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Monday, June 08, 2009

"Your best marketing investment is time"

Why are golf tournaments, like this annual event from the Greater Ottawa Home Builders' Association, so successful? They provide members the opportunity to connect and be together in a relaxing, social context -- where relationships develop and business opportunities are nurtured.

"Double-A" on writes:
The best investment I've found you can make in new business development is time. Advertising is great, but people don't like to do business with a flyer, a yellow page ad, or even a coupon. They'd trade all of that for a personal relationship or associating with the owner or an employee.

In other words, a person on the "inside".

Church, kids sports programs, business groups, self improvement groups, etc. are the place to network and meet people. Pass out business cards and "press the flesh". Once folks have met you, and spoken with you, they will remember you with the time comes. All the fancy web sites in the world won't help much when everyone is on the web. Same with yellow pages. A full page ad, the front and/or back cover ad.... all worthless if folks don't feel a connection to your company.

The best new business comes from old business. Mining the customer base. Asking for referrals, calling to check on completed work, asking for new work, etc. are some of the best ways to put raw material into the machine.

Advertising has its place, from a branding stand point, but it should not be the only driver for new business. You should be pulling in as much new business from personal contact as you are from ads, perhaps more. The ads serve to give you a place and to instill a sense of your company "belonging" in and to the community it serves.

Also, the best advertising we do is not in the traditional places. People like to buy from folks just like themselves. This means we seek out ads in church flyers and calendars, sponsor kids sports teams and ball parks bill boards, participate and sponsor food and clothing drives, as well as, volunteer build/paint days with the city, county, etc.

Putting your name out there is a matter of selling your company full time. Advertising is a way to re-enforce what you and your people bring to the job personally and professionally each and every day. I've found that just being there... where ever that might be, is enough to generate leads and really helps to close sales.

"I saw you at my kid's ball game the other day! Does your boy play ball?"
"No, I sponsor your son's team and I go to every game I can. Not as many as I'd like, but I make as many as I can."

With 20-30 kids on the teams, and grand parents factored in, not to mention friends and non-immediate family, I figure I'll meet and talk with 60-80 people a month just from that one sponsorship. Now, how many are "qualified leads"? Dunno and don't care. If they need me, they know I'm there for their kids/grandkids/neighbors/nephew and that I'll be there for them, too.

You can't put that in an ad.
Double-A is right, especially when your market pool is very local or your network of decision-makers is truly exclusive (as is usually the case for significant business-to-business or non-residential work.) However, systematic client-focused advertising developed by a process where you listen to your clients and connect with their interests, is effective when you combine it with healthy personal relationships and community involvement.

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