Discover your free Construction Marketing Ideas Email Newsletter

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The 2012 Best Construction Blog competition

You can nominate your own blog or others you think are worthy.  To qualify, blogs must be maintained and updated at least weekly, have enough recent postings for proper judging evaluation and be from the architectural, engineering or construction industries.  I reserve the right to disqualify any blog which appears to be spam or primarily built for search engine optimization (though of course SEO is a valid reason to post a blog.

You can read about the 2011 entries and finalists here, and especially view a link  Melissa Dewey Brumback's Construction Law in North Carolina blog.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Backup in websites and Construction Marketing

About 15 months ago, I migrated the primary Construction Marketing Ideas blog from this site to one on a server under supposedly under my control, using WordPress software and templates.  When I switched things to the new site, I considered whether to redirect the posts here to the new location, and essentially shut this blog down -- but decided instead to leave things alone, perhaps posting less frequently.

The decision to leave this blog intact (in general) has proven to be wise -- especially after things went very wrong last week on the new blog.  Suddenly, spam comment postings -- previously blocked by the blog's software -- started pouring into the in-box.  Meanwhile, the "load time" to update and maintain posts increased to the point that the blog became nonfunctional.  Worse, as I researched the problem, I discovered a totally unauthorized individual had gained access to the blog's back-end control panel as an "authorized user".

Fearing the worst -- that a hacker or some malicious individual had gained access to my blog -- I started working on defensive measures.  As one solution after another failed, I reached the "nuclear bomb" stage when I decided to clean out the entire server -- saving what I could, but essentially erasing every file, database and posting.

I then installed security software, new blog software and tried to reload the postings I had been able to save.

The problem remained as bad as it had been originally.  Worse, my Internet Service Provider (ISP), asked me to take my business elsewhere, saying my problems were causing serious problems in email transmissions for the service provider's other clients.

I dug into the problem even deeper, asking an offshore consultant to set up a parallel blog with exactly the same software on a totally different server (the consultant had the foresight to set this blog to be invisible from the search engines to avoid duplicate content penalties.)  His conclusion:  Everything worked fine, so it must be my ISP.

This indeed turned out to be the case.  Suddenly, yesterday morning, everything started working properly on the new blog -- and the ISP sent me an email saying, indeed, they had discovered the problem at their end.

Of course, I have many hours of rebuilding to do.  I need to reset the links, features, and other elements of the new blog and (more significantly to readers here), catch and correct cross links which may now lead to defunct or non-existent pages).

As for the ISP, I'm following through on their recommendations to move to a dedicated server with an upstream host.  This will give me some more control, ability to expand, and lower costs overall.

Of course, I'm glad I didn't close this blog down in making the transition because it has been able to continue throughout the problem and backup data and resources here will help me in the rebuilding at the new blog site.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Price, relationships and value

Last night, before our sons' hockey team started playing, an entrepreneur updated me on his construction marketing challenges.  He distributes an environmentally effective LED lighting system -- in fact, a few years ago, he was one of the first to the market with this low-energy lighting model, and discovered (with some incredibly positive media publicity), distributors clamoring at his door for the opportunity to sell his product.  In other words, as a true early adaptor with positive publicity behind him, he had found (at least temporarily) the holy grail of business/entrepreneurship -- a market so strong that individuals would actually pay him for the right to sell his product.

He rationally, then decided to focus his marketing strategy on finding more distributors.  And things worked quite well for a while -- until problems started happening.  The distributors started selling other competitive products, they wouldn't listen to him, and he found it harder and harder to find new distributors.  This seemed puzzling at first, because demand for the lighting product seemed to be increasing and the whole concept has approached mainstream interest. 

Finally, as he experienced the "great recession" last year he learned the painful truth:  His product, once at the leading edge, had become normal -- and high volume manufacturers especially in China were producing variations, perhaps of much lower quality and durability, but at certainly lower prices.  How could he compete.

Well, I'm supposed to be a construction marketing expert but I cannot tell anyone how to run their business (except, perhaps, my own).  The more I listened to him, the more I sensed he was working on things which might be sidetracks to the main issue. 

Clearly, unless he wishes to work for coolie wages, he won't be able to compete with those low-cost Chinese products, and he won't be able to compete with high volume orders to major distributors and retailers.  He can compete by being ahead of the curve, truly the most knowledgeable in the industry, and selling to other early adaptors and visionaries.  He also probably can compete by plugging his product in the service area, by building strong relationships through appropriate influencers. 

He confirmed that, indeed, his "best" market channel is through renovation contractors as this is where his product has a natural entry point.  I suggested he engage with local home builders and renovations groups.  This requires however significant hands-on effort and relationship building.  (I advocate in my Construction Marketing Ideas book that you prepare for three to five years of time-based effort in this sort of association marketing before you reach the point where you have a naturally sustainable network of relationships).

Now, this sort of work and effort -- with painfully long commitment for relatively small volumes of business (one local market would take much effort) -- is of course not the equivalent to the great "high" at the early stages of this individual's business, where opportunities seemed to beckon and the whole world seemed ready to join him in enthusiasm for his product. 

But the problem is sustainability.  Unless you are truly fortunate or exceptionally brilliant, it is truly difficult for any business to maintain this early-adaptor lead, especially when your product/service loses its entrepreneurial advantage and becomes available more as a commodity.  In fact, it is truly hard to sustain any really powerful concept or market position, unless you have exceptional resources, agility and staying power, because competitors will nip and attack -- sometimes resorting to expensive litigation or dirty tricks.

