I took part in a recent panel discussion as part of DrupalCamp WNY. "What's Drupal", you say? You can learn more here, although this post really is not about Drupal—it's about how marketers promote.
The topic was Selling Drupal with the idea that the audience, mainly Drupal developers, would learn how to do a better job selling Drupal to their clients and prospects.
In preparation for the discussion I spent some time thinking about how BWC typically sells Drupal and realized that we don't sell Drupal!
We never walk into a client or prospect meeting trying to figure out how we can sell one thing or another. We do, however, walk into every meeting with clients and prospects thinking about how we can understand their problem and how we can help them solve it.
And, sometimes, that includes Drupal.
I know this is simple stuff and that you already know marketing should be value-focused. All marketers are focused on solving a problem, meeting a need, scratching an itch, right? But, how often do you see, of have you succumbed to, marketing that hawks a product or service without any recognition of the value it provides it's targets?
If you feel like you've fallen into that trap think for a moment about what problems you solve. Forget your services, products and unique offerings for a minute and just focus on your prospects' needs. How does your company meet those needs? How does it solve those problems?
If you can answer those questions you've got the foundation for great messaging; you can stop trying to sell product and start solving problems.
How's business? I get this question all the time, especially since the world almost imploded a couple years ago. We're coming up on two years since the economic crisis hit and things still are not back to 'normal'. We all know people that have lost jobs. We all know about houses repossessed and business that have gone under.
So, the question of how the business is doing is expected. It's everyone's way of looking for a little hope, a little good news—are we all gonna make it?
Things at Bob Wright have been nice and steady. We've had some really low points over the last couple years, but our team has hung tough and pushed through. We continue to bring in new work and new clients and for that I'm quite grateful. We've even been able to hire a new employee, Jon Daggar, who is now our full time web developer.
The hardest thing (for me as an owner) about the business is forecasting. I used to be able to make certain assumptions based on how much work we had, backlog and sales in the pipeline. Based on those factors I knew if I should invest in new equipment, hire new people, cut back on expenses and so on.
But, today's climate is rather different. We would benefit from a full-time account person and another designer. But, even with financial data, it's hard to make the call on those two positions. Should we wait? Is there going to be a second dip/crash? Are we missing out on opportunities by being conservative? Should we spend or protect cash?
And here's the funny thing: Everyone else is thinking the same way. So, as I wait things out before committing resources, so do my prospects and clients and so do their prospects and customers. We've got a market in suspended animation, waiting for an indicator that everything is going to be okay.
While we all wait for some confidence to re-enter the marketplace, our mission remains the same: to be a blessing. There's a lot of work to do: companies still need to communicate with their markets, they still need to hone their message and improve the way they market themselves.
We love solving those kinds of problems and we love to see our clients thrive. So, in answer to the question, we're doing well, thanks. Business remains steady, we've hired a new employee and we've developed some new capabilities.
A few years ago a vendor approached us with an opportunity. They’re a large printer in town and their customer base stretches well beyond our local market. They had a customer in New England, a national financial company, that wanted to redesign a magazine. A great opportunity.
The idea was that we would go to New England with our vendor. Together we’d pitch their customer on using Bob Wright Creative to do the redesign and creative and our vendor would print the mag.
Simple enough, right?
We like to be prepared. We do presentations and pitches all the time and we win a lot. The reason we win is we come prepared. We take time to learn what problem our client or prospect is facing and we develop real solutions. It may sound simple but you’d be amazed at how many times our competitors have not done their homework and don’t correctly understand the problem.
I met with my contact at our vendor to talk about the opportunity and to begin to prepare how to approach our joint pitch.
“Oh, I can’t help you. Our owner is going to handle this one and he’s in NYC and is going to meet you at the customer’s HQ. Just go do your thing and it’ll be fine,” I was told.
A sense of dread mixed with panic started to set in, followed by a flurry of phone calls and emails on my part trying to get this thing nailed down, all to no avail. “Just do your thing.”
Like any smart business owner, I decided to take both my creative director and my senior project manager with me. If this baby was going south I was going to be flanked by the best. Of course, a smart business owner would have bailed and told our vendor “good luck.” Believe me, I thought about it, but felt like I was already committed and had to see it through, even if our partner was unresponsive.
So, my creative director, project manager and I drove eight hours to the hotel ready to ‘do our thing’ in the morning, whatever that meant. When we got to the hotel there was no sign of our vendor, so we went out and found a BBQ joint and had dinner. When we got back our vendor and his team of five employees were waiting for us, perturbed.
They were upset that we were not there to show them the presentation we had prepared for tomorrow.
Presentation? You’re kidding, right? We’re just going to wing it and “do our thing” like you told us. Besides, this is your customer and your presentation right? No, it’s all riding on me and my guys. Nice.
Back in my room I felt despair. What are we even doing here? We’re getting an attitude from the vendor who refused to give us any direction and now they want to know where our presentation is? Well, I was ready to go to bed, wake up the next day, skip the meeting and head home.
Fortunately, my creative director and project manager jumped in. We pulled an all-nighter and put a smashing presentation together. We had it nailed and ready to go. We crashed for a couple hours and then got ready for the day.
We met with the client and their team, about six women, and got to work. We put our presentation on and hit a home run. Lots of great dialog, great questions and thoughts from the client on how we would work together. It felt like we were winning the job. I was ready to close and ask for their business; get it done.
Then the owner of our vendor jumped in and shot it all to hell.
He said our two companies, Bob Wright Creative and his company, were like two fighter jets in a war, fighting on the same side. The Iraqi War had just begun. I knew at that moment we were doomed. But, just to make sure, the owner continued. He told all the women there to think of this as our first date. We would spend some time to get to know each other—over a figurative dinner. And then … then we could get more intimate, figuratively, of course. I was horrified.
I looked at my guys and I looked at the faces of the women in the room. We were going to bomb their village, my vendor and I, and we were going to make off with the women and have our way with them, after a nice dinner. It was stunning.
20 hours in a car, hundreds of dollars in hotel rooms, meals, fuel and tons of lost revenues for my top guys to be involved and this man was killing it all with just a few words. He was the Anti-Midas, turning everything he touched to turds.
We didn’t get the job but a legend was born that day. I can laugh about it now, but that printer doesn’t get our work anymore for fear that they might have another great opportunity for us.
Note: This story was originally published on www.mikegastin.com