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Saturday, August 25, 2007

The patient quest
Marketing in the construction industry, at least for the big stuff, is an agonizingly slow and complex challenge. Clients do not decide to build and then give out orders for $500 million hospitals, or even $2.5 million commercial building renovations, by waking up in the morning, walking into the nearby convenience store, and saying "Give me two."
While there are obviously critical moments -- RFP deadlines, presentation meetings, assigned site visits, and the like -- the marketing process can seem to move like molasses, and you can, at times, wonder if you are making progress. This may be especially the case if your boss is breathing down your back for results, or if you are the boss, you are looking at your monthly overhead, and wondering what your next project will be after current work winds down.
Of course, if you are a larger business, you can systematize the process -- you will measure your success over many initiatives, perhaps from several locations, and you will have tracking and control systems in place to assess your results.
It is more difficult -- but not impossible -- to use similar principals if your enterprise is smaller.

  1. Start with an annual (or bi-annual) planning meeting/retreat. Bring in your key people from ever where, and key does not just include a small core of marketing people and executives. You may wish to engage outside consultants for this service, at least until you have established the routine. We use Caswell Corporate Coaching Company.
  2. This will give you a marketing plan and budget; and help you decide your priorities, allowing you to track and measure your achievements. Don't worry. The plan often doesn't 'work' in practice -- but you will find you are far better off knowing the direction you want to go before setting off wildly; the planning process also creates a built-in discipline (and keeps you from going wildly off track on irrational wild-goose chases
  3. Listen to your 'gut' -- does it feel right, are people sending out signals worthy of response; is there something you need to deal with, now. This is especially important with current client relationships. You can usually catch early signs of dissatisfaction if you listen. You want to keep your current clients; if they are showing signs of not informing you of future plans and projects, you risk losing your most important advantage -- your inside knowledge and good relationships with the people you are doing business with, now.
  4. See if you can build into your plan some 'smaller stuff' that can be systematized and marketed with less of an all-or-nothing approach. Of course, the smaller stuff could be a headache -- a lot of little pesky jobs with finicky clients could quickly get you in trouble (remember the 80/20 rule -- most your good business -- and big problems -- are going to come from the 20 per cent at the top, and bottom.)
  5. Finally, and most importantly, spend at least 20 per cent of your time learning and gaining insights into your market and best marketing practices. Your edge will come from your combination of personal relationships (primarily with current clients) and your ability to seize and adapt trends and respond to the changing environment, providing you manage the process -- listening to your instincts, while respecting the need for thoughtful planning approaches.

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