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Friday, May 23, 2008

Advertising, generosity and branding

One way to build a reputation for generosity is to support community projects financially and with trade services -- such a s The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. But your business brand is even more effective when you take a leadership role in the process -- your network of contacts, and good-will, will translate into much additional business. But you have to do it without worrying about immediate reward or return.

How do businesses which sell advertising for a living succeed. If you understand the answer to this question, you might learn something about your own marketing -- and how and when to use advertising or other resources to achieve the results you are seeking.

Fact is, most advertising-supported businesses need to deliver something of great value to enough of the right people for a truly low (or free) price that the audience is large enough to encourage people to want to pay to access that audience! In other words, a television station attracts millions of viewers, a local newspaper goes to virtually everyone in the community with some money, or Google develops such an effective search engine that virtually everyone on the Internet uses it (often at the moment they are considering a purchasing decision).

In our case, of course, we reach a highly specific -- but important -- audience of construction industry readers, who need many products and services to do their business.

The cornerstone of the media business is successfully giving away enough real value that people want to do business with us -- then delivering the advertisers enough value that they want to keep doing business. Like any business, we have competition, both from peers and interlopers. The competition challenges us to improve our practices and effectiveness.

And, like any business, there are a few players who go over the line, over promising and under-delivering (or not delivering at all). Most of these outfits fail sooner or later, or find some scammy way to find a continuous number of new suckers (or sit close enough to the edge that a few people think they are getting enough value, that they can continue despite high turnover from the majority.)

You can see from our survey results that advertising is a valid -- but minority -- source of new business for most construction enterprises.

But at root of our business -- and perhaps the biggest clue about how you can succeed at yours in marketing -- is we take something really useful, do it well, and virtually give it away! Google provides a wonderfully effective search engine and we provide editorial content -- information and news about the industry that just is not available elsewhere. For free.

Now, I am not suggesting if you are a drywall contractor that you will be in business long if you give away your services without charging for them. But if you share your expertise, your ideas, and your insights into effectively reducing drywall installation costs -- or making the product more effective -- with your community or clients, you may find some surprisingly positive results. Or if you strategically give away your services as a community service initiative; or take a voluntary leadership role in a relevant industry group or association, you may find results far beyond your expectations.

You can provide this benefit informally and quietly (creating an aura of exclusivity with your clients) or publicly, perhaps using media such ours, or by email, or speaking, or association participation.

Your generosity needs to be sincere, and if you expect a quid-pro-quo response, you will not get very far. (Of course I am not suggesting giving and giving indefinitely to leeches -- there are some out there!) But over time, you will find amazing things -- potential clients will come to you, you will be able to charge more than others for the same service, and you will build a successful business. Essentially, you will create a brand for your enterprise. And that is the essense of marketing success.

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