You will want to read this Advertising Age article: How Marketers Can Tap the Power of Habit because it provides clues to our own failures in implementing effective marketing strategies, and keys to designing strategies that will be effective.
The point: Habits are hard to change, but can be changed, and in fact, marketers need to figure out how to change potential clients’ habits to be successful, especially when the decision involves something that isn’t high in mind-share or where the habits have become well-engrained.
And where are the best opportunities to change habits (and influence marketing decisions)? The answer: When there is upheaval, crisis, or major life-changing events.
Accordingly, there are reasons marketers target college students — when things are in flux — because this is an opportunity to win lifetime branding associations. The suggestion that you might get serious about real marketing approaches becomes highly probable if you are working through a major business crisis. When things go really, really wrong, you often are ready to try something new and different.
Unfortunately, there is a problem with this habit-changing model, because most AEC marketers think short-term, reactively, and alas focus on the RFP/bidding process, public tenders, or leads services to generate immediate action. And these business-building methods give you only limited opportunity to excel and really solve your marketing problems. After all, with the exception of some small-job consumer renovation products/services (say driveway sealing) or emergency/urgent disaster repairs (where we often need to deal with long-established insurance company relationships and rules), in most cases, we need to direct our marketing to individuals and organizations with a long review and decision-making cycle. (The length may be relative, obviously it can take years to plan and build a multi-million institutional or commercial structure, but if you are working with consumers on a home renovation project, the percentage of net worth of the homeowner may be proportional or greater to the institution for the large commercial job.)
These observations explain why it is so hard to change the way we do things. If it is unnatural to change our way of doing business (relying on referrals and repeat business or public tenders) in the best of times, when things go wrong, we are ready to change — but the marketing/sales size is so long and sample so small that we cannot get our hands around the quick fix we so eagerly seek. The mess gets worse and I fear we often run harder on the same treadmill, for example, ordering up even more crappy leads from the leads services, or pushing through even more RFP responses, of even lower quality than usual, dropping whatever “go/no go” standards we had previously.
Can we get around this paradox? Well, I suppose we can study habit change and when things are good, defy the odds and make incremental, but meaningful improvements in our processes. And when things aren’t so good, we can do the one quick fix that has a reasonable chance of rather rapid success — moving from relying on repeat/referral business, to setting up systematic approaches to develop and enhance repeat/referral volumes. We may also find building a more solid website/content presence can be helpful.