How to understand the construction marketing ecosystem

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Michelle Van Vliet and Ingrid Gingras from The Ottawa Hospital Foundation at the Merkley Supply Show

When Google disables (generally for lifetime) an AdSense account because the Googlebot senses something isn’t quite right about the nature and source of visitors and click-through behaviour of site viewers, the Google computer sends out a “goodbye” email with this wording:

With our advertising programs, we strive to create an online ecosystem that benefits publishers, advertisers and users. For this reason, we sometimes have to take action against accounts that demonstrate behavior toward users or advertisers that may negatively impact how the ecosystem is perceived. In your case, we have detected invalid activity on your site and your account has been disabled.

What is “an online ecosystem?” And how does the “ecosystem” concept translate to marketing and business development in the architectural, engineering and construction industry for both online and offline marketing and business development?

These are obviously rather large questions to ask but, in thinking about them, you’ll see that you cannot see any individual action or strategy in isolation and how a marketing idea that may be effective short-term can cause longer-range harm or (if you are thoughtful, aware of the environment, and able to adapt to your knowledge and experience), a small step and simple strategy may have extremely positive implications going forward.

Consider, for example, the banes of business development in our industry — the cattle-call public proposal opportunity, and the pure hard-rock cold call.

Both strategies are open almost always to almost everyone (who meets low qualifications and has the ability to tolerate lots of rejection and voice mail or unanswered emails.) In some cases, they are valid and effective options. However, they generally lead on the fast track to nowhere.

Others make it their business to contribute to relevant community groups and associations, especially by supporting charitable and non-profit activities. You can spend countless hours doing this work, seemingly without reward other than perhaps the satisfaction of doing some good. Or things can click: You build relationships, networks, sales and business — and you really achieve worthy results.

The best construction industry marketers combine all the positive relationships and initiatives and work hard to avoid/remove or reduce the negative aspects from the marketing process.

You can see this dynamic, for example, in yesterday’s posting about the Merkley Supply Limited show. Here, the retailer (Merkley Supply) has created a channel-building resource for the company’s distributors and product reps, while connecting with direct purchasers, influencers and revealing a community-at-large social spirit.

In our business, as a publisher, our sales representatives succeed generally when they go beyond the phone trying to pitch our services (direct sales) and discover ways they can actively serve their client communities. Undoubtedly relevant association membership and support are, for us, the most rational routes to make these contributions, but we extend this with support and publicity and time.

When you are thinking about a marketing or business development strategy, think about the bigger picture of how your activities and iniitiatives fit within the larger community — the marketing ecosystem. If you fail to consider this process, you might not receive the abrupt disabling email that Google sends some unfortunate publishers, but you may experience the same painful results: A total marketing fail.

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