You can see the messages out there in the Internet space: “No more cold calls” or “Unlimited qualified leads”. Or you will receive a call from a smooth-talking salesperson asking you to support the local police association or a community charity with some program advertising. Your heart, to do good, answers, and you say “yes”.
Alternatively, someone offers you a formula, a solution, a training course, or a webinar, purporting to answer your needs and your dreams or you read about success stories and incredible results by people following the latest trend or fad, and you decide you need to follow it yourself.
Then you look at your credit card statement and wonder, perhaps, what you really paid for. Results are as dismal as ever and the only thing that seems to work, consistently, if you have been in business any length of time, are those inbound calls from referred or repeat clients (and maybe a steady contract or two from one of your best customers.).
These observations reflect the sometimes sad, but usually realistic truths of marketing for the architecture, engineering and construction community. No matter how much you want to slice and dice the evidence, most businesses receive most of their business from repeat and referral clients (74 per cent according to our ongoing poll, which you can complete yourself by clicking on the poll on this blog’s sidebar.).
With these two cold hard facts in your mind — most business arises from repeat and referral relationships, and most stuff sold to you either directly or through third party-marketing is hype that produces only limited, if any return — how do you then build your business, either as a start-up, or an established company?
I can give you two answers — and the second one may prove to be your magic solution.
A (very) small percentage of construction industry people market effectively and aggressively, either through systematized processes to develop and maintain personal relationships (usually this occurs in the professional and business-to-business space), or with intensive, continuous, and expensive advertising (more common in residential marketing). These marketers go far beyond “relying” on word of mouth and referrals, and they are not afraid to allocate resources ar in excess of the industry norms to organized marketing initiatives. Usually, but not always, they grow to an order of magnitude beyond the cmopetition and (if they aren’t careless about their marketing and run their overall business systematically), pull through recessionas and hard times without too much streess.
More of us, perhaps the majority, are able to combine our personal passions with practical marketing initiatives, in essense creating a culture within our own lives and businesses where the repeat and referral business seems to come easier, naturally, and more effectively than for the competition.
You might call this the intuitive and fun approach to marketing, and it isn’t taught by most people advocating their marketing systems (though they may make their approach look that way in their marketing materials, to hook you into spending some money). The idea is to connect your greatest passions and talents and harness them in areas which have genuine marketing value. Then, you can continue with what you should be doing, consistently, but you don’t mind because you enjoy the process so much it isn’t actually work for you.
This blog is my best personal example. I started it in late 2006, well after blogging became common in other industries/communities, and when a few early adaptors were trying out the blogging concept for size. Most of the early bloggers game up, soon enough, because they couldn’t measure results from their efforts and ain any case, they didn’t really enjoy writing with the frequency and volume required for success at the activity.
But I’ve always been a writer and journalist, and blogging for me is as natural as your trade or profession is for you. Fast forward three years, and “social networking” is in, and blogging is considered an essential part of the marketing picture, and I have a leading place within the community as the first real, and continuous construction industry blogger. It does great things for my stature and search engine rankings (if only I had listened more closely to theirs and realized that if I had switched to my own hosted WordPress site, rather than ‘relying’ on the off-the-shelf blogger account for three years, I wouldn’t have to write two totally separate entries a day to maintain my blog’s search engine status.)
But these observations, you say, don’t really help you in your marketing. Perhaps, however, you can capture an insight — if you can combine your personal passion to the needs and values of your ideal clients/market, you may be able to develop a marketing system which is fun, easy to replicate, and most importantly, a great place to follow-through.
I can’t tell you what your passion and strengths are or should be. Most likely, they are the interests and qualities which led you to start your own business in the first place. If not, and you are employed, I hope you are working at an occupation you love, not a job just for the money. If you are in the latter category, pending your career change, you might look at your greatest pleasures, experiences, and achievements, or your after-work activities you truly enjoy.
The next stage is to meld these into your marketing program, by looking at where/how your interests interface with your potential clients. And the best place to do this melding is often at client-focused industry or community associations.
Not surprisingly, when I join an association, I immediately figure out how to contribute or write for the association’s newsletter or magazine. This reflects my talents and strengths, and it gives me instant access to everyone I want to see or know. But you may like sports, or social activities, or simply to delve into the technical aspects of your business. You can connect and participate in committees focusing on virtually any aspect of common interest, as a volunteer, and if a committee or activity doesn’t exist yet you can often suggest it. The key is to do this contributing less with your peers and more with your current and potential clients: So look for associations and groups serving your clients (you can always gain insights from your current and best clients.)
I think you can see how this approach to marketing is a whole lot more fun than following someone else’s magic answer, because you create it yourself from your real interests and passions. And you’ll make friends, and attract new, repeat, and referral business (assuming, of course, you deliver the goods — because your reputation will live on from each of your experiences and accomplishments.)
Finally, remember that smart sales reps will also appeal to your interest, dreams, and values, in promoting their own products or services. Your challenge is to look beyond these managed messages and control the story. Simply put, apply your interests and passions in the selling and marketing, not purchasing, process (and that includes “marketing” services such as advertising, courses, and programs.).
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