Bill Graham, legendary concert promoter and impresario said the above quote in regards to one of his favorite bands to work with: the Grateful Dead. Since today is the 22nd anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing, I thought it would be fun to tie in today’s post with something related to the Dead…

Matt Handal, SMPS rock star, head of marketing for a highly successful consulting firm in the A/E/C industry, author of the best book I know of on responding to RFPs, and just an all around neat guy, posted yet another intriguing post at his website, Help Everybody Every Day. The post: Architects and Engineers Suffer From Mass Superiority Delusion.

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Stuart Kaplow posted an update at Green Building Law Update on a settlement between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and four paint manufacturers over "unsubstantiated" claims regarding paint products marked as free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Per California law, paints sold for residential application must meet stringent requirements regarding VOC content, and as is often the case, other jurisdictions have followed California's lead.

Here's more:

The four companies, Benjamin Moore & Co., Inc., ICP Construction Inc., YOLO Colorhouse, LLC, and Imperial Paints, LLC, have agreed to consent orders that would bar them from making unqualified VOC free and emission free claims.

VOCs are chemical compounds that easily evaporate at room temperatures. All paints emit chemicals during the painting process and while drying. Some of these chemicals can be harmful to the environment and people, especially to sensitive groups such as babies and those suffering from asthma or allergies. Arguably there is no zero VOC paint, but that was not the basis of these complaints.

In these four complaints, the FTC charged each company with making “unsubstantiated” claims that their paints were free of emissions and/or that they contained no VOCs, without any qualification (e.g., after X number of hours). The FTC also charged the companies with facilitating deception by retailers who sold their paint. Additionally, in its complaints against Benjamin Moore and ICP Construction, the FTC alleged that the companies marketed their paint using “Green Promise” and “Eco Assurance” environmental seals, respectively, without disclosing to consumers that they had awarded the seal to their own products.

In the past, several paint manufacturers got busted over misleading claims regarding VOC content because while the white base paints free of any pigment could indeed meet ultra-low VOC requirements, the pigments themselves contained extremely high levels of VOCs. So a contractor trying to comply with state law might inadvertently violate that law if the customer requested any other color besides white.

Mark Buckshon’s wonderfully rich blog, Construction Marketing Ideas, is in my humble opinion, perhaps the best resource there is for growing businesses in the architecture, engineering and construction industry. Every day, without fail, a new post is published that provides actionable advice, provokes thought, or forces one to question their own previously held assumptions.

And while I am of the opinion that Mark’s blog is one of the best construction-related blogs there is, he has removed himself from consideration for such an honor by instead hosting an annual Best Construction Blog competition. So who won this year’s competition? Oldcastle Building Solutions.

To congratulate the winner, Buckshon conducted a live interview via Google Hangouts to learn more about the not-so-secret tactics and strategies implemented by the Oldcastle marketing team:

Heather Pacinelli, director, digital marketing at Oldcastle Building Solutions, has made herself available for a video interview to discuss the blog’s success behind winning the 2017 Best Construction Blog competition. […]

The blog serves a variety of purposes, including uniting Oldcastle’s diversity of building products and services — educating clients who may not know about everything the business offers.

Here’s the video of their conversation:

Wowzers! That’s my general response to a controversy that has been brewing over the last several weeks among marketers responsible for promoting architecture, engineering and construction professional services.

It all started when Professional Services Management Journal (PSMJ) published a list-based article called, “8 Reasons You Shouldn’t Do A/E Marketing,” which started out as follows: (more…)

Consulting is, in my opinion, one of the most noble professions that exists. Sadly, too many freelancers, subcontractors and outsourced laborers have diluted the meaning of the word “consultant.” For the purposes of this article, let’s agree that the true definition of a consultant is a professional who leverages many years of experience, knowledge, and training, often applying their own unique intellectual property, in order to improve their client’s outcome in a given situation.

So without clients, a consultant is actually just a pundit.

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to being successful as a consultant, therefore, is attracting clients and winning assignments.

