Editorial: Marketing is a game of failure

Like golf, marketing is about tolerating a low rate of success.
Patrick Flannery
November 13, 2017
By
Saw a familiar complaint on social media today from a small business owner asking for ideas on how to meet prospective clients. They mentioned that everyone advises them to attend public gatherings where their clients might be, but that these gatherings were often “not worth it.” Not knowing what business the person is in, I can’t address the quality of the gatherings they attend, but this comment is common enough across every industry I’ve been involved with to merit a general response.


Just about every lead-generation activity is a matter of 90 per cent failure to get the 10 per cent return. Mom never said it was going to be easy. So when I hear that approach X is not worth it, my first reaction is to always ask what the expectations were and to ask if they were realistic. I don’t think there’s any substitute for getting out in public at any event where your clients might be congregating. Think of it in terms of conversations and calculate how much time and money you’d spend to have the equivalent number of conversations by approaching clients individually. Usually, even two or three conversations justifies the investment to attend an event. There is still absolutely no substitute for face-to-face interaction with customers in terms of creating an impression and connection that lasts. It literally activates different parts of the brain than simply reading or hearing about a company does.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. My wife and I were at the Western Fair here in London, Ont., recently, wandering through the attached home show while my daughter and her friends made themselves sick on rides. I stopped at a booth and spoke to a guy selling incredibly expensive gutter systems that keep leaves out. We have a two-storey house, many mature maple trees and I’m afraid of heights, so finding a way to not have to clean out our gutters would be welcome. We had a nice chat and I even made an appointment to get a quote. If I ever win the lottery, they’ll be the first call I make. But here’s the thing: I have looked at similar gutter systems in hardware stores, but would never be able to tell you what they cost or what the brand was because I didn’t talk to a human being about it. My buddy at the fair is burned into my brain. If I went back to find off-the-shelf gutters, I’d basically start all over and end up buying the cheapest thing.

The gutter guy didn’t get any business out of me. But would he be correct to feel that he’d come away from the fair with nothing to show for it? I don’t think so. And neither should you when your lead generation activities only generate good conversations and a handshake in the short term.

Asking how to meet clients is really part of a larger question of how to raise your business’ profile in your target market. I’ll point out that very few rental stores make good use of the various media out there. Most editors and producers are gasping for content, and you can get free publicity in local magazines, on radio and TV and in digital channels by providing expert advice and education without a promotional bias. You don’t have to be Hemmingway or De Niro – editors will help clean up the copy and producers can edit video and audio to show you in your best light. These efforts create the impression in the market that you are an expert resource customers should turn to when they have questions.

And I believe it was Warren Buffet who said, “Early to bed, early to rise, advertise, advertise, advertise.” After all, it is a lot easier to meet clients when they walk into your store. 


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