Forward or lagging: The variable marketing challenge

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The early Apple computers created the opportunity for “desktop publishing” and a revolution in the publishing industry, in the 1980s.

I remember somewhat longingly the early days of my business, in 1988. “Desktop publishing” had just arrived on the scene. Instead of requiring expensive typesetting services, publishers could do this work themselves. The entry barriers to print-publishing declined dramatically, new skills in computer graphic design became vital, and I could start up my own newspaper with a bit of guts and a couple of thousand dollars in pre-paid advertising.

Today, of course, printed newspapers are experiencing free-fall declines in circulation and advertising revenue. They are trying to “reinvent” themselves, with digital offerings, but there are problems with this model — Online advertisers expectations for cost-per result sometimes are two orders of magnitude greater than they expected from print. (In other words, advertisers will┬ápay $2.00 for the ‘same results’ they might have paid $200 — or if you want to get extreme — $2,000 — before.)

There are different change forces affecting architectural, engineering and construction businesses. Some taking the lead with sustainability and environmentally-creative construction; others (fighting for traditional fixed bid work) have discovered their businesses struggling under the new trend for public-private partnerships, with massive and risky project bundling. Some businesses are effectively adapting and growing in these changing environments; others struggle and fail.

Your marketing challenges and opportunities, of course, depend on where you are in the cycle. If you are stuck in the past, you’ll find not much works. You’ll be telling an old story and no one will listen. If you are fortunate to be ahead of the process — or at least, to capture timeless elements with new approaches — you may find you can ride the wave and enjoy the high of exponentially increasing demand.

Sometimes there are no easy answers. Conventional print publishers, for example, face the prospect of shrinking their business costs by 90 per cent to retain the same overall advertising volume/value. That’s a daunting task, when overhead, salaries, and fixed costs (and debt) are baked into the picture.

One thing is clear: You can’t stick your head in the sand and expect things to go away. The world is changing, and we need to be ready to adapt, and hopefully catch the next wave of growth and opportunity.

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