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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Instant friends (really?)

We publish regional construction publications. Instead of promoting the self-serving interests of construction marketing organizations here, I might as well promote my own product. But this passes the blog's "smell test" as few readers here are likely to be advertisers in our publications, but there' s lots of free news within the publications (which you can access from our website without sharing your identity or email address, unlike the two examples below.)

Within the last day, I've received a couple of seemingly simple gifts. In one case, an organization published a comment on my blog. Unlike auto-generated "spam comments' this observation appeared genuinely relevant to the blog. Trouble is, embedded with the comment was a link to a site offering some sort of "window cleaning e-book" for (just) $29.95. Maybe it is a good offer. I don't know. But I'm certainly not giving them a free link to boost their search engine rankings and business, when I don't know them anywhere but the comment.

In the second situation, someone who has tried to market a contractor-relevant service on sent me a thoughtful video and asked me to post it. The video has some value the service may be real, but the page you go to when you link off the video takes me into spaces I associate with Internet scam land. I am confident the service provider isn't running a scam, but equally, I don't feel comfortable rushing off and providing instant credibility to his business.

Are both of these businesses doing something wrong? Yes, but before I explain where they are failing, I should explain where they are succeeding. They are thinking publicity, media (blog) relations, and "free press". These initiatives can produce the highest return (outside of effective referral business development strategies) of any marketing approach you can achieve.

For example, imagine a positive front page story in your local newspaper, television station, or, for that matter, a plug on Oprah. You don't pay a fee for this publicity, not a cent, and yet the business generation power is incredible.

(Publicity through this blog obviously is less meaningful, but if you have a service relating to construction marketing, you may wish to ride on the blog's high Google keyword rankings.)

So where can you go wrong in seeking publicity?

The main failure of publicity-seekers is that they forget the publisher generally operating a business, too. And I have a basic guideline that helps me determine whether someone should get "free press" for something they are promoting.

"Is the value of sharing the news an order of magnitude greater to the readers than the person receiving the free publicity?"

This is why I especially enjoy publishing stories of contractors who have achieved marketing success, but are not using their success to promote a contractor marketing consultancy. Leonard Megliola at Bestline Plumbing in the Los Angeles area, for example, is running a plumbing business and isn't pushing e-books on marketing (and he gives away his marketing resources and manuals without charge.)

The person seeking my attention with a video blog, (I believe in Ohio), is selling a marketing service of some sort.

I look for "scare offs" or warning signs.

Some people have taken Internet "marketing courses" where they learn how to manipulate their ways onto blogs, use videos, lengthy "squeeze pages" and the like. I'm sure these techniques work, but they are also the techniques of scam artists. I need to be satisfied of real authenticity. When I see the "standard techniques" used to sell me stuff, I run for the hills.

Some days, even if you do everything right, you get nowhere.

Unlike advertising, you don't have control over the timing, direction, and use of your publicity initiatives. Maybe when you send me your press release (or video blog), other things are happening of higher priority or urgency, or I'm just in a bad mood. Whatever, you can't control the media like you control your advertising. Yes, you can do things to turn it on, but you can't just necessarily flick a switch and expect it to work right away.

Can the people who approached me obtain "free publicity" here in the future. Possibly. They'll have to pass my smell tests.

In the meantime, here is one of my own videos.

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