Discover your free Construction Marketing Ideas Email Newsletter

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Relationships and Marketing: Untold stories

Many of our business's greatest sales and marketing successes never reach this blog, at least as they are developing. Generally, as things progress from initial possibility to final transaction, several things happen and putting the process into the public eye rarely helps.

I should say, putting the WHOLE process into the public eye rarely helps. Sometimes the story includes a "public" element and since our business is publishing and publicity, we'll use these resources and capacities when they make sense.

But what about all of the stuff you never see? Sure, much of what we do is the standard stuff -- building the brand, communicating, sharing and winning trust, and then (finally) achieving commitment for clients to spend money. Fair enough. But that is only a fraction of the story.

For example, yesterday, a good client paid for my lunch, then I went to a retail business owned by a non-client. My assignment: To gather notes and write an impressively positive editorial profile about this non-client business for one of our publications.

We volunteered to do the story, without charge or expectation of anything in return, when we heard our client had decided to do business with one of our competitors, expecting similar results to the experience with us. (We earn most of our money through supplier-supported advertising features.)

The competitor had produced a poor-quality feature, while using some high pressure sales techniques. And the company which I visited yesterday had purchased a grossly overpriced ad to support the feature for our client.

In case you are wondering why we should voluntarily offer to help a client out by solving the problems caused by a competitor, you have failed Marketing 101. If your cash cost is low by helping out a client in repairing the damage caused by your competitor, you are almost certain to come out ahead in the long-run; if only by really encouraging referrals and more repeat business.

As it is, our client, besides buying me lunch, purchased an ad in this 'non revenue' feature (because he has such respect for his supplier), that we ended up making a little bit of money because of our generosity.

Great marketing is often a series of simple and small decisions. Little extras and respectful responses for your clients rarely cost very much, but pay heavy dividends. Never saying bad things about your competitors, but listening to your clients complain bitterly about the competitors' failings -- and then offering to solve the problems the competitors caused -- is great stuff for your brand and referrals.

"Listen, if you have anyone who is approached by that (unnamed here) competitor, have them give me a call, and I'll set them straight," our client told me yesterday. (It doesn't harm that he is a leader of some of the major trade associations around here.)

Sure, marketing is about branding, and can include advertising, company policies, pricing decisions and the like. But in the end your real success will come down to how you and your employees connect the dots and relate to your clients and your community. If you can capture the opportunity to go beyond their expectations as your competitors do things the "same old (bad) way", you will come out ahead of the game, always.

No comments: