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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Marketing, leads, sales, and recession

How should you allocate your time and money for construction industry marketing?

Experts talk about image, branding, and reputation, and these are vitally important in commanding higher prices, while attracting profitable clients. But much work associated with marketing is disassociated from direct business benefits. Marketing 'experts' will tell us the importance of branding, but they often have trouble measuring the effective value of these resources. Salespeople (or "business developers") often find the marketing process is decoupled from the business of actually attracting new clients. And of course, we have the hopeful but irrational expectations that brochures, great websites, and mailing pieces, no matter how well produced, will actually win you business.

I propose a matrix forthe energy and resources you spend on marketing. It is this:

"The financial cost of your marketing initiative should correlate directly to the number/value of actual sales leads your marketing generates."

and this corollary:

"The time cost of your marketing initiative should correlate directly to the enhancement/development of your brand."

In greater detail . . .

  • Initiatives that are costly in money and time should both generate leads (immediate benefit) and enhance your brand (longer range benefit).

  • Lead generation should drive your more costly marketing actions; branding should be driven by your business culture and values.

  • Anything you do that requires budget allocation -- advertising, trade shows, travel, and marketing staff salaries, should correlate as well to leads; but you can also program inexpensive overall but time consuming initiatives for brand building.

  • Your overall business practices -- especially how you treat and relate to current clients -- should be your primary focus for branding; it will provide the framework and development for the word of mouth reputation, which you can enhance by creative (and inexpensive) marketing strategies.
So, how do you use these principals in practice? The main issue is considering your budget and resource priorities. As a rule, you should expect your marketing budget to result in measurable lead generation. This means, if you spend a few hours deciding to spend a million dollars on advertising, your hours should be spent to assess the likeliness of the advertising generating enough solid leads to justify the cost.

But you may decide to spend a few weeks on developing and training employees on how to relate to current clients; to communicate a consistent and respectful image and brand, to connect with value and service -- and this may cost little cash money -- here, your brand comes first and directly measurable lead development is a secondary issue.

Should you only allocate advertising and promotional dollars for specific lead generation rather than brand development? Well, if you have current clients and wish to support them (thus developing your brand as a supporting relationship with clients) then supporting them with advertising makes real business sense. It need not be expensive, and of course preserves and enhances your existing relationships. And of course if you have a large budget some portion of advertising expense, say five to 25 per cent, can be justifiably focused on brand rather than immediate lead development.

But if you are managing your resources in a tough market; you need to measure things carefully, and without reducing your marketing budget, ensure that you have enough leads to keep things going -- without sacrificing your brand. Spend money on generating leads, then; while spending time on brand. (And of course measure your cost per lead to determine if your marketing is successful!)

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