina currently has three chapters in Charlotte, the Triangle, and Triad. Membership is restricted to avoid duplicating or overlapping membership categories.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 6:05 PM
BtoB, a marketing trade magazine, reports on Hilti's "Grassroots efforts to drive preference." The article note that Hilti's problem with the trades was that was perceived as a high-end product; and the construction tools manufacturer sought to let the people who actually use the tools see that they are good for "everyday jobs".
Since the users of these tools are the actual tradespeople, they don't spend too much time reading trade journals or visiting the trade shows, their marketing agency Nicholson Kovac decided.
Research showed that the contractors wanted to see real people in real settings, not staged images.
"Hilti sponsored lunch trucks that served breakfast and lunch at key construction job sites, had Hilti "ambassadors"hand out Hilti-branded water bottles at the sites and hosted National Contractor Days -- complete with radio remote broadcasts and Hilti giveaways -- at local Home Depot stores," the magazine reported.
The magazine did not report on the campaign's cost, but the agency reported a significant increase in business preference -- the agency claims it increased to 28 per cent from 8 per cent, and "11 per cent of new customers said their campaign influenced their decision to buy Hilti tools."
I'm not sure, but suspect the free breakfasts and lunches carried a lot of weight here.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 1:19 AM
Sunday, July 29, 2007
About the N.E.E.R.
It's been a few years since I relayed to employees and friends the secrets we discovered at a seminar in the summer of 1995 in Hunt, Texas. The mother of an orthodontist friend of ours had loaned me the book "Breaking the No Barrier" by Walt Hailey, and something clicked. I could see that, accidentally, we were achieving our highest sales volumes by practicing his concepts. What if we built our business model around deliberately using the supply chain principals explained as "Naturally Existing Economic Relations" or N.E.E.R. in short.
Almost broke at the time, working 70 hours a week, I scraped enough money to head with Vivian to Hunt, Texas for the three day "Boot Kamp". (Hunt is in the Hill Country near San Antonio). We found ourselves at a ranch owned by Mr. Hailey, a very short guy who had achieved tremendous success in the insurance business by tapping the cornerstone of relationship business-to-business relationship marketing models.
Hailey's concept utilizes the principal of the "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" but looks at business as a continuing chain; the challenge is to create natural value through the supply chain to build real demand and respect for your product or service.
In its simplest form, his principals are an extension of barter-type relationships. Say you buy a lot of stuff from someone and you have something to sell that the person who buys from you could use. Do you think your chances of getting a foot in the door to make a presentation -- and sale -- are somewhat higher in this situation than a complete stranger?
Of course, the reason for this respect is a combination of access (you aren't going to avoid a call from a good customer) and respect. It is hard to insult someone you do business with as a client and say you will never buy from them.
Hailey realized you could take this principal a step further, to generate a truly incredible stream of referrals. Instead of looking just for your friends and associates, or previous clients, Hailey advocated a systematic referral development system -- look first to the clients of the organization to which you ultimately want to make a sale. Get a referral from them, and then you have an inside track to solid and valid business.
And that is where an insight hit me -- we had published project reports and company profiles before, but I never realized why they worked better than regular advertising. Now I realized the key to the whole thing -- if we encourage a company that we are publicizing to refer its suppliers to advertise, we would not lack for business. And, indeed, when we systematically applied the methods, our sales skyrocketed.
Nothing is perfect; and even the best ideas in the business world evolve over time toward entropy. Our success spawned direct competitors. More importantly, we needed to learn how to respect and nurture these N.E.E.R. referrals-- when an advertiser purchases an ad in a special feature because his client requests it, that advertiser has become our own client, and we should respect the advertiser as much as the company that referred the business to us!
But this business model has practical application for many contractors and sub-trades as well as suppliers, and I'll share an example with you to show how it works.
Say, you are a mechanical contractor looking for more business. You send a few hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to your wholesaler. You might ask the wholesaler's president: "Could you connect me with the businesses in our joint market area from where you purchase your products and services, to introduce them to me as the best plumber in town?"
I'm sure you are thinking of the logical objection here -- your wholesaler after all serves other mechanical contractors. Why should he favour you with this request? Well, this may be a valid question but I am going to base this observation on your being one of the wholesalers' better clients. And I'm also going to speculate that virtually none of your competitors has the insight to even ask the question. You will get the referrals, simply because you ask.
This process can be taken on other levels, depending on where you are in the supply chain and how you relate to your network of vendors; and how the marketplace connects with them. I'll share some other examples in future postings.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 5:20 PM
I wrote that book
Hey I used to work for a company that promised contractors insurance claims leads but was really just a directory. Much like (name removed). So I'll give you the inside scoop. They can not give you stats because they don't pay people to gather and monitor that data. Instead they find it cheaper and easier to train their sale people to convince you that you don't need stats or that stats are irrelevant. Now this won't work on a lot of prospects (meaning contractors) but it will work on enough to turn a profit.
