Counting progress with simple marketing strategies

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We’re continuing our marketing to develop Ontario Construction News. The primary customer-building tool continues to be direct mail, (about 80 per cent) followed by Google Ads, association and joint venture partnership relationships, and a smattering of referral inquiries.

As we develop the business, I’m reminded that the ideal marketing strategy for your business will be very different from ours. You may of course (if you are in a relatively common trade or profession) look how your peers handle their marketing and business development, especially if they are not competitors (in other cities, for example, with similar demographics to yours).

But undoubtedly you will have some unique qualities and in fact you need these to develop your Unique Selling Proposition or USP — your differentiating quality. This has to be something that resonates with your potential clients, and generally you can tell you are NOT on the right track if your best marketing message is “great customer service” or “we guarantee the lowest price”.

(If you truly offer an incredible price value, of course, go ahead and state it. This is part of our USP — but we are in the special place of breaking a 30-to 40-year publishing monopoly. But if you are in a well-developed competitive market I can’t see how you can hope to win on price unless something else exceptional is happening with your business.)

Once you have your USP sorted, you need to figure out the best way to communicate this message to your potential clients, and unfortunately there are many different marketing services and media that will all assert they are the best or most effective. And each has pitfalls, unless you are careful.

Take Google Ads for example. I have an exceptionally close relationship with Google, as a Product Expert on the AdSense ad serving program — I’ve just come back from a three-day expense-paid meet-up in Boulder, CO. And I thought it would be easy to make Google Ads work for the long-tail of our market; the new advertisers who need to place the specialized Certificate of Substantial Performance (CSP) ads.

But everything went haywire at the start, when keyword fees went well above what I though they should be in a non-competitive market.  (After all, our business is the only one seeking to purchase these paid advertisements.) Finally, after much expense, using third-party service Wordstream.com, and figuring out the right way to use “negative keywords” to screen out unsuitable responses, our Google Ads costs have reached the right point where they are sustainable, generating a few worthy leads each week at a reasonable cost.

Our biggest success, direct mail, may make sense for your business, especially if you can define your target audience and market. We have a list now of about 1,500 qualified names and we are able to segment that list into a priority list of 100 super-potential clients.

My sales team reported this week that we have converted seven of the Top 100 — so we will continue a rotating strategy with a special mailing to the prime candidates, followed by a more general mailing. Ultimately, we’ll experience diminishing returns, but our assessment of lifetime marketing value suggests we are on the right track.

Our marketing methods work for the specific market, knowing our target, with relatively high volume and frequent orders for a service that costs a few hundred dollars per order.

This won’t work if you are building $8 million schools, or for that matter, $50,000 renovations — at least in the number of responses you will receive from your marketing investment.

Think, plan, pull the trigger (you have to take action), and assess . . .ultimately, if you combine discipline and perseverance, you’ll achieve construction marketing success.

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