Discover your free Construction Marketing Ideas Email Newsletter

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The 10 business success tips

Following a link from Seth Godin's blog, I decided to test out and posted a copy of an earlier entry on this blog, "The more things change, the more they stay the same". Seems the posting is somewhat successful -- although the story hasn't yet been picked up by any of the search engines, 31 people have viewed the writing in the last day, and three say they like it. This is more response than my Seven Tips for Construction Marketing Success.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Having fun

If at the end of each day you've felt satisfaction, enjoyment, and joy, then you have found the essence of success. Life is more than money and material stuff. Undoubtedly that is important, but what really counts is how you feel at the end of the day.

We all have our own thing. I am really into writing, business and learning about effective marketing. It is an adventure, and it is why -- after some real roller coaster ups and downs -- we are embarking on some great achievements.

This blogger works for us on a modest but important contract. She keys in building permit data for our printed publications in Ottawa and Toronto (you can't see this data on the web, at least yet). I can't say it is the most glamorous or important task, and it may be one where we could save a few dollars by sourcing it offshore. But I won't deny or disrespect her passion, which has obviously nothing to do with the topic at hand.

Senior members of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), who have passion and love for their work, tell me that many people join the association's local chapters, only to drop out after a year or two. Possibly the members have discovered that the construction marketing world is not really their passion -- if so, they made the right decision.

If you are young, you don't want to end up in later life with a job you hate, because you 'have to make money' -- waiting perhaps for a pension or a rather impoverished retirement. (And if you are older, and your health is still good, take heed -- and do something right away to find enjoyment in your life).

I realize that I may belong to a fortunate minority but the fact remains you can also combine enjoyment and experience with success. Just look inside yourself, find your passion, and make it happen . . . even if you may need to do some work (like my horse-loving contractor) just to pay the bills.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Selling, effectively

It's been a busy few days as we prepare to close some of the largest papers we've produced in the past few months. Part of this is because of the season -- things seem to lighten up in the spring in our business -- but I think the main reason is that our team is jelling and connecting, and finding the opportunities where they are.

I promised in yesterday's blog a report on Nicki Joy's speech to the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association -- the full report will be ready tomorrow or possibly Saturday. But here are some of her tips regarding the trial close.

"Trial closes are one of the most underilized selling strategies, and yet they are the most powerful," she writes.

"Trial closes test to see just how near the prospect is to buying and reveals their interest and involvement levels. The trial close is like a report card that tells you how close they a re to accepting to your solution to their problems."

She writes that trial closes start the decision making process that is a prelude to the commitment making process. "In essence trial closes ask an opinion while the real close asks for a commitment."

Trial closes, she writes, are:

  1. A low risk strategy;
  2. A barometer/thermometer
  3. A compass to help you adjust to the direction of your sale
  4. A diagnostic tool
  5. A control handle
  6. An involvement creator.

"Trial closing questions are especially effective because they give the buyer a chance to make a minor decision-- one they can handle, but remember, little decisions eventually lead to big ones."

I like this stuff -- and her other materials. I especially like the fact that while she has written a book, she did not do the typical speaker thing and hype its sales -- you can find it on (And I am not an affiliate yet, so don't make anything from this referral.)

Here it is:

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Millard Fuller -- and Habitat For Humanity

Here is an insightful excerpt from the Jose Silva Ultra Mind System site. I signed up and have received the full preliminary 'course' for free. You will get this text and other valuable material as well -- but be patient, it takes a while to complete the process.

"Sometimes what appears to be a negative situation may actually be good luck in disguise.

The Example of Millard Fuller.

By the age of thirty Millard had made his first million and was aiming for $10 million more. He owned everything he could hope for - 2,000 acres of land, speed boats, luxury cars. But, as his business empire grew his marriage was crumbling. One day he received a letter from his wife Linda declaring that she had fallen out of love with him and was seeking a divorce.
The week that followed was one of the most agonizing weeks of his life. He called Linda and begged for a second chance. Reluctantly, with tears in her eyes, she agreed. Together they decided to get rid of everything they owned and start anew. They sold everything - the business, the homes, the cars. But what next?
Somehow Millard and Linda found themselves in Georgia a few years later. While doing volunteer work they were struck by the dilapidated shacks many impoverished families had to live in. Millard and his co-workers started building homes for these needy people. Moved by the powerful impact these homes had on the people who moved into them, Millard decided to see if these simple concepts could be applied around the world.
He knew that 25% of the world's population lacked decent housing.
Millard's goal was once to make $10 million - he now had a new goal - could he build homes for 10 million people? Convinced that he had a concept that could work worldwide he launched Habitat for Humanity International in 1976.
Habitat has already built more than 60,000 houses around the world for 300,000 people. Habitat now coordinates 800 building projects in fifty-one foreign countries.
Millard and Linda now see themselves as two of the luckiest people alive.
A single event - the threat of divorce led them onto a completely different path, one that has not just made them happier, but benefited thousands of people around the world.
Sometimes, like Millard, people pursue a goal that they think is correct - but this goal may be out of line from what their life purpose is. This is why in the Silva UltraMind seminar we always encourage people to use their intuition to first determine if they are on the right path - and once they get an answer, only then do they set their goals."

