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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cultural norms and industry conventions

Why are time share condos sold by high-pressure, slick, manipulative salespeople? Why are most used cars sold at dealerships (or divisions of dealerships) which appear scuzzy, with cheap brightly coloured pennants? Why do most contractors rush out to public bid competitions and hope to win by "bidding low?"

I wish I could have a straightforward answer to these questions, but the questions provide their own insight. Different industries have different marketing conventions and norms. Breaking free of these standard practices and trying something different is risky and uncomfortable. It is much easier to revert to the norm of, for want of a better phrase, the industry brand.

So most contractors don't advertise or employ conventional sales representatives (and those that do, often in the residential environment, perhaps with door-to-door canvassers, play the game at the sophistication and client interaction level of time share operators.)

The construction industry marketing norm, it seems, is either not to market at all other than to provide great service and value and hope for referral and word-of-mouth return business, or to use the cheapest, most irritating and intrusive marketing methods known to any industry.

Surely, there has to be a better way.

Yes, some used car dealers have spruced themselves up and now behave and look much more like their new car counterparts. I'm not sure about the time share guys -- maybe it is impossible to do better for a product that has such high conceptual/emotional value at the time of sale, but so little resale worth.

Maybe, however, just a few contractors have discovered the magical combination of providing a level of service that invites referral/repeat business AND enough marketing and advertising to prime the pump, encouraging the referrals and repeat clientele and drawing out new business.

But this type of marketing feels risky. And it requires you to invest time, energy and money in what at first seems to be a secondary activity.

So you don't do it until you are desperate and need fast results. And then, sadly, you reach out to the worst industry conventions and practices from other sectors and think your marketing must be like a conventional used car dealership or time share operator.

Most of us simply won't change, and when we "change", we follow the predictable, wrong path.

That's sad.

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