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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Your successful construction marketing foundations

Here are three foundations for successful construction marketing

You need to be really good at what you do, and really enjoy it.  In other words, work needs to be fun (most of the time) and so good that your clients know they really are achieving the results they are seeking.

(Come on, you might say, I'm just a big cog in some machine -- in any case, I need to work to make money.  Yes, and the point is that if that is where you are at, you might do okay, but you are unlikely to achieve really good results.)

You need the basics:  A decent website, the ability to seek and encourage testimonials and referrals, and a simple but clear plan with some guidelines on where and how you will spend your marketing dollars.

Nothing fancy here -- and note, you don't need a huge budget.  In fact, in many cases, you can achieve really good results for a cash budget of $500 or less.  However, you need to have some control -- especially to know how to answer the calls offering you "marketing solutions" for a fee.

You need focus, specialization, and commitment

You can't be everything to everyone.  Successful marketing depends largely on leadership and perception -- and if you are one of many (competing against already-entrenched players) you will simply be one of many.  You need to be different -- so you need to figure out some aspect of your product or service or some market segment that you know others aren't doing.

Then go for it.  You'll succeed.  And you won't waste your money on marketing bs.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Interconnected construction marketing decisions: The virtues of sharing rather than selling

Would you think it rational travel to an all-day non-profit association board meeting event at your own expense, paying a couple of hundred dollars for a train ride and $300 for a night at a hotel -- without even expecting the tiniest amount of business now or in the foreseeable future?

Well, I did that this week, participating in a Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) chapter executive session.  I learned a lot, developing relationship with other industry leaders.

However, the event also garnered several thousand dollars in unexpected sales.

A couple of days before the event, I sent out an email to our Toronto-area readers, inviting them to join in the previous evening's meeting where Holly Bolton described how to make the best use of leads groups.  At least a couple of our publication's readers joined us for the event.

One couldn't make it -- but said a colleague in another division of the organization wanted to advertise.  The order for several thousand dollars in additional sales arrived on Friday, as I attended the director's meeting.

This experience reminds me that the greatest business often arises when you least expect it, but usually correlates with positive community spirit, initiative, sharing, and generosity.

In case you are wondering, there is a reason this approach works so well for a sales and marketing perspective.

If you are thoughtful, you can demonstrate your competence in a non-intrusive manner.  You can also demonstrate that you care about your community, industry and your clients' (and potential clients) real needs.  In essence, you build trust -- and with trust, you achieve persona branding success -- and that translates to comfortable business.

As a bonus, it is much easier to plan a couple of days of community service volunteering than hard-rock selling.  I mean, what is more enjoyable:  Working with other like-minded volunteers on a higher cause, or pounding the phone, trying to get someone, anyone, to return your call where you rattle off a sales pitch your victims have no interest in hearing.

The advice here is simple:  Spend much more time giving and much less selling; market your causes and support the interests of your clients' organizations, and you'll end up selling a whole lot more than by pushing where you are not wanted.

(That is why I mandate that our company's sales reps spend at least 25 per cent of their time on community service.  If they want to spend more, I won't mind.  It pays.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Genius and construction marketing: Can they be linked?

The unorthodox decision to invite a genius to speak at annual business planning meeting has led to some simple, but elegant, business advice (which applies for virtually any enterprise):

Truly successful businesses should be:

  • Providing a product/service that people or organizations need.
  • Providing that service/product better than the next company.
  • Resilience to weather the inevitable bad times associated with business cycles.
  • Businesses should be designed and operated for the long-term.
  • It is important to always treat clientele with respect. Clients often remember the personal interaction as much as the service/product.
  • Have realistic expectations for business development/growth – this  is why a long-term vision is required.
  • Believe in the product/service being offered. It should be something that speaks to you as a person.
Alfred Simpson provided this advice from his son, who has built a highly successful research/consulting business relating to native land claims.  The Simpsons are members of a First Nations band.  Alfred lives modestly, in a rent-controlled apartment and takes public transport to get around.

Simpson is beyond brilliant.  He is at the 99.997 per cent intelligence level -- that is, if you gathered 30,000 people in a community, he almost certainly would be the smartest person.  I'm not sure of his son's intelligence, but expect it is at the same rarefied level.

