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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Buying, marketing and selling -- an explanation of why the best contractors are often the least successful at marketing

Readers here may recall this rather fascinating piece of literature I received in the in-box a few weeks ago.

You are an idiot. Remove me from your sophmoric (spelling as sent by Arthur House/ed) trash!

You should attend my seminars - and maybe you should have attended my construction marketing classes at FIU (Florida International University/ed)

But you probably are not MBA material. What a bunch of crap you spew!


Arthur T. House
What provoked this rather amazing observation?

I had tried to turn my e-letter and blog into a selling tool for a truly ill-conceived Construction Marketing Course, something you would actually pay me to receive. House, with some legitimate teaching credentials, thought this laughable, and wrote his response. (Incidentally, no one took me up on the original offer -- perhaps two people tried the email address in my marketing piece, on a list of about 10,000 names, but they certainly didn't say 'yes' to my proposal.)

Yesterday, Susan Simion provided a clue to what provoked House's negative outburst and the lack of positive response when I actually tried to sell something here.

What makes people almost buy? What makes them get most of the way there, then drop out of your shopping cart at the last second? What makes them stare at your landing page, wanting what you have to offer, and yet, ultimately, close the page and move on to something else?

It turns out there’s a hideous troll hiding under the bridge. Every time you get close to making a sale, the troll springs out and scares your prospect away. Get rid of the troll and your copy will start converting better than it ever has before.

The ugly, smelly, dirty, bad-mannered troll is prospect fear. And it’s sitting there right now, stinking up your landing page and scaring good customers away.

She goes on to describe a variety of marketing tools and techniques designed to entice you to part with your money, only to find the entire experience disappointing. It seems the online (and real) world is full of scams.

One of the classics around is the variants of the "Google ATM" offer, in which people sign up for a "Work at Home" opportunity to make big money passively by running Google Adsense on their websites. (Like all good scams there is a grain of truth underlying the rip-off. Google Adsense provides great passive income for really well established and successful websites, but you certainly aren't going to get rich quick with a new home-made endeavour, and Google doesn't charge a cent -- certainly not $70 or so a month -- to set you you up in the business.)

Once burned, twice shy; twice or more burned, you are totally turned off by most marketing and sales conventions. You don't want to do that sort of stuff, do you?

So you don't. You build your reputation for quality, to the point that clients call you, refer friends, and you feel great about your work. Periodically, telemarketers break through your resistance, offering seemingly irresistible leads services or advertising opportunities. You "bite" only, always, to end up disappointed. You vow, to yourself, that you will never stoop that low; you will never waste money on marketing and sales, and you will continue to rely on word-of-mouth.

Then your business dries up. You are desperate. And perhaps you listen a little more closely to those marketing guys who call you (and who you listen to, because no one else, certainly not clients) are phoning you these days. Maybe, just maybe, it will be different this time. But it isn't. And you are worse off than before.

Maybe you think you are an "idiot".

You aren't. But you will have to get around some fundamental resistance whenever you go out to seek business, rather than passively wait for it to come to you. Susan Simion certainly has part of the answer in her blog posting, and this resistance explains why, whenever I try to "sell" using this blog, I end up disappointed. Similarly, you can see the consequences whenever you go out against competition in the marketplace, trying to entice people to respond quickly to your advertising or marketing messages. Fear, and bad experiences, build resistance and make it harder, much harder, to break through.

There are answers, however and here are some worthy of consideration.

You can use word-of-mouth in making your marketing choices, much like you like word of mouth referrals for your own business.

This is where forums such as and your local industry associations are really helpful. Members share their best experiences, and biggest problems, and (with this information) your risk of disaster is much lower than if you go out cold.

You can certainly work with your current clients,and learn from them, about what they read, like, and care about. This gives you ammunition in deciding your best course of action.

You can set up a plan, budget, and disciplined approach to marketing expenses. And within this budget, you can try different approaches, gradually gathering a group of tried-and-true methods that are effective in most conditions. Then when someone calls you with a brilliant construction marketing idea, you can elect whether or not to reallocate some of your budget or (more likely) decline the unsolicited offer, unless you only need to pay in arrears, if the great idea is truly successful.

These ideas work, I'm sure. But what about this blog? I can't get you to buy anything from me here, right? No, but I've told my wife that in 10 years I will be a highly paid Construction Marketing Ideas consultant. (If you click on the Construction Marketing Ideas consultant link, your email browser will open, and you will be free to write your own "idiot" email -- or ask for my insights into your biggest current marketing challenge, free.)

Years of accumulated experience, insights, and knowledge, coupled with practical understanding of what works and what doesn't, will achieve the results no get-rich-quick scheme can achieve.

She remarks: "But you are giving everything away for free."

Yes, with good reason.

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