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Thursday, November 22, 2007

The hidden part of marketing

An important challenge/opportunity in marketing is standing out from the crowd. Sometimes the language is "What is your unique selling proposition?" -- but this belies the issue, to some extent. Some say you need to "break through the clutter" to get your marketing message out there, but do you?
So, why is it that, when you go to meetings of your local home builders' association, you can sit with successful contractors who say their biggest problem isn't finding enough work -- it is scheduling things so that clients who must wait months for service aren't too frustrated by the process.
Or, when you meet a successful local general contractor, their marketing materials are, well, out of the stone age. Worse, because of their apparent lack of marketing sophistication, they appear to be suckers for marketing 'garbage' -- overpriced advertising in "police journals", trashy pseudo charity telemarketing solicitations, and the like. (Of course, even better, these suckers have money -- and retained earnings -- to suck because their overall businesses are so successful.)
One answer -- and a good one from a marketers' perspective -- is these contractors have a great brand. They are so in tune with their market that it responds favourably, with powerful word-of-mouth recommendations, and an abundance of business. (As I noted earlier, you could argue these businesses simply need to look at pricing and operating systems -- if they get these parts right, as well, they can grow to huge enterprises or, if they wish to remain small, become even more profitable for their owners.)
So, does "standing out from the crowd" simply mean doing your work so well, and to such high quality, that your clients -- knowing all the crap and risks out there -- simply must have more? Maybe.
But what if you chose to evolve this quality standard into your employee/sub-contracting recruiting process, developed your marketing resources effectively using inexpensive services or truly high quality consultants, and build sustainable operating/management systems so you can liberate yourself from day-to-day headaches; instead doing the work you enjoy while having plenty of vacation and personal time?
Then, follow this strategy:
Read one of Michael Gerber's E-Myth books, and read it again. Just don't rush to sign up for any of his expensive programs. I'm not convinced they are of great value. His concepts are -- but he is so into systematization that he must use junior employees for the work. You will get McDonalds-type food/service from his organization -- it is "edible" but you can do better.
Review the free resources out there, looking at the marketing/entrepreneurial style of Seth Godin. This is the "give without worrying about receiving" philosophy; setting the stage for Permission Marketing.
Join relevant industry associations and participate in their chapter activities. This may be SMPS, your local home builders' association, or affiliated professional group. Look especially to the associations that link you closely to your existing client base.
Contract with a good consultant to help you. When we get our website redesigned (I'm using high quality but not overpriced local consultants for this) you might wish to use some of the ones I will recommend in a new permalink section -- and no, the recommended consultants won't be paying me for the recommendations! Alternatively, find a general local business consultant who you can work with. The challenge in choosing a consultant is to be sure that you are getting value -- not easy, there are a lot of BS artists out there! Finding a good consultant is much like finding a great general contractor or renovator -- you know you have it when you see the results! And that will be the topic for another column.

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