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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Construction marketing: Universal laws and local rules

At the Design and Construction Network's Happy Hour registration table: (From Left): R. Graydon Ripley III, Associate with Vertran Enterprises (elevator and escalator design), Alison Heath, Director of Marketing, Hardwood Artisans; Michael Colonnello, Account Executive with Atlantic Risk Management, one of the event's sponsors, and Jeff Lavore, CPA with Lanigan, Ryan, Malcolm & Doyle, PC, Certified Public Accountants.

As we travelled on Washington D.C.'s Metro system after leaving the Design and Construction Network's Happy Hour in Alexandria, Virginia, Matt Handal and I observed how some marketing rules are universal, but local conditions are vital in understanding what will work and what won't.

We had travelled the furthest to attend the event which is an evolution of the linkedin.com Design and Construction Network and has grown from zero to more than 1,000 members in less than six months.

Many members are far afield -- founder Tim Klabunde told me he has five members from Asia -- but Matt and I are probably the two members who travelled the greatest distance to attend. (He is from Philadelphia, a two-hour train ride away, and I'm of course from Ottawa, Canada, a 90 minute flight.)

Handal, like Tim and me, has a blog, and we are all members of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). Handal asked me ow many visitors my blog receives every day. I told him it fluctuates, between 30 and 40 on weekends, with up to 250 on days when newsletters or links attract many visitors, but we average about 120 to 130 visitors. Handal's blog Help Everybody Everyday attracts far fewer.

Of course one reason for the discrepancy is the "who is in first wins, rule", one of the basics of marketing. If you are first in mind in your market segment or niche, you almost inevitably can hold onto that spot no matter the quality or relative value of the "me too" competitors who follow. Your only escape from this this rule is to focus on a redefined niche.

But, I told Matt, you could take the lead in establishing a local presence for the Design and Construction Network in Philadelphia. Often the most successful businesses are copies of successful ideas in one locality to another -- in the first community, you would be the"me too" player, but in the second, you would be first and therefore have the ideal market position.

But Matt has another challenge -- the mindset in Philadelphia may not be as receptive for the kind of group represented by the Design and Construction Network as it is in Washington.
Local values, cultures and traditions can override the universal imperatives.

(You can also see this in other businesses: Most communities have some truly unique locally successful chains and organizations which simply don't transplant elsewhere. In Vancouver, for example, everyone knows about the White Spot, and when I return for visits I go one of its locations at least once, but would White Spot thrive in Washington, or Ottawa, for that matter? I doubt it.

As you read this, I hope you can see some of the challenges, opportunities and visibilities that make marketing such an interesting endeavor. You cannot simply assume a cookie-cutter approach will work everywhere, but be wary if you think you can defy the marketing laws by suggesting you are the exception. Be thoughtful, careful, and remember the most important rule: Be first.

Tonight or early tomorrow, after I return home, I hope to post some video and further observations on the Design and Construction Network's success.

1 comment:

Mark Buckshon said...

Comment from Matt Handal, inadvertently deleted by me:

"I'm glad I can be the Jim Carrey to your Truman show. Best of all, you are the only person who ever spells my name right! For that, I am eternally grateful. To clarify, most of the people looking at www.helpeverybodyeveryday.com are homeless Philly street-dwellers that I pay. It's cheaper than google ads. Although, they usually stick to Fords stuff. One of them sent me a nice thank you card.

Anyway, good recap of our conversation. We'll see how the Philly dcn chapter goes. For professional services the #1 rule gets tricky. Because I think local perception plays into it. Just because you are #1 in Chicago does not mean you are #1 in Boston. That's how we are different than smuckers jelly.

I wonder if anyone really tracks thier marketshare? I would like to track ours but honestly I wouldn't know where to start."