I explain how I came to meet Simpson in the "other" Construction Marketing Ideas blog. Through a most unusual set of circumstances, my first-and second-degree network now includes about 150 geniuses. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

More or less: The law of diminishing consulting value

This posting may appear to go against the grain, but the assertions may surprise you. You can easily spend far too much on consulting and business advice, but equally, by refusing to invest enough, you may be spending far too little.  The challenge is drawing the line between frugality, carelessness, and strategic commitment.

Here is an example. Tomorrow employees and contractors will gather for an annual two-day planning meeting. A former consultant suggested that these meetings are essential for business success and helped us out with an offer difficult to refuse: "You'll only pay me if you are successful."

We needed the advice. Our business, floundering in a death spiral, needed a lift upwards -- and some basic systems common to virtually every successful, well-established organization.

Eventually, the consultant appeared to achieve his goal. He had obtained a profitable paying client, generating upwards of $20,000 in annual fee income. Then, about 18 months ago, the relationship unravelled. My wife, who I respect and trust, said: "This guy is blowing hot air."

Indeed, while the consultant had offered some truly solid business advice, he had some philosophies and attitudes that didn't quite add up. One of the best examples of this, (and perhaps the eye-opener to me) proved to be his assertion: "I've written 12 books."

It isn't easy to write one good book, and only a few truly exceptional professional writers can produce 12 really worthwhile tomes in their lifetimes. However, with some success with the  Construction Marketing Ideas book, I decided to go out on a limb and publish one of the consultant's 12 books for a fee much lower than he had paid the vanity press for some of the others.

We edited the book professionally, hacking out about half of its content, removing the excessively detailed appendices.  We designed a professional cover.

Time to start marketing it . . .

I asked the consultant to send it to his clients, friends, colleagues -- anyone he thought provide a positive recommendation. After several weeks, one person had written a lukewarm review on The my wife, at a mid-year planning meeting dinner, sat next to the individual.  The next day, she delivered her (negative) verdict.  "He's full of hot air," she said.

I don't think the consultant had bad intent; nor do I blame him for the cost and effort in publishing the ill-fated book.

The consultant went from a contingency fee arrangement, to a lucrative cash-paying contract with spin-off opportunities, to (abruptly) the edge of nothing -- all in a matter of a few years.

What happened?

Simply put, while we bring differing skills and experiences and knowledge to the community, our services only are worthwhile if they add real value. Undoubtedly, in the early goings, the consultant provided value by teaching some of the basics behind standard business processes and operations.  You'll find "Annual planning meetings" and ongoing planning/operations systems in virtually every successful business.  The consultant also taught us how to operate regular weekly meetings efficiently.

After a while, however, we didn't really need him to facilitate the meetings at truly high fees. We could do this work ourselves.  We certainly didn't need his 12 books.

Now, the question is, when should you spend "more" on consulting services, and how do you decide on what works best?

My view is the big name consultants -- the ones with fame, fortune, and power -- are probably way to expensive for most of us. Read their books, listen to their presentations, and borrow their ideas, but I wouldn't rush to participate in their coaching or support programs, because you will almost inevitably be shunted to a junior and a scripted approach to implement the materials you could learn from books and websites.

However, you may want to spend real money for a "middle name" specialized consultant -- one who has enough reputation that you can verify his or her effectiveness, but know that you will be learning new ideas.

Finally, of course, you can see if you can work on trade-outs or contingency relationships with the consultants. You may not always get the top person, but if you are lucky and careful, you can discover a rising star.

Test your assumptions about consulting. Sometimes, indeed, you should spend until it hurts -- because you'll learn quite a bit and absorb every word of advice. However, maybe you can find the advice in an e-book, or even in a remainder bin, and perhaps your best advice may arise from surprising places and unique networks where you will need to spend little or no money to achieve great results.

You can read this blog for free, and two books for as little as $20.00 but not for more than $45.00.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Testing assumptions: A different approach to construction marketing

Readers here may find it ironic that, while most of our business revenue is from advertising, I do not blindly or assertively encourage anyone in the construction industry to rush out and solve their marketing problems through advertising.  Nor do I think you gain much value by trying this marketing fad or that, purchasing one marketing book or another (even mine!)

