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Monday, October 19, 2009

Three rules for construction marketing success

Here are three rules which will virtually ensure you have a sustainable and successful, construction marketing strategy.

  1. Create incredible (free) experiences for current and potential clients, delivering value far beyond their expectations.
  2. Get your suppliers -- the organizations to which you give money -- to pay for your marketing.
  3. Consider creative "inversions" of the above two rules to surprise the market and achieve marketing star status.
You don't need to be a rocket scientist to realize that when you put the first two elements together, you can generate extremely effective marketing at truly low cost. You reach the level of brilliance when you figure a way to change the rules and modify the process, however.

Our original business model, developed in the early 1990s, has worked wonderfully to connect the first two rules into truly powerful marketing packages. We discovered that we could write positive editorial profiles for businesses and organizations, and then work with them to obtain advertising support from their suppliers.

This concept is effective and has been sustainable for almost two decades. The challenge is defining who "our clients" are. Are they the businesses which receive the editorial profiles, and don't need to pay much, if anything, for the publicity, or their suppliers, who write us cheques for the advertising?

The search for answers to the latter question, to find ways to provide real value and "wow" for our true advertising clients, led me to study marketing with intensity with the objective of providing truly valuable (and free) marketing consulting services. This blog and the Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter are the result.

You might notice a virtuous evolution here. The blog and newsletter -- originally (and still) intended to provide after-sales service to existing clients -- allow us to meet a new group of potential clients and cost little in cash to achieve true impact and results.

How do you apply these principals in practice? The answers, depend in part, on your scale of business.

Very small and start-up level

Here, you have several challenges, simultaneously. You need to bring in enough money to keep going, lack support resources and staff, and the marketplace is likely to be skeptical of you.

Your first, and obvious, answer, is to call in some favours from friends, family, and former clients.

Then, you need to do something different. But how do you figure out what that "different" should be? I wish I had a simple answer to this type of question: In fact, it is one of the most frequent inquiries I receive in the "free advice" invitation on the sidebar and it is my hardest question to answer: I can't delve into the micro-environment of your business and you are unlikely to have the resources to pay me a per diem to investigate potential ideas in great depth.

Generally, I think you should aim to be the big fish in a small pond, and look to your suppliers for some supporting resources to make you seem even bigger.

Small to medium ($250,000 to $2 million annual sales)

Here, you have a client base but not a whole lot of money to squander. Look into client appreciation events and even better, client appreciation events that support your marketing.

(The idea of providing a free inspection or service call in exchange for the right to put up signage, or a "thank you" dinner at a great restaurant -- maybe one of your previous clients -- has real merit.)

Medium to substantial ($2 to $10 million)

Now you have some power in the marketplace. Consider organizing supplier-focused trade shows, using our services for editorial features, and organizing a formal marketing department where you can apply all the best practices disciplines of the industry in your business.

Large (more than $10 million)

By now, you will have a marketing department, public relations and communications strategies and the like, and you will likely have systems and a budget in place for community service and co-op and client support initiatives.

Regardless of the size of your business, however, the three rules above will provide powerful clues about your marketing strategies. Before you jump into spending money on your marketing, consider their implications and whether you can apply them. You may magnify your results, while reducing your costs. In fact, you might even turn your marketing initiatives into a profit centre.

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