Rethinking marketing: It is much more than advertising

cmi square

cmi squareThere’s a tendency to confuse construction marketing with one aspect of the marketing business: Paid promotion, or advertising. This isn’t too surprising. If businesses go where the money flows, then advertising, undoubtedly, captures the biggest segment of the marketing budget. My own business generates more than 95 per cent of its revenue from advertising sales, and most marketing-based businesses earn the bulk of their revenues either by selling advertising, or co-ordinating the advertising purchases for their clients. (I’m defining advertising broadly here — paid trade show participation, for example, is “advertising” in this context.)

However, the biggest marketing secret is that you really don’t need to spend much if any of your marketing energies on advertising — and your highest and most successful initiatives will generate revenue in themselves, more than they cost. In many cases, even when you are a multi-million dollar business, and have a massive advertising budget, this only supports and enhances your other true revenue-generating marketing initiatives.

(I’m writing here mostly about business-to-business marketing. In the business-to-consumer environment, serious advertising strategies can be the core of effective marketing; and we see this in the largest business-to-consumer contractors; who spend blow-the-competition-away budgets on paid advertising, because this provides the scale and volume of leads to support their enterprises.)

If paid advertising isn’t that important, where should you focus your marketing resources, then? Here are my thoughts.

Genuine community service and client-focused association leadership

From a marketing perspective, the associations you lead and your community involvement should correlate with your market interests, but you need to dissociate your self-interest from your genuine contributions. As an example, sub-trades and vendors may support local construction associations and lead charitable fund-raising projects that match their passions and community demographics

Internal operations — genuine client service — earning testimonials

I would trade most of my advertising budget for initiatives that truly empower employees and contractors to create client ‘wow’ experiences; or at least, avoid irritants such as the failure to return calls, or messy job sites. ?f you can earn spontaneous positive testimonials, you can go to the next stage — in actively collecting them — and use these in your advertising, website, and promotional materials. Of course, the word-of-mouth references will fuel your business growth and profitability

Media (social and general) and publicity

Good publicity, whether it be in social or conventional media, extends and expands your word-of-mouth and attracts more clients, at truly low cost. You don’t need to spend much money on these initiatives, but you need to be willing to reach out and connect with your current and potential clients.

Here is one way to put these concepts into perspective. This blog, my marketing books, voluntary association activities, and and other initiatives have helped to redefine our business and allowed us to sell massive amounts of advertising every year. Yet, we spend virtually none of our money on paid advertising (our biggest cash marketing budget is for association membership and participation.)

Of course, it is right for us to sell lots of advertising — that is our business. And of course, I want you to invest in advertising in our publications and websites. But (in an ironic twist that explains effective marketing), I know we’ll be able to sell you much more advertising by showing you how to be successful in marketing without spending a cent on conventional paid ads. Just think about genuine community service, solid internal operations, and effective media publicity and management, and you’ll discover the answers, too.

The media publicity aspect is where we can do some great things for you, with some leveraging and creativity. Please email me at and I’ll share some ideas with you, without fee.

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