Especially if you have a team of stock broker style trained sales people putting in 4 hours of required phone time per day in a boiler room, calling every contractor in the country they can find in phone books and directories kind of like their own. In truth the only difference between them and Craig's list is that Craig's list is free and sometimes works. Just like the sales manager that responded to this thread they are trained to dazzle you with bull sh*t and not answer any real question. They are taught that your questions are not important only the one call close is, and answering your questions only takes up time they could be using cold calling until they find a lay down. The business model is simple: a good enough pitch writer (like I was) can make any idea sound reasonable enough to a big enough margin to make one hell of a profit, and a good enough sales person can think on his feet and come up with a rebuttal to any objection (by objection I mean legitimate question). You give them your money and they will take it..........and give you nothing. Any advertiser who doesn't give stats is a crook. That's why I got out of that kind of advertising. I still sell advertising but if I sell you a t.v. spot I do the research and find out how many gross impressions you'll expect per dollar, if I put a sign in front of your shop It's simply to improve your image and I'll tell you that. If I put up a bill board I do the research and find out roughly how many people will view it per year and so on and so forth. I probably spend about 70 per cent of my time researching advertising and 30 per cent selling it. It's not the most profitable way to do business but it's the most honest way. And when my prospects choose to do business with me they never go anywhere else. So in the long run, maybe the honest way is the best way.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 4:18 AM
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Your best referral: The best client of your potential client
So, you are a subcontractor looking for profitable work. You are fed up with the nickel-and-diming and bidding wars, and would like to win some solid sole-source non-competitive maintenance work, where you can earn a decent profit. How do you find this business?
The answer may simply be to knock on the door of the company you wish to serve -- they may need your services, and will do a deal. But if you want to be more creative, and have a much better chance of success, find someone who is a really good client of that business, and obtain a referred introduction to your target business.
Nothing opens doors more than referral calls -- and nothing has more power (if you wish to be a supplier) than a solid referral (or better yet, more than one referral) from your prospective client's client base.
The key to successful marketing is to put yourself in the right place in business value stream. For more insights on this methodology (which I will elaborate on more in later blog entries), I recommend you read "Breaking the No Barrier" by the late Walter Haily. It is out of print, but used copies are available at Amazon.com.
Does this method work? It is one of the key foundations of my business. Find the book on the used book market -- it is simply written, now a little outdated -- but the message may give you the clues for marketing success that you are seeking.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 10:53 PM
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 1:19 AM
Friday, July 27, 2007
Robert Greene, in his book The 48 Laws of Power, says the "free lunch" removes power from the recipient because it creates a sense of obligation -- something to be avoided at all costs if you really want to control things (but of course something worthy to offer if you want the control yourself -- obviously relevant in sales and marketing situations. Here is his law:
Thursday, July 26, 2007
- Spend 80 per cent of your marketing resources on your current clients. Treat them well, give them extra value and service, relate and connect with them. You'll win the repeat and referral business -- and vital, positive references and testimonials -- that will get you most of your business (and it will be both profitable and satisfying.)
- Spend 80 per cent of the remaining 20 per cent on your Internet presence and media publicity initiatives. Most of this money will actually go to the Internet, since your media publicity will essentially be 'free' except for management time and (if you have the resources) some specialized PR/communications consulting services.
If you would like my assistance in implementing this strategy, email email@example.com.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 7:00 PM
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Selling without selling -- the natural approach
I detest selling. I hate "calling lists", pushing myself out and trying to get people to buy stuff from me. "I'm a writer," I say, and "Why should I do this work?"
But since I own the business, I need to be able to sell and ultimately have found the way that works best for me. First, obviously, is to employ others as salespeople. It took many years and I still haven't got it 100 perfect, but we now have a recruitment system that works for our business.
But the second solution is more effective on a personal level. I think as both a writer and business person, always respecting the potential clients' needs. Sales happen naturally this way.
Somehow, by putting the clients' interests first, and 'forgetting' that you have something to sell, you actually achieve the sale that you might not otherwise expect to attain.
These attitudes reflect the observations of Tim Klabunde in the SMPS Marketer magazine who advocates that business people should "Network like an Introvert".
His point is that it isn't the number of relationships that matter ; it is their quality and relevance -- certainly true in the high-value AEC sector. By putting aside your needs and thinking in terms of the client; by listening, and then providing ways to help and serve the prospective client's best interests, you attract far more business than forcing your way into the 'sales space'.
