Discover your free Construction Marketing Ideas Email Newsletter

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Construction marketing and shindigs

Here's my latest construction marketing ideas hangout video.  In it, you can learn about, an intriguing new service which may, if successful, change the nature of live and video conferences.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Behavioural economics and construction marketing

Duke University professor Dan Ariely has conducted some research and written a few popular books outlining how humans often make (and repeat) seemingly irrational decisions -- and how these traits can be applied rationally, by salespeople and marketers seeking to convince people to behave the way they wish.

One of his clearest observations, which struck close to home because of its immediate application for my own business, is the Economist subscription offer.  Readers were presented with three choices.

You could pay $59.00 for a one year subscription to (online only).  You could pay $125.00 for a one year printed subscription.  Or you could pay $125.00 for a combination print and web subscription.

Ariely noted the obvious:  Why would anyone even consider the second option (print only) and why did the Economist offer it?

Well, the marketing geniuses at The Economist had in fact, devised a scheme that dramatically increased the number of subscribers signing up for the combined print and electronic version of the magazine.  Given a simple choice of a seemingly "much better deal," they took the combined offer.

When Ariely tested a comparison offer, where subscribers could simply elect to purchase the web or web+print options, a much higher percentage accepted the lower, web-only offer.

There are plenty of other examples of how marketers can use psychology to manipulate the results and stack the odds in their favour.  In fact, any person whose business is sales and marketing would be wise to spend as much time as possible understanding the growing body of psychological and scientific research.

Yes, we are creating a web directory to go with our printed publications.  So, based on these results, we'll replicate the Economist offer concept, with a third choice which really isn't rational or "necessary".

Maybe your own construction marketing strategies should follow these paths.

See Ariely's blog here.  See here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The social media book about architectural, engineering and construction marketing

Book writing is a delayed gratification exercise.  The first book, Construction Marketing Ideas: Practical strategies and resources to attract and retain clients for your architectural, engineering or construction businesstook about two years from conception to completion.

My latest tome, a somewhat simpler E-book about social media, isn't taking quite as long, but, well, it is taking longer than planned.  Cover design is now in the works and the chapters have all been written.  Now the hard editing task starts.

Vivian (my wife, a professional writer by trade) struggled with the editing of my first book -- to the point that the project bogged down for several months.  Finally, I took over responsibility for the editing task.  With her painful long-hand editing notes for the first five or six chapters, I could see the sorts of problems she sought to correct:  Long-winded sentences, unnecessary words, repetition, and the like.  She told me that she could only handle the work for an hour or two a day.

With her template, I proceeded to complete the editing process -- learning (to my dismay) how much my original draft needed improving.

Same story applies for the social media book.  I struggled with some chapters, cleaning up the writing, but left others in the original draft format, before pulling the book together into a single Word document in preparation for the cover design and e-book formatter's service.

Today, I set out to read through the manuscript for what I thought would be a final check.  First chapter, no problem.  Second, ok.  Then, wham, I could see the chapters which had not received the editing fine-tooth comb.

I'll get the job done.  I hope it will be in shape before our upcoming vacation.  This gives me tomorrow and Saturday.  Whatever, I won't rush it just to meet the deadline.

In the meantime, you can certainly read the original volume, available in print or e-book format.  If you purchase Construction Marketing Ideas and would like a free copy of the e-book on social media, let me know by email to

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The YouTube video story (from a construction marketing perspective)

I'll admit I am more a written-word than visual person.  However, tonight, YouTube put on a "road show" event in Ottawa promoting YouTube partnerships and encouraging creators to develop videos which, if successful, can go "viral" and generate advertising revenue for the videographer.  So I attended.  It proved to be an expensive evening as I also picked up a $55 parking ticket.  Grrr.

Nevertheless, this stuff interests me on several levels, in part because I am a voluntary contributor on the Google AdSense forum, where publishers whose accounts are disabled by Google arrive to seek solace, help, and the opportunity to have their accounts restored.  Unfortunately, outside of a formalized appeal process (which usually fails) the chance of a publisher regaining his or her account after it is disabled is virtually nil -- for life.

So why is Google pounding the pavement, putting on road shows, and encouraging as many people as possible to become "YouTube Partners?"   I wish I had a good answer but assume, the idea is that the more content on the system, the more advertising there is, and the more effective and profitable YouTube can be for Google.