One way to overcome these problems is to redefine the price/value/relationships matrix.  It is how I survived brutal competition, increasing industry anger about our sales techniques and methodologies, and technological changes, which have really cut to the core of the traditional business-to-business print media market.

Of course, sometimes I reflect on the "glory days" when sales seemed to arise almost effortlessly and the wild and exciting adventures of earlier business ideas where we (briefly) caught the publicity wave and had people virtually begging to do business with us. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The power of respect

Bill Caswell's Respect Revolution is one of my primary resources.
"Respect" is an interesting and challenging concept in defining relationships, both in business and personal life.  The concept advocates that you acknowledge and sometimes even honor indivudals whose views may diverge from yours and who might even be hostile to you.

In business, and in life, the respectful attitude has some rather major advantages, even though these may seem counter-intuitive at first impression.

With respect, you disarm the competition and diffuse anger.  Now anger isn't always a bad emotion but if you let it get to your head, you can do dumb things, especially in a competitive situation.  By respecting the competitor, you elevate yourself above the dog-fight and make it easier for neutral individuals (who might otherwise have to choose between you and the competitor when, otherwise, they could work with both of you) to take sides.

This respectful attitude is why we've made the Page 1 story of the upcoming issue of Ottawa Construction News into a highly positive article about a business owner who has expressed strong opinions against our primary business/selling model and has taken actions which certainly have not helped our interests.  (I'll post the link when we publish the paper, next week.)

The respectful attitude, combined with a second principle of mature thinking, accepting responsibility, are cornerstones of my personal value systems.  I consider "attacks" and hostility to me and my business to be important sign-posts and review whether I need to make changes in response. 

These values don't make me into a push-over.  For example, we continue to conduct business the way we think best even if some disagree.  As well, if someone tries to cause harm to me through underhanded, illegal or unethical practices, I'll fight back with all the skill and resources I can apply.  Guess what -- I generally win, without stress, these competitions,

Rebuilding your business: Some guidelines

In the current Construction Marketing Ideas blog, you can read some simple guidelines -- based on hard experience -- on how I moved beyond conflict to discover opportunity.

I've learned that, while in business we need to stand up for ourselves if competitors or others seek to bring us down, equally, we need to respect and grow from the experience, which sometimes requires a healthy dose of humility.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter

This morning, a few thousand people will receive the latest Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter.  You can register (and receive the newsletter beginning next Tuesday) here.

The newsletter this week tackles and reports on some of my ethical and business failings.  Yes, I've made plenty of mistakes -- almost at one point, putting my business near the edge.  Ironically, the start of this blog also marked one of the most dramatic turn-arounds in business I've ever seen.  (You can find clues in the "about" box at the new Construction Marketing Ideas blog or go into the deep archives of this blog.

The Best Construction Blog competition: The final week of voting

The final week for popular voting for the Best Construction Blog competition is approaching.  The polls will close at the end of the day on Monday, March 7.

You can vote for as many blogs as you wish, once from any email address. (This means, yes, if you have more than one valid email address, you can have more than one ballot.)  It is okay for you to campaign to get out the vote.

Parallel with the voting, a judging panel is evaluating the blogs which entered the competition and the three judges will report their opinions by mid-March.  We'll translate the results into the most popular blog, the blog favored by the judges, and the overall winner and runner-ups, and build a story on the results in the spring Design and Construction Report.

(If you check back, you'll notice the results will continue changing -- at least until the polls close.  This chart is updated in real time.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Construction Marketing Ideas on Facebook and LinkedIn

You can follow Construction Marketing Ideas on Facebook and LinkedIn (as well as Twitter).

I generally focus my blog postings here and on the "new" Construction Marketing Ideas blog site, but the LinkedIn group has close to 1,000 members and the FaceBook page has several hundred supporters.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Your best construction marketing ideas

Some days, I scratch my head.  Construction business owners waste a small fortune of money on crappy marketing -- then conclude that marketing is a waste of money.

Well, if you used a crappy contractor, sub-trade or supplier, you would rightfully conclude that the contractor, sub-trade or supplier were a waste of money -- but I doubt you would take down the entire trade or industry.

Of course some industries (and marketing practices) are better than others.  You really should not expect good value when you visit a used car dealership or time share sales office.  In the same light, many of the marketing "solutions" sold by intrusive telemarketers and spam mailings are, well, crappy.

So how do you make the right decision and choices?

Word of mouth

Yep, it is the basic, oldie but goodie.  If you receive positive feedback from friends, colleagues, clients and even peer-group Internet forums, you are probably safe.  The key here is to validate the word-of-mouth and be sure it is genuine and not a creative marketing ploy.  I've seen some consultants show up on forums, appear to build a good name for themselves, and then blow away their good-will when they show their true selves.

Your existing clients

Take them out for lunch or coffee and learn about their interests, their value, and which marketing messages they follow.  This will take some careful listening as people will often put on a different public face than they really are in their head.
Books, seminars and conferences

These can be cheap (you can read my Construction Marketing Ideas book for as little as $20.00 if you request the PDF version from my website) or outrageously expensive.  Use your common sense.  Sometimes the most expensive option is the best but it doesn't need to be.  Take your time and think about where you are going.

(If you are wondering where you can find the money to pay for your marketing, look at where you are wasting it now.  Start with the Yellow Pages.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Learning about construction marketing integrity

Serge Massicotte (right) receives the General Contractors Association of Ottawa Integrity and Ethics Award.
In today's other Construction Marketing Ideas blog, I tell the story about the winner of an Integrity and Ethics Award who sought to bring our business to the ground because of his perception that we lacked integrity and ethics.

