Discover your free Construction Marketing Ideas Email Newsletter

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.