Certainly you can spend a small fortune on consulting, advice, and resources.  This money can be well spent, if, in exchange for your serious financial commitment, you also commit to fully practice the consultant's advice.  You cannot, however, simply wave your magic wand and expect instant and dramatic results.

Fair enough.  Are are their routes to real success?  I'll suggest these options. Note they aren't instant magic solutions, but you can find the resources you need with this advice.

Residential contractors

Call Mike Jeffries. If you don't want to spend money initially, consider his special program in conjunction with Michael Stone.

See this note in Michael Stone's recent newsletter:

Mike Jeffries returns this month with a new webinar, "Marketing Success Made Simple". He'll be presenting it twice, the evening of October 16 and the morning/afternoon of October 18. For more details on the webinar and to register, click here
Mike will be revealing many successful strategies and tactics on lead generation that his clients have implemented successfully. Many of you took part in Mike's Contractor’s Closing Success Formula last winter, and he's coming out with a new version of that in October (check it out here). He's agreed to provide our clients with this free webinar first. 
But here's the secret behind the webinar. You won’t get any benefit by registering. You only benefit by attending. So register, then mark it on your calendar and don’t let anything get in the way. Plan to login 30 minutes early. That way if you run into any problems connecting, you still have time to work it out. Spend the extra time reading a book or clearing your desk, and be ready to start on time. Mike Jeffries hits the ground running, you want to be ready when he starts.

Architects, engineers and non-residential contractors

Check out the Society for Marketing Professional Services (  If you are in a major U.S. city (or Toronto) you will find a local chapter.  SMPS is a somewhat misnamed association.  It should stand for "Society for Marketing Architectural, Engineering and Construction Services." You can access an incredible wealth of resources, plus network among others with similar challenges.  

Wait, you may wonder. . . .  I've just referred you to two other services, even though if you check the website, you'll see information about my own books, plus some direct consulting and speaking services.  Why would I send you away to other organizations and consultants?

The answer to that question is simple. I've grown to respect SMPS as an organization and Mike Jeffries as an individual -- and know in both cases, you will discover useful answers and resources  and begin to build a strategic approach to real construction marketing success.

Meanwhile, quite a few people will purchase my construction marketing books (thanks!) and our advertisers -- the businesses and organizations which choose to promote their businesses and services in our regional and national publications and websites -- will always know they will receive real value for their money. 

Can you make social media work for your construction marketing?

The answer is "yes" -- though remember, social media is a process, not a magical cure or fix-all.
The key to successful social media application is to (a) be sociable and (b) to respect/communicate and listen to your current, former and potential clients.

I've written a book on the topic and you can purchase it from or other ebook retailers (just search by keywords social media, construction, or if you wish to support my vanity, my surname, buckshon!) The book is $4.95.

(If you've advertised in any of our publications or purchased my full-scale Construction Marketing Ideas book, please email me and I will send you a link where you will be able to download your free copy.)

Friday, October 05, 2012

Networking with 120 super geniuses

Sometimes it is fun to stretch yourself beyond the probable.  Yesterday's posting described the value of associations and selfless contribution for your construction marketing initiatives.  However, what happens when you network with an association of 120 super-geniuses -- individuals with brains so powerful that their IQs are in the top 99.997th percentile, which equates to "1 in 30,000" (four standard deviations above the norm.

However, what would it be like to belong to an even more exclusive group -- where you would be in the top 99.999th percentile -- yes, one in a million?

Turns out, I spent four months in a tent traversing Africa with someone so bright he belongs to The Omega Society, which requires the 99.999th status.  He also is treasurer of The Prometheus Society representing the still extremely high, but not as extreme, 99.997th level.  (In case you are wondering, the well-known high intelligence society, Mensa, requires simply a 98 percentile status -- hardly a match for these super-genius groups.)

Now, the question is:  Could you present a question or business challenge to this super-intelligent group and, with the members' combined intellectual power (imagine 120 Einsteins in one association), discover answers that transcend the obvious?  An interesting question . . . one which I'm not sure how I can pose just yet.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Associations and construction marketing

I can think of few ready-made construction marketing opportunities as effective as thoughtful client-related associations.  With some thought and planning, you can access a ready-made decision-making group and integrate yourself into the world of movers and shakers, building relationships while obtaining the knowledge of near and medium-term horizon projects suitable for your business.

