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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The quick fix -- and better solutions

I set out to find an image to go with this posting -- keying in Google for "quick fix marketing solutions" and discovered several 'quick fix' images that linked to dead sites (not a good sign obviously). But this not-quick-fix site in Virginia,, led me to a wonderful set of web pages reminding us that when it comes to advertising (and all marketing, including your internal initiatives), The Customer is King. This image is material developed for Orleans Homebuilders which "won the prestigious Marketing Excellence Award from The Home Building Association of Richmond every year from 2000 to 2006, and now, Orleans is vying for the position of the second largest homebuilder in the Richmond market, up from number six."

Your numbers are terrible, perhaps you've lost a major client, or your core customers aren't purchasing -- or one of your major receivables suddenly has gone bad. It's crisis time. What should you do? Here are some quick-fix sales and marketing tips -- solutions I've found through hard experience have worked.

Brainstorm with your staff and key contractors.

As our business entered a truly major crisis in early 2006, we gathered together for an all-day planning session. I realized two things right away. First, most of my then-employees didn't want to be there (and they all left within a year). Second, despite this real problem, one of our new employees -- a student about to embark on travel -- suggested an idea to resurrect a directory listing service which brought in a quick $15,000 in revenue (which recurs annually.) If you've never co-ordinated a planning meeting, you will need to find an external facilitator to lead the process. You may find painful insights, but you'll probably recover the meeting's cost with some short-term revenue (as you begin to isolate and fix the larger problems affecting your business.)

Find more business with your existing and previous clients

The 80/20 rule applies here -- 80 per cent of your business comes from 20 per cent of your clients; and 80 per cent of your marketing success will come from repeat and referral business development. See the poll that is published on this blog for proof. Extra effort in cultivating and improving current client relationships will yield more immediate results than other answers -- of course, you will 'run out' of leads here, but give your client base some crucial scrutiny and thought.

Can your suppliers help?

I ask this as a question, because it is rather hard to go to our suppliers and ask for marketing support if you aren't paying your bills to them (a real issue and possibility if you are struggling to meet payroll). Nevertheless, your suppliers can well be your best marketing assistants -- and often will contribute financially to your marketing campaign. Our business, especially thrives on supply chain relationships.

Shoe leather, the phone and 'spam' will work, if necessary

Canvassing and telemarketing are unpleasant but can be effective -- but don't ask anyone to do this stuff unless you are willing to do it yourself (at least to validate the results/resistance). I think it is really uncool for you to contract out to have 'leads' delivered to you these ways -- and you risk losing your brand, market acceptance and becoming addicted to what I believe are unhealthy marketing models. But if you are in survival mode, you need to do what you need to do -- and should do it yourself.

Here are some don'ts.

Don't reduce your prices.

Okay, your best client is threatening to leave and you need to keep the business to keep your doors open; you will need to do what you need to do -- but generally price reduction is a sure road to major problems, especially in the current environment where many costs are rising.

Don't flail about with public tenders and bids.

Suddenly going after open tender and publicly bid work is inviting you to spend hours preparing and estimating, when some sucker will simply bid lower than you. Bad news, and bad marketing. Obviously, if you know your way around the public sector, or have some 'ins' for subsidy programs and services, please follow up -- this may especially be the case if you are in a smaller community and can connect with local officials.

And here is one final thought.

Think forward.

Remember my first suggestion to have a brainstorming and planning meeting. You need to redesign your business to connect with your employees -- who indeed can be your brand/marketing ambassadors. As you dig out, think ahead, to where you want your business to be; set your goals, involve your employees, suppliers and clients in the solution, and make it work.

You will pull through.

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