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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

1. I will respect everyone, regardless of status and circumstance, as individuals.

2. My business will contribute to construction communities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

3. We will have (serious) fun.

In the next few weeks, we'll provide some new resources to help construction businesses with media/public relations and marketing. Watch for my six tips on public relations in Thursday's newsletter.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

At Ground Zero

We're in New York City now, at a hotel just a stone's throw from Ground Zero -- in fact the building we are in today was used to billet rescue and recovery workers during those agonizing days after September 11, 2001.

Today, the Ground Zero site is bustling with construction activity and the drama and horror of five years ago seems a distant past. Work has started on the new Freedom Tower and the site is certainly alive.

So, for that matter, is the entire city. I took Eric to the Empire State Building Observatory (since the destruction of the World Trade Centre, this building, completed in 1931, is the city's tallest.) Allowing for the tourist-trap schlock and marketing gimicks, long lines and much hassle, the view from the top is incredible -- and there are many cranes (much lower) on the skyline.

Time to update now.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas 2005 remembered

Christmas Day, last year, starting on vacation I also had to deal with the serious consequences of some Internet fraud fighting. The bad guys set up a Joe Job (the link leads to a Wikipedia entry describing this form of identy theft-fraud), and on the start of our family vacation in Los Angeles, I spent hours on the phone with the technical support technician at my Internet Service Provider, clarifying the situation and preventing disruption of my own Internet service.

The roots of this crisis can be traced to my postings on where I investigated an Internet scam, called Reality Millions, where the fraudsters claimed the ability to turn 'investors' into millionaires for $49.00. If this seems absurd, so did it to me that hundreds and possibly thousands fell for the scam, sending their money to "Midas" and "Touch" at anonymous address.)

The research took me around the world by phone and email and taught me a whole lot about the Internet's less-than-honorable underside. But, in the end, I backed off the investigation when thousands of email bounces started flooding my in-box on Christmas Eve, just before my vacation.

Why this investigation? I was trying a form of Internet marketing to interest potential associate publishers, figuring passing the 'smell test' with scam fighters could only help my business. See this thread:

Did the scam-fighting work? Well, the bad guys appear to have succeeded in staying out of jail, at least for now, but the scam fighters are as strong as ever in their determination to thwart them, and some of the scamming techniques they used last year thankfully won't work any more. I also received some useful inquiries from prospective publishers. And I appreciated more than ever how communities and connections work in the Internet's global scale.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Survey observations

First, we didn't receive overwhelming results. I received more passionate replies proportionately on smaller lists when I asked for opinions of Toronto truck dealers, or the building permit administration in Ottawa. Nevertheless, within framework of the small survey sample size, I think it is representative of the industry. Respondents were fairly represented from large and small firms, over a large enough geographical area in North America.

The single most interesting result is that most people are not familiar with Google Adwords, and of those who are, an even smaller fraction use Pay Per Click advertising in thier marketing mix. This is impressive to me in that it suggests much untapped potential in the Google-style advertising approach. In Pay Per Click, results are directly meeasurable, and advertisers only pay if the ad at least draws traffic to their websites. Of course Pay Per Click is not quite the same as Pay per Order -- a marketer's dream (if the Pay Per Order price of course is low enough.)

Tomorrow we head on a vacation to New York City and then onwards to Vancouver. Of course I'll have the laptop with me and expect to post updates to this blog while travelling. The regular newsletter will resume in January.

Best wishes for the Holiday Season.

Monday, December 18, 2006


If you have arrived here upon completing our survey on internet marketing for the construction industry, thanks for participating. I'll post preliminary results soon.

If you came here without knowing about the survey, you can go to it at this location.

Please feel free to post your comments about the survey or Internet marketing issues for the construction industry.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Video revolution

Yesterday, I visited the elctronics store and purchased my first video camera for the computer. I spent the money because I realize that it is important to understand the impact of the video (and sound) revolution on the internet. With high-speed service now the rule rather than the exception, the capacity for video and audio communication takes the Internet in entirely new and exciting directions. It also has implications for the construction industry marketing practices.

Many websites of course now have construction progress photo sites. Other publishers have been touting the advantages of construction video -- in some cases using the supplier-relationship techniques that were until recently the main way we sold advertising. (The ads are not purchased in this model so much to attract new clients as to keep current clients happy.). You may find some insights in this article I published several months ago:

As in the case of the written word, the availability of the new technologies creates plenty of opportunities for the good, bad and downright awful. Previously entry costs for video production and distribution were so high that the only people playing the game were professionals. Now anyone can do it, and this results in some very bad stuff making it to air.

Nevertheless, I believe if you are serious about construction marketing you must be well aware of the new techniques and technologies, even when they don't immediately correlate. You may wish to review Ken Main's observations regarding print media and podcasting, here:

Within a few weeks you'll see my inagural video. I certainly am not going to show anyone my early test videos, but I don't expect my initial entry into the video world will win any awards for brilliance. Nevertheless, I appreciate that the media world and marketing is much more multi-faceted and comprehensive than it has ever been in the past; and being aware of what is possible in video is as important as understanding how a fax machine worked a few years ago.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The new 'press'

Ken Main, of Portland Maine, sent me this white paper outlining the challenges that the conventional daily newspapers are facing in the era of the interactive web-based media (with audio and video capacities). It is a good read.

