Taking the opposite direction: The built-in Unique Selling Proposition

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I admire businesses which, in the marketplace context, are different.  Consider metal recycling businesses such as Peel Scrap Metal Recycling in Mississauga, Ontario, in the Greater Toronto Area.

They chose to advertise in our regional construction publication not to sell, but to buy.  When you go to their “store”, you bring in stuff and they give you cash.  Definitely this is the opposite of what most advertisers seek to have happen, but of course, in the scrap metal business, the rules of the game are different.

Peel Scrap Metal Recycling’s customers are industrial-sized metal foundries, refineries and brokers.  Their business thrives because they are able to buy large quantities of metal products from many sellers, prepare and process the material, and then sell it efficiently to a relatively few customers.  So, logically, Peel Scrap Metal needs to find individuals who might be interested in receiving, rather than spending their money.

In the scrap metal business, of course, this practice isn’t unique, but in the wider community, it is exceptional.  So Peel Scrap Metal Recycling, thinking from a marketing perspective and where its potential vendors might be, decided to advertise in our relevant regional construction publication, The GTA Construction Report.

Logical, eh.  Contractors working on tear-downs and renovations often come across junk metal; copper pipes, aluminum waste, sometimes rarer and specialized metals for specific building functions.  Why not load this stuff into the back of your truck, drive to Mississauga, and hand it over for some cash (properly documented, of course?)

Now, obviously, in your own business you may have a challenge in changing your fundamental marketplace rules.  Scrap metal dealers traditionally buy metals, and mechanical and electrical contractors traditionally quote their work in fixed price bids.  Telling all your clients that from now on you will only price their work if they respond to your marketing, while you decline to bid in any competitive quoting environments,  will probably send you quite quickly to either the mental hospital or bankruptcy trustee.

You have two choices in this environment.  First, find ways to reduce costs and/or discover ancillary revenue.  Obviously Peel Scrap Metal Recycling and similar dealers offers one way to discover this revenue.

The second approach is to see opportunities in your business where some strategic marketing to a seemingly ‘unconventional’ segment, where you can offer unique and significant value by putting some of your surplus capacity and resources to work, could prove highly profitable.  As an example, one contractor I know specializes in crown mouldings.  Most of his work is for tract and large scale builders, and he bids this work competitively.  However, he has discovered a significant retail business using a media that I recommend virtually no one consider — The (yuck) Yellow Pages.  He uses his surplus materials (purchased in large wholesale quantities) and off hours or gap times to handle the retail work — a much greater margin than the commercial jobs, which are at the core of his business.

You don’t necessarily need to tear your existing business apart to achieve successful marketing.  Think adaptation, think creatively and you may discover some answers in truly surprising places.

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