The ironic story has some rather surprising observations, including the recognition that this blog started when I began to figure out what I needed to do to change our business values and relationships.
You can read the posting here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Free or fee (some more thoughts)

As a journalist/writer, the norms are generally that we don't pay for interviews, especially when the publicity serves the the interests of the person we interview as much as our own.  The challenge, rather, is to fend off offers of "free editorial content", which of course are initiatives by publicity seekers to obtain the effective credibility of free publicity rather than pay for advertising.

So, I felt some shock yesterday when an industry expert recommended by a client association for a profile on the industry said he would only conduct the interview if he is paid.  My initial reaction:  "No way, Jose" and in fact I can write the story without this person's expertise.  But I'll probably pay him because (a) he insisted, (b) he validated his value by insisting on the fee (and his credible references) and (c) because his fee is reasonably modest -- about what I would pay a freelancer for extensive note-gathering and reference research.

Can these observations provide you with some construction marketing insights?  Well, I hope you question the marketing challenges and realities of "free estimates" for anything more than simple ball-park figures to qualify your potential clients and the incredible frustration and mental energy waste in chasing bids, especially in a declining market.  Of course, equally, you also need to respect the conventions -- asking to be paid where the norms are "free" is risky, so you should be confident of your reasoning and secure in your understanding of the business value/proposition you are delivering if you put a price tag on something you give away.

My Construction Marketing Ideas book is a good example of where you can take this sort of thing both ways.  The book is free to existing client who wish it and I'll provide review copies to logical centres of influence (but generally these copies will only go out on my initiative, not the reviewer's request).  Everyone else pays and the revenue for a project, which originated as a client service initiative, is now meaningful for my business.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Best Construction Blog competition: An update

Here are the current results for the Best Construction Blog competition.

The Construction Law in North Carolina blog has skyrocketed to second place, but Michael Stone's Markup and Profit Blog remains in the lead.  (It is okay to encourage friends, colleagues and clients to vote -- and it seems that happened with the Construction Law in North Carolina blog yesterday.)
Note:  The data on the graph is updated in real-time, so if you read this blog some weeks later, the results will be different.
Voting continues until March 7.
You can vote here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The weekly Construction Marketing Ideas e-letter

In today's e-letter, I share my three biggest construction marketing (and business) blunders.  You can subscribe at the link above, but of course will miss the details this week.  However, I'll post a summary tomorrow in the new Construction Marketing Ideas blog.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Strategic alliances: White Paper resources

In a few minutes, I'll complete the citations, bibliography, executive summary and other final details for my Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) Foundation White Paper on strategic alliances best practices.  The project then moves to the editing and review stages, before it reaches publication in time for the SMPS Conference this August in Chicago.

In my research, I discovered the Association of Strategic Marketing Professionals and its related LinkedIn user group.  Not surprisingly, few architectural, engineering or construction businesses belong to this association -- our industry is usually among the last to catch on to marketing innovations or improvements (which of course gives anyone in this industry who wishes to study the activities of other businesses a real edge in marketing innovation.)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The new Canadian Design and Construction Report website

We've just flicked the switch on the relaunch of the new website for the Canadian Design and Construction Report.  This site will set the template, as well, for the U.S.-focused Design and Construction Report and is built on our successful North Carolina site designs.

Our websites are certainly not leading edge; we probably could do better to incorporate more bells and whistles and advanced interactive features.  Equally, however, we keep them from getting stale and periodically review and rebuild them to ensure they are relevant and useful to viewers.  I think in the current era, you should certainly review your website design at least annually and contemplate a major update/revision at minimum on a three-to-five year cycle.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thinking about strategic alliances

My brain is decompressing from several days' writing about strategic alliances.  You can read my thoughts on the topic at the new Construction Marketing Ideas blog.

Here, I'll simply encourage you to visit Mike Jeffries' site if you are a contractor focused on the residential market.  His Closing Success Tips newsletter is free -- and you'll undoubtedly find valuable insights there.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Creating marketing value without giving away the store

This blog is free to read.  My book is not (unless you've done business with me and/or will help me sell many more copies.)

I don't expect you to provide a comprehensive, detailed and thoughtful "free estimate" on a major renovation or building project.  I expect you to be able to provide ballpark price ranges without playing the "what's your budget" game?

Why, then, do so many people in this business race like lemmings when someone advertises a job, crafting estimates, presentation materials and the like, when they don't have the slightest connection or history with the organization offering the work.  In these situations, you are behaving much like the unemployed (and perhaps unskilled) worker, scanning public job ads and firing off resumes -- maybe even thoughtful and careful ones -- for a temporary job, where the person who offers to work for the "lowest pay" gets it.

If you are in this mind-trap, you need to wake up.  Think of how your business might increase if you can induce/encourage and promote repeat and referral business (not just by relying passively on this sort of business to happen naturally) -- and you can price your work at a level which allows you a fair profit, not just to be the low bidder.

You can be generous in spirit and resourcefulness, but you don't need to give away the store to stay in business. Think marketing -- think smart.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Best Construction Blog voting heats up

Lots of people voted for in the Design and Construction Report's Best Construction Blog competition yesterday -- 75 at latest count.

Here are the results.  (Note the results are updated in real time, so the actual votes on Feb. 16 won't match these numbers if you read this posting later.

I'll discuss the contest, its objectives and some ways bloggers can increase their opportunity for success at today's experimental live broadcast feed at 2 p.m. EST (February 17, 2011).  You can go to the broadcast link here.

Voting continues through March 7.

