It’s a problem we all encounter often in business. Despite the adages about persistence and perseverance, the harder we try (especially for initiatives seeking more immediate rewards), the less we achieve.
Consider for example these observations:
- Is it better to try to break new ground by submitting 10 RFP responses to potentially new clients, or work really hard on developing one or two for existing clients or ones for whom we’ve received a direct referral?;
- Does it pay (as a publisher) to fill as much bandwidth as possible with”profitable” paid advertising, or should we put caps on the ad volume and focus instead on a few really good editorial stories?;
- If we are sales reps or business developers, should we make as many calls as we can in a day and hope some will “stick” or accept a good client’s invitation to join the party for a few rounds of golf and some evening entertainment after the tournament?
Presumably, you won’t take too long to guess the correct answer to each of these questions. Pounding away with intense effort to pull in new business usually results in lots of stress and not much revenue; while the softer, easier and more ‘fun’ approaches of building and maintaining lasting relationships are much more effective (and easier on our mind-sets).
Then why do we do the things we shouldn’t? The best answer I can give is that while the soft-relationship model certainly can result in some wonderful quick business, you don’t control the terms and conditions of its arrival and sometimes it seems too easy. (In fact, I recall one situation where I won a project that I initially declined because it was outside my company’s business scope. The client persisted — on me. At latest count, I calculate that initiative has generated more the $100,000 in net profit. Some work to almost turn down!)
Problems arise when you suddenly discovery your seemingly simple process of finding soft business dries up either because of personnel/competitive changes or simply a nasty economic recession. You need to do something quickly, so you fall back on the scatter-gun desperate approach, and fail miserably.
The best answer to this dilemma I think is to plan your affairs, think longer-term in terms of your relationships, and (yes) allocate some time and resources for the less-perfect marketing models so you at least know how they work and can implement them with some additional intensity when you need to use them. But don’t give up your golf (if you like playing the game) and community/association involvement. In the end, your relationships will carry you far further in business development and marketing than aggressive and often offensive pushing with cold calls, blanket RFP responses, and irritating advertising. (Yes, we sell advertising for a living here, and I appreciate the irony in that latter remark, but obviously we deliver enough value to enough clients over time to remain in business for more than two decades.)