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Saturday, August 29, 2009

The challenge of change: Breaking free of your marketing conventions

Toby Henderson's question asking how someone who has been successful with online marketing can succeed in the offline world raises some important additional challenges. The question is: If we are successful with one model of marketing, how to we expand or change our approach?

The parallel example, and these days a much more common one, would be: "I've built my business on word-of-mouth and referrals: How can I succeed at marketing outside this approach."

Change, virtually any kind of change, is difficult, for good reason. You must leave your comfort zone, and you must go away from the place where you've developed expertise, confidence and insights, into a new world. And change in approach requires you to fight against one of the four RIMC marketing pillars (Relationships, Intensity, Money and Consistency, with the C for "Consistency" the key here.)

When you change course you must battle fear, lack of knowledge, and often throw piles of money at an unproven answer. (Henderson says he dumped $20,000 into the Yellow Pages with poor results -- which, again, says some not very good things about the Yellow Pages, of course.)

As I noted in my earlier RIMC posting, you can succeed at marketing if you have three of the four elements in place. So if you take "consistency" out of the equation (at least in the short term), until you find another stable and reliable model for marketing), you will need to use the other three resources, while being cautious about how these forces are working on you.

Adding to the mix, when you put money into the equation, you also find, yes, the dreaded "salesperson". Some sales representatives are more ethical than others, and some will play your "relationship" need (which is higher when things are stable or you are entering new places) to get your, you guessed it, Money.

I think you need to turn this process on its head. Use your relationships to find your alternative media and new marketing strategies.

This will be especially effective if you have relied on referral and word of mouth. Simply spend some time with your existing clients and learn more about which media they read/view, which associations they are members of, and which marketing messages get through to them. Then you can call the appropriate media and brave the enticements of their sales representatives.

Your other approach is to check with non-competitive peers in other markets similar to yours. You will likely find these colleagues through your industry associations. Note you will also find salespeople with various marketing solutions at association events. They can be helpful, as they at least know your industry, but make your decision through real connections with true peers first.

Undoubtedly, when you enter the new space, you will make mistakes and throw seemingly good money after bad. I certainly advocate ensuring you have solid measuring tools and resources. You need to know how many leads you are acquiring from the new marketing methods, their conversion rate, and the value of business you achieve.

This will allow you to assess your cost per lead and your revenue per lead -- and whether the marketing is profitable. (Undoubtedly, outside of referrals, online marketing and successful media/community relations initiatives -- our specialty -- , you'll find your lead acquisition costs are higher than you've experienced before; the challenge is whether the incremental gain in leads and sales can help you sustain and grow your business.)

P.S. I've raised this question on the forum, which you can follow to see what others think.

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