Monday, February 28, 2011
The newsletter this week tackles and reports on some of my ethical and business failings. Yes, I've made plenty of mistakes -- almost at one point, putting my business near the edge. Ironically, the start of this blog also marked one of the most dramatic turn-arounds in business I've ever seen. (You can find clues in the "about" box at the new Construction Marketing Ideas blog or go into the deep archives of this blog.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 11:16 PM
The final week for popular voting for the Best Construction Blog competition is approaching. The polls will close at the end of the day on Monday, March 7.
You can vote for as many blogs as you wish, once from any email address. (This means, yes, if you have more than one valid email address, you can have more than one ballot.) It is okay for you to campaign to get out the vote.
Parallel with the voting, a judging panel is evaluating the blogs which entered the competition and the three judges will report their opinions by mid-March. We'll translate the results into the most popular blog, the blog favored by the judges, and the overall winner and runner-ups, and build a story on the results in the spring Design and Construction Report.
(If you check back, you'll notice the results will continue changing -- at least until the polls close. This chart is updated in real time.)
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 2:48 AM
Sunday, February 27, 2011
I generally focus my blog postings here and on the "new" Construction Marketing Ideas blog site, but the LinkedIn group has close to 1,000 members and the FaceBook page has several hundred supporters.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 7:31 AM
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Well, if you used a crappy contractor, sub-trade or supplier, you would rightfully conclude that the contractor, sub-trade or supplier were a waste of money -- but I doubt you would take down the entire trade or industry.
Of course some industries (and marketing practices) are better than others. You really should not expect good value when you visit a used car dealership or time share sales office. In the same light, many of the marketing "solutions" sold by intrusive telemarketers and spam mailings are, well, crappy.
So how do you make the right decision and choices?
Word of mouth
Yep, it is the basic, oldie but goodie. If you receive positive feedback from friends, colleagues, clients and even peer-group Internet forums, you are probably safe. The key here is to validate the word-of-mouth and be sure it is genuine and not a creative marketing ploy. I've seen some consultants show up on forums, appear to build a good name for themselves, and then blow away their good-will when they show their true selves.
Your existing clients
Take them out for lunch or coffee and learn about their interests, their value, and which marketing messages they follow. This will take some careful listening as people will often put on a different public face than they really are in their head.
Books, seminars and conferences
These can be cheap (you can read my Construction Marketing Ideas book for as little as $20.00 if you request the PDF version from my website) or outrageously expensive. Use your common sense. Sometimes the most expensive option is the best but it doesn't need to be. Take your time and think about where you are going.
(If you are wondering where you can find the money to pay for your marketing, look at where you are wasting it now. Start with the Yellow Pages.)
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 3:46 AM
Friday, February 25, 2011
|Serge Massicotte (right) receives the General Contractors Association of Ottawa Integrity and Ethics Award.|
The ironic story has some rather surprising observations, including the recognition that this blog started when I began to figure out what I needed to do to change our business values and relationships.
You can read the posting here.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 12:03 AM
Thursday, February 24, 2011
So, I felt some shock yesterday when an industry expert recommended by a client association for a profile on the industry said he would only conduct the interview if he is paid. My initial reaction: "No way, Jose" and in fact I can write the story without this person's expertise. But I'll probably pay him because (a) he insisted, (b) he validated his value by insisting on the fee (and his credible references) and (c) because his fee is reasonably modest -- about what I would pay a freelancer for extensive note-gathering and reference research.
Can these observations provide you with some construction marketing insights? Well, I hope you question the marketing challenges and realities of "free estimates" for anything more than simple ball-park figures to qualify your potential clients and the incredible frustration and mental energy waste in chasing bids, especially in a declining market. Of course, equally, you also need to respect the conventions -- asking to be paid where the norms are "free" is risky, so you should be confident of your reasoning and secure in your understanding of the business value/proposition you are delivering if you put a price tag on something you give away.
My Construction Marketing Ideas book is a good example of where you can take this sort of thing both ways. The book is free to existing client who wish it and I'll provide review copies to logical centres of influence (but generally these copies will only go out on my initiative, not the reviewer's request). Everyone else pays and the revenue for a project, which originated as a client service initiative, is now meaningful for my business.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 3:37 AM
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Here are the current results for the Best Construction Blog competition.
