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Monday, January 29, 2007

The sales test

We evaluated two candiates for the sales opportunity today. The paid three hour assignment (at $18.00 per hour topped up with commissions if they sold enough) worked for both candidates; they will receive more than $18 per hour for their test.

We won't hire either of them permanently. We evaluated other elements besides actual performance -- including their ability to set their own achievements and results. We also considered the scores of the online sales test. Business-wise this recruitment/interviewing system has real advantages. We will make a profit on the 'interview time' and the candidates, even though they won't get a permanent job with us, probably will find we are one of the few businesses in the world that actually PAY candidates for the interview.

Best of all, we now have a benchmark for measuring other candidates. We know how well two candidates who are not natural salespeople did; so when we give the same assignment to the person (people) we really wish to hire, we will achieve a good business volume and the lucky candidates will certainly be paid very well for their interview/testing time.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Totally off topic

I have been enjoying watching an Internet side show between anti-scam forum (where I had some posting involvement last year, but am now away from) and a so-called High Yield Investment Program (HYIP) called

The brains between is an anonymous person who calles himself "consultants circle" but you won't find his real name or address anywhere. But if you want to 'waste' some time reading the dynamics involving get-rich-quick schemes and scam-fightings, the, for want of a better word, catfight, between cattyshaq supporters and those speaking for infinitemultiplicity on the forum makes for some interesting reading.

Specific relevant threads are:


(This stuff has absolutely nothing to do w ith construction marketing, of course.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Newsletter and writing

Just sent out the newsletter to some 560 readers -- and am working on the book plus editorial content for our Canadian newspapers. So the blogging will be light for the next few days.

I certainly, however, welcome your success stories and questions. These will help define the focus of future blog and newsletter topics. You can email me at or phone 888-432-3555 ext 224.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Starting the marketing book

Tomorrow morning I will start writing my book on construction marketing. Book writing is something new to me -- I've written dozens of articles and investigated many stories over the years, but have never put things together into a book.

I realize the best way to get this work done is to allocate a clear hour per day for it. The first draft should be ready within a few weeks; then I can flush out the elements requiring additional research, and go back to it again; before inviting a small team of reviewers/editors to look it over.

One of the biggest challenges in writing this book, I think, will be the fact that the industry has many different components and the marketing needs and concerns of different types of business differ. Clearly a small local subcontract has different concerns than the marketing specialist at a big multinational architect. Nevertheless, the interdisciplinary nature of the industry suggests that a cohesive book pulling together some basic threads and concepts will still be useful.

* * *

As I work on the book, our business will resolve the recruitment issue. Last night, I saw a possible answer to the problem. We had been experimenting with a variety of messages; recruiting part-timers, telemarketers, and so on. But there are indications that people looking for opportunities indeed are seeking full-time employment; and if we phrase things properly, I'm confident we will find the right person soon (hopefully within a few weeks.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Finding great salespeople -- the incredible challenge

Today, we went through the roller-coller experience, again, in sales recruitment. We're looking for someone capable to join the team; the starting compensation is reasonable -- about $20 per hour -- and we could work with the right candidate on a full-time or part-time schedule.

Recently, I've been focusing my recruitment efforts with the Canadian government's free Job Bank online employment service. The price is certainly right, and we've used the service to attract some very qualified candidates in the past.

But the latest round of advertising hasn't gone so well. When the posting first appeared, we received many responses -- I count 35 or so in total. I've never thought there to be great value in wading through resumes, developing short lists, and the like. Instead, we email a response customized to the offered opportunity, with a questionnaire designed to verify whether the person is right for the work.

There is another, hidden, test. If the prospective salesperson shows some initiative and calls us, they win points. If, instead of just answering the questionnaire, they put some thought into the questions and perhaps engage in some follow-up communication, they also gain additional points. We are, after all, looking for salespeople and this is one situation where we want the candidates to effectively "sell themselves" to get a job. (Conversely, when I see this selling-type behaviour for other types of work, I generally discount them -- we are looking for their actual talents, not selling skills; for e xample, we want journalists who can write and communicate, not 'sell' us on why we should hire them.)

