When people compliment Colorado Hardscapes Inc.’s marketing department, I tend to smile just a bit. People often mistakenly think our decorative concrete company operates like a large corporation, with multiple staff just waiting for their next task. In reality, we operate lean, especially in today’s economic conditions.
Our marketing department consists of yours truly and a part-time sales and marketing assistant. In addition to being head of marketing, my responsibilities include sales, business development, estimating, concrete consulting and project management with a few odds-and-ends roles thrown into the mix when urgency demands or time permits.
So how do we market without full-time resources? I can’t tell you all of our secrets, but simply put, it’s a matter of prioritizing and planning.
Set your marketing goals
First, you need to determine the importance of marketing in your company’s overall goals. If one of your goals is to make your company more widely known, marketing should be given equal status with quality production, staffing and infrastructure.
Once marketing’s importance is established, you will need to develop a workable marketing plan. A marketing plan, like any goal, should give you reasonable guidelines to follow but not hold you hostage. Begin by answering the following questions:
- Who is your audience (landscape architects, architects, engineers, owners, developers, general contractors, homeowners, etc.)?
- What type of work is your current primary source of revenue (government, residential, commercial, institutional, medical, retail, etc.)? Are there any of these that you would like to add to your customer list?
- How much are you willing to spend towards marketing? (A general rule of thumb is to spend 5 percent of your gross revenue in today’s current conditions, 10 percent if you want to do a big push and break into a market.)
- What marketing tasks can you realistically do in-house and what areas might you need to outsource (for example, your website maintenance, printing or graphic design)?
- Establish short-term and long-term goals. Make all of your goals attainable. Focus on achieving some of the short-term goals first to give you a sense of accomplishment.
One of our short-term goals at Colorado Hardscapes involves our website. We do all of our website updates in-house through good old-fashioned HTML coding. I have a set goal to update our website on a quarterly basis. This can be with projects in progress, a new case study, or other relevant news. For us, website updates are relatively simple but show immediate results. When our website is updated, the search engine robots are triggered to crawl our site again to help our website positioning as well as provide fresh content to our customers.
Long-term client development
Colorado Hardscapes tackles both short-term and long-term objectives. For long-term client targets, we focus on developers, designers, and large commercial or mixed-use developments. Because of this focus, we center some of our marketing efforts on business development by giving presentations to the design community and actively participating in local associations where our target market congregates.
Determine who in the design community would be a good match for what your company offers. Then approach just a few of these with the offer of a presentation. If you keep your goals realistic, you will not be overwhelmed with an impossible task. Presentations take a concentrated commitment both in time and money. Each presentation takes about 8 hours including booking, preparing, presenting and follow-up. At presentations, use visual aids and leave something behind for the designer’s library — samples, a design book or your most recent brochure.
Associations to look into
How should you choose which associations to join? Get creative. Remember, most of your clients will congregate where they think their next customer congregates. Go to a general contractors’ or architects’ association and you will rarely find the decision-makers you seek. Those groups have value, and I encourage you to participate in industry associations, but for drumming up new business, branch out a bit more.
The associations that have the most impact for Colorado Hardscapes and me are generally the ones right on the cusp of our industry.
My favorite is the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), a commercial real estate development association. Decision-makers always attend and are heavily involved. For Colorado Hardscapes, whose target market is high-end commercial projects, being able to get directly in front of developers and owners is beneficial. Plus, that is where some GCs and architects have decided to plug in as well, since their clients are involved with NAIOP.
Another favorite is the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). Their target is marketing professionals in the A/E/C (architecture, engineering and construction) industry. Again, it puts me in the room with other marketers who represent some of our key clients. Since they are fellow marketers, they understand the struggle of getting a foot in a door, so they help out as much as they can once relationships are established.
Once you find an association that aligns with your growth goals, become involved in a committee. That will throw you into the crowd much quicker and help you establish strong key relationships. Association dues and events can add up quickly and deplete any marketing budget, so be committed to those you join to get the most impact. Associations take about 8 hours per month per association between the monthly event and committee involvement. Prices range from $15 per month to $150 per month plus annual dues.
Effective follow-up requires a level of time commitment. Set realistic goals when trying to establish long-term relationships. Both presentations and association involvement are worthless without a degree of follow-up.
These examples are just a snapshot of our marketing efforts at Colorado Hardscapes. Remember:
- Have focused efforts,
- Set aside time for marketing and business development, and
- Follow up to establish long-lasting relationships.