The Construction Law in North Carolina blog has skyrocketed to second place, but Michael Stone's Markup and Profit Blog remains in the lead. (It is okay to encourage friends, colleagues and clients to vote -- and it seems that happened with the Construction Law in North Carolina blog yesterday.)
Note: The data on the graph is updated in real-time, so if you read this blog some weeks later, the results will be different.
Voting continues until March 7.
You can vote here.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 3:47 AM
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 2:39 AM
Monday, February 21, 2011
In my research, I discovered the Association of Strategic Marketing Professionals and its related LinkedIn user group. Not surprisingly, few architectural, engineering or construction businesses belong to this association -- our industry is usually among the last to catch on to marketing innovations or improvements (which of course gives anyone in this industry who wishes to study the activities of other businesses a real edge in marketing innovation.)
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 6:10 AM
Sunday, February 20, 2011
We've just flicked the switch on the relaunch of the new website for the Canadian Design and Construction Report. This site will set the template, as well, for the U.S.-focused Design and Construction Report and is built on our successful North Carolina site designs.
Our websites are certainly not leading edge; we probably could do better to incorporate more bells and whistles and advanced interactive features. Equally, however, we keep them from getting stale and periodically review and rebuild them to ensure they are relevant and useful to viewers. I think in the current era, you should certainly review your website design at least annually and contemplate a major update/revision at minimum on a three-to-five year cycle.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Construction Marketing Ideas blog.
Here, I'll simply encourage you to visit Mike Jeffries' site if you are a contractor focused on the residential market. His Closing Success Tips newsletter is free -- and you'll undoubtedly find valuable insights there.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 4:13 AM
Friday, February 18, 2011
I don't expect you to provide a comprehensive, detailed and thoughtful "free estimate" on a major renovation or building project. I expect you to be able to provide ballpark price ranges without playing the "what's your budget" game?
Why, then, do so many people in this business race like lemmings when someone advertises a job, crafting estimates, presentation materials and the like, when they don't have the slightest connection or history with the organization offering the work. In these situations, you are behaving much like the unemployed (and perhaps unskilled) worker, scanning public job ads and firing off resumes -- maybe even thoughtful and careful ones -- for a temporary job, where the person who offers to work for the "lowest pay" gets it.
If you are in this mind-trap, you need to wake up. Think of how your business might increase if you can induce/encourage and promote repeat and referral business (not just by relying passively on this sort of business to happen naturally) -- and you can price your work at a level which allows you a fair profit, not just to be the low bidder.
You can be generous in spirit and resourcefulness, but you don't need to give away the store to stay in business. Think marketing -- think smart.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Lots of people voted for in the Design and Construction Report's Best Construction Blog competition yesterday -- 75 at latest count.
Here are the results. (Note the results are updated in real time, so the actual votes on Feb. 16 won't match these numbers if you read this posting later.
I'll discuss the contest, its objectives and some ways bloggers can increase their opportunity for success at today's experimental live broadcast feed at 2 p.m. EST (February 17, 2011). You can go to the broadcast link here.
Voting continues through March 7.
You can vote for as many blogs as you like, but only once from each valid email address.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 5:04 AM
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I realize that most people in this industry won't go near stunts like this. Instead, they will play the boring concepts of publicity -- the line-em-up-shoot-em-down pictures of a bunch of executives with golden shovels at ground breaking ceremonies, or the giant cheque for a (really small) amount of money in support of the charity of the day. There's nothing wrong with this sort of thing, of course, if you want to be safe and boring -- but if you really want to make the news in a constructive and positive sense you will need to do much more.
No one, however, can suggest a simple publicity approach in an impersonal blog posting. This is custom work. It requires a real understanding of your business, your local (or national) market and your objectives. Then, we need to overlay luck as a crucial factor. Even the best-laid publicity plans are at the whim of the media's own biases and other events outside of your control. (As an example, a well-planned media event scheduled for September 11, 2001 probably would have resulted in absolutely no publicity for the organizers.)
