Perhaps as a child, my greatest misfortune turned out to be my greatest strength as an adult. I didn’t “fit in” and ranked near the bottom of the popularity scores, especially in high school. Certainly, this lack of social skills and conformity plagued me through university.
Like anyone with a handicap, I needed to compensate with strengths in other areas. I developed my skills in writing and journalism and combined these natural talents with plenty of perseverance. Then, without anyone else to show me what to do, I followed my own path — to employment as a journalist in the middle of Africa at the end of a seven-year civil war. With this success behind me, I set out to solve the other problems with my personality. In the end, life turned out well with a great marriage and family life, relatively good health and a viable business based on a vocation I enjoy.
Our 13-year-0ld son is my polar opposite in many ways. He is the social leader in his class. I always enjoy watching him relate with his friends and classmates. Virtually every time, he will find himself at the centre of the group; not in an egotistical way, but simply because he fits in. As an example, on Friday, on the way home from the hockey game, with the choice of the front seat besides me, he chose instead to sit between his two friends in the crammed middle rear seat.
Most likely, your social skills and functioning abilities are closer to the level of our son than to me. However, if you are like most people in the architectural, engineering and construction business, you’ll mistake social conformity within this industry for the correct approach to marketing, while failing to appreciate the powerful marketing opportunities right in front of you.
You will probably “rely” on referral and repeat business, founded on comfortable working relationships with current clients, and your advertising and external marketing, if any, will follow the standard script provided by your peers or advertising sales reps and be so “conforming” that your message is utterly and totally lost in the crowd.
How do you change your perspective about marketing to be successful, without giving up your essential values and feeling you are stepping too far off the edge of conformity and “fitting in”?
I’ve always advocated that you should do more of what you enjoy and build that into your marketing. The biggest shift — and the one I recommend to virtually everyone in this business — is to change your attitude from “relying” on repeat and referral business to developing your relationships and ability to generate new business and referrals from your existing clients. In the process, as well, you’ll gather critical intelligence about who you should reach with other forms of marketing because you’ll know who and where your ideal clients can be discovered.
These approaches will help, but how do you get closer to where you want to go without burning your bridges?
Here are some suggestions:
Hang out with the marketing leaders in your “neighbourhood”
The neighbourhood, here, can be your trade association (especially if you can connect with peers in non-competitive markets) or on Internet forums like contractortalk.com or remodelcrazy.com. Certainly, for non-residential architects, engineers or contractors, the Society for Marketing Professional Services (smps.org) is a great place to start. You can pick brains and learn from the people who know what they are doing in the real world. Note however, you need to look for the marketing leaders in these groups as many members will be doing the same old, same old, without much success.
Discover experts with relevant ideas and follow their ideas
In the residential marketing space, I really enjoy the ideas of Mike Jeffries for overall marketing advice and suggestions, so his newsletter should top your list.
Several consultants have useful contributions in the non-residential space and you can find references in other postings within this blog or through your SMPS chapter. I may be able to guide you more effectively individually and welcome your email to email@example.com.
Choose to “fit in” in new ways
Rather than passively following the conforming and ineffective marketing styles of many of your peers, combine your understanding of your most successful peers at marketing with the guidance of your consultants and your own gut feel about what you enjoy and like the most. Then develop a plan of action.
I realize it can be hard to change your perspectives when you fear (rightfully) standing out from the crowd. However, the rewards can be incredible if you do. You don’t need to be that great at marketing in this industry to go beyond the other 99 per cent.