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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Magic bullets (not?)

This image cost $1.00 to license legally -- it is one of my 'secrets' in developing marketing materials. But will it solve your own marketing challenges?

Recently, one of my major suppliers offered to credit $1,000 off of his company's invoices in exchange for an hours consultation on how to save on airline fares. I of course had no problem accepting this proposition.

After the meeting, my supplier granted the credit, as promised, but I could tell he wasn't totally happy. He had fallen into the trap (hope) of expecting a magic bullet; a one-size-fits all 'secret' that would free him from high airline travel costs and crappy service forever. And all I could offer him are a mix-and-match collection of solutions, using commonly available tools, that could possibly help under certain circumstances.

"Where are you travelling?", I asked him. "Is business class comfort important to you?" "Can you make use of credit cards to accumulate large numbers of airline points?" So many questions, so much need to 'think', and not a single secret formula -- a magic 1-800 number you could call -- to win Aerolotto any day, any time.

In fact, a few years ago, I temporarily cracked the code, discovering a loophole in Air Canada's Aeroplan program you could drive a truck (or perhaps metaphorically more appropriate, fly a 747) through. I posted on an Internet forum a technique to convert cheap credit card points into virtually unlimited short-notice, on-demand travel for an entire business. The airline, seeing the damage this discovery could cause to their revenue, closed it within the year -- in the process alienating and angering thousands of loyal customers with the (necessary) rule change.

This level of knowledge led me to others with even more skills and understanding of airline programs, including someone who managed to hire 20 handicapped Thai nationals, pay for inexpensive short-haul domestic flights, and then create 20 "Superelite" accounts, each of which allowed brokering of expensive international business class tickets for virtually nothing. (In case you want to try this trick yourself, the loophole he discovered has also since been closed.)

Today, I continue to use my airline knowledge effectively. Eric, now 11, has sat in business class seats more times on family vacations already than most adults have in their lifetime.

However, this knowledge, while useful, is not a simple answer, and I fear there are few magic bullets in life -- or construction industry marketing.

If you simply want to purchase an ad and have qualified clients flock to your door; if you want to subscribe to a leads service and each lead is tailor made to you (and there is no competition for the job); if you are hoping that reading a free blog posting will tell you exactly how to get rich, quick, I'll be happy to introduce you to a scammer. You'll spend your money, of course, and your magic solution will solve all your problems, instantly, with no real effort. You can hope -- and dream, of taking a (diet) pill -- but the cure is likely to be elusive if you do.

You can of course discover insights and ideas here and elsewhere, and apply this knowledge to your own business to create your own 'magic bullets'. The supplier who hoped for the secret to airline success, for example, has contributed some knowledge that has simplified and improved my business harmony, saving me thousands of dollars in waste (while earning him, equally, thousands of dollars in well-deserved fees).

Yes, I could write a direct marketing piece with this phrase: "I earned $100,000 with a single phone call" and it would be true, but the question is, could anyone replicate exactly the circumstances that led to that profitable call? If anything could be that easy, of course, we would have a truly incredible inflation problem!

You can put the pieces together, and if you are lucky, over the course of your life, enjoy a few really exciting flashes of insight that change your perceptions.

But most of what you achieve in marketing will be on a foundation adapted from your experience, readings and conversations with others, and sometimes some luck.

(You can phone me at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or email your credit card number to for the Secret. The fee is $10,000. Just kidding.)


Bobby Darnell said...


You make an excellent point about the 'magic bullet'.

I have learned in the seven years we have been in business that when you are introduced, or introduce yourself, as a business development consultant in the construction industry...EVERYONE will stop and listen. They want to know what little nugget of information you know, that they don't. Many are looking for that elusive magic bullet.

Building an effective pipeline is like losing weight and/or getting in shape. It does not happen over night.

Bobby Darnell

Construction Marketing Ideas said...

Bobby, you are absolutely right. The good news is once you get into the right habits, things become relatively easy and the weight stays off -- and you stay in shape!
(But we all from time to time want things to be fast, easy, and ready-to-go.)