Construction marketing’s simplest rule: Why is it so hard to follow?

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mark giving a presentation
Speaking and presenting can be truly effective for marketing and business development

Matt Handal has described in his Help Everybody Everyday blog “the most important rule” of architectural and engineering marketing. I think we can safely extrapolate it to construction  marketing:

He says observing this rule ” is guaranteed to improve your results and efficiency. Yet, every day the vast majority of firms in the architecture, engineering, and construction business break it.”

They break it because they’ve been led to believe in rainbows and unicorns. They break it because they can’t recognize the pull of commitment/consistency. They break it because they fear losing something they never had to begin with.

And yet, this rule is so stupid simple that anyone can follow it.

Here’s the rule:

If you can prove it works, do it more. If you can’t prove it works, stop doing it.

Why? Well, Handal explains the challenge in part because of the “pull of commitment/consistency” — when you buy into something, you are reluctant to let go, even though it isn’t the best way to do things. But I think there is another, greater challenge — the sales cycle length.

(This message is not for the fast-selling guys canvassing for aluminum siding and driveway sealing services, but covers virtually everyone else.)

Generally, in our business we sell relatively high-ticket services, with major decision-making implications, and a lengthy thought/processing time from original contemplation to final conclusion. This means sample sizes are small, and results from scientific testing are difficult to assess — at least within our normal mental thinking life cycle. We can of course break things down into smaller pieces, and test these, and use general data to validate our perceptions — but we have trouble gathering enough of a sample in a reasonable time for true scientific measurement. Worse, we may be swayed by an immediate previous experience, and that experience could have been an exception rather than the rule.

The challenges are even higher in assessing results of secondary marketing methods. We know that most of our business arises from repeat and referral leads — at least if you are to believe this blog’s unscientific poll which you can see in the sidebar. If (on average) only 13 per cent of your business arises from advertising, and we might sell three to 20 projects/jobs a year,  how can you achieve a large enough sample to measure the effectiveness of Advertisement A vs Advertisement B, in any reasonable time length?

Then you can add the seemingly contradictory experiences we can explain scientifically (if we try) but seem counter-intuitive at first.  For example, the concept of giving, sharing, and informing without worrying about return or actual sales results is sometimes hard to fathom — and we sometimes blow this powerful opportunity by stepping in too early to ask for the order.

Nevertheless, despite these limitations, I think you should pay close heed to Handal’s thoughts:

Review your results and stop doing what doesn’t work

The annual business planning review is a good opportunity for you to really think about whether you are getting results, or not, from your initiatives.Test different variables and see what works and doesn’t and cut the stuff that really doesn’t work

Review best practices from others and see whether you are following the guidelines

If referral and repeat business is truly important, do you have organized systems to encourage and expand the referral and repeat business potential. If (for many people in the A/E community) live presentations are truly effective methods of developing leads, relationship and business, are you scheduling these presentations — and learning/practising effective speech-making and presentation skills?

Build a measurement/evaluation process into your core business systems

You might use something like the “Net Promoter Score” or ensure you have a process to track leads from source to conclusion.  You’ll discover the value of this information in future months/years when you are evaluating your initiatives and ideas.

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