Construction marketing: Learning from the old and new

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world in hand imageThis is the era of social media, individually-created video, massive, outrageous network sizes (if you are using LinkedIn, you’ll know how big your network is, when you go to third degree of separation.) Yet, these new media and social changes belie the fact that the old stuff still really works best: Reputation for quality, word-of-mouth, the personal touch.

Look at the ongoing sidebar Construction Marketing Ideas poll to validate this point, and for inspiration if you aren’t into marketing as much as you are into doing a great job. The number fluctuates by a point or two, as more people complete the poll, but nevertheless at present 72 per cent of everyone who has completed it (several hundred) say that most of their business arises from existing clients and word-of-mouth reputation, with word-of mouth still leading, at 41 per cent.

Thus, as always has been the case, anything you can do to encourage more business from your existing clients and (even better) more positive referrals, will produce higher and more effective results at lower costs than any other form of marketing you can consider.

This advice may seem counter-intuitive to offer when our business is primarily selling paid advertising, and even that, most of the advertising cost is for print media, but indeed we’ve put the rules to effect quite effectively in our own business practices. We appreciate (as you should) that to earn the repeat and referral business that will be the engine of your growth, you must be extremely responsive to current clients, respectful, creative, and do everything you can to deliver value beyond the obvious.

(Though don’t discount the “obvious”. If you are a plumber or electrician, for example, delivering the service at the agreed-on price, competently and with respect for the eclient’s schedule and environment  still counts for a lot!)

The biggest danger in construction marketing occurs when you try to take shortcuts. Sure, you need to monitor and participate in social media both to listen to your clients and be ready for reputation management crises. How do you handle the loose cannon — the employee who screws up on a client who is an influential blogger or has a gigantic Facebook or LinkedIn network? Yes, Google has replaced the Yellow Pages (in most cases) as the most effective “cold” advertising method to attract new leads, but are you wasting funds on ineffective keyword advertising or, worse, paying “consultants” for bad search engine optimization advice.)

Finally, you are in grave danger business-wise if you put all your energies exclusively into passively receiving repeat and referral business. Your growth will depend on discovering effective marketing methods to capture the remaining 36 per cent (or more) of the market, and while these approaches can be more expensive, they will still provide the fuel for growth. Where should you put your energies? For business-to-business marketers, I think relevant associations with speaking engagements can be highly effective; for business-to-consumer clients, you will want to look at the right forms of community engagement and leadership. But, heck, even print and conventional online advertising can still work really well, especially if you work with a publisher who cares about his word-of-mouth reputation (Shameless self-plug, you can reach me at buckshon@cnrgp.com, and see some background here.)

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