A cautionary note: Jose Silva is a fan of Napoleon Hill, but his story is more complex than may seem on the surface. See this reference on (from Publishers' Weekly: From Publishers WeeklyHill (1883-1970) was the author of several early self-help books-Law of Success, 1929; Think and Grow Rich, 1937; Mental Dynamite, 1941-all promoting an inspirational philosophy of personal achievement that, if followed, purportedly would lead to wealth and success. Although Hill died a prosperous man, he spent most of his life jumping from one get-rich-quick scheme to another and experienced long periods of poverty. Landers, a freelance writer, and Ritt, former executive director of the Napoleon Hill Foundation, have put a good spin on Hill's contradictory life. Yet their account does not provide any real insight into why a man whose books were able to motivate others nonetheless deserted his wife and children several times to follow his dreams and left their financial support to others. After his wife finally divorced him, Hill married two more times. This is a public-relations bio marked by stilted writing. Photos not seen by PW. Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. )

Contrast and adventure

I truly enjoy days of contrast, adventure, and variety. And yesterday turned out to be just one of those days, marked (perhaps ironically) by my arriving late on the scene and allowing my cellphone and computer to interrupt attention.

Bad. Bad. But simply put, if I hadn't been 'bad' I couldn't have done everything I wanted to do/see and would have lost out on the opportunities and insights provided by the experiences (and fulfilled obligations to my family, and health).

In the morning, I enjoyed motivational speaker Nicki Joy providing tips and insights to new home sales representatives at an Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association event. (I'll write the story about the speech later this morning and post links in tomorrow's blog entry). In the old days, I would cover these events with my notebook (and try to decipher the writing), or perhaps with a tape recorder (try to transcribe a three hour tape), but now, I simply open my laptop and type -- since I type 70 words plus per minute, I can catch the speech quite effectively.

The laptop also allow me to do something Niki isn't overly fond of -- multitasking, especially during her speech. Arriving late, I sat down just as she was finishing up her request that everyone turn off their cellphones. I didn't. And I'll admit my mind wandered periodically, as the conference centre where she was speaking had a wireless Internet link, and I received and sent at least a dozen emails during the presentation. (Bad, bad, I know, but it is deadline, I have a mass of work to do, and in any case, I am getting the gist of her presentation with more depth than most people because of my active note-taking).

Of course it happened. Of everyone in the audience, I am the only one to actually leave my cell phone on, and it rings. My good friend Mike W. called proposing our usual Tuesday lunch. I said 'sure' -- realizing I would have to duck out before she finished her speech. (Fortunately, this time, arriving late, I had a seat near the back of the hall.)

We have lunch. Mike has sold his business for enough money that, in the late 50s, he doesn't need to work for the rest of his life. I'm not sure I would trade places with him, however. He recently divorced, and I can't see myself spending day after day skiing and traveling. But he is still a friend.

I returned to my office to catch up with staff and our regular meeting, including two strong candidates for sales work with us. Banking, chores, then a decision -- would I be late in attending the swearing in ceremony of a second friend, Stanley Kershman, as an Ontario Superior Court Judge. I could abbreviate the exercise, and arrive on time, but I decided that my health matters the most and in any case I am certainly not a central part of this ceremony.

Arriving late, I found the courtroom full. In fact, the overflow courtroom with the closed circuit television was also full. Fortunately, the late arrival meant I only had to wait for one person to finish writing in the commemorative book, and I could slip in the back of the main courtroom and find a spot to watch the proceedings without getting in the way.

Stanley has always believed in goal-setting, determination, visualization, success, life balance; all these essential things. And he has always wanted to be a judge. So today, he is. I enjoyed especially watching his peers in the courtroom -- sitting in the jury box. Of course Stanley will now have to navigate new realities. He will not be able to speak as freely as he has in the media (he became something of a Canadian celebrity on bankruptcy law), and he will have to broaden his skills from commercial law to judging criminal files and family court cases. (I also expect as the newest judge in the courtroom, he will receive many of the less-than-wonderful assignments.)

Following his appointment, visitors were invited to the courthouse atrium for a reception, where of course I saw many mutual friends. Then my cellphone rang again. One of the candidates for the new sales position reported on his progress, and I had the opportunity to clarify some issues regarding his references. Time to get home, for dinner and family.

This is the part of the day I like the best -- when Eric greets me and I can see Vivian again. We watched a hockey game on TV, I helped out on chores, and then went to bed (waking up in the middle of the night to write this blog entry).

There's a huge backlog of work to do/business/stuff this morning when I wake up again, but I'm happy yesterday that I combined the work with exercise and time with my family. And, in observing both Nicki Joy and Stanley Kershman, I saw how success and achievement are best achieved and balanced with a healthy dose of achievement, humility, and assertiveness. Yes, I was late and allowed my cell phone to interrupt. But I kept the balance.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The more things change, the more they stay the same

One thing I've had the good fortune to learn as my hairs grey is that some basic principals apply through time and that when you think something is wrong somewhere, you should review the basics before trying to reinvent your solution.

So, I will dare to outline my top 10 business guidelines(and I think you can do the same type of exercise for your business).

1. Most entrepreneurs receive dozens of ideas each year; only a few are worth investigating, and even fewer are worth implementing. Occasionally, we hit a home run.

2. 80 per cent of what we do counts for 20 per cent of the value of our efforts. The inverse also applies. Yet overly blind assessment of this rule is dangerous. An example: We can find that 80 per cent of our marketing call efficiency is achieved by working on the phone rather than meeting clients in person. But yesterday, I saw the value in knowing the exception to that rule, when I met in person with someone important (a meeting that could have been handled on the phone easily), and into the room walked someone with insights of incredible value to our business.

3. Accidents happen. All the time. Plans are meant for constant change.

4. Often you will find your best insights in places you least expect. So it is good to shake things up. On the other hand, you probably know what works best for you. So do it. (I for example always write better in the early morning rather than in late afternoon.)

5. Perseverance and talent are both important. You will be sure to succeed if you have both. You are doomed to fail if you have neither. But if you think you can succeed by persisting without talent, pick a career that requires very little brains or skill, please.

6. You have to have fun to succeed. Sure parts of your work may -- and probably are -- painful, but if you really don't enjoy what you are doing, find out why, really quickly, and change things. Don't do stuff just for the money.

7. It is really dumb to put anyone 'down' while you are acting high and mighty. It drives people nuts and makes enemies. I know I've done it, to my permanent regret.

8. It rarely helps to hold grudges. Sure, we should not be wimps if we are attacked or mistreated. But it is important to know when to move on.

9. People change. Listen to the changes. If you can help fix the problems (if there are are real problems in the people you know), it doesn't hurt to help. But if they are going downhill and don't get it, remember that they can pull you -- and others who shouldn't be pulled down -- as well. You will have to make the break.

10. People stay the same. Basic principals apply. Respect and recognize others and appreciate that great relationships are the essence of great business. New and old, through good and hard times, the entrepreneur who understands appreciates the basic rules of respect and integrity will succeed as fly-by-night operators come and go.

This blog posting ( at one of my favorite marketing/pr/communications sites set off the ideas in this blog. Warning: The language is foul and offensive and I truly disagree with someone who says you should listen to a four year old and ignore someone with wisdom and maturity. You should, of course, actually listen to both.

And if you want my Seven Tips for Construction Marketing Success, you can easily download them here.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Editorial integrity and advertorials

This afternoon, as I complete my Thank You calls for our clients, I'll also follow up on one complaint we received this issue from an advertiser in our North Carolina publications. We had received a complaint from an advertiser that we hadn't properly mentioned his business in a feature story, while we had portrayed their competitors in a Page 1 photo. The advertiser, rightfully, did not feel he had been served properly.

We've proposed a solution that will hopefully restore the balance, but this conflict touches on one of the biggest challenges a publisher encounters when co-ordinating story selection and resolving the trade-offs between editorial integrity and customer (advertiser) service.

In the purest and 'ideal' model, the publisher doesn't worry at all about what advertisers think. We write for our readers, generate enough eyeballs and credibility with our genuine content value, and then advertisers flock to us to do business without expecting anything more than access to our readership. But I know of no publisher who truly adheres to these considerations without reservation. Editors in advertiser-supported publications ultimately realize their business viability depends on their clients, and they are careful to avoid stepping too far over the line.

On the other hand, allowing the advertisers to shape and control the publication will doom it to a quick death. Pure advertorial enterprises have a short shelf life in general -- the reason is that readers discount the publications' credibility, don't read them, and then as a result advertisers don't receive any value.

The whole thing is getting much more challenging these days with the rise of the Internet, blogging, and the break-down of traditional power control within the media -- and the rise of much more aggressive public relations and media relations companies which are blurring the lines even more.

Our approach, within general guidelines, has been to control the linkage between advertising features and editorial content. This morning, I will work on one of these advertising features -- it is an eight page supplement filled with content written in an editorial style, but controlled by the sponsoring organization. Readers (and advertisers) are not misled about the section's purpose, however.

Where we continue to have problems and no quick or simple solution is when the two elements of advertising and editorial truly merge in relevance, specifically the North Carolina feature on electronic plans rooms and bidding technology. Here, we assigned an independent journalist to write the story as she saw fit, but also gave her the names and contact information of potential and current advertisers. Since the story appears on Page 1 of the newspapers, we didn't dictate or control the writer's content -- the story is of genuine relevance to our readers, after all, and we figured advertisers would best be served if it retained independence and credibility. but we still now have a (valid!) complaint from an advertiser.

One thing is certain -- I declined a request from another, non-advertising entrepreneur, for me to write a story (without advertising considerations) on his business, even though it relates tothe topic. I can't say his service stands out sufficiently from that of our advertisers. I don't need to ruffle any more feathers. He has proposed that I write a news release for him (creating another whole new area of interesting conflicts).

Generally, I will err on the side of responsible integrity. This means that we won't let advertisers control our news section, but we will certainly listen to them, both in the subtle issues of influence, and in the more direct respect for them as clients. But I know there are no perfect solutions that will keep everybody happy, all the time.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sally Handley, Webinar, Public Relations, SMPS

This blog title is something a mouthful, but it covers some important and relevant themes, simultaneously.

Sally Handley (see has a marketing/consulting business for the architectural/engineering/construction sector. She focuses on publicity and media relations consulting, an area that I also developing.

A few weeks ago she posted notice of a Webinar on Public Relations called "Craft a Publicity Plan and Get Published!). The fee: $150.00 for the 90 minute session on Friday afternoon. Since I am knowledgeable about these areas, why pay so much money for her Webinar? The answers are on several levels. I've never participated in a Webinar, and am intrigued by their marketing possibilities, a little competitive intelligence is always helpful and (most importantly), even though I am very knowledgeable about the subject, it is my responsibility to continue learning more -- and even a few ideas from her Webinar would be well worth the money.

So I signed up. I am not going to share all her insights on this blog -- at least all at once -- but she indeed offered useful examples and ideas and if you don't wish to use my services, I certainly can recommend her as knowledgeable and capable in her field. (For my own commercial message about public relations consulting services, see this reference.)

