Sunday, December 30, 2012
Lots of the old postings are cached. I for example recovered the blog listing directory. Images are a problem, though, and manually uploading and reinstalling the cache would be a truly massive job (and not really a wise thing for someone who has to oversee a real operating business!)
However, there may be some good news here, as well. It seems someone has developed an automated script on a program called Python. I am certainly not a web programmer, but I also know how to source inexpensive programming talent offshore. (Won't announce the specific details because of political sensitivities, but I'm currently paying someone in Bangladesh $1.00 an hour for some development work!)
Target date to "officially" launch the new constructionmarketingideas.com is still Jan 2. You may catch some sneak previews as I work through the process.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 5:04 PM
Saturday, December 29, 2012
While the rebuild is under-way, you are visiting the "old" blog, maintained since its start. Note that many links and references to specific posts will automatically redirect here -- but unfortunately, except in some rare circumstances, the original text is gone, for good.
I expect the new constructionmarketingideas.com blog will be ready for viewing by January 2. Stay tuned.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 8:42 AM
Thursday, December 27, 2012
I managed not only to crash the "new" blog at constructionmarketingideas.com -- I also deleted virtually all of the blog's content and (to make things really bad), the backup system failed.
This means about three years of blogging history have gone "poof" along with relevant hyperlinks and other stuff.
All is not completely lost. This "old" blog remains in operation, and while we cannot recover the links and content (at least unless I can get some exceptional technical help and have extreme luck), there is room for continuity here -- and behind the scenes, I'll be working on rebuilding the other blog site.
In the meantime, if you end up in an endless loop looking for something that is no more, you can try emailing me and I might be able to recover the relevant files or documents for you. No guarantees, unfortunately.
(Fortunately this disaster doesn't impede the business's other sites and projects, which remain in place.)
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 11:55 AM
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
|Burgin Construction won the 2012 Best Construction Blog competition|
The annual Construction Marketing Ideas best construction blog competition nominations have opened. You can nominate your favourite blog, or your own. All qualifying blogs receive a positive review in the Construction Marketing Ideas blog, along with relevant hyperlinks and social media references.
There's no cost to enter the competition or if your blog is selected as a finalist.
We reserve the right to decline entries if they appear to be spam-blogs (splogs) or are created primarily for search engine optimization. The blogs also must relate to the architectural, engineering and construction community, be updated at least weekly, and have enough content to be judged independently.
Here is the nomination form.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 6:13 AM
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
However, the largest problem occurred mid-day, when our wonderfully effective part-time employee dedicated to collecting old accounts asked me to speak with a client who had agreed to pay the bill, under duress.
On hearing the client'a story, Kathy asked if I would take the call. I did. And I quickly understood how a series of events led to a potentially brand-burning misunderstanding.
We earn a significant percentage of our print advertising revenue through special features and project profiles. Often the architects, owners and sometimes the general contractors support the initiative. Sub-trades and suppliers advertise because they want to associate with the successful project and sometimes because they believe they have a degree of obligation to keep their clients (the owner or general contractor) happy.
Some publishers abuse client/supplier relationship process in developing these features. They imply relationships which are not there, and play on the guilt and sense of obligation of subs and suppliers to purchase extremely overpriced and ineffective advertising.
This sort of unethical behaviour is not in our repertoire. We have a stringent no-pressure policy (a 'no' is really a 'no') and don't exaggerate relationships, while working with the clients to develop truly effective advertising.
But something went way off the rails in this case.
Our sales rep had indeed obtained the owner and architect's permission and support for the feature. The major general contractor for this project has a policy not to interfere nor support our features. In other words, the contractor won't bad-mouth us, but certainly would not want us to suggest any sort of endorsement. Nevertheless, the contractor makes available sub-trade information, allowing us to contact the various suppliers for the project. (This isn't a secret or specialized list as you could find the same information without explicit permission if you know where to look.)
The salesperson contacted the project's electrical contractor, and suggested a really good ad would involve a photo of the contractor's crew on the job site. The contractor agreed, and committed to a quarter-page ad.
The sales rep showed up with his camera on the appointed day, to find that he could not access the job site because of security clearance issues, and in fact, the photos could not be taken. The electrical contractor, to say the least, wasn't happy -- having spent money on special T-shirts for his crew.
I only found about the problem today, some three months after the incident. I asked the sales rep why I didn't know about this beforehand."The contractor signed off on the ad, and we ran the feature," the sales rep said.
