We’re in a vacation resort complex in Scottsdale Arizona; on a four-day discounted “getaway” program designed to lure us into signing an expensive purchase contract for “points” or timeshare weeks. The idea behind the marketing: Awe visitors with the scale, size and amenities of the units and then gently (but effectively) nudge prospective clients into forking over tens of thousands of dollars to make the experience a permanent part of our lifestyles.
Of course the good deal — highly discounted accommodation in untypically generous accommodation — reflects more an inducement than the end-result. We’ll go along with the mandatory sales presentation. I’m confident the program will be handled ethically and there won’t be high-pressure tactics (which really don’t work for most reasonably intelligent people.). The awe concept might have worked if we hadn’t already bought into another variation of the deal — the so-called Destination Club — and experienced some of the outsized accommodation opportunities purportedly for a one-time initial fee (the annual maintenance and per-use service charges are never emphasized in the sales presentations. (The business we supported failed shortly after we signed on; but thankfully not before we were able to enjoy four or five rather pleasant travel experiences.)
I’m not going to name specific companies in this blog posting because it is clear my observations aren’t entirely positive and this experience reminds me of the rule: “The more a product or service needs to be ‘sold’ the less value it really is to purchase.” In a related way, you could say that the higher the sales and marketing costs are in relationship to the actual service price, the more dubious the value.
These questions of course raise profound challenges for anyone focusing on marketing and business development. In general, if we offer services of real value to our potential clients, we shouldn’t need to do much if anything in the way of marketing. The more we need to sell, the more we need to question about whether we are providing real value. Yet without marketing and business development — when we simply go for the lowest price on open bid jobs, or “rely” exclusively on word of mouth or repeat clients, we often are selling ourselves short, and certainly we won’t have a sustainable business.
Let’s add one other dimension to these observations — market norms. You expect high sales costs and marketing budgets for dream vacation deals; you don’t expect these for ICI contracting and engineering and design services. This suggests to me that a little intelligent marketing and business development within our community can go a long way; if we are thoughtful. Maybe, indeed, all we need to do is to structure our business to enhance referral and repeat business, and build our industry expertise reputation through speaking, presenting and contributing to relevant industry associations, conferences and publications. We can truly get a lot done for a very small amount of money — and deliver plenty of value to our clients, as well.
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