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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Associations and construction marketing

I can think of few ready-made construction marketing opportunities as effective as thoughtful client-related associations.  With some thought and planning, you can access a ready-made decision-making group and integrate yourself into the world of movers and shakers, building relationships while obtaining the knowledge of near and medium-term horizon projects suitable for your business.

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.

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