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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day 2 at the OGCA Symposium

Steve Sulpher at Infinite Source Solutions with Jim Wright from the Ontario Construction Secretariat at the OCS booth at the OGCA Symposium.

Talk about intense! From 7 a.m. breakfast until the dinner session wrapped up about 10 pm at the Ontario General Contractors Association symposium, I could catch a few breaks (including a much-needed late afternoon 'crash' in the hotel room) but -- even as I gathered notes for several stories and future articles -- lacked the time and energy for serious blogging.

Today, after a key session where leading contractors will describe their experiences and sense of the market going forward, I must quickly pack my stuff and get on the road for the seven hour drive back to Ottawa -- and son Eric's final hockey party.

The consensus here is that the recession is biting, but (at least at present) the damage may be more on the residential and private sector commercial than the government/institutional markets -- even as new infrastructure projects are rushed in through the Canadian stimulus program, existing projects previously co-ordinated are continuing.

I also gained some insights about the evolving practices of successful marketing and relationship development, especially as online relationships meld with in-person connections. I believe we will soon be able to make these connections even more powerful in Washington DC as we move forward with the relaunch of Washington Construction News.

You'll see some of these thoughts more clearly expressed next week, but I'll part with some observations of Steve Sulpher from Infinite Source Solutions in Vancouver.

He said he had been trying to sell his company's package of bidding, project and document management software through cold calls and meet-and-greet activities, including events like the OGCA Symposium, but received an important wake-up call from some marketing experts who said the challenge is to get people to actually respond and express interest before selling anything.

As a result, he developed a seminar program, and sent email invitations. People who responded attended -- and, if they were interested, they received an in-person sales call. He said he attracted one large client not on his email list. Someone on the list, knowing the client's real need for his company's services, forwarded it to the new client -- who, Sulpher said, is virtually invisible from the outside (but is still a large and successful business.)

Of course, Sulpher has discovered the essence of the effective linkage between marketing and sales. Marketing that doesn't generate inquires or actionable responses may have some value, just as cold calling blindly through lists of names can sometimes generate some sales. The real skill -- and determination of marketing and sales success -- is whether you can economically attract enough leads which convert naturally and easily to sales. Good marketing enhances the selling process: With inbound inquiries, you don't have to push for the order; instead, you can focus on really understanding your prospective client's needs, and help them solve their challenges.

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