In practice, most people concerned with construction marketing won't want to try to become video gurus and make money from YouTube partnerships.  However, the basic issues of successful video production remain highly relevant, especially as video results can impact significantly on your search engine rankings and also create a dialoge and communication between you and potential clients.

Especially effective can be "how to" and informative videos -- and client-focused videos showing the nature of problems and how you've solved them elsewhere (these videos, presumably, you would not post publicly on the web until the client approves, but could help you stand out from the crowd.

The challenge with video production is the time, effort and co-ordination required -- it takes much more effort for a writer like me than simply drafting a regular blog posting.  However, you don't need to be excessively slick or have a high budget to produce videos.

Notably, as I continue my experiments, the Google+ Hangout system provides one of the quickest and simplest ways to produce video content.  You simply set up a Hangout on Google+, authorize live video, and YouTube records everything.  You can also have guests and others on the screen and if everything works right, show videos, screen shots and the like.  That is how I made the video that goes with this blog posting.

Do you have examples of successful construction marketing videos you would like to share.  Please feel free to communicate with me at or visit the other blog at

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Construction marketing: Metrics that matter

An intriguing challenge in architectural, engineering and construction marketing is determining metrics that truly indicate success.  Some are obvious:  Your cost per lead and conversion rate (lead to sales), your "hit rate" on proposals and so on.  These are useful, but each business often discovers metrics which indicate other things.

For example, HMC Architects in California discovered that the success of proposals directly correlated to the amount of time principals put into the process.  If the leading architects simply tried to dump the work on the marketing department, the proposals would fail.  If they spent hours of non-billable hours in preparing for the proposals, they would succeed.  So the practice included in its go/no go matrix a consideration of the pre-qualifying time the principals spent (it could do this because of comprehensive time accounting tools at the practice.)

As I researched the metrics topic for a series of articles for the SMPS Marketer magazine, one glaring quality came right to mind -- most practices don't even bother measuring their marketing effectiveness.  The argument is that the practices "know" what works and what doesn't, and the creative process determines what to do and what not.

Despite the strong arguments in favour of measuring marking effectiveness, I can see some reasoning in the nay-sayers.  Sometimes metrics are abused; sometimes the numbers are 'gamed' and sometimes you are simply measuring the wrong things.

As well, perhaps marketing metrics need to be considered within the overall business model.  Consider this blog posting:  "The only two business metrics that matter"

Here are the two business metrics that matter at Scout:
  1. Income per employee
  1. Employee happiness
Intriguing.  If we boil these metrics down to the basics, maybe you don't need much more --- if your employees are happy and productive, and the trends are in the right direction, you will be profitable, and your marketing will be successful.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Construction marketing conventions: When they work, when they fail

Tonight, I received some advertising copy from an individual who had achieved some marketing success.  He got through to me with a tempting proposal, which I accepted.  He would redesign one of our company's websites, for free, to demonstrate his abilities.

While the first effort failed, I liked his initiative, questions, and thinking, even though I set an almost impossible bar for his success by making myself virtually totally unavailable for any consultation on what we really required.  So I spent some time on the phone with him, going over the challenges and purposes of the proposed site redesign, and on the second-go-round, he came through with an innovative and I think quite effective design.

(We'll keep it under wraps for now, until all is set up -- it will be the foundation of our corporate website, under the domain (currently feeding to a temporary remote-hosting service.)

In exchange for his work, I offered him some promotional considerations, including mentions in this blog, the other one at, the weekly newsletter, and other advertising resources including possibly client invoice stuffers.  All of these initiatives don't cost us any cash dollars, but represent real value, considering that others pay us hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the relevant services.

We were to get started on the promotional stuff tonight.  Then I read his copy, and sighed.  It read just like -- an ad.

Okay, I know, I asked him for some advertising copy, but I could tell he is a more effective web designer than advertising copywriter.  Actually, very few people can write really great advertising copy.  It is a challenge to create just the right bit of creativity, within conventions, to create the true selling and branding message, without sounding like a hack.  A non-professional will almost certainly fail.

I asked him to go back to the drawing board and send me an originally written article about effective web design.  His English writing skills don't need to be perfect; I can edit things into shape, and the editorial-format coverage (with relevant hyperlinks where appropriate) will generate far better results than his efforts at a standard ad.  (And, yeah, I receive plenty of proposals, well-written at that, from search engine optimization marketers hoping to provide me with guest columns for this blog -- of course, inserting their clients' URLs into the text to boost their rankings.)