I haven't received other client complaints about the sales rep's work -- and the idea of taking the photo of the electrical contractor's staff would have, if executed, indeed provided a worthy and useful advertising message (and morale boost for the contractor's employees). So I can't get too mad at him.
I then reviewed the advertising proof sign off form. A good question is whether the photo incident happened before or after the sign-off. But wait . . . was there a sign off? It seems the contractor returned the form by fax (we have the fax identification information to prove that), with the "okay" box checked, but without a signature . . .
Without hesitation, I told the contractor that we would not expect the invoice to be paid. The issue isn't the possible loss of money -- the contractor would, in fact, have paid the bill -- but the loss of reputation. We do not want people to feel they've been misled or mistreated -- and the evidence here is strong enough to suggest that, even though we meant no harm, the client would have good reason to feel abused.
This isn't a great story to share. It doesn't reflect any miracles or inspirations. We probably could have handled the situation better from the start, and accepting a write-down because of a screw up is part of business.
Yet, in its simplicity, the story reflects how businesses survive difficult situations and preserve their brands and reputations. We cannot tolerate dissatisfied clients, so angry that they would use the word "scam" to describe our business. Nor should we panic and attack individuals within our businesses who, acting in good faith, are caught in awkward situations. The challenge here is to listen, respect, learn, and adapt the business model and go beyond paying lip-service to the words "customer satisfaction" to truly understanding our responsibilities when things don't go right.
So today, indeed, proved to be a bad day. I also think it has set the stage for excellent days ahead.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 9:22 PM
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Thursday, November 08, 2012
When we were both younger, we shared a tent in an 3.5 month overland journey through Africa. I ended up, a couple of years later, living through the conclusion of the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe war as a sub-editor at the Bulawayo Chronicle. Brian, meanwhile, went on to much more daring adventures through Africa and Asia.
When he returned to the U.S. in the mid-1980s, he wrote a couple of books. One described how he got around China when the country had just opened to tourism. The second reported on his human-level experiences in places few tourists would ever think of visiting, even today. His A world of villages: A six year journey through Africa and Asia, has been out of print for quite a while but you can easily purchase a copy through the used book market.
While our experiences directly correlate only for a few pages, I'm reminded in reading this book about the challenges, limits, and opportunities in our world, and the nature of risk-taking and intelligence in determining our fate. Brian certainly elected to go into exceptionally dangerous places. Notably he visited Uganda twice -- once to be jailed by Idi Amin's troops; the second to provide famine relief in a lawless part of the country after Amin's fall from power. His ability to understand local practices, dialogues, and (most importantly) to think quickly on his feet, allowed him to escape some rather close calls.
I'm certainly nowhere near as intelligent as Brian, electing to take a safer route to human understanding and accomplishment. Sure, I lived for 18 months in a country at war, but stayed in the city and avoided trouble. Friends and family back home in Canada thought I had taken daring risks -- but I only pushed the limits on a few occasions in my African travels. I learned much about the difference between perceived and real risk in these situations.
Time has passed. Our lives are in different places. I'm now write about construction marketing and publish regional and national publications for the architectural, engineering and construction community. Brian, meanwhile, knows and reviews Tulsa's best restaurants.
Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to meet him again in the next few years; learning about the Oklahoma construction industry as he shows me the best places to eat in town. Meanwhile, if you want to capture some of heart and soul of the third world, I recommend you read Brian's book. It is moving and at times riveting. He used his intelligence to go deeper into the world than most of us could even dream.
Sunday, November 04, 2012
Friday, November 02, 2012
Sunday, October 28, 2012
You need to be really good at what you do, and really enjoy it. In other words, work needs to be fun (most of the time) and so good that your clients know they really are achieving the results they are seeking.
(Come on, you might say, I'm just a big cog in some machine -- in any case, I need to work to make money. Yes, and the point is that if that is where you are at, you might do okay, but you are unlikely to achieve really good results.)
You need the basics: A decent website, the ability to seek and encourage testimonials and referrals, and a simple but clear plan with some guidelines on where and how you will spend your marketing dollars.
Nothing fancy here -- and note, you don't need a huge budget. In fact, in many cases, you can achieve really good results for a cash budget of $500 or less. However, you need to have some control -- especially to know how to answer the calls offering you "marketing solutions" for a fee.
You need focus, specialization, and commitment
You can't be everything to everyone. Successful marketing depends largely on leadership and perception -- and if you are one of many (competing against already-entrenched players) you will simply be one of many. You need to be different -- so you need to figure out some aspect of your product or service or some market segment that you know others aren't doing.
