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Saturday, July 07, 2012

Searching for the (construction marketing) truth

Yesterday, I spent several hours in search of the 14th century Istanbul synagogue still in operation today.  I took a local tram, then a city bus, discovering a bit more how the local people travel.  A passenger next to me, looking at my tour map on my lap, suggested I get off the bus.  I had gone too far, he said, in very broken English -- this bus would take me much further into the suburbs.

So I left the bus and started walking, seeking relevant landmarks and (much to my male-centred direction-seeking discomfort) asked a few people for guidelines.  As expected, one guy offered to take me there for a price -- on his boat.  I declined.

Eventually I discovered the correct neighbourhood; then faced the challenge of navigating some strangely-named cobblestone streets.  Ancient history here, clearly.  I crossed paths with a tour group where the leader described the synagogue's history.  But he wasn't speaking from the actual location.

An Australian woman approached me.  Was I looking for the Ahrida Synagogue, she asked.  We started searching together, asking some more locals, then rounded the bend, and discovered this almost invisible modest entry-way.  As we approached, we bumped into a couple from Florida also seeking the same place.

No way could we enter -- you need to request access (available only in the mornings) at least three business days in advance, with a detailed form requiring a copy of your passport.  Security is important here.  While Istanbul is truly a tolerant city, Islamic extremists a few years ago attacked a local synagogue.  My guidebook says the synagogue is actively functioning, with about 100 members attending weekly Sabbath services.

So, after all that searching and research, all I have to show (visibly) for the experience is a single photo of me standing at the door way.

If we conducted our construction marketing with the same direct results for effort, I think we would be bankrupt, quickly.  Pouring energy and research into a fleeting experience that could not be completed properly (we couldn't even get into the building) is hardly wise business planning and marketing.  I don't regret the search, of course.  Along the way I had time to see much unplanned about Istanbul, learn a lot, and soak in the history.  And I met some cool people along the way.

However, in business (and marketing) we need to be much more rational in our searching and emotions.  We should carefully consider our go/no go rules (which can and I think should take into account our passions and interests -- allowing us to "go" for things we might not rationally try because we really care).

Obviously specialized interest and relevance also count for much in this story.  Unless you are Jewish or interested in religious history, you won't find much value in seeking out a 14th century synagogue.  However, specialized interests allow you the opportunity to dig deeper and further into places where relatively few others travel, and along the way you will likely meet fellow voyagers with the same interests.

Finally, we have the choice of traveling on our own, with a guidebook, an organized tour, or a paid coach/guide.  Each type of experience has its advantage and costs.  I would advocate in marketing to mix things up a bit and try different things.  Eventually you will build your knowledge and network to the level where you know who to ask for support, where to obtain the information you need, and when you should pay for the information, and when you can discover it for free.

(So today, now that my wife has arrived, a day late but safe and sound travelling business class for economy fare prices, I'll spend more on a three hour organized tour than I have allocated for virtually any activity on this trip -- and this isn't the most expensive tour available.)

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