You can hire publicity and media relations experts but the problem here is you need to have enough knowleedge about the media industry to properly assess their potential and abilities. Still, if you are spending money on marketing, allocating a portion of your budget to media relations and publcity makes sense. If you are marketing on the cheap without a cash budget, if you really focus your energies and can come up with unique, creative and brand-building intiiatives, go for it. You may achieve the best results for the smallest amount of money possible.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The idea of this sort of scheme is to create viral intensity and mystery, and then track back to your product or service. Of course the question is, does it actually help you sell more stuff?
That is more debatable, but if the activity is in good fun and no harm is done, then of course you gain the secondary benefits of attention and "free advertising".
In my case, a colleague living in Hong Kong who worked with me three decades ago on the Bulawayo Chronicle (Rhodesia turning to Zimbabwe) sent this video to me, before following one of the most crucial journalistic rules: "Don't believe anything that is too strange to be true -- unless you wish to be caught by an urban legend?"
I learned about urban legends early in my career when I started investigating what would have been a truly huge story if true. After a few brick walls, a kind soul told me about urban legends. I learned then the basics of cautious skepticism. Just as urban legends an spread like wildfire on the Internet, you can usually debunk them equally quickly with a quick Google search.
So, no, ringing cellphones can't actually pop popcorn and, while there are possibly some risks from cellphone radiation, you don't need to worry about frying your brains out this way. Better strategy: Head to a movie theatre and eat some of that fattening, utterly unhealthy stuff -- and enjoy the show.
One of several articles describing this hoax is here.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 5:27 AM
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Yesterday, one of my colleagues from "way back when" sent me this video. We worked together on the Bulawayo Chronicle in 1978-80.
POPCORN (This will blow your mind)Pop Corn téléphone portable micro-ondes
This is probably what it does to our brain cells - like putting your head in a microwave .
Check this out! And we're supposed to believe that cell phones are safe?
Click on the word 'POPCORN' below and watch.
What is wrong with this story? You can comment now -- or I'll tell you tomorrow.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 10:37 PM
Do you have times when you are potentially overwhelmed with conflicting challenges? If you wish, feel free to share your ideas as a comment.
(Note I delete all comments which are obviously set by agencies to plug or promote specific blogs or sites. Don't bother trying.)
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 7:15 AM
Saturday, February 12, 2011
This can be a challenge especially if you provide contracting or professional services for large-scale projects. Each project consumes tremendous amounts of time and resources (and generates hefty amounts of revenue) but you can only handle so many projects at any time or your business will be stretched beyond its capacity. On the other hand, if you "run out" of work, you are in big trouble.
Contractors (mostly in the residential space) with smaller projects have a different sort of challenge. They need to refill the pipeline constantly and have to find new business in a reliable and manageable way. The challenge is finding the right leads, converting them, and then finding more. . .
Retail-focused contractors have a clearly available resource: Advertising. Once they've found the right media and are able to track and manage the leads the advertising generates, they can effectively control their lead and sales flow -- testing new variations and media to improve the results, and adapting the advertising volume to overall sales and lead conversion rates. (In hard times, when results are less effective, they may need to advertise more; but they are not throwing good money after bad, because they can reasonably anticipate how the advertising will work.)
So advertising in a variety of media can make a lot of sense if you are running a consumer-focused business. But what if you are a general contractor, an engineer or an architect looking for work on projects worth $500,000 -- or $5 million?
Here, I think a different kind of "advertising" is more effective. You need to put yourself near the people who make the decisions and build their respect and confidence. And then, when it is time to present the proposal, make sure you prepare a great presentation -- and rehearse it. See this posting from Mel Lester with some practical suggestions on what you need to do.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 2:53 AM
Thursday, February 10, 2011
In the contest rules, I had said you could vote as many times as you like, for as many blogs as you wish. Unfortunately, I didn't read my own rules closely enough -- the tabulating software I use requires you to provide your email address and, once you've given it once, it won't allow you to vote again.
One contestant, appreciating the published rule "you can vote as many times as you like", then began testing with fake email addresses. These, gulp, were successful. The trick if you used this method would be to create an infinite number of phony email addresses and vote again, again and again some more.
While you could argue that allowing individuals to vote more than once is questionable, clearly it is even more questionable to allow voters to fake their identity. This sort of "voting" occurs in countries without a democratic tradition, like Afghanistan!