Then go for it. You'll succeed. And you won't waste your money on marketing bs.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Well, I did that this week, participating in a Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) chapter executive session. I learned a lot, developing relationship with other industry leaders.
However, the event also garnered several thousand dollars in unexpected sales.
A couple of days before the event, I sent out an email to our Toronto-area readers, inviting them to join in the previous evening's meeting where Holly Bolton described how to make the best use of leads groups. At least a couple of our publication's readers joined us for the event.
One couldn't make it -- but said a colleague in another division of the organization wanted to advertise. The order for several thousand dollars in additional sales arrived on Friday, as I attended the director's meeting.
This experience reminds me that the greatest business often arises when you least expect it, but usually correlates with positive community spirit, initiative, sharing, and generosity.
In case you are wondering, there is a reason this approach works so well for a sales and marketing perspective.
If you are thoughtful, you can demonstrate your competence in a non-intrusive manner. You can also demonstrate that you care about your community, industry and your clients' (and potential clients) real needs. In essence, you build trust -- and with trust, you achieve persona branding success -- and that translates to comfortable business.
As a bonus, it is much easier to plan a couple of days of community service volunteering than hard-rock selling. I mean, what is more enjoyable: Working with other like-minded volunteers on a higher cause, or pounding the phone, trying to get someone, anyone, to return your call where you rattle off a sales pitch your victims have no interest in hearing.
The advice here is simple: Spend much more time giving and much less selling; market your causes and support the interests of your clients' organizations, and you'll end up selling a whole lot more than by pushing where you are not wanted.
(That is why I mandate that our company's sales reps spend at least 25 per cent of their time on community service. If they want to spend more, I won't mind. It pays.)
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Truly successful businesses should be:
- Providing a product/service that people or organizations need.
- Providing that service/product better than the next company.
- Resilience to weather the inevitable bad times associated with business cycles.
- Businesses should be designed and operated for the long-term.
- It is important to always treat clientele with respect. Clients often remember the personal interaction as much as the service/product.
- Have realistic expectations for business development/growth – this is why a long-term vision is required.
- Believe in the product/service being offered. It should be something that speaks to you as a person.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
This posting may appear to go against the grain, but the assertions may surprise you. You can easily spend far too much on consulting and business advice, but equally, by refusing to invest enough, you may be spending far too little. The challenge is drawing the line between frugality, carelessness, and strategic commitment.
Here is an example. Tomorrow cnrgp.com employees and contractors will gather for an annual two-day planning meeting. A former consultant suggested that these meetings are essential for business success and helped us out with an offer difficult to refuse: "You'll only pay me if you are successful."
We needed the advice. Our business, floundering in a death spiral, needed a lift upwards -- and some basic systems common to virtually every successful, well-established organization.
Eventually, the consultant appeared to achieve his goal. He had obtained a profitable paying client, generating upwards of $20,000 in annual fee income. Then, about 18 months ago, the relationship unravelled. My wife, who I respect and trust, said: "This guy is blowing hot air."
Indeed, while the consultant had offered some truly solid business advice, he had some philosophies and attitudes that didn't quite add up. One of the best examples of this, (and perhaps the eye-opener to me) proved to be his assertion: "I've written 12 books."
It isn't easy to write one good book, and only a few truly exceptional professional writers can produce 12 really worthwhile tomes in their lifetimes. However, with some success with the Construction Marketing Ideas book, I decided to go out on a limb and publish one of the consultant's 12 books for a fee much lower than he had paid the vanity press for some of the others.
We edited the book professionally, hacking out about half of its content, removing the excessively detailed appendices. We designed a professional cover.
Time to start marketing it . . .
I asked the consultant to send it to his clients, friends, colleagues -- anyone he thought provide a positive recommendation. After several weeks, one person had written a lukewarm review on Amazon.com. The my wife, at a mid-year planning meeting dinner, sat next to the individual. The next day, she delivered her (negative) verdict. "He's full of hot air," she said.
I don't think the consultant had bad intent; nor do I blame him for the cost and effort in publishing the ill-fated book.
The consultant went from a contingency fee arrangement, to a lucrative cash-paying contract with spin-off opportunities, to (abruptly) the edge of nothing -- all in a matter of a few years.
Simply put, while we bring differing skills and experiences and knowledge to the community, our services only are worthwhile if they add real value. Undoubtedly, in the early goings, the consultant provided value by teaching some of the basics behind standard business processes and operations. You'll find "Annual planning meetings" and ongoing planning/operations systems in virtually every successful business. The consultant also taught us how to operate regular weekly meetings efficiently.
