Figuring the mysteries of marketing: The creative art

Our direct marketing postcsard

In the middle of a quiet weekend as a marketing and business adventure looms, I’m intrigued by the qualities that go into the secret sauce of business development and success.

Of course there is science, based on psychology and metrics. And much can be said for the value of experience — knowing the basics and learning from the success and failure of others. But I realize that the creative spark that sets the building blocks of a business has another quality, and that is what I am seeking to understand tonight.

About a month ago, our new publication, Ontario Construction News, appeared to be hitting a stalling point. We had developed an effective strategic alliance with, which indeed provides some useful leads. And — although uncomfortably expensive — I could see some business arising from Google Ads (especially because we had specific keywords and a tight geographical focus in mind.)

But how could we really break through and win enough business to be viable.

Then I had an insight: The people who would be our customers would not likely read or see our website and email marketing; they had a job to do, and the job was simply to follow the procedures that they had followed for decades. The individuals doing this work would most likely be administrative employees or office managers who would check the boxes and do what they had always done.

I knew every business for our new service could be identified (by company name and postal/mailing address) on the statutory government form that is the basis for the mandatory legal advertising — and the competing publication needs to share the information in a public listing/database.

Accordingly,? I asked our offshore contractor who is happy to earn $3.25 an hour to search that database each day, and file a report on the relevant names and addresses. Then I developed a direct mail piece to make our offer clear. We started sending the marketing materials to potential clients by regular postal mail.

We have started receiving orders — and as the list grew day by day, we saw something really interesting and important. Some contractors were serious customers for the service; placing more than six or seven relevant notice advertisements in less than two months.

This led to another insight — there are serious “A” list potential clients in the market and if we can capture even a few of them, we’ll have a very profitable business.

It’s working. While the response rate to the direct marketing pieces is at the usual level of about two or three percent (based on a list of about 800 names, of which 500 have received one initial marketing letter from us), we’ve picked up several customers — and indeed some of them have started repeating their purchases. I’ve prepared another marketing piece — a postcard to go to the entire list — and we’ll begin a targeted campaign to the top 100 potential clients in the next few weeks.

Of course, we are offering a good deal. Cost savings of upwards of 50 per cent from the competition, and much speedier service — which brings close-out funds for contractors to their bank accounts much more quickly.

Clearly a business is going in the right direction when it attracts new customers virtually ever day, with a similar number of repeat orders. (Our earliest clients have given us upwards of four orders already). The market share is inching upwards, and I can “feel” the business growing, to the point that the main concerns I have now are ensuring we have the staffing and systems in place to handle the volume.

The marketing insight for our new business — direct mail would be the best way to go — and targeted campaigns geared at high-yield clients may produce great results — probably won’t apply to yours, but I’m confident there are approaches that make the most sense for your business that won’t necessarily be right for ours.

The key to successful implementation is to understand the tools out there; and the science behind the tools — either from your own research or contracting with relevant experts.

Our new business is working on these principles — realizing the market potential, and figuring out ways to deliver the product more effectively, while keeping operating costs under control as we ensure that we don’t get ahead of our growth (just as I now must think about how to avoid the growth getting ahead of our systems and processes).

A dollop of creativity can indeed go a long way when you build your marketing plans.

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