Alas, however, it doesn't look like any of the current batch of candidates is passing the test. One person called (good) but in subsequent conversations, he disqualified himself. "I only want a full time job," he said. "I don't want to telemarket," he observed. Okay, but you need to use the phone to sell, and as far as I could tell, the candidate didn't have a job right now -- so he wouldn't be giving up much to prove himself part-time.

The last thing we want to do is to hire someone simply because we have a space to fill, and take the best of a bad lot of candidates. (Conversely, if two super candidates showed up, I expect we would find a way to create two jobs.)

So we'll go back to the drawing board, and continue our efforts. I know this is a common problem for most businesses and wish I had a better answer -- but if we did, we would be in another line of business.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

When the advertising feature works

About 13 years ago, we discovered from the late Walt Hailey in Texas the principal of "Naturally Existing Economic Relations" (NEER). Hailey's concept is elegantly simple -- when you want to sell something to a key potential client, don't go to the prospective client; go to that client's customers and secure referrals from them.

In business, these client-based referrals are truly high value connections. After all, if you receive a call from someone sending you money every month, asking you to meet or communicate with someone else, would you at least listen to that request; and respond with courtesy.

We took this concept, along with the principal that editorial publicity works far better than conventional advertising, and developed our model of special feature reports. These types of reports are not a new thing in the printed publishing sector, but in our approach we made them the primary method of business.

For many years, the concept worked very well -- we sold thousands of dollars of advertising, and received plenty of repeat business, including companies who would be profiled one year, and then come back again.

But this success ignored an important additional element that we only recently took to heart. Sure, when a company purchases a "proud to support" ad in the feature for another business, they are doing it to keep their current customer happy. But they are also becoming OUR customer. And we need to treat our clients with more respect than an invoice!

Today, I put the new principals to work when we received word from a company that had profiled us of their satisfaction with the feature, and with a request that we provide a copy of the feature for their website.

First, we ensured that the version posted would include all the ads, giving the advertisers additional, free, exposure.

Then, we told our advertisers about this -- copying the email from the featured client.

Third, in that email, we reiterated our commitment to our advertisers, and offered them additional free services and support.

All of this took only a few minutes, but judging from the return emails, it has been a successful initiative.

Communicating with clients doesn't take much effort, thanking them for their business can take only a few minutes. But the results go far beyond the obvious. Here, we communicated clearly to our clients that their ads truly 'worked' -- the company profiled and the company they want to be identified with -- likes the work enough that their ads are going to be displayed on the key website.

Mark Buckshon can be reached at or by phoning 888-432-3555 ext 224.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Networking for real

Bill Caswell and Upkar Bikhu of Caswell Corporate Coaching Company (CCC) visited my office today to join in our weekly 1:30 pm Monday meeting. With a conference call set up, employees and contractors in Winnipeg, MB, Durham NC, Kingston ON, and Gatineau PQ joined in the discussion about current and future business plans..

The meetings are now routine; Bill and Upkar taught me the model last year and while there have been astounding changes in the business since then, the essential component of regular and reliable (and accountable) communication has become a firm part of our systems.

With the meeting concluded, we discussed offline the online networking systems, especially Bill and Upkar don't think they work very well -- they say they've signed on to the networks because friends and colleagues have put their names into the systems, but they haven't seen any real business from them.

I think they have a point. While Internet systems have some value, they cannot replace the informal processes in your own community and through natural relationships. The Internet networks are theoretically useful if you are operating over wide geographical areas, but I found much more enlightening the observations of senior members of the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS):

The point here is these meaningful networks aren't built in a day, week, or even a year or two -- they can take decades to develop. You can sometimes bootstrap the process -- I got to some of the leading people in construction marketing within weeks by writing a story about them -- but this connection, even, is tenuous; I may have some access here that I wouldn't otherwise have, but I'm surely not yet anywhere near anyone's inner circle in that group.

The point is there is no quick fix and easy way to success in networking --yes, if you are good and have a good network, you can add to it or find a key lead or point of contact relatively easily, but this is AFTER you've proven your value and ability to give far more than you expect in return.

Sure, go ahead and sign up for services like Just don't expect an immediate connection to a powerful network of opportunity -- unless, of course, you are prepared to contribute and be patient.