After a while, however, we didn't really need him to facilitate the meetings at truly high fees. We could do this work ourselves. We certainly didn't need his 12 books.
Now, the question is, when should you spend "more" on consulting services, and how do you decide on what works best?
My view is the big name consultants -- the ones with fame, fortune, and power -- are probably way to expensive for most of us. Read their books, listen to their presentations, and borrow their ideas, but I wouldn't rush to participate in their coaching or support programs, because you will almost inevitably be shunted to a junior and a scripted approach to implement the materials you could learn from books and websites.
However, you may want to spend real money for a "middle name" specialized consultant -- one who has enough reputation that you can verify his or her effectiveness, but know that you will be learning new ideas.
Finally, of course, you can see if you can work on trade-outs or contingency relationships with the consultants. You may not always get the top person, but if you are lucky and careful, you can discover a rising star.
Test your assumptions about consulting. Sometimes, indeed, you should spend until it hurts -- because you'll learn quite a bit and absorb every word of advice. However, maybe you can find the advice in an e-book, or even in a remainder bin, and perhaps your best advice may arise from surprising places and unique networks where you will need to spend little or no money to achieve great results.
You can read this blog for free, and two books for as little as $20.00 but not for more than $45.00.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Certainly you can spend a small fortune on consulting, advice, and resources. This money can be well spent, if, in exchange for your serious financial commitment, you also commit to fully practice the consultant's advice. You cannot, however, simply wave your magic wand and expect instant and dramatic results.
Fair enough. Are are their routes to real success? I'll suggest these options. Note they aren't instant magic solutions, but you can find the resources you need with this advice.
Call Mike Jeffries. If you don't want to spend money initially, consider his special program in conjunction with Michael Stone.
See this note in Michael Stone's recent newsletter:
Mike Jeffries returns this month with a new webinar, "Marketing Success Made Simple". He'll be presenting it twice, the evening of October 16 and the morning/afternoon of October 18. For more details on the webinar and to register, click here.
Mike will be revealing many successful strategies and tactics on lead generation that his clients have implemented successfully. Many of you took part in Mike's Contractor’s Closing Success Formula last winter, and he's coming out with a new version of that in October (check it out here). He's agreed to provide our clients with this free webinar first.
But here's the secret behind the webinar. You won’t get any benefit by registering. You only benefit by attending. So register, then mark it on your calendar and don’t let anything get in the way. Plan to login 30 minutes early. That way if you run into any problems connecting, you still have time to work it out. Spend the extra time reading a book or clearing your desk, and be ready to start on time. Mike Jeffries hits the ground running, you want to be ready when he starts. http://www.markupandprofit.com/webinar.html.
The key to successful social media application is to (a) be sociable and (b) to respect/communicate and listen to your current, former and potential clients.
I've written a book on the topic and you can purchase it from Amazon.com or other ebook retailers (just search by keywords social media, construction, or if you wish to support my vanity, my surname, buckshon!) The book is $4.95.
(If you've advertised in any of our publications or purchased my full-scale Construction Marketing Ideas book, please email me and I will send you a link where you will be able to download your free copy.)
Friday, October 05, 2012
However, what would it be like to belong to an even more exclusive group -- where you would be in the top 99.999th percentile -- yes, one in a million?
Turns out, I spent four months in a tent traversing Africa with someone so bright he belongs to The Omega Society, which requires the 99.999th status. He also is treasurer of The Prometheus Society representing the still extremely high, but not as extreme, 99.997th level. (In case you are wondering, the well-known high intelligence society, Mensa, requires simply a 98 percentile status -- hardly a match for these super-genius groups.)
Now, the question is: Could you present a question or business challenge to this super-intelligent group and, with the members' combined intellectual power (imagine 120 Einsteins in one association), discover answers that transcend the obvious? An interesting question . . . one which I'm not sure how I can pose just yet.
Thursday, October 04, 2012
Of course, you can't simply pay your dues, join the association and expect to be instantly accepted and invited to bid (sole sourced, even) on lucrative projects. In fact, if you join the group with that as your immediate and primary intention, you'll probably be shunned.
Your challenge is to put your business interests aside, and focus on how you can help the association's members achieve their objectives. Your goal is to be seen as a giver rather than taker, a contributor rather than a leech.
As well, you need to accept that association participation requires a potentially long time frame for success. If you've ever moved to a new community, you know that you may experience some initial welcomes and greetings, but it can take a while to build real friendships. While you can accelerate the process (see below), you cannot "rush" it in the sense of hoping for results and rewards before you pay your dues.
