These two statements ring true:
If you feel you are being “sold”, you don’t buy
If you feel you are a “marketing target”, you will run for the hills to avoid being the bulls-eye.
These observations create challenges for anyone seeking to achieve sales or marketing success. Pushy, in-your-face and overly assertive and direct sales and marketing strategies generally go wrong, except in truly exceptional circumstances. The challenge for the marketer/sales representative is to know the circumstances.
Take the dreaded cold call, for example. The line “if we call enough people, someone will buy” has some truth, and explains scam operations. (Such as the calls purportedly from a well-recognized airline offering some travel deal, in exchange for your credit card information, which goes places you don’t want your credit card data ever going.)
Yet there are times when a cold call makes perfect sense — and a couple of my business’s longest-lasting and most important alliances have occurred that way. It all relates to the genuineness of your story, its immediate relevance and when you call.
(In my most classic cold call success, I had just been booted out of the offices of a major construction association, whose chair happened to be the local leader of a competing publisher. In passing, he mentioned he would like me to “leave town” and then he named a third, much larger competitor, who he also wanted to see disappear. I had no contacts at that competitor, but it took all of 10 seconds for the receptionist to realize that my call should be put right through to the local director — and after we exchanged oral notes, we decided that, yes, we have a common enemy and we could certainly work well together in a strategic alliance.)
At the other extreme, I’m sure you’ve seen “retargeted” ads — the ads that pop up on your computer because you’ve allowed online services to track your interests and send you messages deemed relevant to you. I’m in the advertising business, so don’t mind. But it still feels creepy. (The retargeting and data gathering have a more positive element — marketers can know where to avoid offensive ads so you don’t see them.)
The issue here relates to the cornerstone of effective marketing; Branding, based on trust. You need to respect and nurture that trust, at your peril, if you don’t.
How can you avoid the pushy sales/marketing trap?
The obvious number one point: When you have the business, treat your clients like royalty and make them feel special, and over-deliver/under promise. It makes everyone feel much better. (In this regard, I have to congratulate my city’s bureaucracy. I managed to double-pay my municipal taxes, and so needed to request a refund. The “system” said four to six weeks to correct the problem, and follow-up calls to the revenue department confirmed the bad news. Imagine my relief and surprise when the cheque arrived in five days.)
Make it fun, or at least non-offensive
If you can inject some genuine humour in your marketing, go for it. (I realize this is not so easy to do if you are running a serious AEC business/practice, and most of us aren’t so good at humour.) But you can integrate your marketing with community deeds and good-will.
Let your clients tell their stories
Related to the first point above, testimonials, word-of-mouth referrals and videos showing how you’ve earned client trust can be highly effective. They don’t need to be slick as much as they should be genuine.
Of course, you are free to go for the jugular with in-your-face sales messages, (residential) leads service referrals and hard-rock advertising or proposal submissions. Sometimes these tactics are effective. But I find them to be mostly irritating.