Conventions, norms, and assumptions are common in the business world.  Just attend any grand opening or anniversary party, and you'll see things like the ribbon with the giant scissors, or the gold plated shovels (for the ground-breaking) or similar standard stuff.  It isn't bad always to follow the conventions, as long as they are followed properly -- and you keep your expectations of powerful results low.  Sometimes, however, you can have more fun and achieve greater results with some genuine creativity.

Oh . . . the image.  The rainbow . . . conventional perhaps, but I haven't seen one quite as dramatic as this one for some time.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Construction marketing: A little look at roofing (and some big marketing and sales issues)

Within the broader construction marketing theme, various industries and trades have their own unique marketing challenges and opportunities.  This isn't a one-size-fits-all world. Specialized consultants and resources are often helpful when your business is in a category where there could be dozens of local competitors.

Say, for example, you are interested in commercial and industrial roof work.  Your market will be truly different from residential roofers. (See my classic Canvassing in Columbus posting.)

I decided to purchase Eric Heath's ebook:  How to Create a Roof Lead Machine, after reading his blog where he described how some people buy the inexpensive book and quickly request a refund.  This refund request rankled Heath:

“I would like a refund, see I looked for a couple of minutes. I’m a small residential roofer so this info doesn’t apply to me. I don’t have a commercial contractors license so I couldn’t get the jobs if I wanted to.”

Heath issued the refund, but expressed his frustration at this contractor's narrow-minded view of things.

"Initially I thought it was just a scammer trying to get something for nothing, but on second glance I think it might be something MUCH worse… A person who lives in a World of [BLANKS].
Do you know a person who lives in a World of [BLANKS]?  See if you can complete any of these sentences:
  • I didn’t make the sale because of _______.
  • That really doesn’t apply to me because of _______.
  • I would have more _______ if it wasn’t for _______.
  • If it wasn’t for _______ , I would have _______."
Heath continued:

Here’s the bad news… The [BLANKS] are:
  • Shifting of blame
  • Lack of accountability
  • Excuses
  • And any other thing except taking accountability!
Okay, this is strong stuff -- for a poor residential roofing contractor who discovered that Heath's book has a system in place for big commercial and industrial roofs.  However, I can see why Heath decided to let his steam out.

I'm not in the roofing business and never will be.  But I learned something from Heath's book.  He has applied systems and technology in a rational, creative manner, and reminded us of ways to avoid the dreaded cold-call, without assuming that all sales should be repeat and referral leads.  

There's solid, practical sales advice here, which can be transferred to virtually any industry or business.  The book is worth every cent of its $10 fee, and more.  (If nothing else, you'll appreciate his approach to creating "touches" before asking for an appointment, and the potential use of contract telemarketers and researchers to help in the lead researching and setting process.)

Technology is also powerful.  As you can see in the video with this posting, Heath has discovered how to use Google Maps to discover leads, gather information, and even set the stage for preliminary estimation -- work he or an assistant can now do any time day or night, from home or on the road.  (Obviously Google maps with sattelite views is a more powerful tool for a commercial and industrial roofer than someone marketing interior renovations.  One size doesn't fit all.)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Who visited the construction marketing ideas blog?

Here is the report for keyword searches at for the past 24 hours. This sort of data is powerful in assessing which topics interest blog readers, and which keyword searches attract them to the site.

This report is supplemented by other data, including referrals (links), exit pages, detailed "drill down reports" of individual visitors, and more -- and, coupled with similar reports for all of the company's websites, provides truly comprehensive intelligence about where things are and where they are trending.

The basic service is free -- you can pay for upgrades, but I've discovered the free service provides the key data I need to assess results here, at, and at our other publications such as the Canadian Design and Construction Report, Ontario Construction Report, and Northern Ontario Construction News.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Introducing Northern Ontario Construction News

Here is the website for Northern Ontario Construction News (  This publication, currently distributed as a supplement to Ontario Construction Report, reflects the construction economy of the now-thriving mining and natural-resource based communities such as Sudbury (where NOCN publisher Lynne Reynolds lives), Sault. Ste. Marie, Timmins, Thunder Bay, North Bay and Kenora, as well as many smaller communities.

If you are interested in construction marketing for northern Ontario, you can reach Lynne by email at

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Playing the construction marketing odds: How to win

Sometimes we are lucky.  We just happen to be in the right place at the right time, and everything works out perfectly.