Your way to accelerate your acceptance and return on investment is to discover effective opportunities to share and contribute to the group. Notably, you are not constrained by your conventional business considerations. Associations have entertainment, sporting, and community service groups, as well as technical knowledge, business management and other support functions. You simply pick the activity(ies) that interest you the most -- and where your natural talents are greatest -- and focus your efforts there.
You'll find you cannot join too many associations -- I've discovered that I can contribute intensively to three or four at most -- I'll give upwards of 25 per cent of my working time to this long-range marketing effort.
How much business can you win through effective association participation? The amount can be truly incredible, especially after you start doing some work for members, and build on the word-of-mouth and relationships within the group. In fact, a clue to which associations to join is to learn where your best and most satisfied clients belong. Let them introduce you to their peers, contribute actively to the association, and you'll start receiving invited bid and sometimes sole source opportunities.
Note one other point: While you can achieve many useful benefits from participating in your relevant trade or speciality group associations, your highest marketing results will occur when you focus your efforts on client-based associations. So, for example, you might belong to the regional construction association, and you build schools. Consider joining the regional school superintendents association as an associate member, as well.
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Perhaps some of this negativity is because of the association with "network marketing," the nicer world for multi-level marketing, where "downlines" are recruited with the lure of wealth and easy money, which virtually no one sees or experiences.
Of course there is a better approach to networking, and it takes a relatively simple attitude change. The goal in any networking event is NOT to sell anything -- it is to give. Your entire function at the networking event is to learn about the other person and then, if at all possible, deliver value to the individual, perhaps with a referral, some useful information, or simply a listening ear.
Most importantly, while you won't turn down any business you happen to receive in the process -- and you likely will receive some -- your goal is not to give anything with even the slightest bit of "return" expectation. This is not a give-and-take exercise. This is pure "give".
The attitude change, expressed on a wider scale, has powerfully positive impact. First, you no longer need to dread the networking event, because your success measure is not how many leads you acquire, but how many people you can help, and how much you can assist each individual. With this attitude, it is obviously impossible to fail. There is no "qualification," no worry about whether you have a real business interest in the other person in front of you; you are simply there to help out as much as you can, with sincerity, enough time to care, and enough ability to meet people who you can assist.
The second positively powerful impact is that, as you enrich yourself by learning about others and helping them as much as you can, some people will really want to help you in return. This is the law of reciprocation. Little good deeds invite sometimes really big positive responses. The fact you are acting without worrying about the reciprocation, however, indicates sincerity and while some people will certainly take advantage of your generosity, overall, most will be responsive and do what they can to help in return. (Over time, you'll get to know the pure 'takers' and you can, rightfully, spend less time with them -- not to push them away, but simply because you'll have plenty of other people to meet and know.)
In case you are wondering, the great ideas here are not mine. Tim Klabunde has written a book on the topic and it is turning into something of an Amazon best seller, in part because of his incredibly large network.
I can recommend Network like an introvert: A new way of thinking about business relationships highly.
Friday, September 28, 2012
Yet, for this exercise, could you risk reversing the roles a little and share your community service story here. (If you know someone who you can "share" it for, that is okay, as well.) You can use the comment function here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have an image to share, even better.
The goal is to build a repertoire, a library, of successful initiatives and provide them as examples for others. See today's other Construction Marketing Ideas blog for some additional thoughts here.
Hangout will be at 2 p.m. this afternoon, as it is every Friday. Please feel free to join.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Sunday, September 23, 2012
The writers advocate that growth occurs when a business's leaders can truly empathize with customers, to the point of knowing and understanding them far more than from the simple product/service transaction perspective. They suggest that if you can see into your clients' real interests and needs, you'll capture insights into innovations and product/service ideas that will truly make their lives better -- and of course, help your business to grow.
Simple, eh. How much time do we spend on our internal processes or in dreaming up new products/services, and how to market them, when we could find what our customers really want and need by truly caring about their interests? Of course, if we develop products/services that truly appeal to our best current customers, we won't need a huge marketing budget, either.
Have you learned about new ideas, products or services by empathizing with your clients? Please feel free to share your observations by commenting or emailing email@example.com.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Referrals, repeat business, speeches and presentations, then advertising: Your construction marketing priorities
When you are ready to advertise, you should also be aware that the cost-per-lead will (short term) be much higher than through the repeat/referral and public speaking options and you should be careful not to put all your eggs in one basket. If you have a $2,000 marketing budget and use it all on one advertisement, you are likely to be extremely disappointed in the results.