There are other issues relevant here, however. How did Sally find me? I'm not exactly sure how I received her promotional email because I don't recall asking to be put on her list (it is okay now, of course, as have purchased her service and am satisfied with its value). SMPS (Society for Marketing Professional Services) members have access to the entire membership list, of course. I don't think blind and widespread use of this list for marketing is a wonderful idea but can see how a well targeted and careful marketing program to parts of the list, or names on the list over time, would be effective. And SMPS membership is a real bargain especially if you are in the U.S. and in one of the many cities with chapters.

The other thing I wanted to see is how the Webinar actually works. First, for Sally, it appears to have been successful. I'm not sure how many were online with me at the time, but if the numbers add up the way I think they do, this truly proved profitable for her -- especially since the Webinar will presumably lead to additional lucrative consulting assignments.

I discovered some intriguing online resources both to co-ordinate the cash and registrations, and the actual Webinar itself, along with principals of preparation and co-ordination. I can see now that a well-executed Webinar can be truly effective marketing resource, but think you need to be well prepared and have a solid base within your market framework before trying something like this.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Permission marketing

Look at these two postings on Seth Godin's blog.

The first describes how things were done right (in his view):

The second describes how things were done wrong (also in his view):

More ideas tomorrow . . .

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A new newsletter issue

The latest issue of the Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter will be distributed in a few hours.

Here is my essay on effective selling -- and why many salespeople are totally ineffective.

You can subscribe by filling in the form at the top of this blog or on the homepage of the local site relevant to you, or by emailing

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Demoralizing marketing

It was 4:50 p.m., near the end of the business day. I can either answer my business line (888-432-3555 ext 224) in the office, or it forwards to my home office. I don't have a cordless phone for the business line at home; simply put, if it is after hours and I'm with my family, it can ring into voice mail, and I'll return the calls the next day.

But it was 4:50 and it seemed right to take the call. So I ran upstairs, catching the line breathlessly just before it cut into voice mail .... and immediately, I knew it was a telemarketer when the caller, rather brilliantly, asked if I was "Mr. or Mrs. Buckshon".

Other than the obvious fact that I cannot possibly be Mrs. Buckshon, my wife is not Mrs. Buckshon either -- she uses her maiden name. (This also creates incongruities when I answer the home line and someone says: "Hello, Mr. ***" and I know exactly that this is a call I have absolutely no interest in receiving.)

As is my style, I interrupted the telemarketer before he could go into his script, and said "I know you have a job to do and am not directing this at you personally, but please ensure my name is off your list and you never call me again." I really want to be courteous to all people with thankless jobs, but I wasn't too happy to speak with the telemarketer who couldn't sort out my gender after I ran up the stairs, panting, to take his call.

Maybe this type of marketing works, some of the time. Get enough low-paid people to make enough scripted dumb calls, and some people will buy. But it seems to me to be life-draining and wasteful approach to business. Surely we, as consumers, can make informed decisions about when and how to handle our calls -- and I'm sure this explains the political success in implementing 'do not call lists' and other controls.

I'm not so set against telemarketing in the business-to-business context -- we do some of it ourselves -- provided the telephone calls are properly directed, individualized, and not scripted, and ideally go to organizations of sufficient scale and organization that there is either voice mail or administrative gatekeepers to assess and screen the relevance of the calls.

(Of course, if you read the business-to-business sales literature, one of the biggest problems and complaints salespeople have is call screening, and unanswered voice mail. My response would be that if your proposition is compelling, well thought, and relevant, you can almost always get through to the person you wish to reach, eventually. But if you are just calling names on cold lists, you are getting what you deserve.)
* * *

I discovered this rather interesting site when I googled to find "the dumbest business ideas". (Why I chose that topic is something of a mystery to me, but I had just reached the site when that telemarketer phoned, so maybe I was looking for trouble.) Anyways, here is some good marketing -- though I'm not sure yet where it will take us:

Monday, March 19, 2007

Wal-Mart and

While checking my Google Analytics and discovering that some readers had visited our sites again through, I googled Bidclerk and discovered a rather interesting story published last summer in a Maine local newspaper. It explained where Wal-Mart sends people who inquire about bidding on Wal-Mart projects, a McGraw-Hill Construction office in Missouri, of all places.

I've posted the story about this little find across our website network, but you can logically view it on the home page of Maine Construction News. My interest in this story is on several levels:

1. If you want to get closer to the source for Wal-Mart job bidding information, you now have a potentially useful resource (note, however, I haven't yet independently checked any of this out.)

2. (and McGraw Hill Construction's eleads service) are referenced on our leads links at our regional websites. If you are in the Northeast, you will also want to check out Work in Progress Inc. If you are a leads provider elsewhere, feel free to email me at I continue to prefer McGraw-Hill's service to bidclerk, but think both have real merit and their prices are low enough for any sub or trade wishing an inexpensive supplemental leads service (noting, however, as I constantly do in this blog, that you will get your best leads through doing your work well, and marketing effectively.)

3. The revisit to the Maine site brings back some painful memories of how we did everything wrong in developing a market. Over the course of a year, we managed to publish four issues of the printed version of Maine Construction News. The sales curve is something like this: $50,000, $25,000 $6,000, $4,000. Yes, a disaster -- we blew it -- collecting a small fortune in quick revenue at the start at the expense of ANY repeat business. I don't consider the failure here however a total failure; I learned important lessons on the limits of any approach in marketing and the challenges of over-assertion at anything.

On another track....