Of course, you wouldn't want to plan your business -- and construction marketing -- purely on luck. So you need to weigh your probabilities, risk, and reward and decide if the odds are in your favor.

Example:  Is it wiser to throw all your marketing budget into one big push, or to strategically define a variety of smaller options?  Well, the answer could be "either way" depending on your circumstances, knowledge and experience, though in most cases incremental gains are wiser than the big blow-out.

Here is another example.  Say, you have a budget of $100,000 for marketing.  Should you spend it on advertising, media publicity, or both, or none, and how much should you spend?  Your answer will in part depend on your previous experience.  If you've advertised successfully and can calculate your cost-per-lead and the numbers add up, it makes sense to continue advertising where the advertising works, predictably.  If you haven't, you should assess whether you can schedule enough frequency/volume and test your results, and then decide if you wish to continue or do something else.

Basic rules:

  • Play the odds.  If they are reasonable, take the risk;
  • It doesn't hurt to try some experiments, but keep these to about 10 to 15 per cent of your overall budget;
  • Listen to your own intuition and remember your experience.  How much marketing success have you achieved by responding to inbound telemarketers or spam messages?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A better approach to construction marketing provides incredibly comprehensive traffic data -- and it is free.
Last night, in reviewing some of the inbound links to this construction marketing blog (you can gather amazing data about your visitors with most blogging software) I visited a site promoting some Internet marketing scheme where you could, purportedly, be among the one per cent richest people in the world, quickly and easily, by purchasing the "no risk" program.

The video impressed me with its slickness and its various attention-retaining devices to draw the viewer into the story, and to make it seem so believable that of course only a fool would fail to see the value of the offer and part with money to make the dream come true.

Of course, I'm a sceptic about these sorts of things, so even before the  video ended, I had left the site, avoiding the "squeeze offer" when I initially tried to leave the marketer's video page. I used Google to search the offer proponent's name and, within a few minutes, discovered reports from some early clients, knowledgeable Internet marketers, who said there indeed could be some value in the program, but it certainly won't solve every one's problems and is not a magical fix-all solution.

Internet marketers like the video producer say that if you purchase their products, you'll achieve incredible traffic and with that traffic and your slick marketing, you can sell others' works through affiliate deals and make a small (or, more accurately, large) fortune by selling other peoples' work.

Sure . . . anyone can build an Internet marketing site and theoretically reach a sizable percentage of the world's population, virtually instantaneously, but we know that is far from the reality for most of us.  Google, especially, is wary of tricks and gimmicks to build traffic -- if you cross a line, you could be banned to search-engine purgatory.

Of course, architectural, engineering and construction marketers are not really looking for massive amounts of traffic from visitors anywhere in the world.  We are seeking qualified potential clients, and to maintain healthy relationships with current and previous customers.  Unless we are operating a national franchise serving millions of consumers, our markets are largely constrained by geography (the more local the better) or scope (if we are building multi-million dollar theme parks, we don't really want nor need to reach typical consumers in middle-income neighbourhoods.)

A successful blog or site within this industry would probably measure daily traffic in the hundreds, much less likely than the thousands or tens of thousands.

I track traffic and source/nature of visitors through a free (for small numbers) service,, which allows me to see who is arriving at our sites, and when.

As for dreams of instant wealth, I've discovered that sometimes incredibly wonderful things can happen, but this success is rarely achieved by blindly following an Internet guru's videos showing fancy cars and houses.  It's fine to dream, but it never hurts to keep the real world in perspective in planning our construction marketing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Your construction marketing success story

Do you have a construction marketing success story you would like to share?  If you are interested, we'll set up an interview by phone, Skype or Google+ hangout, and you'll receive some recognition and a free copy of my Construction Marketing Ideas book.

You can respond by commenting or emailing

Monday, June 18, 2012

The marketing concepts behind the construction marketing business

In visiting this or the new Construction Marketing Ideas blog, you are observing -- perhaps at a great distance -- the long tail or distant edge of the marketing process for Construction News and Report group publishing enterprise  You probably have little reason to ever do business with us.  That is okay.  The ideas here will probably help you in your own business, large or small.

We publish regional and national construction newspapers and magazines, print and online.  Most of our revenue arises from special editorial features describing communities, businesses or projects.  These communities and companies work with us to introduce their members or suppliers (the people who are giving them money) as potential advertisers.  The supplier-advertisers, wanting to ensure their actual clients are happy, co-operate by advertising in the publications to help their customers' interests.