In essence, I find I sell the most by not worrying about the "sale" but thinking about how I can best help the person I am speaking with. This does not mean being a pushover or discounting our own service -- it simply means understanding the point that you can't force people to buy anything -- they have to want to do it.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 3:19 AM
Monday, July 23, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
The story beneath the story
Somewhere over the Atlantic ocean on Friday night, after watching two movies and being saved from a terrible special-order dinner (the Alitalia flight crew thankfully found a 'regular' meal for me), I started reading Michael Gerber's E-Myth Mastery, a book I purchased just before leaving on vacation.
I skimmed through most of the book -- Gerber advocates systematization and I have previously observed there are both strengths and limits in his approaches -- but stopped to read closely a few passages where he put aside his general observations, or dialogues with his imaginary "Sarah" business owner, and talked about himself, and his real-life experiences.
Most tellingly, he described the crisis he encountered when he supposedly was achieving great success and recognition through his first E-Myth book; when he had set up a franchise organization to market his business consultancy services. After returning from a vacation, when he thought all was well, he discovered the business actually was in deep crisis -- with angry franchisees, angry creditors, and self-serving employees and consultants sucking the life-blood out of his business.
This story, of course, he can only share safely now -- I'm sure when the crisis was 'live' the last thing he wanted to do was let the world know all was indeed not very well -- in fact, he was living through hell. He obviously survived; largely with the help and loyalty of his wife, and through hard work and determination rebuilt his business. This included giving up the franchise concept and bringing the operation back in-house. (This is an interesting point, because Gerber says he obtained his greatest discovery at a MacDonald's franchise; when he saw how systems and organization -- the franchise model -- represented the change that many struggling business owners need to emulate -- they need to put processes and systems in place so that the system, not an individual employee (or group of employees) controls the business destiny.)
Gerber's second insightful remark occurs near the book's beginning. I'm going to stretch the fair comment rules under copyright and quote extensively (then send you over to Amazon.com to buy the book, if you wish). In his early 30s, Gerber had moved from selling encyclopedias to insurance.
"Some time after I said yes to the elegant,white-haired elder of insurance and no to the gentleman in the black shirt and checked jacket, I found myself sitting alone at a counter in a coffee shop somewhere on Webster Street in San Francisco, early on a sun-drenched crystal clear morning, trying to boost myself up to make a warm insurance call at Presbyterian Hospital next door on a doctor who had been referred to me, having a third cup of coffee to get my nerve up, to bolster my complete lack of self-confidence, finding myself in the strange early-morning world of insurance sales rather than the early night of encyclopedia sales that I had grown so perversely accustomed to. Still on straight commission, more visible at this time of day, unable to hide in poetry or my saxophone, and suddenly, just like that, it happened. One moment I was sitting on the stool at the counter and the very next I woke up with my face pressed to the cold hard concrete floor of the coffee shop looking at something that seemed like a guy's shoes planted directly in front out of my face.Wow. This stuff caught me cold, in part because just a few week's earlier, I had been IN the Red Sea -- in the underwater viewing area at the Eilat marine park, marveling at the biodiversity at that border point between Egypt, Jordan and Israel.
I had passed out!
And I came face-to-face with that place that I have found myself in too many times in my life where I've discovered, to my surprise, that a choice I thought that I had already made was really a step towards a collision with the fact that I had not made a choice at all. I had simply done what was apparently next. The choice was still there to be made. And if I made it, the right decision, my life was never going to be the same again.
And that's when the blessed moment occurred.
Right there on the floor, I came to the realization that I was marking time, that I was living in a closet of my own making, a small, tight, breathless closet called My Life, and I had closed the door behind me, thinking at the time that I was living in the real world.
I was living in a closet and I had just run out of air!
And suddenly, G0d opened the door!
That's what it felt like to me. God opened the door and I was called.
Right there on t he cold floor in a coffee shop in San Francisco, I was blessed. First, I wasn't and then I was. Blam. Just like that.
And that's what set me on fire.
In one moment there was no fire, and in the next moment there was.
In one moment I was burned out, and in the next I was burning up.
They told me at the hospital next door that I had had a panic attack.
Get some rest, they told me.
I didn't go home to rest. I didn't need to.
I sold the doctor some insurance instead."
A few paragraphs later, Gerber observes:
"I had the good fortune not too long ago to talk with a rabbi who had read one of my books and was inspired by it. We talked about Judaism and miracles. He offered many, many examples of how the miracles spoken of in the Bible are not just biblical in nature, but happening around us every single day. Our problem, he said, is we just don't see them for what they are. He went on to add, "If the Messiah were to appear on 42nd Street in New York City tomorrow in the plain light of day, it's probable that only a handful of people would even see him! And everyone else would think he was mad!" The rabbi said to me, "I have come to think that the Red Sea has parted for each and every one of us in our own singularly unique and miraculously unpredictable way, over and over again. The tragedy is we don't see it."
