This third point is so rich that Ive opted to include Davids full text instead of writing a summary. Again, the entire paper can be downloaded from Recourses.com.
The third thing that principals struggle with is how to position their firm. The role of marketing is one
of the most misunderstood aspects of management. Most firms proudly proclaim that “we don’t need
to market” as if marketing is for “little people” without any other option. Smart people market all the
time, no matter how busy they are. That’s because marketing has very little to do with keeping busy.
It has more to do with what kind of business you have than how much business you have. Stated differently, marketing is about control, not growth. Marketing consistently is the most important thing
you can do at your firm. The public reason we don’t do it is because we are too busy. But the real reasons we don’t market are because we aren’t confident. Because we aren’t focused. And because it forces
David is basically making two points here. One, you need to market no matter what, and two, you cant even start to market unless you are acutely positioned in the marketplace. Newfangled has both aced and failed this one. We do have a very specific and real position, which is rare and great. I can confidently say that Newfangled partners with mid-sized agencies to help them with web development projects for their clients. We can say it so confidently that we choose to say it–in rather large type–on our home page. In a recent conversation with David it came to light that he actually thought our market was to build sites for the agencies themselves, which we do, but it is not our focus. So, clearly we can do a better job of being more overt with our positioning. In general, though, we do a great job of this, and it does make very specific marketing possible.
If our positioning was something as general as web development, Id have no place to start marketing. Would I just start calling every company in the country asking if they wanted a web site? Well… we kind of tried that long ago, and yeah, that doesnt work. What if we chose web development in North Carolina and Rhode Island? Well, that is a little better, maybe, but geographic positioning isnt actually positioning at all–at least not for our (or your) type of business. But, since our positioning is very focused on mid-size agencies, I can start today by simply downloading a filtered list of agencies from AdWeek. Within moments, and for pretty short money, I can have a list of a few thousand firms across the country that contains the few agencies that not only are perfect fits for us, but are also dying to hear from us and just dont know that we exist yet. This sounds fanciful perhaps, but weve experienced exactly this.
So, how have we failed? Well, weve done the hard part and not the easy (but kind of dull and maybe a little painful) part. We committed to positioning years ago, but we missed the boat on constant marketing. For us, at this point, that really means a series of cold calling, emailing, and mailing. Thanks to positioning, even this isnt as bad as it sounds. Most of the firms I call are actually at least interested in what we do and get why were doing it. That helps a lot, and it is a whole different bag than calling up Acme Toothbrush and asking, So, ya want a website?
There have been times when both Eric and I have marketed voraciously, but that constant, slow drip of marketing is where weve really missed the mark. True to Davids points on the matter, Ive actually caught myself boasting about how we havent done any marketing in years, and were busier than ever! Davids point about marketing in good times and bad is crucial–and difficult. It is exactly like the way asking for help is hard to do when you dont need that help yet. I think men might have particular difficulties with this, but, thankfully, GPS devices have helped to bail us out of that obvious evolutionary flaw.
Id like to end this post with a perfect example of the benefits of a sharp position in the
marketplace. I was recently asked to present to
a small group of mid-size agencies in Chicago. In the room were maybe
30 people from twelve different firms, at least 10 of which were an absolute perfect fit for us. Mike Maddock,
when inviting me to participate in the one day technology summit,
actually asked me to make a point of detailing how we work with agencies during my presentation. It was basically an opportunity
for me to have a detailed sales meeting with a captive audience of a
dozen or so of my best prospects in the country! It was an honor to be invited, and the experience was exhilarating, a little
scary, and without a doubt the most influential marketing in which Newfangled has
ever taken part. The audience was perfect. They were engaged,
attentive, and full of insightful questions. They also had a true believer
in their ranks, the illustrious Mark Shipley, who was actually responsible for putting a Newfangled bug in Mikes ear.
For the past few months, even though business has actually been great,
Ive been steadily marketing, and it feels really good. I know
that Ive got that base covered and when hard times hit Ill know that
Ive at least been preparing for them for quite some time.
So, what grade would you give yourself for marketing and positioning–in good times and bad?