We are getting ready for our bi-weekly newsletter which will be published in the midst of a rather intense two days travelling and visiting universities in southern and western Ontario. Here is a sneak-preview of a survey assessing the level of correlation between work enjoyment and marketing initiatives. If you wish to take it now, and point out the flaws/bugs/inconsistencies in my thinking here, I will be truly grateful.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Perseverance and talent

You need both talent and perseverance to succeed. Within limits, a deficiency of one can be offset by an abundance of the other, but you need at least some of both to achieve greatness.

With great talent you can often skyrocket to the top -- and stay there with just a basic level of determination and consistency. However, many truly talented people fail because they jump from one thing to another. They lack persistence.

If your talents aren't so great -- or you have limiting deficiencies or weaknesses -- you'll need lots of persistence. Sheer determination and will can get you to where you wish to go. But you still need talent, real talent, and no amount of persistence will allow you to escape this reality.

I am persistent. If something is important to me, I simply don't give up. The journey to success may take a few months, or a few decades, but I hold it to my heart, and keep on. In my personal life this is reflected in my rather late marriage to the woman I knew I really wanted to be with -- after 13 years of platonic friendship. I struggled for a year on the student newspaper at university before I found the ability to do the work -- and even then, my peers truly wondered how/why I carried on (ultimately proving myself through two trips to Africa.)

In business, I see this in the evolution of this enterprise; the ups and downs, and rebound, and continuing effort to achieve the goal of being the Leading International Publisher of Regional Construction News and Information.

Note that any amount of perseverance cannot overcome a true lack of talent. Most pitiful are the people who carry on even though they cannot hope to succeed; the failed actors, photographers, artists, and even business people. Of course I cannot dare know the base point of talent necessary to justify perseverance -- but often the answer is in whether our peers believe there is enough spark and will, coupled with talent. If so, they'll often help us along and guide us through the bumps in the journey to success.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The $???? Day

At 5:00 p.m. yesterday afternoon, I counted my earned pay for the day. Disappointed, indeed. I hadn't earned the target number, nowhere near. In fact, in my mind, I had earned 1/3 of the required sum.

Of course this had nothing to do with the amount of pay I am allowed to deposit (and for which I pay personal income tax) twice a month. It is the daily breakdown of my imputed target annual income. Breaking down the tasks and things I did through most of the day, I found I had worked about two hours at the level necessary to earn the amount I need to achieve my objectives. The rest of the time, well, the value of my labour time would be zero, or certainly much lower than the worth of what I need to earn.

(The exact numbers are no one's business but mine -- this after all is a public blog, but I'm sure you can look at your own day and value your time appropriately.)

I thought then of two gurus I've cited recently in this blog -- Jim Fannin's and Michael Stone's Markup and Profit newsletter and blog. Certainly, through much of the day I was nowhere near the peak performance zone-- I just wasn't doing the kinds of things that add real value. And if I was effectively overseeing my business, it wasn't apparent from what I was actually doing -- fiddling around on the computer with out-of-range topics and lethargically checking on how much I had earned through our business's currently tiny online marketing projects.

Nevertheless, I can say I saved the day -- and got closer to where I want to be in business -- with these achievements.

* I turned a simple writing job into a truly effective lead generation initiative -- it is early to assess the potential of this initiative, but it looks promising (this is worth a few hundred dollars I suppose).

* We moved forward with two promising candidates for the second Ontario sales position -- a key job that needs to be filled before the business can grow.

Good stuff, I suppose. But what if I had worked within the peak performance zone for six or seven hours rather than two or three today. How much potential did I lose by just letting things happen?

Does marketing matter?

An intriguing issue, and challenging one for me, is that many of the best contractors, sub trades and suppliers in this business don't really need to promote their business. In fact, their problem is they have more opportunities than they can accept. They turn away jobs because the work would not suit their interests, or they don't have the labour or resources to handle the volume, or they simply don't need the headaches.

This 'no need to market' is especially apparent in the residential sector, where contractors with a solid reputation and truly effective word-of-mouth have an order backlog going months forward. They don't need to advertise for customers and what good would media publicity do them? Sure, it would be positive, but if their order book is full, what good does it do to turn away business?

I'm sure similar circumstances are common in much of the commercial and professional services side of the business. Satisfied clients return for more, the order book is full, and there really is no need nor advantage to do any form of promotion. That is just a business cost that takes away from potential profits.

Of course, there are other circumstances -- including new businesses who are hungry for clients, and professional service and contracting businesses that largely serve one-time rather than repeat clients; and thus need to find new business constantly. And there is enough evidence that even with a good volume of repeat business, successful contractors and professional service providers know that effective marketing allows a good inflow of new business and that business, if properly managed, allows you to improve your margins and smooth out the ups and downs in the regular business flow.

Finally, a few companies truly want to grow, and growth happens with effective marketing.

Note, as I've outlined several times in this blog, I find great marketing (and selling) are very different experiences than the sort of thing that irritates us all -- those horrendous telemarketing calls and 'surveys' conducted at awkward times and with no real relationship basis to justify them. The intrusive inbound sales calls are a pain to virtually everyone on the receiving end -- even if they really take very little time to answer courteously.

Of course, in light of these observations, I'm not going to have much luck telling the successful general contractor, engineer, or sub-trade, with a full order book, that he or she should consider the advantages of media publicity and advertising and if I call, badger, or simply try to sell these business people on the advantages of effective marketing, they'll say "who cares?"

