“Everybody knows who we are” the Business Owner, an industrial manufacturer, declared. “We don’t need to market or advertise.”
“Gee that’s great!” I said. “You must win 100% of all the business that’s out there, and have no competitors, right?”
The Business Owner sat across the table from me and mused, “Well, that’s not exactly the case…..”
I asked: “Have you ever considered that marketing and advertising, critical elements of your business development process, are the front end of cash flow? Rather than being the sprinkles on the cupcake?” Needless to say, we had a very productive discussion.
Does your engineering or manufacturing firm suffer from Word of Mouth Syndrome? It’s really contagious. Many owners of engineering- and technology- intensive companies have this syndrome without being aware of it.
Word of Mouth Syndrome can result in cross-contamination with It’s The Way We’ve Always Done Things Syndrome, also known as The Status-Quo Syndrome. And it’s the best way of keeping your company out of touch with the issues and variables that impact your customers’ decision to do business with you. Because it’s not about “selling” them on you, it’s about being in tune with what’s impacting their ability to make decisions.
The symptoms of Word of Mouth Syndrome include a tendency to feel that all potential clients – as well as current clients – know who you are and where to find you. This symptom is tied to the delusion that, especially regarding current clients, your company should be top-of-mind in the vendor selection process. Except that your company is blindsided when other competitors, sometimes unknown, win business that you felt was yours. Just because you are “Who You Are.”
Word of Mouth Syndrome can be perpetuated by your Principals and employees continuing to maintain social and professional memberships – or “networks” if you please – that reinforce their position within their Word of Mouth Universe. And most of the time, they have neither the time nor inclination to expand their membership beyond The Way We’ve Always Done Things. It’s comfortable and risk free.
The Internet is the new Word of Mouth. And your clients – or prospective clients – may come from geographies and disciplines you’ve never considered. And they will use the Internet for due diligence about you personally and professionally. So marketing and advertising within your known Word of Mouth universe limits your business development opportunities.
You know, “marketing” and “advertising” are not dirty words. Nor do these strategies need to resemble slick, cheesy, Madison Avenue formats. Marketing and advertising should be an extension of the words you use during every day business discussions. You establish Authenticity.
Marketing and advertising achieves two important goals:
1.Reinforcing your current customers’ decision to do business with you
2.Motivating prospective customers to make the initial decision to do business with you
Recommended initial Business Development Treatment Plan for Word of Mouth Syndrome: You don’t have to spend lots of money on marketing and advertising, either. That’s like throwing spaghetti against a wall and hoping it sticks. There are some subtle ways of getting your name out in front of potential clients that don’t “hawk your wares” but, rather, underscore what your firm is all about in a focused strategy that tells your story.
All you have to do is decide what your firm is about. And get everyone on the same page. Which includes everyone who your Internal customers (aka, employees) “touch.” Hey, I told you Word of Mouth Syndrome is contagious. So you have to engage everyone in your treatment plan, which should include:
1.A weekly round table discussion of Who You Are from the perspective of your Internal Customers (e.g., you). You may be surprised at the discrepancy in perspectives that are brought to the company table.
2.A monthly round table discussion of Who You Are from the perspective of your External (Current) Customers. Compare with #1.
3.Participation in LinkedIn discussion groups within your engineering, technical or manufacturing disciplines. There’s no greater way to keep one’s “ear to the rail” than listening to the collective Voices of Your Prospective Customers. You can’t develop business in a vacuum.
4.Revising your website content to reflect these conversations. Oh, did I mention the importance of your website? If you have a website that you consider “informational” – which is a fancy word for requiring the visitor to call you for more information – you are operating in the Status-Quo. Having a relevant, content-rich website that anticipates the mindset of customers is the best antidote for Word of Mouth Syndrome your company ever had.
5.Engaging in Internet advertising that reaches a broad-based engineering-specific audience. Print advertising is costly with ROI difficult to calculate. Plus you are preaching to the choir within a set universe.
It’s great that Everyone Knows Who You Are. Now, how about Everyone ELSE finding out Who You Are, as well?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.