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.