You can vote for as many blogs as you like, but only once from each valid email address.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Publicity and your construction marketing brand

The popcorn story related in the previous two blog postings shows the opportunities (and limitations) of gimmicks and tricks to achieve publicity and attention.  If these activities match your business message and brand, then of course they can make a lot of sense.  If they are done just for the sake of achieving "viral results", well, the real value to the business is limited.

I realize that most people in this industry won't go near stunts like this.  Instead, they will play the boring concepts of publicity -- the line-em-up-shoot-em-down pictures of a bunch of executives with golden shovels at ground breaking ceremonies, or the giant cheque for a (really small) amount of money in support of the charity of the day.  There's nothing wrong with this sort of thing, of course, if you want to be safe and boring -- but if you really want to make the news in a constructive and positive sense you will need to do much more.

No one, however, can suggest a simple publicity approach in an impersonal blog posting.  This is custom work.  It requires a real understanding of your business, your local (or national) market and your objectives.  Then, we need to overlay luck as a crucial factor.  Even the best-laid publicity plans are at the whim of the media's own biases and other events outside of your control.  (As an example, a well-planned media event scheduled for September 11, 2001 probably would have resulted in absolutely no publicity for the organizers.)

You can hire publicity and media relations experts but the problem here is you need to have enough knowleedge about the media industry to properly assess their potential and abilities. Still, if you are spending money on marketing, allocating a portion of your budget to media relations and publcity makes sense.  If you are marketing on the cheap without a cash budget, if you really focus your energies and can come up with unique, creative and brand-building intiiatives, go for it.  You may achieve the best results for the smallest amount of money possible.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The viral video (2)

If you believed the video in yesterday's posting, you were fooled with some camera trickery and a 2008 marketing ploy by Cardo Systems, in an effort to promote its headsets.

The idea of this sort of scheme is to create viral intensity and mystery, and then track back to your product or service.  Of course the question is, does it actually help you sell more stuff?

That is more debatable, but if the activity is in good fun and no harm is done, then of course you gain the secondary benefits of attention and "free advertising".

In my case, a colleague living in Hong Kong who worked with me three decades ago on the Bulawayo Chronicle (Rhodesia turning to Zimbabwe) sent this video to me, before following one of the most crucial journalistic rules:  "Don't believe anything that is too strange to be true -- unless you wish to be caught by an urban legend?"

I learned about urban legends early in my career when I started investigating what would have been a truly huge story if true.   After a few brick walls, a kind soul told me about urban legends. I learned then the  basics of cautious skepticism.  Just as urban legends an spread like wildfire on the Internet, you can usually debunk them equally quickly with a quick Google search.

So, no, ringing cellphones can't actually pop popcorn and, while there are possibly some risks from cellphone radiation, you don't need to worry about frying your brains out this way.  Better strategy:  Head to a movie theatre and eat some of that fattening, utterly unhealthy stuff -- and enjoy the show.
One of several articles describing this hoax is here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Time and place: The viral video

Yesterday, one of my colleagues from "way back when" sent me this video.   We worked together on the Bulawayo Chronicle in 1978-80.

POPCORN (This will blow your mind)

This is probably what it does to our brain cells - like putting your head in a microwave .
 Check this out! And we're supposed to believe that cell phones are safe?

Click on the word 'POPCORN' below and watch.
Pop Corn téléphone portable micro-ondes

What is wrong with this story?  You can comment now -- or I'll tell you tomorrow.

Construction Marketing Ideas -- the busy week

At the other Construction Marketing Ideas blog, I describe how busy this week will be.  So I won't write a whole lot here today.  It is going to be interesting to see how well I manage the workload.

Do you have times when you are potentially overwhelmed with conflicting challenges?  If you wish, feel free to share your ideas as a comment.

(Note I delete all comments which are obviously set by agencies to plug or promote specific blogs or sites.  Don't bother trying.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sustainable construction marketing: When advertising works

While undoubtedly most successful construction businesses obtain most of their new business from repeat and referral clients, virtually everyone in business has the challenge of finding sustainable, predictable revenue going forward.

This can be a challenge especially if you provide contracting or professional services for large-scale projects.  Each project consumes tremendous amounts of time and resources (and generates hefty amounts of revenue) but you can only handle so many projects at any time or your business will be stretched beyond its capacity.  On the other hand, if you "run out" of work, you are in big trouble.

Contractors (mostly in the residential space) with smaller projects have a different sort of challenge.  They need to refill the pipeline constantly and have to find new business in a reliable and manageable way.    The challenge is finding the right leads, converting them, and then finding more. . .

Retail-focused contractors have a clearly available resource: Advertising.  Once they've found the right media and are able to track and manage the leads the advertising generates, they can effectively control their lead and sales flow -- testing new variations and media to improve the results, and adapting the advertising volume to overall sales and lead conversion rates.  (In hard times, when results are less effective, they may need to advertise more; but they are not throwing good money after bad, because they can reasonably anticipate how the advertising will work.)

So advertising in a variety of media can make a lot of sense if you are running a consumer-focused business.  But what if you are a general contractor, an engineer or an architect looking for work on projects worth $500,000 -- or $5 million?

Here, I think a different kind of "advertising" is more effective.  You need to put yourself near the people who make the decisions and build their respect and confidence.  And then, when it is time to present the proposal, make sure you prepare a great presentation -- and rehearse it.  See this posting from Mel Lester with some practical suggestions on what you need to do.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The best construction blog competition: Discovering (and fixing) the glitches

Yesterday, on the other Construction Marketing Ideas blog, I posted the early voting results from the Design and Construction Report's Best Construction Blog competition.  The results caught me off guard.