My solution? I amended the rules. You can only vote once, and you need a valid email address. If you are fortunate enough to have more than one valid email address, yes, you can vote multiple times -- but your addresses have to be real! (This may encourage some abuse but at least the process is manageable. I doubt even the most assertive individual will have more than five or six valid email addresses and the time and effort to set up and establish additional addresses on your server just to enter the free competition is hardly worthwhile.)
Anyways, the results are arriving and I'm sure the competition will heat up in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, feel free to vote and encourage friends, colleagues, employees and complete strangers to vote as well -- as long as they have unique, valid email addresses.
Today's video will discuss that experience in relation to a topic which is hard for many industry practitioners to grasp -- your "brand". I'll even admit that I didn't really appreciate the meaning of branding until, after almost 15 years experience in this business, I started the Construction Marketing Ideas blog and the late Sonny Lykos connected with me -- and sent me an incredibly useful binder of resources.
Then, I "got it". Branding allows you to set your pricing based on a valuation higher than the intrinsic physical (or cost-based) value of your product or service. In other words, a good brand allows you to earn more for the same amount of effort and cost. Hmm. I suppose that would be rather good for your business profitability, if you can pull it off.
Of course, that is the challenge of branding. While the concept isn't that hard to understand once you realize its importance, the successful implementation and strategies required to "build your brand" can take some effort -- and you can lose it all with some careless errors. I'll work to show you this afternoon the basics of building and protecting your brand without blowing your budgets.
These broadcasts are experimental so technical quality and results won't be perfect (but hopefully there will be a broadcast this time!) I'll also update you on my progress to create a weekly -- maybe even daily -- broadcast with sufficient quality to consider part of the marketing resource kit within the next five months.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
A clue to what you need to be ready to do is found in Canadian woman's ice hockey Olympian Caroline Ouellette, who said at one point she needed to make the decision to accept an athletic scholarship to a U.S. university with an exceptional woman's ice hockey program (which attracted Olympic-level candidates from several countries.) The challenge: Her friends, family and others close to her thought this would be a bad thing to do -- because she would need to learn and study in English (she is French-speaking) and she would need to be away from the people closest to her, who supported her through her growth.
She took the leap, and says it proved to be her wisest decision. In the process, she surrounded herself wit others with the same passion, willing to work to the highest levels, and of course she gained confidence and skills in a different environment.
Reaching out and taking construction marketing risks, in my opinion, requires something of a similar attitude. You need to put yourself in a place where the "norm" is exceptional, where you will be stretched to reach higher levels, and you will perhaps feel you are cast adrift from the secure, safe and comfortable place you call "home".
How can you find this level of risk-challenge especially when making a new (physical) home hundreds or thousands of miles away may simply not be possible? The answer, I think, is to look within relevant associations and groups and capture and connect with the practitioners who are working at the level to which you aspire. If you are "good enough" to be at their level, you will be able to share some valuable elements of your existing business or talents -- and of course you will be able to pick their brains and grow, as a result.
My answer is worth repeating here:
Donald, in my experience, anyone thinking they can fly and touch the sky with ethical or moral shortcuts usually ends up with a big fall. I've seen it happen. Of course, once you've taken a creative risk in a constructive and ethical manner and "flown to the sky", you will reach that higher level -- it has happened in my life a couple of times. (I lived through an African civil war as a journalist, and once managed to make a few grand in a couple of weeks and had my first visit to Washington DC ethically "working" the US immigration system for non-preference visas.) If you wish to test your limits, always check the 'smell test' and if it isn't right in your heart and soul, find another risk to test.I appreciate that real success in marketing and business rarely occurs without some real risk. If we simply follow the conventional wisdom about what to do all the time we are unlikely to go beyond the crowd. However, unless we are psychopaths, we still know the ethical and emotional boundaries of success. I'm glad that the few times I jumped off the deep end in life, I knew (after sleeping on the idea), that indeed I could sleep well with my decision. Can you think the same about your marketing risks?
Monday, February 07, 2011
The Construction Marketing Ideas book isn't free, of course. You can read some sample chapters but you will have to pay me for it if you want the whole thing. Is it worth the money? Well, no one has asked for their money back and several readers have written five-star reviews.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
No one can change your perspective if you choose not to change. Realistically, if you provide a worthwhile service, treat your current clients well and price things fairly, you probably can get by without thinking too much about marketing. Of course, if you "rely" on one major customer, ignore economic storm clouds around you or fail to manage your business effectively, you will end up on the business road-kill pile.
