Real marketing professionals sell only expertise

Last week I received a call from a man on the East Coast. “I heard you at The Remodeling Show, and I need help,” he said.

The man owns one remodeling company that has grown almost entirely through word-of-mouth for the past 17 years. Then, three years ago, he purchased a franchise, also within the remodeling industry.

When he purchased the franchise, he sent one postcard to his database from the older business. Since then there has been no cross-marketing whatsoever.

What he did do was go through two “marketing” firms in the past three years. Through them, he managed to spend 40 percent to 50 percent of gross revenue per year on cable TV and in the newspapers. When he heard me speak about communicating “unknown to unknown” (see below), the light went on.

I wanted to strangle the people from those two firms. How dare they go around posing as marketing professionals, when they were either media buyers or advertising agents – period?

After our phone call and our agreement to start on a simple Marketing Plan, I reflected for a few minutes. How sad that so many business owners and executives within small and growing businesses waste billions (yes, with a “B”) of dollars per year either trying to do their own marketing or trusting people to do it for them without asking the right questions.

Adrienne’s Adage No. 1: Be careful of the use of the word “marketing.”

Regardless of what a business card says, most people within our industry are not marketing consultants. They’re out to sell you something other than expertise.

Adrienne’s Adage No. 2: Don’t consider an isolated marketing strategy a magic bullet.

As advertising agents, public relations people, copywriters, graphic and Web site designers, many people are very talented in their respective fields. However, too many of them claim to know marketing, and they don’t. These specialists tend to market their individual expertise as “the magic bullet” for your business, without caring how they fit into an overall marketing mix.

Adrienne’s Adage No. 3: Too many people use the word “branding” indiscriminately.

It’s very simple: When someone tells you, “We have to ‘brand’ your company,” run the other way – quickly. Branding is expensive, risky and for the big guys. Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Dell Computer, Macy’s – these are national brands. You’re not in their league, so don’t go there. Rather, concentrate on how to “position” your company to differentiate it from your competition.

Adrienne’s Adage No. 4: Think twice about venturing into the vast unknown.

There are three ways to market:

n Unknown to unknown (cold calls, cold mailings, media advertising and approximately 95 percent of the Internet). They don’t know you, and you don’t know them, which means a long sales cycle and price obsession, because they don’t know how else to evaluate you.

n Known to unknown (public relations for its editorial credibility, and referrals). When you go in via referral, you immediately increase your chance of closure by 65 percent, and price is rarely an issue. You’ve been referred by someone they trust, which is usually what matters.

n Known to known (additional business from existing clients/customers). You sold them something, created raving fans, stayed in their faces and educated them about your menu of products and services. They came back when they needed something else. Do your clients know everything you do?

I’m not saying to ignore the media and the Internet totally; rather, I’m saying start by marketing to those who already know you.

Adrienne’s Adage No. 5: Don’t work hard; work smart.

In those two latter forms of marketing, your costs are 15 percent of what it costs to market to new business. If various professionals are encouraging you to spend 100 percent to go from the unknown to the unknown, watch out!

Adrienne’s Adage No. 6: In 2007, stop trying something to “see what happens.”

This year, begin with a Marketing Plan. Be introspective. What’s made you so successful to date? What are three quantifiable goals for this New Year (hint: one should be about increasing your business from referrals)? How are you going to achieve these goals?

Everyone, please do your part this year to realize the fruits of successful marketing. Reduce significantly the billions of dollars in waste by respecting the value of marketing and asking enough questions to ensure you’re talking to professionals who truly know what marketing is all about.

Happy, healthy, wealthy 2007!

Fort Collins resident Adrienne Zoble is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of several e-books as well as “The Do-able Marketing Plan” workbook and creator of “The 10-Minute Marketing Plan.” She holds monthly marketing seminars and can be reached at azoble@azobleassoc.com or (970) 282-1150.