Fair enough.  This is relationship-based marketing at its best.  The business model also has an intriguing risk and value transference element.  Companies receiving the editorial publicity don't need to spend a cent for all the attention; the companies advertising don't care about "results" for from their advertising, as long as their key clients are happy.  This means we don't have as much price resistance for our advertising sales.

While this business model is highly effective, it is also quite controversial.  Alas, some publishers have abused it.  They use high-pressure techniques and deliver poor-quality publications.  After a while, the advertisers can decide that they have had enough and stop supporting the features.

We faced this problem, bluntly, in 2005/06, when our business almost collapsed under the weight of angry clients who felt we had taken advantage of their relationships.

Then I had an insight which saved my business.  I realized that the advertisers might be purchasing ads to support their clients, but we were doing nothing to support our true clients, the paying advertisers.  I decided I would find ways to deliver genuine value to them, and thought that they might appreciate comprehensive, independent construction marketing advice and resources of high enough quality that they could always be assured of a positive return on their advertising investment.

So, I started this blog, began learning everything I could about construction marketing, joined the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS), began writing for their magazine, The Marketer, and a few years later, wrote the Construction Marketing Ideas book.  As well, we began working actively with relevant associations and groups, supporting the industry, charitable initiatives, and community service projects.

Our advertising costs as much as it did before, but now we deliver the value and treat clients well, and they return for more, and all is well.

Maybe you qualify for an editorial feature in one of our publications.  The publicity is free, as is the writing, graphics, layout and everything else.  However, you need to have a business of the scale and scope that we can sell some advertising -- about $1,500 worth of ads per feature.  In our experience, this requires supplier relationships founded on a business with sales volume of $3 million annually or more.

In case you are wondering, yes, we would work to sell advertising to your suppliers in an appropriate publication -- but, as you can see, we will also work with them to ensure they truly receive their money's worth.  It can be a great deal, all around.  (If your business is smaller, it is unfair to bug suppliers for support and I wouldn't want to take your cash for this sort of feature -- read the Construction Marketing Ideas book, and you will find other inexpensive options which will help your business grow to the size that this type of editorial feature publicity makes sense.

For a sample of the sorts of features and stories, please feel free to review our publications, such as the Canadian Design and Construction Report.  You can call me as well at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or email

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Your secret construction marketing resource

Try this test.  Write down the three most enjoyable aspects of your work-day.  This isn't a "right or wrong" quiz, so anything you enjoy can go on the list, even something your boss may not approve.  (Don't worry, I'm not asking you to publish the information.)

Now, look at these three things and consider how they can apply in your architectural, engineering or construction marketing initiatives.  I can't tell you what they should be but I am confident that, if you incorporate your "enjoyments" into your marketing, you'll be much more successful in the long-run.

There are several reasons for this observation.  First, if you enjoy something, you'll likely stick to it.  Second, your enthusiasm will radiate to others, and they'll be more comfortable working with you.  Finally, if you can connect your passions and genuine interests to your actual marketing activities, you'll discover a higher level of awareness and involvement and your overall marketing quality will be much more effective.

As an example, consider the story of HMC Architects in California, which has assessed that the amount of time and effort principals put into preparing for proposals is a clear indication of their likeliness of success.  So now the practice weighs this "time and energy" in deciding on go/no go strategies.

In the real world, we don't always get to do what we want to do and love doing, all the time.  However, the more we can manage our affairs to do what we love, the more we are likely to succeed at construction marketing.

See the relevant SMPS Marketer article here.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The construction marketing magic of instant gratification

In the other Construction Marketing Ideas blog, you can read a story about the virtues of delayed gratification -- in particular, the "marshmallow test" which proved that the 30 per cent of four-year-olds who could wait a while (and receive a second marshmallow for their patience) ultimately did much better in life when they grew to be adults.

Fair enough.  However, as marketers we have the ability to turn rules on their heads and here, "instant gratification" is the way to win hearts, minds and money.

Now, obviously we aren't in the business like the used car dealers who say "no credit, bad credit, we'll fix things so you can drive away today" (leaving the poor suckers seeking instant gratification even deeper in debt.)

As well, in practical terms, most construction projects cannot nor should be instant gratification exercises.  You really don't expect anyone to pick up the phone, order a $20 million building (or even a $10,000 small renovation job) on a single call, do you?

But you can still provide instant gratification, by answering the phone on the second ring, sending a thank-you card after a great meeting or, perhaps, meeting a spontaneous request because you know the person will really appreciate it.  Small gifts are good (blatant bribes are not)  .

