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Monday, August 17, 2009

Small communities and big opportunities

The Design and Construction Network -- Ottawa is still at the early stages, but is part of a growing interconnection of international Internet specialized networks with local counterparts.

Following yesterday's posting, I engaged in email communications with Rory Swan at Servicez Unlimited in Washington DC and Leslie-Anne McAllister in Atlanta, GA. Both are contributing useful and effective resources on the forum and both helped answer some questions I had about construction marketing issues. (Rory clarified his CRM system is part of a much larger -- and much more expensive -- software package, and Leslie-Anne and I explored aspects of SEO and the local Internet vs Yellow Pages marketing.)

Dialogue on a Sunday morning between Washington, Atlanta and Ottawa, without any oral communications? (I'm setting up further discussions with both Rory and Leslie-Anne but we all appreciate that these need to be fit within sometimes intense business/work schedules.)

Of course, is actually a small community, and (not surprisingly) we find many of the same participants there in other online groups, and among this blog's readership. These communities represent only a tiny portion of the remodeling and renovation industry; tens of thousands of small businesses in communities around the world are nowhere near these online groups and networks.

But that is okay, because the people in this space are probably the most important community in the industry.

The reason is simple: By openly sharing ideas and best practices, they are gaining a powerful competitive advantage. Sure, some people out there are lurking, listening in without participating, and "stealing" ideas, but without active engagement in the community, they fail to realize the back and forth dialogue, insights, and market testing that goes on in these spaces.

The interesting and exciting development is that we can now begin taking these concepts to a more local level. Previously, your networking and business development opportunities locally would be through relevant associations and community groups (and your existing/previous client list). These resources continue to be the most effective route to networking especially for business-to-business marketing.

Now, however, you can link the online and offline network opportunities within your own area, and in many cases tie these to the larger online communities.

This is still at a very early stage, but the progress with the Design and Construction Network and local subgroups is exciting. You can see our early version for Ottawa, here, in co-operation with the Ottawa Chapter of Construction Specifications Canada.

The online communities are (still) relatively small but I believe provide forward-thinking construction industry marketers big opportunities for the future.

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