I'm looking forward to speaking with him at greater length within the next few days. In my email to him in response, I noted that engagement can take many forms -- notably the success in selling Christmas greetings ads in the OCHBA Impact! (our local home builders' association newsletter), shows that the connection can come in different ways -- in the case of the association newsletter, the relationships within the group, and the acceptance of the newsletter as a valued part of this close-knit community -- justifies advertising rates that are definitely not on the low end if value is measured by Cost Per Thousands (CPM).

Conversely, I've seen many efforts launched with various AV and web based gimmicks that fail to connect the tools and resources to the actual readers and viewers. Sometimes just picking up the phone, or attending a community event, can do much good (of course, carrying a videocamera and writing blog entries about it-- or having other people at the event share their thoughts as well -- can create a much more effective connection than a distant and passive 'conventional' journalistic approach.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pacing the progress

How fast should we grow? In previous posts, I suggested that it is time to put the brakes on the ambitions, for now, but I still believe we will be ready much sooner than later to add products and markets to the business. The key issue is how well we can manage our resources, and also how people working within the company can assume their responsibilities and tasks.

Especially in expanding to new markets, where we have 'publishers in waiting' the question is, "are they readyfor their responsibilities." If we go ahead and blindly expand, without some real drive, initiative and contributions at the local end, we'll be trapped in a frustrating vortex. The last thing I want to be doing is travelling across the continent to prop up a business where the local co-ordinator isn't pulling his or her weight.

On the other hand, I don't want to deny those that are ready to grow, the opportunity to grow. So we've decided to set out a set of conditions -- an action plan -- that the local publishers will need to complete before we invest time and resources in 'opening' new publications. This makes the effort more balanced and complete, and gives us the capacity to truly help the people who are working hard (and smartly) to help themselves.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Growth and prudence

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been taking a hard look at the choices now that we have a talented sales team and rapidly improving buiness results. I listed the potential projects worthy of further consideration, and set out to determine which should get priority.

Yesterday, even though one key person was missing from the planning meeting to discuss the choices, we reached an understanding that we have a lot of work to do closer to home before we can think too much about expanding the business. And, in one of those 'insight flashes' for ideas that should have been obvious to me weeks ago, I realized that our staff and resource levels are actually lower now than when I carefully and cautiously deliberated expanding the last time around.

The difference is experience. And that is a two-edged sword. Experience indeed gives me confidence to act decisively and quickly; to realize that expansion ahead of schedule can create new opportunities and possibilities, and in any case, Iwould not really be expanding that far into unknown business territory because I have experience running a much larger business.

But I also know about the risks of cash flow problems, badly diverted resources, and the fact that growth for growth's sake has nothing to do with business viability and profitability.

Sure, we concluded yesterday, lets expand, but let us fix what we have at home first and give the people in more remote areas of the business the opportunity to show and develop their own realistic growth without forcing the issue. Things will progress soon enough.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I have found this blog posting from Michael Kempner, president and CEO of PR firm MWW Group to be revealing and useful in several ways.

His points about sloppiness and typos in resumes (and blogs, like this one) are well taken. I take his advice seriously, and will both watch future entries carefully and clean up some of the older ones here.

I think he also makes a point that reading between the lines for hidden evaluation processes is important for job-seekers, and if you are an employer looking for the best candidates, setting these processes in place will help you in your screening and candidate searching efforts.

For example, in our recent initiative to recruit new sales representatives, I used a multi-stage screening system. I only glanced at the resumes; instead sending an email questionnaire, coupled with links to this blog.

Candidates who failed to answer the questionnaire of course elminiated themselves from consideration. But you may be surprised that I also eliminated candidates who simply answered the questions without communicating/asking questions of me first.

(I provided my email address with the questionnaire; and told applicants they could ask questions and seek clarifications before responding.)

Sales success, of course, is built on the ability to build and develop relationships. The two candidates who bothered to communicate and request information before firing off responses to the questionnaire of course moved to the top of the list when I turned to looking at the resumes to decide whom to call for an initial phone interview.

In the end, we hired both representatives -- even though originally we only had the budget for one. But the candidates who dashed off a response, or who didn't care to follow the instructions at the outset, received no further consideration. Remember, if you are looking for work, read the guidelines and look beneath the surface for hidden tests -- and of course remember that if the answers don't come to you naturally, you are probably best suited for other opportunities.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Today, I dared to send out 'invites' to every name on my email list for the Ryze network. The success in doing this suggests both the strength and weakness of the Ryze system.

The strength: It is easy to enter, wide ranging in scope, and has many potentially useful connection.

The weakness: The ease of entry and lack of controls invites and encourages spammy type behaviours -- because there were no controls on 'volume' I dumped many potentially irrelevant names into the system; people who barely if at all know me.

Is this stuff for you? Maybe. Feel free to spend a few minutes looking around but I wouldn't push this as a primary marketing tool, just yet. See