Of course, you can't simply pay your dues, join the association and expect to be instantly accepted and invited to bid (sole sourced, even) on lucrative projects.  In fact, if you join the group with that as your immediate and primary intention, you'll probably be shunned.

Your challenge is to put your business interests aside, and focus on how you can help the association's members achieve their objectives.  Your goal is to be seen as a giver rather than taker, a contributor rather than a leech.

As well, you need to accept that association participation requires a potentially long time frame for success.  If you've ever moved to a new community, you know that you may experience some initial welcomes and greetings, but it can take a while to build real friendships.  While you can accelerate the process (see below), you cannot "rush" it in the sense of hoping for results and rewards before you pay your dues.

Your way to accelerate your acceptance and return on investment is to discover effective opportunities to share and contribute to the group.  Notably, you are not constrained by your conventional business considerations. Associations have entertainment, sporting, and community service groups, as well as technical knowledge, business management and other support functions.  You simply pick the activity(ies) that interest you the most -- and where your natural talents are greatest -- and focus your efforts there.

You'll find you cannot join too many associations -- I've discovered that I can contribute intensively to three or four at most -- I'll give upwards of 25 per cent of my working time to this long-range marketing effort.

How much business can you win through effective association participation?  The amount can be truly incredible, especially after you start doing some work for members, and build on the word-of-mouth and relationships within the group.  In fact, a clue to which associations to join is to learn where your best and most satisfied clients belong.  Let them introduce you to their peers, contribute actively to the association, and you'll start receiving invited bid and sometimes sole source opportunities.

Note one other point:  While you can achieve many useful benefits from participating in your relevant trade or speciality group associations, your highest marketing results will occur when you focus your efforts on client-based associations.  So, for example, you might belong to the regional construction association, and you build schools.  Consider joining the regional school superintendents association as an associate member, as well.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Some thoughts about effective construction marketing networking

network like an introvert -- klabunde
"Networking" is one of those buzz words that connotes images of looking-over-their-shoulder business types trying to figure out how to score a deal by "working the room".  Artificial, plastic, phony and downright irritating, both to the participants and those who somehow feel roped into the yukkiness.

Perhaps some of this negativity is because of the association with "network marketing," the nicer world for multi-level marketing, where "downlines" are recruited with the lure of wealth and easy money, which virtually no one sees or experiences.

Of course there is a better approach to networking, and it takes a relatively simple attitude change.  The goal in any networking event is NOT to sell anything -- it is to give.  Your entire function at the networking event is to learn about the other person and then, if at all possible, deliver value to the individual, perhaps with a referral, some useful information, or simply a listening ear.

Most importantly, while you won't turn down any business you happen to receive in the process -- and you likely will receive some -- your goal is not to give anything with even the slightest bit of "return" expectation.  This is not a give-and-take exercise.  This is pure "give".

The attitude change, expressed on a wider scale, has powerfully positive impact.  First, you no longer need to dread the networking event, because your success measure is not how many leads you acquire, but how many people you can help, and how much you can assist each individual.  With this attitude, it is obviously impossible to fail.  There is no "qualification," no worry about whether you have a real business interest in the other person in front of you; you are simply there to help out as much as you can, with sincerity, enough time to care, and enough ability to meet people who you can assist.

The second positively powerful impact is that, as you enrich yourself by learning about others and helping them as much as you can, some people will really want to help you in return.  This is the law of reciprocation.  Little good deeds invite sometimes really big positive responses.  The fact you are acting without worrying about the reciprocation, however, indicates sincerity and while some people will certainly take advantage of your generosity, overall, most will be responsive and do what they can to help in return.  (Over time, you'll get to know the pure 'takers' and you can, rightfully, spend less time with them -- not to push them away, but simply because you'll have plenty of other people to meet and know.)

In case you are wondering, the great ideas here are not mine.  Tim Klabunde has written a book on the topic and it is turning into something of an Amazon best seller, in part because of his incredibly large network.

I can recommend Network like an introvert:  A new way of thinking about business relationships highly.