The narrow or broad focus: How can we decide which path to take?

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Social-Media-AdThe two upcoming Construction Marketing Ideas webinars reflect one of the biggest challenges any architectural, engineering or construction businesses experiences in developing  marketing and business development strategies.

The upcoming Tuesday, Sept. 10 event, for example, focuses on prospecting — the first stage of the business development (selling) process.  Bobby Darnell, however, has geared his event not to the stereotypical sales person, but to the marketers and AEC principals — often professionals who have created or lead their practices or businesses, but would feel really uncomfortable if anyone thought them as working in “sales”.

Meanwhile, October’s webinar features Patrick King discussing thought leadership in the construction industry, and he looks at things from a very different perspective: The importance of developing a social media content and marketing strategy.

He provided some statistics for “food for thought”

  • In a 2012 CMA survey, 90% of construction marketers actively employ social media in their marketing strategy.
  • In that same study, 40% have claimed to steadily acquire sales leads from the activity in social media.
  • In a recent Forrester study, 62% of B2B marketers claim that featured article placements deliver the best ROI.
  • A recent USM survey uncovered that 70% of US B2B marketers have a content strategy in place.

Now, if you are wondering how the two elements of business correlate, you’ll certainly want to attend both webinars. Bobby Darnell’s core strategy for developing and building business leads is to effectively “mine” LinkedIn– without paying for a premium subscription or blasting poor professionals with ineffective spam messages. Meanwhile, King looks at how the online/social media processes play out in the branding/decision-making process.

Bobby Darnell
Bobby Darnell

Bear the marketing clichés here:  You can save a significant amount of money on your risk-free investment (100 per cent guarantee) by registering for both webinars — but you don’t have much time, as Darnell’s event is on Tuesday, Sept. 10, just a few days from now.

The bigger issue, however, is determining your focus and where you need to look outside your narrow speciality/field. For example, my blogging and writing have transcended the traditional gap between residential/consumer focused AEC marketing and business-to-business content. However, we know well that when your message is “we can do everything,” the market’s perception is generally you can do very little of anything well. Yet if you live purely within your niche and don’t learn about what is happening outside, you risk being overtaken by nimbler competitors who can cross-over and sell into your space.

My solution, and probably yours too, is to set some rules to determine the boundaries about where we tread, and rules for the exceptions to the rules.

I’ve determined we should focus only on the architectural, engineering and construction market, primarily in Canada and the U.S., and that our audience is within the industry at an interdisciplinary level, but not primarily for residential consumers. (Government and commercial owners of course are within the target.)

Originally, we also had policies not to venture from newsprint to magazine, retain a regional focus (but with several different regions), and not to think of the Internet except as a supporting vehicle for our existing regional print newspapers.

Then, five years ago, one of our association contacts insisted that I publish a residentially-focused consumer renovation magazine. I declined. He insisted. And then I learned how to put into operation one of the primary methods for market expansion and diversification — allow your clients to spur your decisions. I formed a joint venture with others capable of working in the business-to-consumer market, and we launched Ottawa Renovates magazine as a successful separate business.

Ottawa Renovates spring 2013 coverThen I took my newly learned magazine publishing knowledge back to my business-to-business market, and we applied these concepts to publish new (primarily web-based but with modest print circulation) specialized magazines for the AEC community. So we bridged the magazine vs. newspaper vs. online barriers.

How can you tie these threads together.

  1. Retain your focus and your “boundaries” but allow your current clients to influence your decision about where to expand outside of current scope
  2. Spend some time living in other spaces and learning about variations and new models — that is where the webinars help. You’ll infuse new ideas into your decision-making processes.

In other words, stick to your focus, but keep your eyes open to the wider world, and look for your client-driven opportunities to bridge into new places. Your business won’t lose its focus, but will be able to grow.

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