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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Some thoughts about marketing

An image from 65 Design's website. Nice looking materials, but how do you know you are getting your money's worth? (I've never used them, they are probably quite good, you could check references . . . of course, we could track their phone prefix to find where they are located, because I can't find a real address anywhere on the site -- suggests this may be a small, home-based business.)

Here is an article I've submitted for publication in our Canadian publications.

What are marketing and branding all about?
By Mark Buckshon
President, Construction News and Report Group of Companies

What are marketing and branding all about, and why are these words vitally important to your business? Simply put: Without clients ready and able to pay for your services, you don’t have a business, and branding and marketing are all about finding and retaining the customers you want.

The challenge occurs when it comes time to spend (invest) money on marketing and branding. Few business expenses can be as troublesome, because unlike inventory, mortgage or lease payments, or even the phone bill, you can easily spend a small fortune and achieve nothing in return – or worse, a negative result. Ill conceived and structured marketing campaigns can damage your business reputation, drive away profitable clients, and leave you with little to show but overpriced marketing materials.

Adding to the challenge is the very real fact that most of the pre-offered advice you will receive about marketing is delivered with a healthy dose of self-interest from the advisor. You can seek out independent consultants, agencies and the like, but unless your budget is really large, they aren’t likely to be much help (and they will probably never suggest that the smartest thing you could do is reduce your budget.)

So how do you overcome these challenges? Here are some thoughts, admittedly from someone whose business sells advertising for a living.

  • Consider joining the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). While there are no local chapters in Canada (the association has local chapters in most major U.S. cities), the overall marketing resources specifically relevant to the architectural, engineering and construction sectors are worthwhile and, if you wish to join a steering committee, we could establish a Canadian chapter.
  • Think supply-chain: Work with your vendors who have a common interest in supporting your marketing and publicity – they, after all will benefit from your success. (Many have co-op advertising programs to help pay the bills, and professional/technical expertise to help you along).
  • Think of your current clients first. Most of your potential marketing value is right with your existing client base. You want to ensure they are more than “satisfied” – if you do things so well that they brag about you to their friends you’ll obtain the valuable referral business. You need not spend much if any money here – simple things like returning phone calls promptly and sending thank you notes pay huge dividends.
  • Remember, external marketing is all about lead generation – and the leads you are generating should match the demographics and goals of your business. Define your actual strategy based on how effectively and reasonable your cost per lead is (and measure the results). You may find canvassing, for example, works well if you have a residential service visible from the exterior.

Finally, consider and use the free or inexpensive resources available to you – you can then cross-check for bias, and determine the best approach for your own business. I publish a list of relevant websites, forums, and blogs at the Construction Marketing Ideas blog.

Mark Buckshon is president of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies, which publishes construction trade newspapers and websites in several U.S. and Canadian cities. He can be reached by phone at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or by email at

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