Construction Firms Build Better Business Through Bidcom

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Through a variety of direct marketing campaigns, Bidcom.com, an online business-to-business service provider for the engineering and building industry, is driving traditional offline construction companies to the Internet to help them conduct business better.


Bidcom, San Francisco, enables architects, engineers and contractors, among other principal players, to communicate more effectively by eliminating fragmentation and reducing the use of paper and faxes -- traditional means of communication that had bogged down the industry.


"We're existing to reduce those inefficiencies that have grown up in this industry and really apply optimization by bringing together this whole community," said Susan Foley-Kane, president of content, community and marketing support at Bidcom. "It creates an environment where they can make decisions very quickly."


For an industry that generates more than $4 trillion a year worldwide, prompt business decisions and transactions are essential. Swinerton & Walberg Builders, San Francisco, a general contractor, for instance, has been a Bidcom customer since the online firm's inception in 1997. Bidcom's online services have saved Swinerton & Walberg Builders days, if not weeks, on certain construction projects, said Cynthia Montanez, project engineer at Swinerton & Walberg Builders.


"When you're working with something that's time-sensitive, as the construction industry is, everybody wants [results] yesterday," she said. "With Bidcom, I can type something in and push the send key, just like e-mail, and get it to an architect, [carbon copy] an engineer or anyone else it may pertain to.


"It eliminates a lot of the paper-bouncing," Montanez said.


While approximately 200 dot-coms serve the construction industry, Montanez said Swinerton & Walberg Builders chose Bidcom for, among other things, its broad range of Internet services. Other online construction service providers, she said, only offer e-mail services. Bidcom, in addition to e-mail services, offers Internet applications that, among other functions, enable all parties involved in a project to communicate on Bidcom's Web site -- www.bidcom.com.


Foley-Kane added that another distinction between Bidcom and its competitors is the company's broad-based solutions, including financial planning, designing and building. Bidcom also offers subscription and transaction-based services rather than random marketing spending, she said.


"We have taken an approach that while broad-based, visibility-producing campaigns are very important to do as an umbrella over our whole marketing efforts," she said, "we can get very targeted return for very specific direct marketing campaigns."


Bidcom has tested and launched a number of direct marketing campaigns, mostly to drive traffic to its Web site and boost its registration. Most recently, the company launched a registration drive via direct mail to about 200,000 prospective customers using 30 subscriber lists and had a nearly 2 percent registration rate, said Howard Sewell, president of Connect Direct Inc., Redwood, CA, Bidcom's direct marketing vendor.


"We're driving people to the site and motivating them to register so they can begin to take advantage of these services," he said.


As part of that campaign, Bidcom sent broad-based registration e-mails to more than 60,000 prospective customers, Foley-Kane said. In addition, the company recently sponsored a 45-minute online seminar. Three hundred people logged on, and the company recorded a nearly 4 percent response rate, she said.


"So not only did we touch 200,000 people with the direct mail drive," she said, "but we took an even greater influence over a percentage of that community in terms of a focused, 45-minute message."


While Bidcom's online marketing is proving to be successful, Sewell said, offline direct marketing will continue to be a large part of the company's strategy.


"We'll use a combination of media -- especially direct mail -- to get people to register in the first place," he said, "and then rely on the online media to communicate with those people.


"We're going to continue to augment this communication, this community that we're building," he said.
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