Conversely, at a crucial stage in your business growth, you can experience a quantum jump in the amount you should spend on advertising, and the results you can expect to achieve. This is because if you can afford enough advertising to be extremely visible to your potential clients, you'll benefit from the synergy of your advertising. As well, while the acquisition costs of advertising-based leads are high, their lifetime value -- and their ability to generate repeat and referral business -- can also help your business.
Please feel free to join me at the 2 p.m. video broadcast/hangout. You can find information about how to register for a Google Plus account to gain access in the sidebar at constructionmarketingideas.com, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, September 14, 2012
In the first situation, the individual is launching a new, competitive web-based publication. On the advice of a senior employee of our company, I invited him to join our organization. He would be free to pursue a variety of other non-compettive publishing projects, and we would provide him a salary guarantee and benefits for the construction industry publication where we hoped he would be an ally rather than competitor.
My first reaction on hearing this suggestion: "No way will this individual sacrifice his independence for any sort of employment" but the publisher shocked me, within hours, by indicating real interest in the idea.
However, by day's end, he had sober second thoughts. He told me he simply could make far more money and conduct his business with greater success on his own. I wished him well.
Meanwhile, another employee proposed that we invite another successful local publisher to speak at our annual planning meeting. I had been considering a consultant/facilitator (highly recommended) who expects to be paid $300 an hour. "Why don't you ask (name of indivdual) if he would like to speak to us," the employee said. On the surface, the suggestion seemed inherently logical. The individual certainly knows business-to-busness media, lives in town, and might well accept a free gig to share his experiences with us.
But I told the employee I would rather not do business with the person. Although I don't hold him responsible, he certainly had a role in a story about 15 years ago involving some pretty heavy litigation and truly uncool business practices by his former bosses/owners -- and he appeared directly on the scene at some key points in the saga. I won't describe specifics in a public blog (reflecting my policy not to identify anyone negatively) but the story culminated when we squared off in court and the judge completely cleared our business, awarding costs.
Things have changed; the culprits have moved on, and the individual certainly has an excellent reputation. I don't hold grudges against him, but don't feel comfortable, either, allowing him into our inner business sanctum. Memories die hard.
These stories suggest that as we gain experience and build our network of relationships and experiences, we develop perspectives and tend to reach conclusions that either create opportunities or limit them. I sometimes wonder if a little more innocence would be helpful, but equally, don't see why I should have to relive painful memories, or expect someone to change course and revise their values mid-stream, no matter how compelling the reason.
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 5:43 PM
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Growth, and particularly innovation, is a probability game. When large organizations pursue growth, their mindsets are often completely out of sync with the reality that guides professional gamblers and VCs. Chances are that these organizations expect ten out of ten projects not only to win, but to win big. They demand that their managers and employees produce growth, inadvertently thwart their attempts, and uphold a system in which pulling the plug on a failed growth opportunity is a career-threatening act. Would-be growth leaders in this environment are like professional gamblers who are unable to act independently but instead receive instructions from on high—from a source that has little information about what is happening this minute in this particular game. Not a formula likely to win in Vegas—or in business.
From The Physics of Business Growth: Mindsets, System, and Processes (Stanford University Press, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-8047753-4-2, $12.99, www.EDHLTD.com).
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
The immediate challenge is discovering an economical and reliable method of generating interesting and relevant editorial content for a revitalized network of U.S. construction websites -- the foundation for our business regrowth south of the border.
This project dates back in original concept to 2005 -- when I registered a diversity of domains, contracted with offshore developers to design a content-management system, and envisaged soft-touch site maintenance with revenue from Google AdSense.
The project then never succeeded. The Pakistani and Indian-built sites (yes, I actually had sub-contractors in both 'warring' nations working on the project), produced sites minimally to my specifications, but utterly useless in quality and design. In any case, I didn't have any useful content to put on the sites, so they languished. Foolishly, I left the AdSense code in place -- earning virtually nothing from the horrible under-construction sites, while I made a modest income from my active blog and core sites associated with our printed publications, which we maintained reasonably well.
Then, Google lowered the boom, disabling my business account with a "significant risk to AdWords advertisers message." I didn't know at the time how the fact that I continued to have a valid personal AdSense account tied to my blog would change my life, and result in me becoming something of an AdSense expert a few years later (though the money from AdSense is still insignificant in the overall business.)
