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Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Construction Marketing Paradox: Easy work or hard effort?

One of the most important paradoxes in sales and marketing is that you are most likely to succeed if you need to put the least amount of effort into the process.

In other words, if your marketing or selling are hard to do and require much thought, time, and physical and mental energy, you will more likely fail than if you can achieve your results almost without trying.

Yet, almost inevitably, unless you are very intelligent about it, when you give up (fail to persevere) because things are too hard, you fail.

I've seen this paradox countless times over the past few years. Here are some examples:

The great feature or the crappy one

Most of our revenue arises from special printed advertising features profiling businesses and organizations. Suppliers are invited to support their client with advertising. The great features almost seem to sell themselves -- we send the notification to potential advertisers, and they call, email, or fax in their order right away.

My sales reps are jubilant, of course. I tell them: Put some extra effort into that feature for anyone who doesn't respond. It will seem like a lot of work, but you'll sell more.

Conversely, some features just don't work. The company isn't well respected by its suppliers, and they are simply not interested. Sometimes out of many calls and much effort we can coax a few sales. But the whole thing is more a waste of time than anything else.

The fast yes or the slow 'no'

Similarly, in setting up the features, some companies who qualify for the service say "yes" quickly (Others who don't qualify also often want the service -- we need to know when to turn these potential clients away to avoid the bad results in the first example above). Others who qualify hem and haw, finding one excuse after another. Sometimes these difficult potential clients are worth pursuing, but I often see the extra effort produces diminishing results.

Who is more responsive?: The inbound referral or repeat business call or the outbound sales call or blind RFP submission.

You know the answer to this one already. When someone calls you (sometimes out of the blue) and asks for your services because they have done business with you before, or been referred, your chances of success -- at your price -- are high; when you have to seek out the business, they are low. This is why things are often frustrating to established businesses with backlogs who have been relying on repeat and referral business and now have to begin marketing and selling their services. What had been easy becomes hard, and expensive.

So you may be tempted to give up. And that leads to the second part of the paradox: If you don't try hard enough -- if you fail to persevere -- you will often fail as well. This is because, if you trace the roots of your success, you can see seemingly easy business links to genuine perseverance in difficult conditions.

As an example, one of our major ongoing contracts originated during the height of the early 1990s recession. It was an easy call -- the organization representative phoned me -- but only occurred because I had remained in business through some really hard times, doing really sloggy work and selling, just to scrape by. If I had closed my doors before the easy call had arrived, I would never have received it.

Is there a solution to the paradox? Yes, and the answer can be summed up in this phrase:

"Do what you love doing, and do it really well."

The idea is to create circumstances where what would be hard and risky work to others actually is both easy and enjoyable for you. You simply need to align your personal interests and passions with your market's and then you will find it easy to attain great results.

This blog is a great example: I enjoy journalism and writing (and although I can use some excellent editing from people around me, including my wife) I am reasonably good at the writing craft. This passion led me into the publishing business and allowed me to keep going, even when things got really tough, when I needed to roll up my sleeves and write even more intensively and competently. In hard times, people have called and done business with me because of this ability and passion.

If things are getting difficult for you, take a few minutes to think about the activities, experiences and hobbies or vocations you really enjoy. You should build your business and marketing around these interests.

Your challenge is to then find ways to connect your passions with your potential clients. This is why I like association-based marketing so much because in any sizable group, at least some members will share your interests, and you can participate in (or even better, start) a committee or sub-group to express them.

If you follow this simple suggestion, your hard effort will actually become easy -- and you will have learned the answer to the Construction Marketing Paradox.

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