In the contest rules, I had said you could vote as many times as you like, for as many blogs as you wish.  Unfortunately, I didn't read my own rules closely enough -- the tabulating software I use requires you to provide your email address and, once you've given it once, it won't allow you to vote again.

One contestant, appreciating the published rule "you can vote as many times as you like", then began testing with fake email addresses.  These, gulp, were successful.  The trick if you used this method would be to create an infinite number of phony email addresses and vote again, again and again some more.

While you could argue that allowing individuals to vote more than once is questionable, clearly it is even more questionable to allow voters to fake their identity.  This sort of "voting" occurs in countries without a democratic tradition, like Afghanistan! 

My solution?  I amended the rules.  You can only vote once, and you need a valid email address.  If you are fortunate enough to have more than one valid email address, yes, you can vote multiple times -- but your addresses have to be real!  (This may encourage some abuse but at least the process is manageable.  I doubt even the most assertive individual will have more than five or six valid email addresses and the time and effort to set up and establish additional addresses on your server just to enter the free competition is hardly worthwhile.)

Anyways, the results are arriving and I'm sure the competition will heat up in the weeks ahead.  In the meantime, feel free to vote and encourage friends, colleagues, employees and complete strangers to vote as well -- as long as they have unique, valid email addresses.

Live video: Today (Thursday, Feb. 10) at 2 p.m.

Hopefully, the experimental live video broadcast at 2 p.m. EST today (Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011) will work this time around.  Last week, as broadcast time approach, my laptop computer failed. 

Today's video will discuss that experience in relation to a topic which is hard for many industry practitioners to grasp -- your "brand".  I'll even admit that I didn't really appreciate the meaning of branding until, after almost 15 years experience in this business, I started the Construction Marketing Ideas blog and the late Sonny Lykos connected with me -- and sent me an incredibly useful binder of resources.

Then, I "got it".  Branding allows you to set your pricing based on a valuation higher than the intrinsic physical (or cost-based) value of your product or service.  In other words, a good brand allows you to earn more for the same amount of effort and cost.  Hmm.  I suppose that would be rather good for your business profitability, if you can pull it off.

Of course, that is the challenge of branding.  While the concept isn't that hard to understand once you realize its importance, the successful implementation and strategies required to "build your brand" can take some effort -- and you can lose it all with some careless errors.  I'll work to show you this afternoon the basics of building and protecting your brand without blowing your budgets.

These broadcasts are experimental so technical quality and results won't be perfect (but hopefully there will be a broadcast this time!) I'll also update you on my progress to create a weekly -- maybe even daily -- broadcast with sufficient quality to consider part of the marketing resource kit within the next five months.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Some additional construction marketing risk-taking thoughts

Caroline Ouelette
In yesterday's posting, I described one of the key elements of risk-taking is to determine whether you are comfortable that your actions will pass the moral smell test.  However, obviously you need to consider other elements when stretching beyond your safety zone and reaching out to dare something new.

A clue to what you need to be ready to do is found in Canadian woman's ice hockey Olympian Caroline Ouellette, who said at one point she needed to make the decision to accept an athletic scholarship to a U.S. university with an exceptional woman's ice hockey program (which attracted Olympic-level candidates from several countries.)  The challenge:  Her friends, family and others close to her thought this would be a bad thing to do -- because she would need to learn and study in English (she is French-speaking) and she would need to be away from the people closest to her, who supported her through her growth.

She took the leap, and says it proved to be her wisest decision.  In the process, she surrounded herself wit others with the same passion, willing to work to the highest levels, and of course she gained confidence and skills in a different environment.

Reaching out and taking construction marketing risks, in my opinion, requires something of a similar attitude.  You need to put yourself in a place where the "norm" is exceptional, where you will be stretched to reach higher levels, and you will perhaps feel you are cast adrift from the secure, safe and comfortable place you call "home".

How can you find this level of risk-challenge especially when making a new (physical) home hundreds or thousands of miles away may simply not be possible?  The answer, I think, is to look within relevant associations and groups and capture and connect with the practitioners who are working at the level to which you aspire.  If you are "good enough" to be at their level, you will be able to share some valuable elements of your existing business or talents -- and of course you will be able to pick their brains and grow, as a result.

Soaring or crashing in construction marketing: The ethical choice

About this time last year, a guest on one of the Google Help forums asked a question about whether he could creatively try an end-run around the program to increase his results. I answered that risking his long-term revenue for a short term strategy probably would not be wise, but he pressed the point.  He wanted to reach beyond the conventional guidelines to succeed.

My answer is worth repeating here:
Donald, in my experience, anyone thinking they can fly and touch the sky with ethical or moral shortcuts usually ends up with a big fall. I've seen it happen.  Of course, once you've taken a creative risk in a constructive and ethical manner and "flown to the sky", you will reach that higher level -- it has happened in my life a couple of times.   (I lived through an African civil war as a journalist, and once managed to make a few grand in a couple of weeks and had my first visit to Washington DC ethically "working" the US immigration system for non-preference visas.)  If you wish to test your limits, always check the 'smell test' and if it isn't right in your heart and soul, find another risk to test.
 I appreciate that real success in marketing and business rarely occurs without some real risk.  If we simply follow the conventional wisdom about what to do all the time we are unlikely to go beyond the crowd.  However, unless we are psychopaths, we still know the ethical and emotional boundaries of success.  I'm glad that the few times I jumped off the deep end in life, I knew (after sleeping on the idea), that indeed I could sleep well with my decision.  Can you think the same about your marketing risks?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Your free construction marketing ideas newsletter

Yes, it is totally free.  And, no, there is no 'hidden catch'.  You can subscribe to the weekly Construction Marketing ideas newsletter with the link on the top of the page.

