Technology and construction marketing: When to move forward; when to hold back

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Most of us with a little (or a lot) of grey hair remember the dot-com boom of the late 90s/early 2000s. After awareness of the Internet reached popular consciousness in the mid-to-late 90s, a surge of businesses launched and raised capital, visualizing a future of massive interconnection and e-commerce. A few survived to become giants (Google/Amazon) but most crashed and burned on the shoals of outrageously expensive funding, ill-defined business plans, inadequate technology and the lack of market awareness/acceptance.

Fast forward to the present, and it seems that the visions for the Internet — especially e-commerce — have proven to be accurate, just about two decades late.

The process of technological adaptation and evolution can indeed be a challenge for anyone in business. If you go “all in” too quickly, you end up burned — if you wait and stick you head in the sand, new and sometimes old competitors can come out of left field and damage your market presence.

In this regard, (in that my business started even earlier, in the beginnings of the “desktop publishing” era back in 1988-89), I’ve come to appreciate that there are some real advantages in having a forward-thinking business approach, but a realistic view of how and when to introduce/adopt technology. My view: The payback or return on investment for capital for initiatives needs to be measured in months rather than years, but you can quite often achieve high yield/low-cost results with some solid awareness and connectivity.

As an example, building and optimizing an effective website and social media presence need not bleed your resources. You can certainly pay specialized industry consultants to co-ordinate this work for a few thousand dollars or, if you want to dig in and do things yourself, probably get good results with a cash investment of less than $1,000. You should budget/plan on the site getting an overhaul at least once every three years; and be able to manage more immediate updates almost instantly.

You can also learn by attending/participating in industry association events and conferences. I got a good lesson of this learning in process yesterday at the Renovators Council meeting at the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association (GOHBA). A software vendor used the opportunity through a web conference to pitch his technology designed, he said, to integrate the job management and client/supplier relationships (and marketing) for renovation projects.

There was a question-and-answer, but the biggest surprise came at the end of the meeting, when the presenter left the scene and one of the city’s largest and most successful renovation contractors described his company’s experience with the program. “Yes, it does what it says it does,” he said. “The issue is what it doesn’t do — and that is unsaid until you try to use it.”

The contractor then went on to make clear that the software isn’t a magic solution, but it is inexpensive enough that it is worth the risk to continue using. He said the optimal client will be someone who is above a one-person band, but not a huge or larger organization. Refreshing insights, indeed.

I’ll be giving a presentation on the implementation of technology and how to adopt it at Construct Canada in Toronto on Nov. 30. See more details here.

Let’s be aware of technology’s power and impact on our marketing and business development processes, but be prudent in how we implement and introduce the newest and best “bells and whistles” to our processes.

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