I certainly didn't hurt my case when the tax auditor showed up at our offices and he found waiting a few paper cups and a "10 pack" of Tim Hortons coffee.  "Thanks," he said.  "You know, there are people who are afraid to offer me a coffee because they think it would be in conflict, or there are people so mad that they won't offer me a coffee in spite.  I'm really allowed to accept this gesture."  When the auditor left our office three hours later, he gave us the greatest gift possible:  Nothing.  As in:  No additional tax owing.

So, yeah, if you visit job sites in Canada and want to win the hearts and minds, bring the coffee -- or maybe a $10 coffee gift card.

Simply put, anytime you can find a little way to provide some instant gratification to your employees, contractors, or clients, do it.  And give your employees the power to do the same thing -- it won't break your budget.

Instant gratification is great for construction marketing -- when you give it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

When construction marketing is easy, it is effective

One of the biggest paradoxes of business development and marketing is that effort doesn't really correlate with reward, but if you don't put effort into the process (and accept that success can take a LONG time) you won't achieve much in the way of reward.

Gulp.  When you read this sort of posting, you might think that the right thing to do is wrap it up, buy a few lottery tickets and hope for the best.

That isn't exactly what I am seeking to communicate here.

Let's phrase it a bit differently.  You've probably heard the phrase that it is better to work smart than hard, but it is even wiser to work smart and hard.  "Hard" work might be grinding out dozens of responses to RFPs, whether or not you have solid relationships with the clients, "Smart," might be focusing your energies and bidding only work where you can be profitable and have a reasonable chance of success.  "Hard and smart" is taking the long-range view, focusing on activities you enjoy, and working through these enjoyable activities to build satisfying relationships with the people who count and can put you on the inside track for successful bids or RFPs.

In other words, allowing for the fact that it takes time to achieve success, doing things you enjoy but which put you in contact with potential and current clients is smart marketing.  Yeah, that means if you like golfing, it is okay to spend lots of time on the course -- if you enjoy writing, well, blogs are pretty effective (over time) and if you like sports, spending some time with teams and groups interested in both the sport and your business area will probably get you to where you want to go.

The ideal venue for these relationships is often relevant client-focused associations.  Spend time there, and you'll make things happen.

These ideas won't generate instant construction marketing success.   They are smart, however, and don't need to be too hard to implement.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Your community service construction marketing perspective

Can you measure the value to your business of community service, association participation and generosity?  These questions are not always easy to answer with a direct return on your construction marketing investment matrix.  We do good deeds and contribute to the community because we truly care. It is cynical and insincere to work with an ulterior business-development motive.  In fact, in conversations with non-profit organization leaders, they often tell me about their frustration with salespeople and business developers purportedly "generously" offering some surplus merchandise with the expectation of significant public recognition for their contribution, which (in the eyes of the recipient) is less than useful.

 These thoughts come to mind as I prepare to spend several hours (and a few hundred dollars) flying to Toronto tomorrow for a SMPS Ontario Chapter board of directors meeting.  While I've enjoyed some wonderful relationships and true friendships from the SMPS community, the direct "return on investment" in actual business from other SMPS members is hardly something to write home about.  In fact, some members downright object to the special feature profiles and advertising supplements, which continue to provide the bulk of our business income.

Yet the SMPS participation "works" in a most fundamental way -- it helps differentiate our business from the other publishers out there doing the same thing, but who do not offer the depth and respect for the people truly paying the bills--the advertisers.  While most of our clients don't take full advantage of the consulting and support services available to them, the chemistry is different when our  business leadership is able show true expertise and effectiveness at marketing -- and suggest practical, low-cost ideas for effective business development.

If you are looking for a wealth of resources relating to business development and marketing, certainly consider joining the SMPS chapter in your area.  If you are in Ontario, hopefully we'll see each other soon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The LinkedIn Construction Marketing Idea group is growing

The Construction Marketing Ideas LinkedIn group has started to grow rapidly. Some days, more than 20 new members join.

You can participate in the group by requesting to join it.

Once a year, we host a "best construction blog" competition. Since the next competition is a half-year away, please feel free to share your blog URL to the group and, if you wish,

If you email, I'll do my best to set up a free hyperlink for your blog here.  (Your blog obviously must qualify for relevance and quality.)  No reciprocation is required.

