“Get it in writing” — Applying a “cause” marketing challenge to your business

marketing data
If you want to present an effective marketing strategy, it helps to have the numbers to support or validate your assertions

Gary Sharp, director of renovator services at?the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA). has provided renovators some marketing muscle to tackle the underground economy. However, his presentation goes beyond the specific and very real challenge of overcoming unfair competition and demonstrates how effective market research and analysis (and understanding of marketing science) can shape your marketing campaign design.

Sharp visited the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) Renovators’ Council?to deliver his message. This turned out to be easy to do. Although Sharpe represents a national association, which won a $745,000 three-year government grant to support the “Get it in Writing” campaign, Ottawa, after all, is Canada’s capital and where CHBA has located its head office (just as many U.S. associations locate their headquarters in the Washington, DC area.)

His presentation, though not lengthy, was packed with marketing nuggets, so I’ll spread the reporting over a few blog posts, summarizing the observations — and how they can apply to your business, even though you may be far from being a Canadian renovation contractor. The specific examples may differ, but you can apply the model to your own circumstances and competitive challenges

Sharp?started out by defining the problem and the market (something you should do for any marketing challenge.)

In this case, he said overall, the shadow economy represents about 2.3 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. (The “shadow economy” includes some perfectly legal activity — you can have some friends over??to do a bit of voluntary “work” ?and not need to report the trade-out transactions, for example.) The underground economy includes activities that are either illegal (such as drug dealing) or illegal in the way they are done (the under-the-table non-reported commercial work, such as renovations-for-unreported-cash.)

He had more statistics. Apparently 28 per cent of the underground economy arises from the construction industry, the largest of any industry, and representing about $12 billion nation-wide. ?Furthermore, 50 per cent of small renovation projects ($5,000 or less) are done under-the-table.

“The residential construction industry in Ottawa is responsible for approximately?$3.8 billion in economic activity. This suggests the underground economy takes up $476 million in new home and $616 million in renovations. There’s a lot of money being generated in (the local) ?renovation industry?happening under the table.”

Now I didn’t ask Sharp to provide documentation to support these assertions. I trust him. However, you can see how providing quantifiable data makes the case more authoritative.

Sharp went on to describe how major corporations such as Apple and Starbucks succeed in marketing when they aren’t competing on price.

  • They cover the basics very well
  • They change terms of engagement
  • They redefine competitive benchmarks for quality and service in a way that advantages you.
  • They make it very difficult for your competitors to ‘match’ you.

He said you need to cover?the basics, regardless of your circumstances:

  • Be responsive
  • Communicate and stay connected with customers
  • Manage expectations and deliver what you promise
  • Handle problems quickly and effectively, never strand your customer
  • Project a consistent professional image in every aspect of your company

However, he said to succeed in overcoming the underground economy, you’ll need to achieve the “Gold Standard.” ?I’ll cover this in the next posting.


  1. You’ll present a much stronger marketing case if you have data to support your assertions. Market research can help you outline the scope of your challenges, and provide the compelling arguments for action.
  2. There are certain marketing standards that apply regardless of your industry or circumstance. ?You need to get these right because they are prerequisites for more specific success strategies

Next: Psychology, customer typing, and fear-resolving (or inducing) strategies.


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