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Friday, March 16, 2007

Does marketing matter?

An intriguing issue, and challenging one for me, is that many of the best contractors, sub trades and suppliers in this business don't really need to promote their business. In fact, their problem is they have more opportunities than they can accept. They turn away jobs because the work would not suit their interests, or they don't have the labour or resources to handle the volume, or they simply don't need the headaches.

This 'no need to market' is especially apparent in the residential sector, where contractors with a solid reputation and truly effective word-of-mouth have an order backlog going months forward. They don't need to advertise for customers and what good would media publicity do them? Sure, it would be positive, but if their order book is full, what good does it do to turn away business?

I'm sure similar circumstances are common in much of the commercial and professional services side of the business. Satisfied clients return for more, the order book is full, and there really is no need nor advantage to do any form of promotion. That is just a business cost that takes away from potential profits.

Of course, there are other circumstances -- including new businesses who are hungry for clients, and professional service and contracting businesses that largely serve one-time rather than repeat clients; and thus need to find new business constantly. And there is enough evidence that even with a good volume of repeat business, successful contractors and professional service providers know that effective marketing allows a good inflow of new business and that business, if properly managed, allows you to improve your margins and smooth out the ups and downs in the regular business flow.

Finally, a few companies truly want to grow, and growth happens with effective marketing.

Note, as I've outlined several times in this blog, I find great marketing (and selling) are very different experiences than the sort of thing that irritates us all -- those horrendous telemarketing calls and 'surveys' conducted at awkward times and with no real relationship basis to justify them. The intrusive inbound sales calls are a pain to virtually everyone on the receiving end -- even if they really take very little time to answer courteously.

Of course, in light of these observations, I'm not going to have much luck telling the successful general contractor, engineer, or sub-trade, with a full order book, that he or she should consider the advantages of media publicity and advertising and if I call, badger, or simply try to sell these business people on the advantages of effective marketing, they'll say "who cares?"

I will always advocate that our best marketing approach is to do our work exceptionally well. Referrals and repeat business will sustain things for years and years. But I hold out an interesting challenge to the business owner who says "I don't need publicity or marketing". What if you could strategically increase your profits by 5 to 10 per cent; improve the take-over or buy-out value of your business (if you wish to sell it), and if labour shortages are an issue, attract and retain absolutely the best employees?

Maybe, in these situations, even if you don't 'need' to use effective publicity and marketing techniques to maintain your business, you will want to consider the power of these resources used by so few in the industry.

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