Thanks to previous Best Construction Blog competition winner Christopher Gould for his inspiration for this posting with his own technology-focused blog posting.
Times have changed. Of course, I have grey hair and am approaching senior citizen status, but thankfully am among the older generation who have been able to embrace technology. The interest dates back to the 1980s, when I was among the first purchasers of a personal computer. (Then, early adaptors would go to hack shops where these devices were built from scratch in garages or spare bedrooms). I noticed the trend to “desktop publishing” in the mid 1980s, and this provided the impetus to start my own publishing business, with specialized regional (printed) real estate and construction industry publications. Heck, that business continues today — Ottawa Construction News started publishing in 1989-90.
Similarly, I recall the earliest Internet days, in the mid-1990s, when the World Wide Web was a brand new concept — and a few years later, sensing some awe and shock as a presenter explained this new form of search engine advertising with an auction-based sales model called Google. And, then, in the mid 2000s, I noticed that you could put Google ads on your own site and make money on them through AdSense. (However, while I have not yet cracked the code on how to “make money on the Internet you sleep”, I became enough of an authority on the program that Google now flies me to occasional summits and meet-ups as an AdSense help forum moderator.)
All of these changes have tossed and challenged conventional marketing practices, yet we don’t change easily. Industry association leaders who have been around longer than me (and with life expectancy increasing, it is quite easy to meet dynamic people in their 80s and 90s) tell me that while things have changed, the basic challenges have remained much the same.
Nevertheless, while architectural, engineering and construction marketing has changed through social media, search engine optimization, and even blogging, the stuff behind the scenes may be even more impressive, if you apply it properly. Accordingly, I’ll share two of the most powerful back-end resources that have changed the way I do business.
I now work with three (soon to be more) regular contractors in places like Pakistan and Bangladesh. One writes English as well (in fact better than) Canadian freelancers. I pay him $3.00 an hour. Another co-ordinates web data entries, fixes technical problems and launches and maintains my websites. He receives $1.50 (an hour). The third person handles data entry and list management — grunt work at the best of time. She gets 60 cents an hour.
This might be seen as exploitation, of course, but the pay is competitive with local market conditions in these third-world countries. The inexpensive support labour allows me to pay competitive wages/contract payments to employees and suppliers in Canada and the US, who get it — they forward repetitive, back-end-work to me for offshoring to free up their time. In other words, we have been able to increase productivity without threatening North American jobs.
These offshore resources are easily managed through two complementary services, elance.com and odesk.com. Elance has built a reputation for contract-based jobs, and Odesk traces its roots to an hourly based pay model. I have developed a preference for Odesk, even for one-off fixed price contract work, but won’t diss the other service.
The cost of storing and managing data has been dropping through the floor. Massive files can be managed and delivered in seconds (or maybe minutes if they are truly huge). This has implications for everyone seeking to communicate internally or save/store/archive important stuff. Two competing systems, Dropbox and Google Drive, help in this process, though there are others (Amazon has some really powerful back-end stuff, if you are a power-user). I’ve begun biasing to Google’s product, in part because Google has captured my brand loyalty. (There is something about receiving plane tickets to experience free hotel, food, and refreshments in interesting cities that, of course, influences brand loyalty.)
Neither offshoring nor cloud storage shout “marketing relevance” — in fact, you may wish to keep quiet about the offshoring, if you sense your market would be offended by shipping work to distant lands. Yet these systems shape my life and the way I do business.
What will be the next great thing (if it isn’t here already?)
Think about augmented reality, three-dimensional printing, voice-recognition software (already works wonders on my Android phone), and artificial intelligence that is so good that in some cases humans can truly be fooled by a computer’s “brains”.
Are you ready for the changes ahead?