Merilee Kern, writing for the Innovation Enterprise Strategy blog, observed the following:

But, even in a trade that’s rife with profit potential, actually earning that pot of gold can be extraordinarily difficult given there are two-plus million consultants, coaches, trainers, and similar professionals all fighting to find clients, win projects and make a living. Roughly half of these consultants are solo practitioners or in boutique firms—and the sad reality is most boutique consulting firms are perpetually six months away from bankruptcy. Their ‘new business procurement’ engine sputters along resulting in a persistent struggle to grow larger, while solo consultants capture average annual revenue under $70,000 (compared to $250,000 per consultant across the entire industry). To explore this disconnect, I connected with David A. Fields, author of ‘The Executive’s Guide to Consultants,’ and the soon-to-be-released follow-up title, ‘ The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients .’ Himself a multi-million-dollar-earning independent consultant, this ‘expert’s expert’ has some sage advice on how people can realize success in the consulting trade—a profession, he concedes, that can be ‘as problematic as it is profitable.’ Since Fields has coached hundreds of successful consultants and other independent practitioners around the world on how to ‘make it rain,’ I asked him the obvious question: ‘Why do so many struggle in this field?’ Quite unequivocally, he asserted that too many consultants—the majority, in fact—are completely missing the mark with respect to their baseline approach and overarching mindset. To help give independent consultants a clearer path to that coveted yet elusive goal of financial freedom through what ‘could’ be a lifestyle-friendly career, here are six of Fields’ pragmatic, eye-opening tips:

  1. Think Right-Side Up
  2. Maximize Impact
  3. Build Visibility
  4. Connect, Connect, Connect
  5. Become the Obvious Choice
  6. Propose, Negotiate & Close

Make sure to read the full article for detailed explanations of Fields’ tips for closing more business as a consultant.

Whether you are in a formal marketing role, or if you are a consultant or small business owner, the only way to continue to connect with clients/prospects is to make sure that your marketing outreach is as effective as it can be. Since marketing best practices are constantly shifting, that means that we as professionals must continue to invest in learning from the successes and failures of other marketers.

Josh Steimle, CEO of marketing agency MWI, and author of a book called Chief Marketing Officers at Work, has published a list of 10 books he recommends reading in 2017 to improve your marketing game. Here is the list:

  1. “They Ask You Answer” by Marcus Sheridan
  2. “Non-Obvious 2017” by Rohit Bhargava
  3. “SEO for Growth” by John Jantsch and Phil Singleton
  4. “Hug Your Haters” by Jay Baer
  5. “Pre-Suasion” by Robert Cialdini Ph.D.
  6. “Get Scrappy” by Nick Westergaard
  7. “What Customers Crave” by Nicholas Webb
  8. “Invisible Influence” by Jonah Berger
  9. “Hacking Marketing” by Scott Brinker
  10. “Digital Sense” by Travis Wright and Chris Snook

Check out Josh’s post at Mashable for descriptions of each book, and why it is relevant to your ongoing professional development.

Patagonia is a company I first learned about through my high school government teacher, who happened to have been a longtime friend of the founder of the company. The two had shared many adventures backpacking and hiking in remote locations over the years, and as my teacher at the time shared, the company’s image as granola-munching and tree-hugging hippies was quite authentic indeed.

Balancing altruistic and humanistic ideals with the need for business profitability is a dance Patagonia has performed well for decades, as Fast Company recently chronicled:

Sustainable business practices, corporate transparency, authentic brand marketing, family-friendly and flexible employee policies—flip through the business pages of any paper or magazine, or conference panel discussions, and you’ll find these are all de rigueur right now among progressive brands and companies looking for ways to connect with and retain both consumers and employees. They’re also all things Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wrote extensively about more than a decade ago in his 2006 business memoir, Let My People Go Surfing.

The small iron works and climbing equipment shop Chouinard founded in 1957 has since expanded into a global brand, reaching more than $750 million in sales, and since current CEO Rose Marcario’s arrival in 2008 as CFO, a compound annual growth rate of 14%, and profits have tripled. Perhaps confounding to some, the company has done this while maintaining a strict commitment to sustainablility in its products and supply chain—whether its using 100% organic cotton and creating neoprene-free surfing wetsuits, to a marketing campaign encouraging people to buy less of its products. Though the company’s core philosophies remain the same, Chouinard has published a 10th anniversary update of his book to “share what we have done in the last decade and what we plan to do in the decade ahead to achieve our goals.”

Over at Adweek, Jason Snyder has a great piece on who the real target demographic might be for marketing: robots.

Whoever is closest to the consumer controls the conversation. But it’s not you who’s closest—it’s the machines. The good news for marketers is that unlike fickle, demographic-defying consumers, robots are consistent—staying true to their programming. For now anyway. And talking to them requires speaking their language—and increasingly that language is less about understanding 1’s and 0’s and more about simple, normal words.