"If we saw it, our lives would be transformed."
Miracles happen, the blessing comes, the Red Sea parts, but then it's up to us. Are we ready to see it, are we moved by what just happened, are we open to the possibility, are we ready to catch on fire?
If not -- and my life has shown me in countless, tragic ways how often I'm not open, not available, not willing to let go and jump -- nothing will happen except more of the same. We'll continue to sell our metaphorical encyclopedias. We'll just drag our weary butts up off the coffeehouse floor and go back to doing it, doing it, doing it some more. the insufferably walking dead, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, in a small, airless closet we call Life.
Being available, that changes everything."
I had decided last December to take the trip to Israel even though we were in a state of business crisis -- just digging out -- and (not surprisingly!) things didn't work 100 per cent perfectly while we were exploring the Negev and Israeli south.
Like Michael Gerber, I've had my own life-changing insights; one when I was 26, in Africa and learned that the greatest constraint in life is fear, often unfounded; the other, 12 years later, at 38, when I realized I would need to be responsible for my own life do what needs to be done to make it right. In both situations -- but especially that first flash of insight, in Tjoloto, Zimbabwe, on Good Friday in 1980 -- I also appreciated the greatness of God and recognized the combination of humility and strength in the Greater Power.
Gerber reminds me that we are truly responsible for our own destiny; we can seek the advice and counsel of others, we can read, we can learn, we can apply common-sense principals and approaches to create new experiences and dreams, but ultimately we need to think for ourselves, and have the courage to act on our convictions, even when they seem uncertain, and things are not 100 per cent perfect.
Think for yourself. Dare to dream. Be prudent, responsible, rational, and thoughtful. Nevertheless, most importantly, don't be afraid to take risks and experience the things you really want in life. You may not be able to see the parting of the Red Sea, but you may be able to dip your toes into the Red Sea itself.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Breaking the rules
A few hours ago, while waiting for the final leg of our flight home, I drafted an email letter. The rule of the game on important correspondence is to 'sleep on it'. The fresh perspective of an extra day almost inevitably results in improvements or avoiding big mistakes.
But the combination of creative energy and impulsiveness got the best of me, so, shortly before boarding, I hit the 'send' button. Rereading the letter, I am not totally disappointed with it -- but I'm sure the message could have been better developed and communicated if I had given it an extra day or two.
Alas, in my rush, I produced a typo -- inviting readers to travel to an 'impossible' blog address. While there is no doubt I should have been more careful about the original letter, the question came to mind: How can I fix the error?
The first 'solution' might have made sense -- sending everyone on the list a correction note -- and could have perhaps increased readership and ultimately the letter's effectiveness. (There is a paradox that the less 'sales message' you can find in a letter, the more effective it is.) But I don't believe in burdening readers with excessive email volumes.
So I implemented the second solution, I created a special 'My mistake' blog with the incorrect web address. Readers who click on the mistaken blog quickly will find their way to the correct one.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 6:31 PM
Friday, July 20, 2007
We're at JFK Airport today, preparing for a flight to Boston and (tomorrow) our return home. After a few hours to decompress from four weeks overseas, I'll resume the Construction Marketing Ideas blog.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 12:49 PM
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Effective blogging (update)
We've started a new sole-purpose blog for recruiting employees at http://www.constructionpublishing.blogspot.com. I'm on vacation, sitting with my laptop in a hotel lounge in Israel as my family sleeps (it is about 6:30 a.m. here) From the time I decided to set up this blog (referenced in our online advertising) to having it "live", the entire process required about 15 minutes of work time. The blog has Google Analytics attached which allows me to track many key elements. As soon as I'm finished this blog entry, I will add to the tracking capacity with links to mybloglog.com.
Of course, if you are just starting out, you will require some more time and effort to learn how things work and likely will make some mistakes along the way. You might want to delegate this work to an employee or outside service provider -- and I certainly am contracting out anything requiring significant skill or coding. I've also contracted an overall review of our websites and Internet strategy -- yes I've learned much over the last few years but realize that it is essential to have wiser (and in this case younger) eyes outside of my head look at what we are doing, and how we can do it better.
But there are real advantages as well to some do-it-yourself knowledge and experience. Once you've passed the initial learning curve, you'll see how easy it is to adapt and extend the blogging and web marketing tools to your overall marketing strategies, and you'll how much you can accomplish with truly limited efforts.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 8:21 PM
Friday, July 13, 2007
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Our month-long family vacation in Israel continues. You can read the Exploring Israel blog for daily updates.
While on vacation, I'll occasionally post relevant items here, and when we return, the blog will get back to 'normal' -- several posts a day where possible; as we prepare a major redesign and improvements.
In the meantime, if you have questions or requests, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 9:05 PM