Discovering construction marketing answers by looking away from your own needs

The 2011 Ride the Rideau commemoration
One of the paradoxes of successful construction marketing is that the highest and best results are often achieved by taking "non-marketing" initiatives; that is, sharing, giving, helping and contributing to your community without worrying about business results.

I've seen this frequently where the most successful architects, contractors and suppliers also appear to spend the most time and money on charitable and non-profit activities.  Consider, for example, in Ottawa how Robert Merkley (Merkley Supply Ltd.) and Claude Des Rosiers (Boone Plumbing and Heating Supply) support the Ride The Rideau initiative for cancer research, and Johannes Ziebarth of Ziebarth Electrical Contractors Ltd. is president of the Habitat for Humanity National Capital Region.

Undoubtedly these contributions of time, energy and money are genuine, in that the industry leaders truly believe in the causes and are not expecting any marketing return.

Yet there is real marketing value here and the explanation relates to two key marketing concepts:  experience and trust.

Experience is the interaction between clients, suppliers, employees and potential customers.  Charitable leadership involves lots of experience:  Board meetings, fund-raising events, thank you dinners, and so on.  At each of these events and activities, you are present, reflecting business in a positive light as something very different from a pushy commercial enterprise.

Trust correlates to the experience.  In an environment where you are not pushing to sell, but to share, you get to know your clients and they get to know you in a way that enhances your reputation and leads to a confidence that you will conduct your business in a way that is appealing.

You cannot see charitable and community service as a quick fix and fast way to make money. However, you need very little money to engage, involve and support the community.  Pick projects and activities that you truly support and are within your market area, and you'll succeed.

P.S.  If you have community service initiatives you would like to share, please let me know with a comment or an email to  You'll receive some publicity and hyperlinks.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Construction marketing and the Net Promoter Score (some more thoughts)

Can you apply the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to your construction marketing approaches?

The concept, advocated by Fred Reichheld, is that a simple measure of whether clients would be willing to refer others to your business can indicate its overall health -- and that measures to induce changes both to increase the number of enthusiastic supporters and reduce the number of unhappy client detractors will pay off in growth and success.

The question is simple enough:

How likely are you to recommend (name of your business or organization) to a colleague or friend?

Customers who respond to the survey answer this question on a one to 10 scale, with one representing total dissatisfaction, with 10 representing enthusiastic recommendation.  For NPS, nines and 10s are counted as promoters (P), while answers six and under are regarded ad detractors (D).  The more promoters and the fewer detractors, advocates Reichheld.

Bain and Company's website explains the concept further:

The best way to gauge the efficiency of a company's growth engine is to take the percentage of customers who are promoters (P) and subtract the percentage who are detractors (D). This equation is how we calculate a Net Promoter Score for a company:
P — D = NPS
While easy to grasp, NPS metric represents a radical change in the way companies manage customer relationships and organize for growth. Rather than relying on notoriously ineffective customer satisfaction surveys, companies can use NPS to measure customer relationships as rigorously as they now measure profits. What's more, NPS finally enables CEOs to hold employees accountable for treating customers right. It clarifies the link between the quality of a company's customer relationships and its growth prospects.
All of this seems reasonable enough to grasp.  After all, successful architectural, engineering and construction businesses report that 75 per cent of their business arises from repeat and referral clients.  Clearly, anything that increases the enthusiasm of clients to refer others is a good sign.
Like any simple concept, of course, there are challenges.  We've all been customers of businesses using this metric, where employees tell customers they are being scored, and beg for a higher score.  I've seen plenty of artificially blunt efforts to game the results.
More seriously, you can measure the wrong thing or the response rate may not indicate true attitudes.  If, for example, clients who have no reasonable probability of being able to do business with you again or to refer other business give you a high score, what have you got? Conversely, if influential clients who really can induce more business either cannot answer because of policy reasons (such as government officials) or because, well, they don't want to complete your survey, how can you really measure anything useful?
Of course, consultants advocate using their services to solve these sorts of challenges, but I think a simpler approach is to appreciate the survey and the question is one of many business tools and should be regarded with both respect and humility.  It is unlikely most readers of this blog will want to engage expensive surveyors and consultants to develop high-level systems tools to implement this NPS measurement.
But most businesses can build the question into a simple survey, and respond creatively if the responses are either really negative or really positive, individually.  If they are negative, we can look at why things went wrong, and explore how we can improve service to make things right.  If they are positive, we can invite testimonial comments and referrals.  The key is not to "force" the answer ahead of time, so caution is necessary to avoid employees and junior managers from trying to game the system.
Do you have any thoughts about the NPS concept?  If so, please feel free to comment.

