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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Brochures, websites or relationships: Which comes first?

Put me in a room of general contractors, sub trades, suppliers and others connected with the construction industry, and my natural inclination is to want to freeze or simply go to a quiet seat (alone) and either read or text on my blackberry. I'm a social wallflower. But I realize that I'm not going to get very far in business without connecting with individuals in associations and groups so struggled to learn the basics. My solution: Take pictures and write stuff. You may have a different answer to this type of weakness.

Consider this posting on
The commercial retail and general TI market has dried up here, so I was thinking of distributing brochures and e-mails to mortgage lenders and Realtors to try and tap into the bank repo market. So what do you think? Is this a dead horse.
My initial response to the posting:
The bank and repo market may not be dead, but I'm not sure how effective "distributing brochures and emails" will be in making inroads.

Relationships are vitally important here and cold inquiries using any form of mass communication will likely be ineffective. You need to be much more focused and targeted (especially with Realtors, as only a few are going to have the connections and business which matter to you.) This may be a case where picking up the phone or sending a highly personal email to the right person does a whole lot more than "marketing".
The response to my response:
Thanks for the info, I was going to use the brochure as an ice breaker. I probably should have my web page up and running so they have something to reference. I was going to do my marketing face to face.
And my most recent answer:
If you are going to do a brochure, you will need to spend money on good design and printing. Printing isn't too much of a problem, you can do an online thing and use high quality colour copiers to print as you need. Design can be another issue if you aren't familiar with how to get it done at low cost.

The problem is that the brochure isn't necessarily a great ice breaker. What is a good ice breaker is some useful information and ideas for the people you are trying to work with -- and that comes from understanding the type of information they need and want to help them be more successful in their work. Of course that expression can be some insights about what you do best. I suppose you can put this in a brochure, but websites and emails are much less expensive!

I'm all in favour of marketing but this is one where your relationships need to be built and brochures won't break the ice unless you truly are defying the odds.
However, another response actually is the best answer to the poster's original questions:
You have nothing to lose at this point. It's better to do something than sitting around waiting on the phone to ring.

Go for it
The person who posted this response, who works at "Change Development" in Houston, TX, is on the right track, though I was a little surprised when I visited the "Change Development" site not to see anything that clearly identified the owner; the person, the personality, the human(s) behind the business.

I dunno. We are not brochures. We are not "machine language". We are people.

My social skills and relationship-building abilities are notoriously poor. You can search for hard evidence confessing to my limitations in earlier blog postings (I even at one point, I think, posted the actual psychiatric diagnosis given to me by the experts as I fought to overcome the social skills weaknesses while in university.) But I learned -- the hard way, with lots of effort -- that I wouldn't get far in life if I didn't achieve at least a degree of functionality in these areas.

The cure for my social ineptness turned out to be a combination of hard work, practice, and the development of my strengths sufficient that these became my "ice breaker" to overcome my social weakness. Thankfully, I have the gifts of inquisitiveness, speed in research, and writing ability -- perfect for a career in journalism. (Of course social skills are vitally important in the journalism business, too, but I found it easier to overcome the fear of asking pointed questions of political figures next to me than to ask a woman on a date. But I persevered on the social skills front, and finally married the woman of my dreams at age 40.)

Now, you are also seeing the expression of a social skill in this posting -- I've just exposed my warts and weaknesses for all to see. This is somewhat deliberate. People are more comfortable working with and communicating with people who don't see or claim themselves as perfect in all areas -- but who they believe are really good at the area that matters for the relevant relationship.

So, I agree with the other poster on this thread, that the original poster should "go for it". And it won't hurt at all to have a good website, and some materials to show. But the marketing challenge is more accurately to determine the group of people who can actually use and recommend your service, and then to find ways to build out relationships and connections to them first. And you'll be much more successful if you do that by calling people you know who can help you make the relevant introductions and connections, rather than worrying about your brochure.

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