Old and new marketing communications methods: Which approaches are best, and when?

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Earlier this week, as the possibiity of a national postal service strike moved from the periphery of my attention-span, I received this email from a reader of the weekly Construction Marketing Ideas electronic newsletter (you can subscribe on the sidebar link).

I’m glad you mentioned inbound links at the bottom of your email.  The biggest question for my company’s web site right now is SEO and SEM…. I get calls from local and national companies wanting to set me up with all these monthly programs – back-links and google ad words and you name it… and spend as ‘much as I want’ on certain things and then pay up to $1500 a month for the stuff they do.  I can’t figure out how to show the value in that to my managers.  That’s like another salary. And with construction margins so low or missing on projects these days, I’m sorry SEO guy but “one sale” or “one new client” being directed to my web site to call me for a project or contract is not necessarily going to pay for all this online marketing and get my money back.  They don’t seem to understand that while the potential client may like us, there is most likely still going to be a bid process, and a pre qualifying process, and they may not have the job to begin with. So our chances of winning that one job just went down to 5 or 10 per cent.  It’s not like someone searching for a T-shirt supplier online and find a web company they like and call them with an order.

Construction marketing indeed does seem to be its own discipline/monster, etc….   Thanks again for the book and the newsletters!

Just 15 years ago, words like SEO and SEM would, truthfully, not mean anything to anyone, and the idea of an “electronic newletter” would seem crazy.  Marketing communications for the AEC community relied primarily on print media, the phone, in-person meetings and conferences.  You might stretch things by faxing.  If you were fortunate enough to be famous or a really good writer, a book would propel you to higher recognition, simply because ‘getting published’ meant something meaningful (unless you were foolish enough to fork over several thousand dollars to a vanity publisher.)

How has this changed the way we do things?  Well, I notice now I get far fewer soliciting phone calls (and in fact far fewer phone calls overall — and generally virtually every “stranger” call is a solicitation!  Obviously, I also receive many more emails; and an incredibly larger number never see my computer screen because they are stopped by spamblocks.  I admit I read the newspaper much less than before, getting more of my news online (either with the computer or Ipad.)  Conferences and in-person meetings seem to be even more important than before, resulting in some ironic contrasts.  After a year working with Google’s online forums — and actually achieving some status that allows me direct contact with some Google employees — by email, only — I received an invitation to a massive in-person summit in Santa Clara CA.  So we are going straight from email to a full fledged all expense paid trip to create face-to-face connections.

I think effective AEC marketing these days combines  truly accelerated electronically-spurred  in -person and word-of-mouth communication (Facebook and LinkedIn play to this space) with a mix of older techniques including conferences, association participation and speaking opportunities.  Intrusive and rote marketing approaches including spammy phone call and emails generally backfire.  Respecting time and priorities of the people to whom we wish to work is vital.  And, yes, the hand-written thank you note still has a valuable place in the story.  So the Post Office isn’t quite dead, yet.

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