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Sunday, January 25, 2009

The big construction marketing idea picture, simply explained

You try something with construction marketing. It doesn't work. So you think the thing you tried is a waste of time or (worse), you think the whole thing about marketing is a waste, too.

You are right to think your construction marketing efforts will fail, if you think that way.

For example, if you are like most construction businesses which have enjoyed success in relatively good times, you relied on word of mouth and repeat business. Since this seems to be drying up -- people aren't calling you and asking, sometimes pleading with you, to work on their projects, you try advertising. You place your ad and expect the phone to ring. Instead, after spending several hundred dollars, someone calls, only to let you know he is calling five other contractors for the lowest under-the-table price possible (and might do the work himself, anyways.)

You can make three choices in this circumstance. Give up, try something else, or learn what you need to do to get it right.

Giving up isn't such a bad option if you are ready to shrink your business down to the level it needs to do to survive with whatever repeat and referral business you can 'rely' on. (You should always be ready to do the shrinking in the recession, anyways, you really have problems surviving if you put your head in the sand as you deplete all your assets and run up debts.)

The second option, trying something else, may also be right, but if you are just blindly going from one expensive marketing idea to another, you will soon find you are running around in circles, frustrated and failing.

So that takes you to the third option -- learning what you need to do to get it right. You are here, so this is a good sign. You will find other resources, both through your network of friends and colleagues, your industry associations, and often your current clients.

When you read earlier posts here (and the sidebar poll on this blog), you will see that your repeat and referral business is -- and should be -- vitally important to you. Your success in retaining clients and attracting referrals is a sign you have a healthy brand and solid business practices -- real assets. Repeat and referral business, for most of you, should continue to be your primary source of new clients. (The exceptions of course are brand new businesses and very large organizations meeting occasional needs -- you will simply not have enough business in the pipeline, in this case, unless you are aggressive about your outbound new client marketing.)

The difference is my advice about the importance of repeat and referral business is that you not rely on these important assets, but develop them. Your previous clients, after all, can provide you with strong clues about where you should look to advertise and promote your business in the future.

This leads to the best triple play approach you can find to develop and restore your business.

By talking with your former clients, by listening to them, you may find they have immediate needs you can solve (fresh business) or you may uncover new directions to take your business (different direction, same client base), or you may learn which publications they read, which associations they support, and which Internet searches they conduct -- all leading you to media and marketing resources likely to appeal to future clients in the same demographic space.

In other words, to find new business, call, meet, and listen to your current and previous clients.

One approach is to offer them a free check-up or maintenance service; your hour or two with them fixing things they need tended (without billing them) will give you plenty of ideas and insights about where and how to allocate your marketing resources -- and probably bring in some solid paid business, too. In other words, with one step, you'll conduct important market research, build good-will and referrals, and probably sell some of your services to people who really respect and trust you.

Your decision to reconnect with current and previous clients, indeed, is the simple solution to your big construction marketing challenges.

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