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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Building (not burning) bridges

I obtained this intriguing image of a graffiti 'burning bridge' -- think of the 'wasted' effort and co-ordination to get those flames there -- from

Some of this blog's readers, I realize, really build bridges, but the topic here is metaphorical -- the marketing challenge of making meaningful connections and developing and maintaining successful relationships, regardless of the circumstances or environments we encounter.

We all build our bridges by doing our work to the highest level of professionalism and skill. This is 80 per cent of marketing value of course. Our reputation follows us and word of mouth business and validation, coupled with repeat business, count for most of your business success. If your business is all about marketing and nothing about delivering substance, you will flame out or operate one of those high-turnover enterprises that has the word 'scam' attached to it. (If you are a civil engineer or contractor, you will certainly want to focus on building the bridges on time, within budget, and according to the specifications far more than on delivering great proposals for the construction.)

But there are other elements to the marketing/business development puzzle, and here things get interesting. Business success, long term, both requires you to get the basics right -- you certainly want to be ready at the proposal deadline -- but you also need to look beyond 'current needs' while being totally tuned into them.

If all of this seems contradictory, it is, in a way. Success, to me, occurs when you both keep your focus but appreciate the periphery and recognize the glean of insight from your peripheral vision can save the day, many years later.

For example, you'll gain great value by putting away your 'fundamental business sense' and making contributions to your community, either within your trade or near your home. Participating and contributing to your trade associations, for example, will result in rewards down the road, if you don't think of your contribution as an investment, but you do it because you want to do the work (and think it right). (If you go into the process thinking 'I will do this to get that in return', you'll likely pull out disappointed and frustrated -- you may find more success by making cold calls!)

Similarly, there are times you must part company, end relationships, and stop doing business with individuals or organizations. No one is telling you that you must be in love with a crook or incompetent (especially if that person is your boss) but before you shout from the rooftop "Take that job and shove it" or the corollary, "You're fired", take a few minutes to consider whether somehow, sometime in the future, the person or organization you are dissing will reappear in your life. It happens, all too often.

So, build your bridges, both literally and figuratively. And while there are rare circumstances where burning your bridges makes sense, most of the time you will achieve more when you recognize that while times change, the basic principals of human respect and relationships remain consistent.

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