I will always advocate that our best marketing approach is to do our work exceptionally well. Referrals and repeat business will sustain things for years and years. But I hold out an interesting challenge to the business owner who says "I don't need publicity or marketing". What if you could strategically increase your profits by 5 to 10 per cent; improve the take-over or buy-out value of your business (if you wish to sell it), and if labour shortages are an issue, attract and retain absolutely the best employees?

Maybe, in these situations, even if you don't 'need' to use effective publicity and marketing techniques to maintain your business, you will want to consider the power of these resources used by so few in the industry.

For a proposal that may be worth your while, see this e-letter included as part of my most recent newsletter. You can reach me at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Additional value in publicity

A large part of our business is publishing profiles about businesses and projects, with supplier support advertising. The features are generally quite successful for everyone concerned -- advertisers enhance their 'connection' with key clients (and we respect them as our key clients, as well), and the profiled organization obtains the benefit of editorial-type publicity which can be used in a variety of formats.

Publicist Ronn Torossian from New York outlines how editorial publicity can be extended byond the original publication in this blog entry.

His point applies to all media publicity, not just our features, of course, and is just one reason you should focus a significant portion of your marketing resources on media relations and publicity.

Great selling

You have to pass through several 'hurdles' to work in sales in our organization. In our most recent hiring initiative, we received approximately 115 resumes. From that group, yesterday one candidate, has reached the final testing stage -- a three day (paid) work assignment. There are a couple of others who could reach this stage as well.

Why screen so carefully? Seth Godin's observations about the difference between good and great is a truly useful insight. Many organizations accept mediocrity -- and (I suppose) some of them do okay, but if we are to achieve any level of greatness, we will have to do things differently.

My experience has taught me the screening tests we use are reasonably valid (though not absolutely a sure thing). If someone 'fails' the screen and asks for a second chance, we'll consider it -- but invite the prospective representative to work on pure commission (this is conditional of course on the person being otherwise okay, and us having an available opportunity that would not deny income to our existing representatives.) The reason for this 'exception-to-the-rule' rule is to allow qualities that might be measurable in tests but can only be seen in action -- is there a genuine drive or eagerness to overcome the barriers?

Importantly, the bigger challenge here is not in the hiring process; it is in what to do when sales representatives we hire and perform well initially, stop doing so well. The problem here is that it is wrong to be abrupt or cruel to employees and the cause of the failure might be something other than the sales representative's own efforts. (For example, the product may not be up to standard, there may be new competition, or the business/administrative practices are not providing adequate support.)

Part of the answer here I think is in frequent and effective communication. We have weekly meetings now; we keep our eyes and ears open, and I listen for signals as best as possible of potential challenges/problems. If something isn't quite right, I''ll intervene sooner than later, but with respect for the people around me.

If you would like to learn more about our hiring system/methodology, you can gather insights elsewhere in this blog or email me at

Monday, March 12, 2007

In the zone

Denise Michaels sold me on paying $600 for consulting services this evening. I didn't know about her yesterday morning. We have never met, talked on the phone, and our exchange involved one email communication through the Ryze business network.

Why did I so easily buy what she had to sell?

First, she offered something that right now I really want and need, and which is rather specialized. She offers a mentoring service for those who want to publish a book. I've set one of my goals this year to publish a book on construction marketing. It is a fair goal, but something tells me I am going to need a little push to get there. She appears to offer the push.

Second, she reached me. Somehow her posting on the Ryze network landed in my in-box. She posted in a non-selling mode, asking a question, but underlying the question she asked was an invitation to do business with her.

Third, and finally, she made effective use of testimonials. I found her convincing. I feel the $600 risk is one I am ready to take. So I said "yes".

(In case you are planning to write a book, here is the thread on Ryze that I originally viewed:

Now, in this blog, I obviously am not going to give her a testimonial -- yet. She will have to deliver the goods, and I will have to complete my share of the bargain.

Meanwhile, tonight, my neighbour who attended the power session starring Anthony Robbins last week sent me the url to motivational speaker/coach Jim Fannin's site, I am going through some of the material here -- it appears to be quite useful, though again I cannot give an unqualified testimonial because I haven't tested things in practice.

Finally, I have been thinking a fair bit today about the implications of Change Orders for the construction marketing process. These add-ons to the construction contract of course are the stuff of disputes, litigation, profitability, angst, and success. Well executed change orders can be the difference between a marginal and truly successful job; failures in this area can blow profits and relations to smithereens. Of course, as well, the way they are handled affects the dynamics of future business relationships.

About change orders. . .

In a previous article, I describe how pre-arranged change orders allow a 'favorite' general contractor to always come in low, win the job, and be profitable. (Of course this practice might be seen as corrupt to that contractors' competitors, but obviously neither the favored contractor nor client are complaining.) This example is Point 2 in my "Seven Tips for Construction Marketing Success", which you can request at the Construction Marketing Advice page on our regional websites. See: for example.

Conversely, I know that some GCs and subs play the change order game with the aim of exploiting weaknesses in the client's position/drawings, and racking up huge fees to offset a low-ball bid. Surely this is not a wise way to operate your business if you are operating within the framework of long range relationships, repeat business, and true marketing success. But it might make you a quick buck (if you aren't sued out of everything).

I need to do more research in this area because I think how consultants, contractors, and subs handle change orders on the job is a fundamental of the relationship process and a cornerstone of effective marketing.

