Forget the early negativity about e-commerce, says Atlanta-based Chris Crouch, director of marketing, technical services, and e-commerce at RMC Lonestar. "Have the dot-coms gone away?" he asks. "The real news is no. Some of the messengers may have been killed, but the message is very much alive."

He draws a technology parallel to fax machines, saying that this technology has given the concrete producer more work. E-commerce will also increase the producer's order volume, Crouch says.

But how can producers ease into e-commerce without cannibalizing their core businesses? Crouch draws another parallel, this time between people who lock in plane tickets 2 weeks in advance and a producer's potential new customers. "Take a portion of your business—let's say 50 yards, five loads," says Crouch. "Those five loads are fair game to anyone who orders 7 days in advance, for 7 in the morning or 6 in the morning. There are a lot of companies out there that would be willing to pay a slight premium to get their concrete earlier."

Perhaps Crouch has hit on the next promotional battle the industry faces. If our industry can combine forces to offer a superior product and in a more consistent, convenient way than the asphalt, wood, steel, and plastic industries, maybe the battle will finally be won.