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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Making connections at connections cafe

At the CSC Ottawa Chapter Connections Cafe, Donna Hicks, Habitat for Humanity NCR CEO, Diane Finley, Canadian federal Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, and CSC Ottawa Chapter President Paul Butcher. Clearly connections are working here.

Probably one of the most intriguing and valuable networking and business development groups in the construction industry is the association representing specifications writers, Construction Specifications Canada and in the U.S., the Construction Specifications Institute.

Spec writers have the crucial responsibilities of drawing up the construction documentation for new projects, meaning they have practical influence far greater than their academic degree or formal status (they can be technicians within architectural offices, for example).

Spec writers clearly have information of value to downstream general contractors and sub-trades. If they are involved, something is about to be built, somewhere, and if you know this fact, you can work to be on the invited bidders list.

Building materials manufacturers/distributors and technology providers also want to be on good terms with construction specifiers. If specific materials or technologies are specified, it doesn't matter which general contractor or sub trade actually orders the materials or technology; the deal is sealed and the sale is made.

Not surprisingly, this influence -- and the interdisciplinary environment of the specifiers' associations -- create an ideal marketing and business development opportunity for many specialists within the construction industry (including, of course, publishers like us who really gain a lot from connecting with other marketers).

I felt this symbiosis at last night's Connections Cafe, one of the CSC Ottawa Chapter's major events. Although I am always socially awkward, I know enough people in the room to connect well -- and the specifications writers not surprisingly appreciate the free publicity and support we provide in our publications.

We met former clients who will do business with us again, and provided some tangible support to the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Best of all, I uncovered a new source of leads for our own business.

I asked a building supplies distributor who makes it his business to go out to construction sites and trailers to find and quickly serve building clients if he could let me know of the major projects in town under early stage construction. These represent ideal subjects for advertising-supported features in our publications. With a long-standing mutually beneficial relationship, the representative took all of 10 seconds to agree to the proposal (we will provide him with free advertising for leads which pan out).

I imagine if you are a general contractor or building technology supplier, your connections with architects and spec writers would allow you to develop similar inside-track relationships and leads if you choose to get involved and work with your local CSC or CSI chapters.

Remember that connecting and business development need not cost you much money if you find the right points of influence and relationship development, and CSC/CSI could do just that for your business.

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