The Construction Marketing Ideas book isn't free, of course.  You can read some sample chapters but you will have to pay me for it if you want the whole thing.  Is it worth the money?  Well, no one has asked for their money back and several readers have written five-star reviews.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The great construction marketing game. How do you play it?

For some individuals in the architectural, engineering and construction community, marketing is like a game of chance.  Roll the dice, and hope the strategy or method pitched to you by a consultant (or worse, a telemarketer) will provide profitable leads and sales.  Usually, when the dust settles, you feel you've been taken for a ride.  If you aren't very bright about marketing, you may fall for the same mistake again and again (as I notice repeat ads from contractors in worthless police association journals -- won't they ever learn!) or, worse, just say "marketing is a waste of money" and give up, instead "relying" on repeat business and referrals.

No one can change your perspective if you choose not to change.  Realistically, if you provide a worthwhile service, treat your current clients well and price things fairly, you probably can get by without thinking too much about marketing.  Of course, if you "rely" on one major customer, ignore economic storm clouds around you or fail to manage your business effectively, you will end up on the business road-kill pile.

There are better ways.  I advocate some solutions in my Construction Marketing Ideas book.  (Yes, this is a marketing pitch for it -- and you can purchase it electronically for $20.00 and, on, not much more in print.)  But you can find other ideas and resources which may be better for your business.

Roll the dice if you wish.  But before you invest serious money and resources in any marketing strategy -- or any telemarketer tells you that you really need to support a police association or charity by spending several hundred dollars on an ad -- take a few minutes to think, read, and consider the options.  There are better ways.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Are construction marketing e-letters really worth writing?

In today's "other" Construction Marketing Ideas blog, I write about Susan Daffron's provocative posting where she describes how she decided to shut down her free Publishize email newsletter because she received no worthwhile business from her generosity.

Daffron raises some important questions about the use of email newsletters in developing new business. For now, I'm continuing my e-letter (you can register at the top of the page), but I think she has a worthy point.  Certainly, I've gained valuable revenue-generating advice from her (and she hasn't earned a cent from me).  And, indeed, my own Construction Marketing Ideas book is not free.

Friday, February 04, 2011

When things go wrong, preparation helps them go right

Yesterday, things seemed to be going well.  I completed most of the writing and layout for our Canadian print publications and thought the continuing series of experimental live broadcasts at 2 p.m. would be easy to co-ordinate.  In fact, I took a fairly lax attitude to the set-up process, rushing to assemble the lights, mixer, microphone and stuff for the scheduled start.

Then, things just didn't work.  Livecaster's software application (procaster) would not load properly.  I tried a restart, but this made things worse.  Now I couldn't access at least one of the Internet browsers, Adobe Acrobat, and several other programs.  Problems, indeed.

After aborting the broadcast, I took Plan B -- a visit to the Apple Store downtown for some diagnostics and review.  With the "Procare" card I didn't need an appointment.  The technician pointed out a crack in the casing of my five-year-old MacBook Pro and then proposed we reinstall the system software.  The work would take about an hour.  I called home to tell my family I would eat dinner downtown, visited a post office to mail some documents, and returned to discover the system installation had failed.

The technician said the motherboard or memory could be "gone" but, based on the external condition of my computer, he thought it time to replace it.  As I had essentially been prepared for this day since September, I said, "Let's do it."  The sales rep took just five minutes to show me the options and I handed over my Amex card and walked out with a new MacBook Pro.

At home, I plugged it in, discovered the function that allowed for back-up restore, and connected the cables to the backup hard drive, which I had (fortunately) updated just a day before.  I spent some time with my family as the backup proceeded for an hour.

Voila.  Everything works.  All of my files, applications, resources, data, and systems are in good order.  I'm back in business.

Of course this speed didn't come without cost.  I could have purchased three or even four non-Mac desktops for the price I paid for the replacement MacBook Pro.  But I've grown to enjoy the reliability and power of my "old" MacBook and the Apple Store's integrity in the fall in not selling me a new computer when I thought I needed one then carried weight when it came time to make the purchase.

This is the power of branding.  In your architectural, engineering or construction business, you achieve these results when you and your staff do such a great job that your clients truly believe (feel) they've been treated fairly, with integrity and respect.  Price then only becomes a secondary decision-making consideration.

As well, obviously I'm fortunate to have followed the rules and saved everything with a proper back-up system.  I can't understate how important it is to ensure you have back-up when you are dealing with computers (and any other important business system).
I will resume the live broadcasts next Thursday at 2 p.m.  This time, I'm confident things will work, on schedule.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Weekly experimental Livecast today: Mastering your construction marketing skills

My series of experimental live video programs continues today (Thursday, Feb. 3) at 2:00 pm EST with some thoughts about how you can effectively master your construction marketing skills.

The broadcasts are recorded but technical and recording quality are certainly not at prime time level as I learn how to best co-ordinate and manage the use of video.  Livecasting is especially challenging, of course, because you don't get a second chance if you mess up. 

My goal is to become truly competent in video within five months with an understanding of how to best co-ordinate various video resources for maximum marketing effectiveness and then to integrate these capacities with other skills.

You are most welcome to watch the show at this link -- just remember this is experimental stuff so don't expect perfection.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Voting begins for best construction blog

The 2011 Best Construction Blog ballot is online.  You can vote as many times as you like, and friends and colleagues can also cast ballots.

The voting results will be considered in selecting the finalists and the blog with the most votes will receive recognition in The Design and Construction Report as the most popular blog.  Voting continues until 5 p.m. on March 7.

You can link to the ballot here.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The secret offer

I've made a secret offer.  Well it's not that secret -- if you are a subscriber to the free weekly Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter, you would know what it is.

It tests some assumptions about the distinctions between immediate and delayed gratification.  You won't get it unless you are a newsletter subscriber but, if you ask nicely by email, I'll send you the "back issue" where the offer is made.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Best construction blog competition deadline today

Today is the deadline for nominations for the Design and Construction Report 2011 Best Construction Blog Competition.

Within a few days, once we've reviewed the nominations for eligibility, we'll set up the voting polls.  You can vote as many times as you like -- and encourage your friends, colleagues and supporters to vote as well.  However, we'll ensure some balance in the competition by supplementing the popular vote with an panel of independent judges who will review the nominations and select their finalists.

To learn more about last year's finalists, visit the relevant archived issue of the Design and Construction Report.

There is no fee to enter the competition.  Finalists receive free publicity and hyperlinks in The Design and Construction Report.  All successful nominees also receive free hyperlinks.

You can use this form to nominate your own blog or others.

The international perspective and construction marketing

This blog, of course, is read around the world -- and I've received book orders and communications from more than a dozen countries.  Does wisdom and advice about construction marketing written from an English North American perspective have value in other places (and conversely, can we learn something from other areas that we can apply in North America).

The answer of course is there are some universal human truths and one of these truths is we are all different but we tend to gather/clump in more-or-less homogeneous groups.  Outsiders therefore have trouble breaking into foreign cultures but when they can make that entry, they can enjoy spectacular success. 

If you are a marketer exploring expanding to another part of the world, you need to do your research carefully and learn about local nuances and service providers who can be trusted.  The latter can be a challenge because of course, if you aren't able to read the signals correctly, you can be scammed.

Conversely, while you may have your hands full in your local market, think about where you can gain an edge by understanding different cultures.  The obvious place to start would in developing relationships and connections with the immigrant community in your own area. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

No money for construction marketing? No problem.

Right now, in looking at the headline for this posting, I think of the used car dealer who advertises the "no money down" deal or (worse) "we'll get you out of your current lease and into the car of your dreams -- and make the payments for you for three months."

Of course, if you buy into that dealer's promise, you'll be stuck in an even greater financial trap with even higher financing costs for a car which will probably be worse than something you own now.  After all, you've got to pay all those credit costs plus, of course, the dealer's marketing expenses (and the dealer rightfully should earn a profit on the transaction.

But is there really a way you can achieve marketing success without spending any money.  Yes, if you have lots of time, resourcefulness, and you use some creativity coupled with common sense.  The key is to start with your current clients, make them so satisfied with your work that they are happy to refer others to you (and request additional work) and then parlay that goodwill into positive publicity, either in the conventional or social media.

Note I am not suggesting you passively "rely" on repeat and referral business.  You need to learn how to encourage it -- to systematically enhance your repeat and referral volume through initiatives where you measure your results. 

Of course, you can also squander money on junky stuff sold to you by telemarketers or by continuing Yellow Pages ads for which you have no measuring or tracking capacity. In this situation, the headline might read: "Too much money for construction marketing?  No results."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Construction Marketing Ideas video experiment -- an update

Yesterday's Construction Marketing Ideas video broadcast again attracted an audience of, well half a person.  One of my company's employees tuned in but he noticed something I've seen at my end -- there are times when you can hear the audio but see only the "book cover" image on the video screen. 

Conversely, for the first time on my own console, I could actually see the video (with a few seconds time delay) live as it should appear.  I'm not sure if, in practice, I would have been the only person who could view the video as the viewership numbers indicate only I and the employee were online.

The experiment continues, of course.  The $100.00 podcast kit which I had ordered last week arrived in time and set up only took a few minutes.  Even though I had part of the video lighting set -- the replacement bulb for the large halogen light hasn't arrived yet -- the lighting seemed quite reasonable.

I found I had, once again, underestimated the time needed to deliver the planned material.  This may be because I haven't thought through the effective use of my video time.  It also speaks to the importance of rehearsing for timing ahead of any live presentation.  You can go short or long if you aren't careful and fail to test out your material properly.

If you visit the Livestream video site you'll see the raw videos from the experimental broadcasts, at least for now.  They'll be removed by the time the experiment reaches the stage when we have real viewers and certainly when the learning progress has reached the stage that I feel confident enough about my skills to encourage you to visit other than through the updates in this blog.

Why am I doing this?  Well, I truly think we are approaching the stage where any marketer in the construction industry needs to be comfortable or at least familiar with the basics of multimedia.  My sense is that video -- and possibly in some circumstances -- live video -- can be a truly effective marketing resource.

Of course you are welcome to bookmark and plan a visit to the next experimental broadcast, at 2 p.m. on February 3.  I'll discuss some of the practical aspects of blogging then.

Relationships and construction marketing -- A livestream video

This week's experimental livestream video broadcast (at 2 pm. est today, January 27, 2011) will focus on the meaning of "relationships" in marketing.  I'll explore some recent postings on the the importance of interpersonal relationships with current and potential clients -- and debunk some of the myths around relationship marketing and communications.

The broadcast continues an experimental series as I seek to master the techniques and technology of video broadcasts -- and even more challenging, live video.  The "podcast kit" arrived yesterday including a "mixer" and some microphones, headphones and cables (and a whole bunch of other little pieces).  Hopefully I'll have all of the pieces together in time for the broadcast.  My goal continues to work on this each week so that in six months the video productions will, indeed, be ready for prime time.

Until then, I am not widely announcing these broadcasts (this is the only place you will see publicity) so if you are ready to tolerate some technical and production glitches combined with presentation errors and goofs, feel free to tune in.  But if you decide you have other things to do during the show, that is fine with me as well.

