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Friday, July 10, 2009

Relationships underlying marketing

You achieve the magic construction marketing moment when you reach the level of communication that trust and respect are considered the core of your relationship -- not "selling something".

In fact, I would argue that with rare exceptions you aren't going to sell very much until you achieve this status.

However, you can't usually achieve this high relationship quality by conventional selling practices. I mean, do you really trust someone who telemarkets you, or really believe the advertisements you read?

But it is easy to lapse into the conventional, in fact, it is natural -- you think this is the way it is done, and so do it. You are "marketing" after all.

Yet, when you look at your business, you see that virtually every (profitable) sale you make actually occurs when the relationship founded on trust is so strong that your price doesn't matter. (Well, your price indeed matters, to an extent, because if you have a relationship based on trust, you would never abuse the trust by gouging someone or charging a price outside of the realistic value you are delivering.)

The irony is that our business is primarily selling the standard stuff -- advertising -- but we sell most of what we sell by connecting more closely with our clients and their own relationships.

You probably appreciate these principals if you have built your business in good times by "relying" on referrals. You do your work well, you build the relationships with your clients to such a level, that they tell their friends and colleagues about you, and your order book is full.

Unfortunately, when things slow down, you may be tempted to fall into conventional marketing traps -- or be sold a pile of crap by conventional marketing sales representatives.

How do you get around these marketing myths and achieve meaningful results. I'll go out on a limb and suggest three ideas to follow:

  1. Build on your referrals. If you have great client relationships, connect (more closely) with them, in a systematic but human way. You'll achieve far greater results with this form of marketing than any other option.
  2. Look at media publicity as the most cost-effective non-referral marketing opportunity available to you. Media publicity can include your own media; namely blogs, videos, and Internet forum participation. It can also be independent editorial coverage in publications, websites and radio/television stations. We make most of our money by providing advertising-supported editorial publicity; done right, this can be a great seed for independent editorial coverage, and is far more effective than conventional advertising.
  3. Remember that relationships don't need to correlate directly to any selling or "business development" but you want these relationships to focus within your ideal client community. In other words, focus on giving, sharing, and connecting without worrying about return, but hang out in the right neighbourhoods or with the right business associations.
Does this stuff work? Absolutely. And you don't have to sell a thing to find the clients you really want to serve if you get it right.

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