Discover your free Construction Marketing Ideas Email Newsletter

Monday, May 26, 2008

Learning, communicating and selling

The best "marketing letter" is probably the testimonial -- rather than extolling our virtues, a satisfied client does. This is from sales consultant Fred Firestone's website,

Friday evening, one of our employees sent me a draft marketing letter for my review. Her letter extolled our publication's benefits --listing six really useful services we provide any business which contracts with us.

My immediate reaction:

I’m not sure about this – this is all about us. No one cares about us. The contract advertiser cares about their own business and all the ‘benefits’ cited in the draft letter do not connect the dots here. All the $$$ do little to appeal to meaningful emotions.

We need to capture the prospective clients’ needs, interests, values, dreams, aspirations, emotions, and so on. So I’ve made my observations -- can I come up with something better? Maybe. Have to go out early tomorrow (when I write best) but I’ll see if I can generate something by Sunday. I think it will be a 100 per cent give letter with absolutely no selling! We’ll get the sales once we’ve won the prospective clients’

Sunday evening, I asked our employee for the context of the letter; who she wanted it to go to.

She responded:

I am going to sit down tonight and see if I can put together something. It takes me awhile to get that initial sentence out but once my thinking kicks in, I get on a roll. Once my kids are in bed and it's quiet time.......I'll use one company as a sample and draft it as if it was for them's a start. I think they will have to be individual to each group....electrical, contractors, equipment suppliers....etc.. I will try one for the various equipment sales companies....

Then she followed up with a further observation, and a useful link. I found this website. I figured I better research this a lot better than trying to wing it.

I'm looking forward to reading her revised letter, and working with her on improving it even more.

Here, I think, we are encountering the challenge that most sales representatives have in finding/developing leads. The sales representative's source, it turns out, are advertisers in another publication with some competitive overlap with ours. The information we have are the actual ads, and the general business contact information. This publicly available data is legitimate and useful of course, but will we sell much with a head-long intrusion into the prospective client's space? (Ironically, our call will for certain have one unplanned side-effect -- it will reduce the value perception the advertisers have in their publicity in the other publication; they are looking after all for potential clients to call them, NOT other businesses selling advertising!)

My argument would be that we have a much better opportunity of doing business if we find/develop a healthy relationship with the potential advertiser before we start pushing our benefits and features in their face uninvited. This suggests that the initial sales letters should either be highly individual and personalized (based on real knowledge and connections) or, if it is going to be a form-like thing, share useful information relevant to that business and give it something free without obligation or pressure.

"Personalization" these days can be manufactured -- perhaps to good effect, though in my case, I am skeptical of anything too friendly from someone I don't know. You've probably received the faxes that appear handwritten but are really computer generated; and I've seen real handwritten envelopes which, when opened, contain content touting overpriced or dubious network marketing or "Internet business" seminars. I guess this stuff may work, but not on me.

Maybe salespeople and marketers need to respect the intelligence of business owners more. I felt right at home at the Ontario General Contractors' Association symposium when, after completing an interview with Clive Thurston, he introduced me to someone selling a training service for the construction industry (who had paid the necessary fees to be a symposium sponsor). He had a demonstration meeting set up with a major general contractor. On Thurston's recommendation, I agreed to stick around and take a picture of the demonstration. The contractor -- who has been one of our advertisers -- showed up -- and looked at the demonstration. "How much does it cost?' he asked. The vendor hesitated; so the contractor asked again. When he got the number -- surprisingly low -- the contractor said: "Sign me up."

Here, we see the correct seeds for business and relationship development; face to face, relevant referrals, some luck (I just happened to be there at the time) and, when it comes right down to it, the offer made sense for the price -- no hemming and hawing around that important fact!

I'll respect the intelligence of our employees, meanwhile, encouraging them to think for themselves, try new things out, and grow. I'm confident we will soon have a truly effective marketing letter.

No comments: