Monday, April 23, 2012


“Build it and they will come.” That famous line, inspired by the movie Field of Dreams was a source of inspiration for builders everywhere. The efforts of an Iowa farmer who turns a cornfield into a ballpark that attracts the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and other players banned in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. The 1989 movie uses the cornfield ballpark as a metaphor for doing something you believe in and sticking with it as an act of faith.

Maybe some of the well documented greed, hubris and sometimes criminal profits of the last few decades naturally lead us to our current state-of-mind. Development, without faith in individual projects and confidence in general, results in an unwillingness to make bold moves and invest in the future. Innovative thinking is missing. Architecture, engineering, construction, real estate and development can only prosper in an environment where investment is fueled by at least a moderate feeling of confidence. The uncertainty implied by The Conference Board which tries to measure consumer confidence with regularly tracking of attitudes reflected in how people respond to their overall opinion of the near term economic future has been discouraging.

At the risk of stating the obvious: We need confidence. The global economy will rebound and stabilize. We need to be thinking about the future again. We need to find the enthusiasm that once seemed to be everywhere. Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day and a Journey of a Thousand Miles… Eventually some smart visionary leaders will take the first steps toward the future we’ll all build together. I hope the people with that courage are rewarded and we all emerge stronger and better and end up with beautiful aesthetic, green, reliable and sustainable structures.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Marketing Makes a Difference in St. Louis

Too often the gold-standard for excellence in marketing are big companies. The leadership of Steve Jobs at Apple and his attention to design and functionality; The brilliant use of Michael Jordan celebrity endorsements for Nike; Nordstrom’s commitment to retail customer service; and Southwest Airline’s lighthearted approach to no-frills air travel to name just a few. They are all inspiring success stories.

Small business owners can learn much from their examples. However, in the process of preparing for a marketing presentation in a St. Louis suburb (Kirkwood, Missouri) it dawned on me that local examples of marketing innovation might be more fun for the members of Chamber of Commerce to ponder. Here you go. Five (5) terrific examples of businesses in the St. Louis region that deserve recognition for making marketing the point of difference. 

1. Frederic Roofing – For a hole in your roof, or a whole new roof, Frederic Roofing! St. Louisans have all heard the radio jingle and understand in an instant the positioning of this company.

2. Pleats – Dry cleaners who will pick up and drop off your dry cleaning. The company has just two locations but once you have seen their retro images on their pick up and delivery vehicles and you learn about their approach to business, you can’t help but be drawn to a completely different dry cleaner experience.

3.Waterway Gas & Wash – Waterway offers a range of services for detailing your vehicle. They hustle and they offer added value. It almost makes your forget about the price of Gasoline. The St. Louis based company has locations in St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver metropolitan areas. Clearly the business model is scalable.

4.NaDoz Café, with just two locations in St. Louis, offers everything you would expect from a Starbucks but with more attention to menu and convenience while expanding slowly but surely into early evening offerings as a Wine Bar.

5. TriLeaf Designs is an advertising services firm that doesn’t want to be a giant mega agency. They love small business. The owner of the shop is satisfied with managing a full menu of services for a small business to present itself as a brand with a fully integrated marketing program from business cards to robust web and social media strategy.

If you live in St. Louis you may be familiar with these companies. If you live elsewhere, I’m sure there are examples in your community of entrepreneurs applying the principals of marketing to differentiate themselves to win business and grow.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Price Sensitive

Brand A, is a mature brand and has a strong following. Brand A customers have a strong preference of that product and are willing to pay for it. The premium they pay for Brand A is part of the value of that brand. If enough loyal customers routinely buy that product, Brand A will be able to continue to invest in those things that create a preference in the first place. Profit is in that equation as long as Brand A can sell well enough to maintain a healthy market share. Consumers are always challenged to consider alternatives. So Brand B enters the market. Brand B is a parity product that aggressively uses price to obtain market share. The gamble here is that enough of the Brand A consumers will consider the lower cost alternative but Brand B cannot maintain the lower price strategy. (Eventually Brand A and Brand B will cost the same.)

Brand C enters the mix. Brand C is cheaper. It is less expensive to produce and It doesn’t pretend to deserve a premium price. Now consumers will have a lower cost alternative. The good folks who bring you Brands A and Brand B have to evaluate their relative positions. Brand A and Brand B want to continue to battle for the premium price position and Brand C believes a reasonable share of the target customers will accept the compromise. Brand C believes if it can capture 40% of the market they will make an acceptable profit. Brand A and Brand B both believe 50% share is needed to survive and grow. If those assumptions are true someone will have to lose.

Brand A To respond to competition and avoid lowering its price, Brand A decides to increase its advertising to reinforce messages of quality ingredients and superior performance.
Brand B To obtain market share Brand B reduces price during promotional windows and limits advertising to price promotions only - Buy One/Get One, 50% off coupons etc.
Brand C No advertising but aggressive in-store merchandising - end aisle displays and signage.

 Given the price strategies above, who do you think will prevail among these three brands? 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stay Connected

The digital age we now live in is making us all into chroniclers of our own lives. We are doing it with such regularity and so close up and personal we may be losing sight of any bigger picture. Without taking any time to reflect we post, blog, pin, tweet and generally document everything. I don’t know about you but for me the ability to record every trivial detail of my existence as it happens and in real time is starting to bug me a little. Do we all need this much transparency in our lives? I’m happy to hear how you are doing in broad strokes but I don’t need a full accounting of your meals, your comings, your goings, your concerts, your kids, your movies, your TV shows, your sports (as spectator or as participant) not to mention your world view on politics, religion, global warming and what you will do in the event you win the next Mega Million Dollar Lottery. It’s just too much. (Or too much of too little, I’m not sure).  

Blogging is getting out of hand too. I bet the late Andy Rooney of Sixty Minutes fame is laughing and doing a special broadcast in the afterlife somewhere that starts something like this: “Did you ever wonder how those folks on Earth got along without the internet?”  

I know I’m guilty of feeding the frenzy myself too. I am a frequent contributor for a civic organization and I write a website blog dedicated to real estate and construction. I write three blogs of my own (for the heck of it) at a rate of approximately twice a month. (It works out to more than 30,000 words a year for me). I wish I could say I was writing the next Great American Novel but I’m pretty sure my revelations, while amusing at times, are not all that earth shattering.

All that being said, I love checking in on my kids, friends and family. I’m pleasantly surprised to get an unexpected announcement of a wedding, a birthday or a graduation. You see, this blog has no conclusion or point of view. It just is…