Mark Buckshon is president of the Construction News and Report Group of Companies. He can be reached by phone at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or by email at

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Visualisation and Time Management

Here are three distinct and on the surface unrelated images:

* Arriving in my mail on Friday, I found one of the thickest direct marketing pieces I've received recently. It offered a deal where if you responded you would receive cheques every month for $100,000 beginning in two months. You just needed to sign up for the no-obligation program. I pitched the marketing piece in the trash, knowing there had to be a catch, but to read it through to conclusion, you would have needed to spend a good hour. Why do it this way? (There is a reason).

* One of my neighbours spent a full day a way from work attending an event with a series of Power Speakers, culminating with guru Anthony Robbins. He is the marketing director for a major (and growing) business and a media outlet gave him free tickets to the event which costs a few hundred dollars to attend. He considers it time well spent, and is sharing his observations with me.

* He said one of the major points at the conference is the importance of visualising your dreams. I have been reviewing material on visualization and mental imaging, and relearning the basics here.

* Last issue's Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter included this article:
"How much is your time worth?

Here is a simple idea that will help you increase your productivity -- and income. Set the value of your time and use it appropriately."

I placed this article at the bottom right hand corner in the newsletter-- not a bad spot, but not overly prominent.

The mailing list software has a nifty feature that allows you to track response and who opens each link in the newsletter -- My writing on time management attracted the greatest interest of all the articles.

So, why will people read through massive direct mail pieces only to be roped into an unrealistic offer (possibly a scam), or spend a precious day in a room with hundreds of others listening to motivational speakers, when they are concerned about their lack of time?

The answer is that the successful marketers have successfully convinced the readers or attendees that their time reading the piece (or attending the event) is worth more than the 'hourly pay' they expect for their time or (perhaps more importantly), the event, reading, or whatever is more entertainment than work, so the time spent is fun and not difficult.

Conversely, consider the impact when you make a cold call on someone you don't know. The interaction -- if it is allowed to happen -- is short, indeed. You say 'no', often quite firmly, and angrily. You most likely exaggerate the amount of time it takes to deal with the call. I analyzed this phenomena in a previous test and found that a month's worth of cold call courtesy took less than one hour of my time.

Conversely, my neighbour described the powerful motivational insights he obtained at that day long seminar (where I'm sure the motivational speakers plugged and sold many thousands of dollars worth of books, training courses, and CDs). He described the importance of visualisation -- of seeing yourself where you want to be, long before you get there.

Good advice, indeed, and of course that is one reason that direct marketing piece, while inordinately thick and offering something that my experience and common sense tells me is verging on a scam, is done that way. The idea is to engage the readers -- the ones with the dream and need for that $100,000 in a couple of months -- and allure them with hope, jargon, text, graphics, and volume (without of course truly explaining how that money will materialize).

Meanwhile, last night, I spent some time surfing around the web, looking up visualisation, noticing sites with various commercial offerings to assist the process, and finding some with pages of seemingly free and implementable advice and information. I won't pass judgment or recommend anything here right now -- it is too early in my research.

Good marketing, in my opinion, is the ability to break through the time barrier perception. If you can get people to read your direct mail piece for two hours; if you can attract a high powered executive (along with hundreds of others) to attend a marketing/speaking engagement for a day; if you can attract readers to your blog and engage them for blocks of time exceeding nanoseconds, you have achieved the first step to marketing success.

Conversely, if your brief inbound call is seen as a time-wasting nuisance, if your email message that takes only a second to read and discard, is seen as spam (and the reader feels bad enough to file a complaint!), or if you are concerned and unable to resolve how to spend your time, you need to look at where you are, what you are doing, and where you want to be.

The gurus will suggest you visualise your future, and get there in your mind. I agree. However, I would also argue that you can get there much more quickly by listening to your own instincts and observing two rather important things right now:

1. How do I enjoy spending my time?
2. How do my clients/prospects or the people I wish to communicate with enjoy spending their time?

When you've successfully visualised both elements, you have begun to find the magic ingredient in marketing success. Could this explain why major league sporting events are so popular and seasons' tickets sell well to corporations? The challenge for a marketing genius, of course, is to find other things (perhaps much less expensive) that achieve the same effect. Do you have any ideas to share?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Blogging time (not)

My 'blogging time' past few days has been spent reconfiguring the laptop to rebuild with the new hard disk, which arrived as promised from Dell. Work is almost done, though I felt I didn't meet my 'minimum value of time' standard in doing it.

Will return tomorrow with some ideas about motivation, sales, and communication.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hard drives

Last night, at the annual general meeting of the Ottawa-Carleton Home Builders' Association, my laptop "died". Thankfully, I know the 'drill' in dealing with this kind of situation and have a functioning desktop computer (where all core files are stored, with further backup). So, within about two hours of discovering the problem, I had resolved it with Dell techies in India, who arranged for a fresh hard drive to be shipped to me under warranty.

Not a problem, you might say. Well, perhaps as a monitoring tool, once the technician had processed the order for the replacement drive (which is supposed to arrive within two days), his supervisor came on the line to ask how things went. Good move, for feedback. But the report I gave would not inspire any 'wows' for customer service.

Sure, I told the supervisor, everything worked okay. I didn't have to wait TOO long on the phone for the technical support, we were able to clarify the problem and resolve it in one call, and I am not in crisis. But thinking about the systems and instinctive knowledge I had -- and the good fortune of having a standalone functioning computer nearby -- I thought what a horrible experience this would be for someone with less technical knowledge (and for a technician with someone with no knowledge).