You can tune into the livecast here:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another clue in the Change Order boat mystery

From the home page of
Yesterday, a reader provided a tantalizing clue that may, for once and all, solve the Change Order boat mystery.

The image of the large yacht marked "change order" moored next to a dinghy named "original contract" has been circulating for several years in architectural, engineering and construction offices.  Individuals who see the image often try to Google the results and almost inevitably arrive at one of my postings on this topic.

Yesterday afternoon, a reader pointed out in an email to me that the image appears in a rotating cycle (number 3 if you click the little buttons) on the home page of 

Certainly the business is relevant to the industry and the people involved in this company conceivably could afford -- and want -- to own a boat named Change Order.

Skire, based in Menlo Park CA, says its executive team started and rose through the ranks at Betchel before establishing Quaser Services Ltd., a design and build construction firm.  The San Jose Business Journal reports that Skire founder and CEO Massy Mehdipour discovered "an opportunity to create software to help companies like ours streamline their business processes" through software and technology.

"Everything we did when we were designing and building, I saw no reason why it couldn’t be managed more efficiently with an application platform," the business newspaper reports Mehdipour as saying.

Skire has grown to a thriving $25+ million business since Mehdipour bought out her original venture capital investors.  The business has discovered its best market is among large scale owners, managing diverse and complex projects.

It seems a business like this would not resort to images "lifted" from the web for its home page.

I called Skire and the receptionist referred me to the company's marketing manager, where I left a voice mail.  Before transferring the call, the receptionist said, "I don't know about the boat, but we own the plane."  Yes, there is a private jet in another image.

Besides the phone message, I have sent an email to the address given for press inquiries to Skire.  Maybe, once and for all, we will resolve this mystery conclusively.  Stay tuned.

Best construction blog competition deadline approaching

The nomination deadline for the 2011 Best Construction Blog is rapidly approaching.

You can find more information through this link.

Construction Blogs

Monday, January 24, 2011

The two worlds of construction marketing

In the past few years I've observed a lot of really good -- and really bad -- marketing for the construction industry.

The really good stuff combines superb client relationships, respect, consistent learning and imaginative yet systematic and highly measurable initiatives to bring in and retain new business.

The really bad stuff is thoughtless, seat-of-your-pants money wasting because the business owner is too lazy to learn what really needs to be done and/or is swayed by telemarketers and spammers pitching junk.

Of course, you need to keep your mind open and eyes alert for what works, and what won't.

Can I wave a magic wand and solve all of your construction marketing challenges in one quick and easy (and "FREE" lesson?) Yes, probably, but if you are like most people looking for the quick-and-easy solution, you won't see it if it is right under your nose.

Here it is:
Look at your most successful competitors, discover their peers in other markets, and learn from them. (I doubt your direct competitors will want to help you too much.)  Then copy the stuff that might be unique in your own market while you adapt the best ideas from several places.
Oh yeah, that is a quick-and-easy answer which requires quite a bit of work to implement.  Sorry.  Things are never that easy.

P.S.  If you want to link to this blog or ReTweet it, I will be truly grateful for your respect and assistance.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The "construction marketer" who really doesn't get it

I never identify inviduals or organizations negatively in this blog, but I found this posting on a is worthy of a little analysis:

Make A Difference

Our company's motto to provide our past, present and future clients "Superior Client Service" in all the services we provide. Check out (engineering practice's name removed). If you have any questions or comments about any of the services that we offer, please feel free to contact me here or at our office. If I don't know the answer, we have a complete and competent staff of personal that will. Hoping for a great year for everyone.
This rather blatant pitch appeared on a LinkedIn group recently "opened" to the public.  And this sort of thing is one reason why I'm keeping our own Construction Marketing Ideas LinkedIn group private.

Of course, periodically, I also receive postings like this -- and either delete them right away, or move them to a slush "promotional" section.  

Look, if you want to be successful in sales and marketing, you will NOT win points by plastering your "elevator pitch" all over public forums, especially when you cannot go beyond the cliche "Superior Client Service".  Read my book.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The big (construction marketing and sales) rock

This image evokes one of the biggest challenges we have in business, especially when we are trying to move a big construction marketing or sales project forward.  It can feel, at times, like you are trying to push a rock up a mountain.  This is especially the case if you are working alone and your assigned task is to get a "yes" from a senior, unknown people outside your scope of authority and responsibility.
Should you ever try to push rocks up mountains, alone?  In most cases, the reward is hardly worth the risk but there are times in life where this sort of super-human force is both possible and necessary.  We've heard stories of  small people lifting cars to save the life of someone they love and there are times in life where, with almost incredible energy and passion, we can break through some major barriers.

But usually, if you see a mountain ahead of you you should find a better way to solve the problem than rock-pushing.  Use your imagination.  There are other ways to get there.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The three dumbest construction marketing mistakes

I've posted at the other Construction Marketing Ideas blog a rather snappy critique of the three things that contractors commonly do wrong, consistently. 

But at this one, I welcome your story of your greatest construction marketing mistake -- or success.  If it is a mistake, unless you give me express permission, I won't publish your name or identity anywhere and will disguise the story sufficiently that, while others can learn from it, you won't experience further embarrassment.  If you've achieved a marketing triumph and want to share it with the world, on the other hand, I'm all ears.

Finally, time is running short to nominate your blog for the Best Construction Blog competition.  There's no entry fee and no cost if you win -- but you'll receive plenty of free publicity and recognition.  You can email me for details if you don't know where to learn about it.