Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax

Lincoln on Marketing.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. 

– Abraham Lincoln

Perhaps President Lincoln meant that at the end of sharpening your ax for four straight hours, start whacking at your tree for two.  I prefer to sharpen as I go – but with the same ratio.

I like Abe’s rate of 3 to 1, and it applies well to marketing.

If we budget 6 hours for marketing, 4 hours will be necessary for management and maintenance, planning and research, preparation and organization, and 2 hours for the production and delivery of communications, campaigns, and projects.  Likewise, over a year, a project, a cycle, this ratio is instructive to anyone looking to mount a strong, efficient marketing program composed of effective campaigns.  Sharpen, Sharpen, Whack!’  Sharpen, Sharpen, Whack!’  Sharpen, Sharpen, Whack!

“We need a really nice brochure!”  ” Time for a new website!”  “Get a beautiful exhibit display!”  If you say any of the preceding, you’re chopping with a dull ax. As a result, I hear myself say, “Who’s on your team that has a good handle on your brand and expressing the mission?” and, “Who’s got the company’s project list, and do we have any case histories?”  Also, the voices in my head say, “We’re going to need some vetted, polished, concise copy that expresses succinctly what is this client’s core value and key competencies.” Finally, I hear the voice say, “I hope they have a nice big collection of quality photos from all the great work they’ve done over the past ten years.”

The belief that marketing your company or, better, marketing your “brand” is at the root of your organization’s survival is critical.

Sharpen, Sharpen, Whack…

Certainly, brochures, websites, displays are essential.  But before those primary marketing projects roll into production, something even more fundamental is required, and if you wish to be successful with your marketing, it is critical.  The belief that marketing your company or, better, marketing your “brand” is at the root of your organization’s survival.  Accordingly, the continuous effort and constant vigilance for good messaging, copy, photos, contacts, ideas, opportunities, information, organization, and support is the foundation of the marketing effort.  Sharpen, Sharpen… We need a new website… Whack!

In contrast, “We need a new website.  Yeah, Joe’s got some photos a guy took on the project in Hackensack.”

Sharpen…  Take a look at your marketing budget and plan a cycle, instead of a decision to a decision basis. “Where you Gonna spend those marketing dollars?”  Sharpen: Advertising or Conferences? Sharpen: what’s generating our leads? ? Sharpen: What’s creating the word of mouth that’s so vital in the construction industry?  Sharpen: Are you asking clients?  Sharpen: Are you listening at conferences? [LINK]

66% for Conferences! 33% for Advertising. Whack!

Sharpen… Is the brochure an asset built on refinements of prior versions and improvements?  Sharpen:  Did you think about and note a more direct way to convey your message for the copy in the next version of the brochure? Sharpen:  Similarly, have you incorporated any feedback from the life of your last brochure?  Sharpen: Have you sought to improve the imagery since your previous brochure version?

“Time for a new brochure!” Whack!!!

Sharpen… Who are we reaching with our advertising budgets?  Sharpen:  Are our people at the tradeshows asking exhibit visitors for brand feedback? Sharpen:  Have we asked our clients for feedback?  Sharpen: Have we sought any internal input on industry visibility?  Sharpen: Do we know what our clients are reading? Sharpen: Do we have the data from the Google ads and digital campaigns?

Advertising meeting… Whack!!!


Be Prepared

Got a good contact management software you like and use it?  Sharpen.  Did you enter notes in the contact’s record during the call?  Sharpen. 

Got a database of contacts you’ve diligently collected over the past five years and keep that asset in tune for constant use.  Sharpen.

Does every PM know at the end of every project she has to fill out the Construct Marketing Content Builder or call the Construct Marketing Content Line and detail the project?  Sharpen. Also, does the Superintendent on each job know he’s got to upload photos to the project photos DropBox folder? Sharpen.

“Hey, let’s start an E-mail campaign…” Whack!


In Practice

Of course, marketing is a creative process, and sometimes the muses aren’t ready when you are.  Therefore, keep a notebook dedicated to marketing your company.  Or e-mail yourself marketing inspiration and collect in a folder.  So, when inspiration strikes or the competition gets you thinking, you’ll have a central location to sharpen and execute upon your insights!

When its time to swing the ax, you’ll have a nice sharp ax, and make a nice deep cut.

Finally, just as you can’t bring down a tree with one massive swing, nor can you depend on a marketing program to show any results with a chop here and a chop there.  Sharpen, sharpen, whack.  How the cuts work together, aggregate of the cuts before and after is what will make the difference in the effort.  Mis-hit?  These swings and misses were not failures, perhaps just overstressed parts of a marketing program with priorities temporarily out of whack

Sharpen, Sharpen, swing again.


Whatever you are – be a good one.
– Abraham Lincoln

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