I guess I shouldn't complain, but sometimes wonder how things could be truly improved to make the whole experience more satisfying than frustrating. It is a good question -- because when these things happen, they really can either leave a good or bad impression. In this instance, Dell receives a passing grade; not an A+ however.

Our bi-weekly newsletter will go out tomorrow (Thursday). Lots of stuff, hopefully useful, all free, will be in it. If you wish to subscribe, just complete the registration at the top of this blog. If you want the newsletter to stop, you can do it easily when you receive it.

P.S., if your market is within the residential construction sector, and you wish to use your limited marketing dollars wisely, consider joining your local HBA. These groups enjoy very close and good-spirited relationships; and supplier/client relationships are enhanced within the association context. It is an ideal environment for marketing to build longer-term relationships. In Ottawa, especially, the OCHBA adheres strongly to its motto: "Be a member -- Do business with a member". The OCHBA's website is at

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Publicity and Advertising -- Which works best?

Here is a blunt statement.

"Media publicity works. Advertising doesn't."

Is it true? Partly. Say your wigdet achieves positive attention on Oprah, or on page 1 of the Globe and Mail or the New York Times. You'll attain far more business than any amount of advertising you could even think of buying, and you won't pay a cent for the publicity. (In fact, if you are doing something so newsworthy that it rates attention with the superstars of the media world, you may well be paid for your publicity seeking skills. See our story on Donald Trump).

Obviously, publicity even on lower levels is very useful. It has credibility, impact, marketing clout, and can be transferred into a solid and effective image for your business. Advertising, conversely, can be expensive and utterly ineffective. In traditional media, you pay regardless of whether or not the ad 'works'.

But the overall picture is never as simple as it seems on the surface.

First, in some cases, especially in the new world of pay-per-click or (even better) pay-per-order on the Internet, you have much more control over your advertising; you can track results, measure success, and make money. Control is the key word. Advertisers always have had control over when and where their ad is placed -- unlike media publicity, where the control rests with the writers, videographers, assignment editors, and the like, and you can be blown off course by forces totally outside your control (like another story that bumps you off page 1 or the lead news item).

Second, in many cases, advertising can defend and protect your brand and image. When your product or service is no longer 'new', you need to remind your clients and potential clients about who you are and what you do. Sure, you can still work for media publicity, but the danger is when you are 'too' successful the media will turn against you -- advertising then is a great defence. (And in local media, can actually protect you somewhat from bad publicity. Do you notice how rarely local newspapers and television stations investigate car dealers or other retailers that advertise heavily. Editorial integrity is a great concept, but strains when the hard realities of the chequebook enter the picture.)

Third, advertising is valid if it cements and supports your relationships with existing and potential clients. That is the type of advertising we mostly sell in our publications. It is effective and meaningful. We also realize, as a business that we need to respect the value we provide our advertisers and ensure they are treated fairly.

And that is where we come to this post's irony.

If someone advertises with us, we'll go out of our way to provide them with support, guidance, and consulting on how to get editorial publicity in other media outlets and (in a controlled way, without sacrificing our independence or fundamental editorial integrity) in our own publications. We come full circle.

And so the phrase should be:

Advertising (the right kind) works. So does media publicity.

For some more specific advice on how you can manage your media publicity -- I won't rush to sell you any advertising -- call me at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or email

Monday, March 05, 2007

Looking for work....

Response to the Service Canada posting for our new sales representative has been overwhelming. We've received more than 100 resumes in less than four days.

The question remains of course how many of the candidates will make it through the screening process. Our approach here is somewhat unconventional. After an initial quick evaluation, we invite many candidates to complete a questionnaire, which is a prerequisite for remaining in the competition.

The paradox is that only a few candidates see beyond the questionnaire to developing a meaningful relationship with us (or at least researching our interests and objectives). This is not a blind 'form filling' exercise. We are looking for someone who is good at sales work.

I've also noticed a small minority of candidates fail to follow the protocol outlined in the posting and jump-start things with a phone call, or even a visit to our offices. There is nothing wrong with this -- if they at least for a while put themselves back on track and follow the competition's rules. We want independent thinking, that is for sure, but we also want signs that the individual receiving a salary from us can fit in and belong with our team.

If you are one of the candidates who has seen the posting, you have done something right by completing some research. Read through this blog for more clues. It will give you an edge in the competition.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Seth Godin -- some truly useful insights

A colleague (parent) from my son's hockey team referenced me to Seth Godin's most recent book, Small is the New Big, that took me to his blog, and his blog took me here:

Some rather good advice for anyone with supervisory responsibilities, and anyone dealing with their immediate supervisor in a larger organization.

(Seth's blog is pretty good, too, and is going into my bookmark).

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The value of time

Yesterday, I recalled and quickly reimplemented one of the simplest and easy-to-understand business management principals. It is this: Calculate the real value of your time, and only do things that are worth more than that value.

In this public blog, my real time value (that can be associated with an annual salary or, for this exercise, an hourly wage) is confidential. But I certainly know the number.

It's after hours, on the weekend, time to rest, and time to allow some activities that may not pay the same hourly wage as during the weekday. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that what we should all be doing with our time is stuff we enjoy and (especially during work hours) is worth more than our current or if we are ambitious, projected salary.

Here is a sneak preview of the article on this topic that will be published (possibly with further editing changes) in the next Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

At work

Intense work last two days finishing up production of the March issue newspapers. No time for blogging, especially after discovering my collection of emails from Ft. McMurray never arrived at their intended destinations on Tuesday.

Some of the output from the week's work, however will soon appear on the websites and in this blog.