There are better ways. I advocate some solutions in my Construction Marketing Ideas book. (Yes, this is a marketing pitch for it -- and you can purchase it electronically for $20.00 and, on Amazon.com, not much more in print.) But you can find other ideas and resources which may be better for your business.
Roll the dice if you wish. But before you invest serious money and resources in any marketing strategy -- or any telemarketer tells you that you really need to support a police association or charity by spending several hundred dollars on an ad -- take a few minutes to think, read, and consider the options. There are better ways.
Saturday, February 05, 2011
In today's "other" Construction Marketing Ideas blog, I write about Susan Daffron's provocative posting where she describes how she decided to shut down her free Publishize email newsletter because she received no worthwhile business from her generosity.
Daffron raises some important questions about the use of email newsletters in developing new business. For now, I'm continuing my e-letter (you can register at the top of the page), but I think she has a worthy point. Certainly, I've gained valuable revenue-generating advice from her (and she hasn't earned a cent from me). And, indeed, my own Construction Marketing Ideas book is not free.
Friday, February 04, 2011
Then, things just didn't work. Livecaster's software application (procaster) would not load properly. I tried a restart, but this made things worse. Now I couldn't access at least one of the Internet browsers, Adobe Acrobat, and several other programs. Problems, indeed.
After aborting the broadcast, I took Plan B -- a visit to the Apple Store downtown for some diagnostics and review. With the "Procare" card I didn't need an appointment. The technician pointed out a crack in the casing of my five-year-old MacBook Pro and then proposed we reinstall the system software. The work would take about an hour. I called home to tell my family I would eat dinner downtown, visited a post office to mail some documents, and returned to discover the system installation had failed.
The technician said the motherboard or memory could be "gone" but, based on the external condition of my computer, he thought it time to replace it. As I had essentially been prepared for this day since September, I said, "Let's do it." The sales rep took just five minutes to show me the options and I handed over my Amex card and walked out with a new MacBook Pro.
At home, I plugged it in, discovered the function that allowed for back-up restore, and connected the cables to the backup hard drive, which I had (fortunately) updated just a day before. I spent some time with my family as the backup proceeded for an hour.
Voila. Everything works. All of my files, applications, resources, data, and systems are in good order. I'm back in business.
Of course this speed didn't come without cost. I could have purchased three or even four non-Mac desktops for the price I paid for the replacement MacBook Pro. But I've grown to enjoy the reliability and power of my "old" MacBook and the Apple Store's integrity in the fall in not selling me a new computer when I thought I needed one then carried weight when it came time to make the purchase.
This is the power of branding. In your architectural, engineering or construction business, you achieve these results when you and your staff do such a great job that your clients truly believe (feel) they've been treated fairly, with integrity and respect. Price then only becomes a secondary decision-making consideration.
As well, obviously I'm fortunate to have followed the rules and saved everything with a proper back-up system. I can't understate how important it is to ensure you have back-up when you are dealing with computers (and any other important business system).
I will resume the live broadcasts next Thursday at 2 p.m. This time, I'm confident things will work, on schedule.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 2:22 AM
Thursday, February 03, 2011
The broadcasts are recorded but technical and recording quality are certainly not at prime time level as I learn how to best co-ordinate and manage the use of video. Livecasting is especially challenging, of course, because you don't get a second chance if you mess up.
My goal is to become truly competent in video within five months with an understanding of how to best co-ordinate various video resources for maximum marketing effectiveness and then to integrate these capacities with other skills.
You are most welcome to watch the show at this link -- just remember this is experimental stuff so don't expect perfection.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
The voting results will be considered in selecting the finalists and the blog with the most votes will receive recognition in The Design and Construction Report as the most popular blog. Voting continues until 5 p.m. on March 7.
You can link to the ballot here.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
It tests some assumptions about the distinctions between immediate and delayed gratification. You won't get it unless you are a newsletter subscriber but, if you ask nicely by email, I'll send you the "back issue" where the offer is made.