You can reach Mark Buckshon by phone at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or by email at

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Networking -- a new link

I've (belatedly) discovered, a business-to-business networking site with at first impression several impressive features. I sense the quality of networking is higher than Interestingly, with just one direct connection -- I just signed on tonight and referred a small group in my immediate network -- linkin shows 124 connections; most third degree (that is, they know someone who knows someone who knows me).

Obviously internet networking groups are no substitute for more industry-specific ones. I think for construction marketing professionals, the Society for Marketing Professional Services ( provides the best networking opportunities, especially if you are architect, engineer or contractor seeking contact with peers in other cities who may be influential in winning important projects.

I'll write more on networking in this week's newsletter (and yes, I've decided to resume a weekly schedule for the newsletter).

Mark Buckshon can be reached by email at or by phone at 888-432-3555 ext 224.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The advertising/marketing continuum

New (or more accurately newly widely available) models of advertising are reshaping business practices and giving much more effective choices for companies seeking to promote and sell their products and services.

The Internet has opened the door to pay-per-click, pay-per-call, and pay-per-order advertising in addition to the conventional and traditional pay-per-view (or circulation) models.

Traditionally, media outlets sold their advertising based on their circulation or audience. These can be measured and verified through circulation audits or audience rating services, and segmented by demographics. Whether anyone who reads, listens to or views to your advertising in this model of course doesn't change the price you pay. Your ad could 'reach' thousands of people, but no one would buy anything, and you would be stuck with a very expensive advertising bill.

In its original incarnation (and still an important part of the equation) internet websites sold banner ads on their websites on a cost-per-thousand (or for smaller sites, on a monthly fixed price contract). You paid the same regardless of results, again, but at least if you had things set up correctly you could measure the results by the amount of traffic the site generated for your business (as you could, if you organized things properly, through the other media.)

Then Google came along and revolutionized the model. Now you could pay per click, and the price you paid is determined by an auction process. You set the budget and price you are willing to pay, and pay only for the clicks that arise from your advertising.

This model of course gives you much more control over the results, but is still subject to less-than-perfect consequences -- obviously people can click on your ad and not buy anything. In fact, a form of 'click fraud' exists where competitors or malicious users deliberately click on your ads to drive up your advertising bills. (If click fraud is discovered, Google will refund your advertising fees).

Another alternative is the pay-per-call system, where you only pay when a prospective client dials a special toll free number, which is referred to the line of your choice. Here you know there is a live inquiry, which can be converted to a sale with the skill of your own staff. Pay-per-call models are especially effective for local businesses. One pay-per-call service is Ingenio.

Finally, organizations such as Commission Junction have set up affiliate marketing systems where you can pay per lead or order -- allowing for set up fees and minimums, this model gives you the greatest control over your advertising budget and ensures your dollars really produce sales results.

So, you are in the construction business. Which model works best for you? It depends. Are you offering a highly specialized service over a wide geographical market; or are your clients mostly local businesses or for that matter consumers? Each circumstance is differerent.

I'm a believer in using the continuum approach -- starting with conventional ads for branding purposes, and moving to highly focused keyword and pay-per order ads for actual order generation. Business-to-business marketing has different challenges, especially if you are a building products manufacturer or distributor and need to get your product in the specification cycle.

If you wish, I welcome your call and may suggest some specific approaches that will work for you. There's no cost, of course. If you wish to engage my services, compensation will be on a performance-results basis.

Mark Buckshon can be reached by phone at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or by email at

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Market test results

Day two of the market test for the construction leads service has concluded and the answer is, unequivacobly, this idea is a bomb.

For those reading this blog who are not subscribers to the Construction Marketing Advice Newsletter, here is relevant posting:

By Mark Buckshon
Today, we are in the midst of a market test that is producing surprising results. After six months of planning and research, I asked two qualified salespeople to see if they could find clients for a new construction information and leads service.
After a good day on the job, they haven’t received one order.
Obviously, we aren’t going to pull the plug just yet – but the disappointing early results contrast with another test we conducted in late November. Then, I asked two new and unproven sales representatives to sell Christmas greeting ads in a local homebuilder’s newsletter. After just a day on the job, and with little knowledge of the market, the two representatives sold $6,000.00 in ads.
What is happening here? Why are people reluctant to spend $49.00 per month or $489.00 per year for a high quality leads service when they will spend $500 or more for a one-shot Seasons’ Greeting ad that, I assume, will be forgotten among the crowd of similar ads?
I think the answer to this question may lead to an important understanding and solution for readers interested in construction marketing. Value is defined by relationships; and healthy relationships are more durable than transitory jobs, and more meaningful than conventional bidding opportunities or, for that matter, conventional marketing including advertising and direct sales efforts.
We had no trouble selling ads in the association newsletter because its members get along well, and connect with their motto: “Be a member, do business with a member”. No one of course should expect instant gratification in joining this kind of association, but after time and with reasonable effort, members find the relationships lead to tips and guidance, and contracts, and real work. So when the members are asked to show their support with a greetings ad, they say “sure”.
The leads service, on the other hand, might be useful, especially to start-ups or to businesses without close existing relationships; but the more successful businesses – the ones with the spare cash spend a few hundred dollars on a Christmas Greeting ads – already have relationships and connections, and are not necessarily looking for new business in the conventional way.
(I'm sure the leads service will be of interest to some of the most successful businesses who purchased the Christmas ads -- after all, the proposed new service also provides useful market intelligence and insights, and these elements are of real value to any business. Nevertheless, our challenge remains to to find at least 200 subscribers anywhere in Canada, and perhaps the U.S. if licensing arrangements can be confirmed, for the service that can easily be customized to meet the needs of local markets and market segments.)
There is another lesson to be learned from this experience – the importance (and limitation) of market research and testing. If we proceed with the new data/leads service, we will incur several thousand dollars of deferred start-up costs, and if I blindly believed this service could work, without testing, our business could be caught in a bottomless pit of expense, with limited or no return.
So we devised a simple and elegant test. We want to hire a new salesperson, and after short listing candidates, found someone who looked like he might be suitable. But if we gave just the new salesperson this assignment, we might unfairly judge him to be incapable if he failed, when the problem related to the product or market. So we contracted with a second sales representative, someone we know well, who is familiar with the industry and has achieved significant success in the past.
Both representatives used different techniques (we didn’t dictate the best approach, but were available to provide industry and market-specific guidance to the new representative). Alas, neither of them sold a thing in their first day on the job. They have a little more time to prove there may be some interest in the new service, of course, but remember two sales representatives sold $6,000 in ads for the Homebuilders’ Christmas publication in the same amount of time.
Now it is quite possible that our problem here is not the product or market but the way we are selling it. Telemarketing is traditionally a fast and effective approach to market testing, but I’m sure none of us like very much to be bothered by in-bound calls. Maybe this product needs to be sold through referral or other forms of advertising.
. . .

Neither of the two salespeople, who tried to contact upwards of 500 qualified business owners, could receive even one commitment or tentative order for the service.

I consider the test to have been a success, nevertheless. My 'control' contract sales representataive did his work flawlessly, starting off by emailing complete prototype samples and ordering information to the target list, before calling anyone. He also reduced his agreed-on hourly fee substantially by requesting payment for only a few hours work -- or $90 in total.

The other person, our new salesperson candidate, did okay as well, but after he left on his first day, we reevaluated his references and saw some serious issues. I straightforwardly told him at the end of the day that of course we would pay him for his work, but would not be calling him back.

So where do we go with a project that resulted in hours of planning effort, and had been a significant structure of our planned business expansion. I really don't know yet. But I'm surely glad that I didn't pour more money into this thing.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Voice mail jail: Some cures

Here is an interesting link with some potentially useful suggestions on this challenging topic that challenges virtually everyone in sales that I know.

Networking and Netweaving

Bot Littel of Atlanta developed the concept and coined the word "Netweaving", essentially, a high level form of networking where you put your own interests aside to focus on connecting the dots for the benefit of others.

This passage from the site gives a succinct idea of the concept.

NetWeaver: Have you ever heard the term
Usually the response will be "no" (at least for the near future).
NetWeaver: "NetWeaving is a take-off on the word, networking. Traditional networking tends to focus on, ‘ Capitalizing on your network of friends, business associates, and centers of influence in order to generate more business for yourself’ There’s certainly nothing wrong with this and everyone needs more business, but NetWeaving is a form of networking which looks for ways to put OTHER people together in win-win relationships, or to supply them with resources they need. Some of these favorable matchups and other favors will come back to benefit the NetWeaver – and sometimes in very spectacular ways - but that’s not their motivation." Often, the first response from the other person will be something like:
"What a great word. . .or, I’ve done a lot of that in my time." It’s also good at this point if you can encourage the other person to talk about a situation in which he or
she acted as a "NetWeaver" because it will help reinforce the concept in their subconscious.

I haven't had the opportunity (yet) to attend a formal Netweaving event, but reports from people who have been to these kinds of events -- or better yet, organized them -- tell me that this is the way to really do the networking thing properly.

In practice, I'm something of a social wallflower and networking events are downright uncomfortable (it is easier by far for me to contribute by writing) -- but if you are socially more comfortable, or want to make a real effort to be a great at 'networking' I would definitely review Mr. Littel's ideas more closely.

Mark Buckshon can be reached by phone at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or by email at

Networking and "Netweaving"

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Networking -- some effective ideas

"Networking" is perhaps one of the most effective (and inexpensive) marketing techniques. The concept is to build relationships that provide referrals and connections; and to discover opportunities in the hidden environment.

Networking gives you a real competitive edge, even in environments with RFP/Open Bid proposal arrangements. The reason is that, if you have been in business any length of time, that many opportunities are wired in favour of one group even though they are supposed to be fair and open.

Networking allows you to call on the informal connections and associates, to avoid wasting your time on impossible files, and to get the edge on the ones that are truly available to you. You can find the hidden opportunities this way.

But how do you network effectively?

I will start out by telling you what doesn't work -- those phoney 'networking events' where salespeople try to pitch stuff to other uninterested salespeople. Yuck. Beyond being insincere, these things don't get you closer to your real market (though there is a way to turn even a 'bad event' into a good one).

More effective networking models include:

1. Organized lead exchange groups and associations, such as executive associations. I will discuss some options here next issue.

2. A fascinating concept "netweaving" where you put your own interests aside and focus on the others' needs -- this really can even save a bad event.

3. Developing your own customer base, and connections, and recognizing where these are.

4. Using industry associations and groups with multi-city membership, and developing an effective referral and associate participation strategy with them.

I will give you some suggestions on each of these topics over the next week.

Mark Buckshon can be reached by phone at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or by email at

Saturday, January 06, 2007

How to obtain great publicity for your business

Point 4 -- Finding the story angle

Yesterday, a demolition contractor from Raleigh, NC called me. He wanted information about advertising rates in Triangle Construction News. I engaged in a conversation with him, not to sell him advertising, but to find out what would best meet his needs.

He told me his business was still quite small, though he had invested upwards of $1 million in capital equipment. He had just won some contracts to demolish unoccupied houses, some used as 'crack houses'. Although not a black person himself, he had partnered with a minority contractor who lost his original business in some messy litigation with a former partner. He didn't want huge jobs, but wanted steady and solid work.

We explored what would work best for him.

If I just 'followed rote', I could have encouraged him to spend $2,500 or $3,000 on a year-long advertising contract, helped him with his ad design, and then moved on to the next client. But that is not the way I like doing business. My goal is to ensure that our clients get real value for their money, and I knew there were other things he needed to do first.

Clearly networking and word of mouth contacts are the best approach, esepecially since there is a relatively finite group of people/organizations who will hire local demolition contractors on a regular basis. Since he has an interest and some existing markets in residential demolition, I encouraged him to join the local homebuilders' association, in this case the Home Builders' Association of Raleigh-Wake County. Members of the National Home Builders' Association and the Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA) adhere to the motto: "Be a member -- Do business with a member" and I can assure you from first hand experience and reports from business colleagues that these mottos are observed in practice if you observe the most basic networking rules and principals. (I'll cover networking more extensively in future blogs). Dues are $500 a year approximately in Raleigh.

I then suggested to the demolition contractor that he needed a web page, and proper email address, and told him how to do this for $500 or less.

Finally, I suggested he would benefit from publicity in the media. And here, the art of finding the right angle for the story became most apparent. I dismissed the idea of writing about the legal conflict between the two former partners -- besides the cost of handling such a story (lots of legal review necessary), it is of interest really only to the parties directly involved.

