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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The two schools

In seeking an image for this posting, I came across with a blog dedicated to reviewing books relevant to business owners and leaders. This image relates to a free e-book, 9 Minds on Marketing.

I notice something of a 'great divide' in marketing and sales philosophies. One one side is the "in your face" approach -- that you need to push yourself in front of (often reluctant) people and "close" them on the sale. Canvassing and direct telephone solicitation are two of the most blatant examples of this approach. On the other extreme is the passive approach; businesses are best built on repeat and referral business; if you do your work well enough that clients love your service they will always return for more, and tell their friends, and you'll have a never-ending stream of clients.
Many succcessful businesses combine the two models, including ours. We have salespeople who will call "cold" where approrpiate, but we also see the world beyond the next transaction and seek to build/maintain lasting relationships and referrals.
So, is one approach inherently better than the other, and are there circumstances where you should consider shifting your approach to the other camp?
I would argue that you should allocate 80 per cent of your marketing effort to the service/branding experience -- creating the good will and connections to build for the future. But you should not ignore the remaining 20 per cent and here, even where it is unconventional within your community, you may wish to explore in a planned and disciplined way some of the more assertive marketing options. In certain circumstances -- say a business crisis with rapidly declining sales -- you may need to shift more urgently to assertive outbound marketing; the problem is, if you haven't prepared with testing and evaluation ahead of time, you may spin your wheels, alienate potential clients, and pour thousands of dollars down the drain in ill-thought canvassing or advertising programs.
The challenge is for you to determine how/where to use and experiment with the different marketing approaches. And this isn't going to be easy. First, you don't want to blow away your good reputation or successful models; secondly, the alternative approaches may clash with your existing business culture; and finally, if you things in a half-baked way, you are likely to end up with disappointing results which won't tell you much useful.
Here it is hard to talk theory without knowing your own situation on the ground. Every business and community has its own quirks and unique elements; you need to combine recognition of these aspects with an understanding of the general principals and values behind the different methodologies. But I still believe you should take some risks, step outside your comfort zone and experiment. Just give the experiment enough time and sufficient resources to be valid.

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