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Sunday, August 09, 2009

When to stay below the radar

The latest issue of Ottawa Construction News. Is publicity always a good thing for your business?

We're in the publicity business -- showing businesses how to achieve positive recognition to enhance word-of-mouth and your reputation.

But is publicity always good, even if it is positive? Are there times when your marketing will be more successful if you stay (completely) below the radar? (In other words, are there times you shouldn't even consider doing business with us, even though we could do our work for you effectively and without significant cost?)

The answer, of course, is "yes" but you need to decide whether silence or stealth marketing, for want of a better phrase, is the best approach to take.

Here are conditions where keeping your business operations and initiatives quiet make the most sense.

When you are still evaluating things, and assessing the impact of the new business on your existing relationships and activities.
We are engaging in an exciting new project, and I floated my first "trial balloon" last Thursday to a closed circle of friends and colleagues. My sixth sense told me to keep quiet, and not push things too far, until I had received enough feedback to know where things are heading. Last night, I received some critical information which will result in significant modifications. Nothing lost of course; the insiders know I was evaluating things, and since no public marketing has occurred, there is no loss of credibility when we go public. In fact, it will be as "new" as it would have been otherwise.

When publicity will invite undesired competition.
Public "success" invites competitors to copy and emulate your model. This of course is not something most businesses really relish, though usually competition is not a threat if you conduct your business with creativity and effectiveness -- you retain first-to-market advantage.

Nevertheless, if your business model can be copied easily, and you can find your clients without publicity, it is best to operate under the radar.

You have a defined, specific market who you can reach quietly and with other non-public methods
If you know who you wish to serve, and don't need the public spotlight, it doesn't hurt to remain in the shadows. You can build your business other ways.

Frankly, I don't think these concerns are that great for most AEC businesses. Assuming your business requires specialized skill, knowledge and in some cases a fair bit of capital to operate, publicity itself won't spur negative competitive results and will add to your business credibility and brand-building trust (and cost a lot less than conventional advertising, if done right.)

Of course the other issue is where you achieve your publicity. If your market is school superintendents in the mid-western U.S., you don't need to be in the New York Times (but if you get there, in a positive light, you will probably find it easier to gain positive attention elsewhere.)

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