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Mark Buckshon is president of the Construction News and Report Group, which publishes regional and national construction periodicals and websites in the U.S. and Canada. He also writes for his daily blog Construction Marketing Ideas, and has taken a moment now to share his insight with marketing for the AEC community.
VT: How did you get into Construction Marketing?
MB: I have a background in journalism. In 1989, after attending a then-large new local construction trade show in Ottawa, Canada, where I live, I thought there might be a market for a regional construction industry publication. I didn’t really know anything about the industry then, but I have certainly learned much over the past 25 years. We now publish regional and national publications in Canada and the U.S. I started the blog when I realized that many businesses were purchasing advertising in our publications without knowing the least bit about effective marketing. It now serves a much wider audience.
VT: Since starting the Construction Marketing Ideas blog less than a decade ago, in what ways have you seen it make an impact for your readers?
MB: The blog turned out to be the first continuously-published blog focusing on architectural, engineering and construction marketing. It has opened up ideas and minds for marketing concepts and approaches. The annual Best Construction Blog competition, which started four years ago, highlights innovative blogs that have been successful for marketing. Nominations for the 2015 competition will open in December at ConstructionMarketingIdeas.com
VT: What creative marketing techniques are most effective in the construction industry?
MB: The simplest, and most effective, results occur when businesses provide a great client experience – and then connect with current and former clients for referrals and repeat business. Unfortunately, too many construction businesses proclaim: “We offer great customer service” – when the customers, not the company, need to say this (through genuine written and video testimonials).
Yes, many successful businesses in this industry passively rely on repeat and referral business. The repeat/referral volume certainly indicates the client experience has been successful, but the passive approach leaves incredible (and truly inexpensive) marketing capacity on the table. Conversely, an active, creative approach to encourage repeat and referral business includes developing events, programs and systematic processes.
VT: Do you have any examples of marketing working really well in this industry?
MB: There are some excellent examples of repeat/referral marketing initiatives such as this somewhat old, but still relevant, story about Maryland contractor Hopkins and Porter, which generated $375,000 in sales for a $2,000 investment when the company celebrated its 25th anniversary. The offer of some free handyman services in exchange for a lawn sign created good-will and incredible business volume. There are other stories like that out there, as well, including a Toronto contractor who scheduled a client-thank you dinner at an expensive restaurant, with a pre-dinner reception for the clients to bring/introduce their friends. That one I think cost a bit more than $2,000 but revenues reached $500,000 or more.
In the non-residential sector, the stories are more subtle. I don’t think contractors win multi-million public works projects through advertising and overt marketing, but through the effective personal relationship building, solid RFP and bidding go/no-go rules and effective client-focused association participation. There’s a wealth of information from the Society for Marketing Professional Services (www.smps.org), which I encourage marketers to join.
VT: What do you like most about what you do and why?
MB: When I was a young adult, I set out to learn a bit about the world, and achieved my goal of becoming a foreign correspondent by living as a journalist through the end of the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe civil war. I’ve retained my passion and interest in journalism and by discovering and learning new things, and sharing these observations with the community. I have the opportunity to learn new things every day.
VT: What’s the number one “don’t” that you have for construction businesses and their marketing strategies?
MB: I’ve published three “don’ts” as a free offer for anyone requesting a subscription to the no-charge weekly Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter. Simply put, they are wasting money on ineffective “charity” advertising, failing to have an adequate website and social media presence, and finally, believing that you don’t need to market because you rely on word-of-mouth and referrals. You can get more details at this link: 3 “Don’ts” from Construction Marketing Ideas
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