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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The marketing irony

This image of aboriginal construction trainee Mike Cockery (21) in an Ottawa Citizen article Spirit of 'long-dead Indian boy' elicits dream of First Nations youth resort reminds us the whole world is not about business and marketing.

Yesterday, in the bi-weekly Construction Marketing Ideas newsletter, I posted these observations:

Here is an irony. Our goal is to create a business so successful we don't need to sell or market anything -- yet to do that, even if we don't need to sell and market ourselves, we should, with skill and imagination.

Picture, for a moment, the circumstance where your business offers something of such great value that people are virtually banging down your door to pay you for your services. The problem you have is not acquiring clients -- it is turning away the ones you don't have the time or desire to serve. You can price your services at a profitable level, and in fact, your business is so successful that others are ready to pay you top dollar for the rights to do business with you or associate with your name.
Do you know businesses which fit this description? It might even be yours -- or at least it might have been yours -- during the boom times just a few years ago. Then, many contractors could find clients without doing any work other then their job; with the shortage of trades and high demand, you might have been successful, without even the least bit of marketing effort.

The problem of course is that when times change, the boom turns to bust, and your lack of marketing and sales knowledge leaves you in the awkward place of desperately fighting to be the lowest of the low bidders in an intensively competitive environment -- suddenly your dreams and self perception are shattered, and you face the real problem of finding a way to survive in a difficult environment.

That is where marketing and selling knowledge come in handy -- and coupled with effective "brand management" (high-sounding words for just doing your work well,and ensuring your clients are really impressed with your service/value).

Then, you can pull out your marketing tool-kit to bring old clients back for more, to attract new business and when necessary to go on a blitz to bring in new clients, fast. You need to systematize these processes with imagination and a dash of individuality; and you need to watch out for anyone selling magical solutions, either outdated hard-rock selling techniques, or quick-fix advertising offers.

Take a few minutes quietly, and visualize your perfect business. Think of the way potential clients would relate to you; hear about you, and want to do business with you. Think about what you do really well -- so much that you know in your heart you are the best in your community at it -- and how your clients respond to your results when you deliver this value. Then begin planning your strategy to leverage your current client base; and let new clients know about what you offer.

You will find the answer.

Last night, I received an answer from a person I've known many years, which adds a different perspective:

I just finished reading the July 1 issue of your newsletter.

After retiring last year as CSC's Secretary Treasurer, I became Treasurer of a social services agency in Oshawa that owns and operates a 39 bed homeless shelter, two
rent-to-income transitional housing apartment buildings and a community residential facility for parolees. We do not actively market our services and yet find ourselves having to turn away clients from time to time, especially during economic downturns. (Talk about irony!) This not-for-profit organization just celebrated (a poor choice of word) its 40th anniversary and we are not likely to go out of business any time in the near future, at least not as long as our funding continues.

I hope you had a happy Canada Day. I'll probably see you at the CSC Toronto Trade Show in February.

These observations are both humbling and inspiring and a reminder that not everything in the world works on business/conventional marketing principals, nor should it.

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