Well, now we are planning to restore these defunct domains to life, but we will take a gradual approach, building some useful content, looking for qualified local representatives, and tying the sites into creative and well-respected industry-specific live networking events (especially co-ordinated by the Design and Construction Network (mydcn.com). We have a plan for a high-quality (but not wildly extreme) design update to increase the sites functionality and cross-media usefulness.
The unanswered problem, though, is content. The sites need current news, updated with some frequency, and solid features to attract and retain readers (and ultimately local advertising representatives and advertisers.)
Accordingly, I've been casting my net for qualified writers to take things forward.
I started with the job board at our local Carleton University, receiving two applications. I also posted on the Service Canada job bank -- so far no responses. This afternoon, I tried another service, odesk.com, which provides an employee-type independent contractor system, where work is billed by the hour. (You can also bid by project at fixed rates, but here, odesk competes against well-established project services such as elance.com).
The service attracts workers/contractors from around the world. Not surprisingly, hourly billing rates are far lower for offshore suppliers than North American ones. However, we need writers who can understand the nuances of the North American construction industry, write clearly and effectively in English, and generate relevant content geared for specific local communities and regions. It is a tough challenge.
So far I've received six applications. I'm taking a simple approach. Each applicant will receive a three hour paid assignment at the rate the individual specifies (whether it be $3.00 or $22.00 per our.) I want the writers to suggest three locally relevant stories, and write one 500 word piece. I give some optional additional assignments, as well, without hourly compensation, to see if any of the writers will go beyond the minimum.
I'm not sure what results we will achieve, but at an average cost of less than $15.00 per hour for, effectively, 18 hours of work, the research budget is about $250.00. If all goes well, I will have six decent stories, at a cost of $45.00 a story, relatively inexpensive compared to the usual freelance rates. Of course, it is quite possible that the contractors will deliver garbage, or "work" without producing any valuable results. This is a risk I am prepared to take.
The larger picture relates to our overall business strategic direction, succession planning, and growth, of which the U.S. expansion project described above is just one example. The consultant had been recommended by another successful business owner. He told me that he gets all of his business from referrals (something I think you can understand from your own experience). However, he hit the right nerves when he suggested that one route for me to go as I advance in age and prepare to relinquish day-to-day responsibilities for the business is to become a consultant -- one who can and should earn upwards of $300,000 a year. Not bad for a part-time "job".
I'm a long way from there. In the meantime, we'll continue to build, experiment, grow and seek out better ways to find employees and contractors, develop content, and enhance and build the business.
I enjoyed the day.
Sunday, September 09, 2012
Obviously, individuals with this intelligence level travel on a much higher plane than most of us. I remember the guy as being the other "nerd" in our overland African tour group who managed, upon arriving in Nairobi, Kenya at the journey's end, to head to Uganda at the time of Idi Amin's rule. I considered joining him on the trip but, on listening to advice from Canadian consular officials, decided to travel a safer route. Shortly after he departed, Amin announced he would detain all Americans on Ugandan soil. Realizing my travel-mate had been planning to go to the dictatorial country on his own, I thought it prudent to visit the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi to report his risky travel plans. A consular official there quickly invited me into a conference room, where he told me indeed my travel-mate had managed to sneak a note out of his prison cell. Much to my surprise, I met him, one final time, in Lamu, Kenya, as I prepared to journey overland to (then) Rhodesia and South Africa overland. We haven't communicated since.
I'm not sure what I will learn when I pick up the phone tomorrow. There are tantalizing clues about his post-Africa life -- including a six year odyssey through some of the most dangerous parts of the world, but what he is doing (if it is him) in Oklahoma, is beyond me right now.
Why search out someone from my distant past, where our lives have traveled entirely different directions since? The answer, to me, is in the questions I can ask -- the puzzle pieces I can solve with journalistic inquiry. I know I am not intelligent enough to be a member of the Omega Club, of course. But I know for several weeks we shared the experience of observing the shooting stars and the Saharan silence -- so silent that you could hear your own ears.
Saturday, September 08, 2012
New LinkedIn Construction Marketing Ideas group members are invited to share their biggest challenge. I receive two or three emails a week, and do my best to provide a succinct answer.
Yesterday, a reader observed:
Here is what we struggle with.
Getting potential clients to do an apples to apples comparison. We give detailed spec sheets with our bids and referral list of past clients to call. Yet unless it is a direct referral from a past client who has seen our work first hand, we hardly ever get a job. Any leads we get from our website so far have not got past the bid stage. Just trying to find out how to get a better percentage of signed contracts.
It is hard to get anyone to do a true "apples to apples" comparison because of the invisible variables relating to branding and trust. Direct referrals from satisfied clients, obviously, are golden -- they are able to share their experience with people they trust, and radiate their trust in you. When you go outside that orbit you are competing against others who have earned a similar level of trust, or you are competing against "low price wins" clients/competitors -- a loser's game for most of us.
The best advice I can give is to spend more of your time finding those referrals, building them into the basis of your marketing; coupled with testimonials (videos may be effective) to back them up on your website and in other media. I offer some suggestions in my "construction marketing ideas" book.
In my ongoing poll, about 3/4 of most contractors' business arises from repeat/referral -- so even an incremental gain in the percentages in these areas will pay off more effectively than other media.
Now, in terms of capturing the "other" 25 per cent, I tend to believe that marketing should have its highest impact with approaches that bring you as close to real clients as possible. Again, if you are seeking to build your brand (trustworthiness reputation), perhaps the highest and most effective longer term approach is to focus energies on community service and charitable initiatives. Of course, you can't put these in your "marketing budget" because if you do this sort of stuff, you can only succeed when you absolutely don't expect anything in return (a real paradox, but one I've seen play out many times.)
Thursday, September 06, 2012
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
The challenge, as Lester indicates, is that conventional sales representatives don't have the technical expertise and knowledge to deliver real value -- at least if they behaves like "typical" representatives. And there are few things more irritating to decision-makers than dealing with sales reps who bring nothing to the file other than their persistence in their selling efforts. Conversely, the best way to win the order is to deliver value in the selling process; to show that you really have solutions that will provide value to the business or organization. He suggests a variety of options, notably having enough knowledge to provide real support either in knowing where to go for the technical resource, or facilitating the overall process.
Assume the role of solution delivery facilitator. Although prospective clients would quickly recognize that I wasn't a technical expert, they learned to trust me as the conduit to the right technical resources within our firm—or even with other noncompeting firms. The platform for doing this effectively was both developing a general understanding of the technical issues (as mentioned above) and knowing who to go to within our firm (or outside if necessary) for any relevant client problem or need that was identified.
Lester suggests one option is for the rep to spend more time to really understand the technical stuff and even to develop enough expertise that may be distinctive from the core business, so that the selling sessions are more about sharing and giving than pushing and prodding.
Actually, anyone selling professional services should try to avoid being characterized as a mere seller. You're an expert solution provider, even if the solutions come primarily through others' expertise. As I learned, the best way to change perceptions about your role is to serve clients rather than sell to them. And when you commit to serving instead of selling, you're more likely to uncover opportunities to use your own skills and knowledge to help clients.
Problem solving and delivering business value, after all, is hardly limited to the domain of the technical experts.
Monday, September 03, 2012
You are invited to a special live video event outlining my latest discoveries about social media and video for construction marketing at 2 p.m. on November 9, 2012.
This special one hour session will focus on how AEC marketers can most effectively use these new techniques in marketing, without squandering resources or setting themselves up to fail. I'll suggest some sustainable, practical ideas, with live demonstrations.
If you register before September 30, the admission fee is $9.95 (and includes a copy of my social media book, which sells for $4.95 on Amazon.) After then, the price increases to $19.95.
(If you have advertised in any of our publications, you can attend without charge. Just email me at email@example.com for a special free pass.)
(If you register and cannot attend, or don't think the event has provided genuine value for your business, just email within 48 hours of the event and I'll refund 100 per cent of your payment, without question.)
For more information and to register, visit here.
Friday, August 31, 2012
Posted by Mark Buckshon at 9:18 PM
|The North Carolina Construction News website|
It is fun to grow.
For a while in the early part of the last decade, without structure, business management systems, and a true sensitivity to the clients actually paying the bills, we had a seemingly thriving U.S. business, at one time operating in five cities. I gained plenty of experience in flying around but didn't know what I was doing, ultimately surviving a near-death business experience in 2005-2006. (The recovery inflection point is reflected in this blog's creation.)
We thought we were ready to return to the U.S. in 2008. Yeah, just in time for the economic crisis and crash. Basing our projections on sales and purported profitability in 2007, we expanded rapidly, incurring significant additional costs just as the economy tanked and everything froze. Wham . . . another, brutal retrenchment.
This time around, the expansion plans will be much more cautious and thoughtful, especially to avoid fixed costs and building on experience, business systems and new technologies. We'll be respectful in our markets, thoughtful in budgets, and responsive to current and potential clients.
If you would like to learn more about these growth plans and perhaps participate (with compensation), just complete this form. I promise we won't bug you -- and you can easily take your name off the list if you don't want to hear any more.