The 'minority owned contractor' angle has some relevance, including the interracial partnership, but again, this is not a story in itself and might be seen the wrong way by some people. Racial issues are complex -- especially the underrreported tensions between Blacks and Hispanics -- and some people might take a cynical view of the White/Black partnership.

But what about a human interest story about the demolition process itself -- maybe alluding to the social good of demolishing crack houses and so on. We could look at the safety issues, risks, and challenges in tearing down crack houses and the like. Seems like an interesting and socially responsible story to me -- one with enough visual interest for local television relevance, and with enough substance for the local newspaper.

I then suggested that we do a special advertising feature in Triangle Construction News. I would write it, it would cost about $1,500, and we would use this writing as the basis for communication with other media.

We are going to do business. The contractor would give us about the same amount of money as he would for a conventional ad, but is getting a whole lot more value. That is the best way to ensure repeat clients, of course.

In summary:

The best story is something that will interest the larger community and not cause legal tensions or misinterpretations. Good media publicity is far more than just issuing press releases or buying ads and hoping for the best.

* **

This posting on the Strumpette site: "Though Shall Not Buy Media People a Meal" offers an interesting and important perspective on how to work with members of the Press. Generally mainstream journalists cannot be 'bribed' and the lower-level ones who take the freebies are really not effective. Professional Public Relations consultants can be worth their weight in gold, but you need to know what you are doing in hiring them.

Mark Buckshon can be reached by phone at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or by email at

Friday, January 05, 2007

Point 3 -- How to relate to reporters/journalists

Successful journalists have a combination of traits including inquisitiveness, the ability to absorb large amounts of information quickly, and the capacity to distill this knowledge into written, audio and visual expression that captures the hearts and interests of the target audience readership. In other words, they are much like successful exceutives and decision-makers -- they don't have a whole lot of time to waste on extraneous self-serving trash, and they receive more than their fair share of that junk.

Your challenge of course is that your story is of interest to you, and not so important in the bigger picture. Getting to the top of the pile and into print and on electronic media can be difficult.

But remember, as well, that the people you are most intered in reaching are potential clients often in specialized fields-areas. You don't need to be on the front page of the New York Times or on Oprah to achieve your objectives; in fact these sources of publicity could do you more harm than good. And while the general rules are the same when relating to all journalists and reporters, your opportunity for success is much greater if you aim your interests closer to your 'home' target market.

Some additional thoughts:

  • Sometimes timing is everything, and sometimes you can control (and sometimes you can't) control the timing. Writers are often under great pressure to fill space at deadline. For a few hours/minutes, your otherwise 'junk' news release may find its way to the top of urgency. That is why it isn't necessarily harmful to send out frequent news releases even though the news isn't always earth shattering. Your time may just come. (The news releases of course still should be relevant and useful, regardless of when or how many times you send them.)
  • You may know there are themes planned; or there are newsworthy topics happening on which you can 'piggyback' your announcement. Sometimes seasonal issues lend themselves to obvious news releases. A paradox, for example, is that the media often has 'space to fill' in the quiet period around Christmas and in the summer, so your chance of getting press is greater at these times. On the other hand, your decision-makers may be away, as well.
  • When a reporter/writer calls, drop everything, take their call, and answer their questions/requests. Remember, however, you are on the record (you should never assume you are off the record until you have much experience and confidence with the writer), so everything you say can and may be used against you -- including out of context remarks. You can see how this can be a minefield when you are dealing with a negative or contentious topic. If you think you may experience negative publicity, I recommend you waste no time calling an expert in media relations and communications -- of course, in a crisis, you are not going to want this expertise by looking on the internet or Yellow Pages. It is best, always, to plan ahead and prepare.

How important is all of this stuff? Obviously many companies and business leaders succeed outside the limelight of publicity -- there is an argument for avoiding attention while you quietly do your thing. But if you take the time to understand and relate effectively to news media personnel by seeing the world through their perspective, you are more likely to achieve satisfactory results.

Mark Buckshon can be reached by phone at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or by email at

Thursday, January 04, 2007

How to obtain great publicity for your business

Point 2 -- What makes a great story?

One of the cardinal rules of marketing is to answer the WIIFM (What's in it for me?) question, from the perspective of your clients and prospective clients. The same issue applies at a magnified level when you are seeking media publicity.