Construction marketing: The social media chapter treasure hunt

In the new Construction Marketing Ideas blog, you can read a post about blogging -- and a reference to some information available only here and at various social media feeds.

And (drum roll please), the password you are seeking is:


You'll have to return the relevant source blog page to find the relevant link to use this password.

Again, please respect copyright.  This isn't a public document.  Please don't post it on the web or republish but you can provide the links and tell about the treasure hunt.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Canadian Design and Construction Report: Looking back and ahead

The latest issue of Canadian Design and Construction Report has been published, and we are getting ready for the July issue.  You can learn more (and view the publication online) at

For information about subscribing to Canadian Design and Construction Report, see here.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Putting the Net Promotor Score to work for Construction Marketing Ideas


Today, we'll begin testing the use of the Net Promotor Score for Construction Marketing Ideas and our publications.

There really is only one question.  You can answer it as you wish. (If you wish, you can elaborate in the comments line.)

Fill out my online form.
If you would like more information about the Net Promotor Score, see the Net Promotor 2.0 site.

Construction Marketing: The most important business lesson

The mathematical inflection point (from Wikipedia).  This posting describes a business inflection point.
If you search back in the archives of this blog, you'll arrive at the original entries some six to seven years ago and a posting describing the "inflection point"  -- a moment when it seems the business behind this blog turned on its head, and through an incredible series of beyond-probability events, reached its bottom and commenced a long, and at times, fitful, recovery.

Yet the surprising story here is that -- despite deep and fundamental changes in how we do business -- what we do hasn't changed very much.  In other words, allowing for evolving technological and product quality improvements, the underlying service has changed very little in the last several years.

The real change, and this is important, is the underlying approach to business and the values which shape it.

Seven or eight years ago, we sold the service, delivered the promised goods, and moved on.  Relationships were generally, if unintentionally, defined transactionally.  I remember well how we approached a local (and important) industry association to set up a co-operative marketing arrangement.  The association reviewed the idea, declined, and then we moved our separate ways.

Now, when it comes to construction marketing, we still assess the relevance and value of individual association participation and will pull the plug on membership, if necessary.  There is no reason to throw good money after bad.  However, the question is much less whether there is a transactional "return on investment", than whether we can discover human, effective and responsive ways to get involved and contribute to the group's overall success, while enjoying healthy relationships within the community.

These values also underlie the business relationships with employees and contractors.  Six or seven years ago, I would have thought of a "benefits plan" as an entitlement, to be avoided for its cash-draining cost.  Now I see it for what it is; a reasonable indication that the business is ready to offer some intrinsic value to employees that goes beyond salary or hourly pay.  (Contractors of course cannot participate -- they are truly independent, after all -- but we aren't into playing games by turning people who want and should be employees into artificial independent contractors, either.)

I like this recent posting in the other Construction Marketing Ideas blog describing EllisDon CEO Geoff Smith's own blog.  Lessons learned.  Values remembered.  Can you do the same?

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Your most effective construction marketing idea

If you are seeking the most effective construction marketing idea, one that is sure to help your business succeed, here it is:  Take a look at your most valuable and appreciated current clients -- and then think about where they "hang out".  Your marketing challenge:  To be with them, where they are and where they want to be, in context of others who might themselves be suitable clients.

This an idea that adapts to your business, your clients and your budget.

For example, your clients may belong and participate in associations dedicated to their industry, cause, or neighbourhood.  Can you, too, get involved, perhaps as a member of the same group.  They might be interested in cultural or charitable activities.  Can you lend a hand?

They may enjoy sporting activities and events.  Can you (if conflict of interest rules don't bar it) obtain box seats at major league games they would love to attend -- with friends, colleagues and others who might also want to do business with you.

These initiatives have something simple in common:   Fuelling a combination of good-will and referral and testimonial dynamics, in a humane, respectful and "non selling" mind-set.

The budget can be sizable (major league box suite rentals are not inexpensive) or virtually nothing (community and charitable events, especially if you are willing to contribute sweat equity or help in fund-raising (not your own money) don't require much cash at all.

This is direct, responsive and respectful marketing.

Looking for more ideas?  See the link to the Construction Marketing Ideas book on the sidebar, or visit the "other" Construction Marketing Ideas blog at