Most publications, websites and radio or television stations will be happy to provide you with a puffy business profile for you -- if you pay them. Of course, this can be very expensive and not terribly effective advertising. You and your employees may care about your business, but who else does? The answer is, not many, except as it provides something of value (or on the negative side, of cost) to them.

Since the media business depends on advertising revenue for its survival, it is doubly careful about giving positive publicity that could be seen as self-serving to businesses. (This is partly why non-profits and community groups have an edge in the publicity realm; there are also ideological and point-of-view biases of working journalists, who are usually younger and more left than right-leaning in their political perspectives.)

Nevertheless, these issues are not insurmountable barriers -- the important thing is to look beyond your own interests, to those of the media for which you are seeking publicity, and ultimately, their readers (who, if you are planning things correctly, are likely to be your clients or their influencers).

Here are some ideas on routes to media publicity

The charity give-away
You have seen I'm sure the smiling faces with the big cheque. These pictures run in community newspapers and in charity 'house organs'. I'm not a big fan of this type of publicity but it should not be underrated -- especially if, for example, the board of directors of the charity you are supporting also contains senior decision-makers among your potential clients.

The creative (or big) charity give-away
You can certainly 'buy' publicity by making a really large contribution -- something big enough to bankrupt most smaller businesses! Creativity is of course more complex. A homebuilder might negotiate with a hosptial lottery to provide a dream home as a prize give-away; perhaps selling the house to the lottery at a below-market price. The house, located in a subdivision the builder is marketing, is then used as a show-home for several months while the lottery is running. The builder receives good publicity and of course many visitors from potential purchasers. Perhaps you can arrange a different but relevant give-away within the business sector you are serving.

Your article/column in business and trade journals
I think this is the most effective form of publicity for professional services and consultants. You need to write creative, original content, of relevance to publication's readers. If you aren't a natural writer, you can hire someone to put your words into a cohesive form. Note you should not use canned material here -- editors can see through this stuff and will either reject it or invite you to publish it as a boxed ad. Consider also if appropriate developing a podcast or visual message using the new media technologies.

Contribute to relevant internet forums and discussion groups
If you can be seen as an expert among experts in higher level forums and discussion groups, youwill achieve an enhanced reputation (and receive calls and emails directly), but an indirect benefit is that mainstream media reporters monitor the forums these days and you are more likely to be called to comment on relevant topics.

Tomorrow I'll discuss the uses (and limits) of the News Release.

Please feel free to phone me at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or email

This week I learned belatedly with sadness about the death of Gary Coull. We were university peers -- working on the student newspaper The Ubyssey, with summer and part-time jobs at the Vancouver Province newspaper. When we graduated, we set out to see the world -- in different directions. Gary went to the middle east and Asia, settling in Hong Kong where, he grew from a start as a reporter to becoming a highly successful investment banker/broker.

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His memorial website is

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

How to obtain great publicity for your business

Point 1 -- Why media publicity is important.

The media is a magnifier. Great word-of-mouth referrals of course produce profitable business opportunities. Great media publicity multiplies this process because the media's credibility combines with its extensive circulation/viewership/distributorship within your market community. (The converse, of course, applies to bad publicity).

Independent news media has credibility with your market because readers/viewers perceive it as valid; journalists are skilled at communicating messages effectively and are able to tell your story often better than you can.

And, finally, positive media publicity is 'free' in that you can't buy it or pay for it. (It isn't totally free in that unless you are skilled in the art of publicity seeking, you will need to engage a professional public relations specialist or at minimum a part-time writer/communicator to help you out; but the costs of these services in relation to their potential return make them perhaps your wisest marketing investment.)

The biggest problem with media publicity is you cannot 'control' it -- you cannot ask a reporter to write a good story for you and have it published at exactly the time and in exactly the format you wish. (The rules are different for advertorial-type features; but these are different issues and I will cover them later).

The challenge in determining the best approach to take is that every business has a different story to tell; and finding the correct 'angle' requires a mixture of creativity and understanding of your business and market, as well as the characteristics of the relevant media outlets.

Please feel free to call me at 888-432-3555 ext 224 or email if you would like me to explore some ideas of specific relevance to your own business.