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Friday, 31 May 2002 17:00

Seven Opponents of Highly Effective Marketing

Written by Tom Franklin

I have recently finished re-reading Stephen Covey's excellent book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" (Simon & Schuster Fireside Book, 1990). As I read through Covey's basic principles of personal vision, leadership, management, communication, cooperation, renewal and interdependence, it occurred to me that for every positive trait, there is an equal and opposite negative trait. 

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My focus is always on marketing and sales, so when I began to consider some of the most powerful negative traits, I naturally thought about the seven basic opponents of highly effective marketing. It also occurred to me that most shop owners and managers could market their businesses very easily if they didn't have to deal with these powerful opponents.

Without a Powerful Opponent, You Could Win Effortlessly

Some years ago, I had an opportunity to spectate at an ancient Scottish sport called "curling." It's played on the ice, so I doubt that it would be played frequently in California, but in northern Wisconsin where I grew up, winter sports of all sorts are in greater abundance.

Curling is a little like shuffle-board played on the ice, only with some interesting added elements. For one thing, after the large puck-like object (called a "curling stone") has been thrown strongly and launched on its way sailing along on the ice, the player skates along aside of it with a broom and sweeps away ice particles and other impediments that would cause friction and limit the distance the stone travels.

Watching that game made me think of launching a project in life. We all start out with a mighty thrust but once the project is started, almost immediately we begin to encounter obstacles along the way, and our momentum begins to diminish. I thought how great it would be to have a magic broom to skate along side of each project and sweep away the obstacles and friction. If we could do that, we could effortlessly reach every goal that we set.

To gain a victory, first identify the enemy

It occurred to me that we may already have that "magic broom." But we don't see it and use it because we often don't clearly recognize the obstacles and opponents that need to be swept aside to maintain our forward momentum. By identifying these impediments exactly, we have a better chance of getting them out of our way!

It has been my experience that the following seven "opponents" are the ones that most often prevent effective marketing. Take a look at them and see if disarming some of these "opponents" would open up a clear field for you to develop more, or more profitable, business.

Lethargy (Inertia): It actually means "drowsiness," "indifference," or "apathy." Inertia is the tendency of a body to remain at rest (or in motion) unless acted upon by an outside force. In general use, it has come to mean "resistance to movement or change." Shop owners stuck in a state of "lethargy" can be readily recognized by the complaining they do about how bad business is. (They're kind of like a dog sitting on a cactus and howling with pain, but too lazy to get off of it.)

Conservatism: "Compulsively cautious, tending to oppose risk and change." You can easily recognize a compulsively conservative shop owner. A typical statement you will hear is "I can't afford to spend money on marketing right now. I'll be able to spend some later when business is better." (What's that you say??? The entire PURPOSE of marketing is to increase business!)

Skepticism: "A doubting, questioning or pessimistic attitude." A typical remark by a skeptical shop owner might be: "Even if I did spend money on advertising or a marketing person, I probably wouldn't recover my costs." (With that attitude, he's probably right!)

Blind Optimism: "A disposition to emphasize the most positive aspects of a situation." From this guy you will hear: "This is just an off-season. If we wait a bit, things will get better. They always have." (Oh yeah--I wouldn't bet on it!)

Procrastination: "To put of until a later time. To defer or delay." A large majority of shop owners fall in this category. They will tell you, "I plan to launch a marketing program, but I'm just too busy right now."FF20(Busy with more work than you can handle? No need for more business? I don't think so!)

Provincialism: "Limited and narrow in perspective." You can spot one of these guys right away. They'll tell you, "I'm already running an ad in the Yellow Pages, and doing what most other shops are doing. What more can I do?" (There isn't enough room here to answer that question in full. Inquire about my book, "Top 40 Marketing Tactics for Body Shops" to see what else could be done).

Impatience: "Unwilling to wait or tolerate delay. Requiring instant gratification." This is one of the seven deadly sins. A shop owner will say: "I ran an ad for a couple of months and nothing happened." (Most ads aren't even noticed until after the third time they're run).

Now, are you ready to beat the seven opponents standing in the way of growing your business?

Lethargy or Inertia Counter-Strategy:

Lethargy and inertia often occur when there is uncertainty about which way to go. Like a driver who comes to an unexpected fork in the road that isn't on the map, a lethargic person may sit there until someone comes along and tells him which of the forks to choose to get where he wants to go.

Generally we only do that which we understand. This "stopped" condition, is an unspoken message that more understanding and information is needed. It's time to take a closer look at what marketing options you can put into practice. What is your available budget? What marketing efforts have worked for you in the past, even if only a little? What marketing tactics have worked for other shops in your area? How much do you think they spent? What is an affordable starting point for you?


Conservatism Counter-Strategy:

Take some small calculated risks. See yourself as having more power. Herb Cohen, in his best-selling book, "You Can Negotiate Anything" (Lyle20 Stuart Publishers, 1980), tells the story of a prisoner in solitary confinement. They've taken away his shoe laces and his belt. He appears to be as powerless as a human can be. Then suddenly he smells cigarette smoke as the guard outside of the cell lights up. He asks the guard for a smoke, but the guard just laughs at him, seeing him as powerless. Desperate for a cigarette, he tells the guard if he doesn't give him a smoke, he will bang his head against the wall until he's bloody and when they come for him, he'll say the guard did it. Even if they doubt him, he points out that the guard will have to fill in all kinds of reports and testify at a hearing, and all over one lousy cigarette. The guard quickly weighs the costs vs. the benefits in the situation and gives the prisoner the cigarette.

I don't know if the story is true, but Cohen concludes with the point that, "You have more power sources at your fingertips than you realize." later he adds, "I am suggesting you take moderate or incremental risks, without being uptight about adverse consequences." "Conservatism" means "tending to oppose risk and change," and yet that very conservatism is the opponent of significant growth and advancement.

Get started! Risk some small investments in doing some mailings, running some carefully targeted ads, or paying a little more for an estimator with some real selling skills.

Skepticism Counter-Strategy:

I have found that skeptical people are generally "reactive." They see the world in fixed terms. I hear them say, "Business is bad right now and there's nothing I can do about it." No matter what you say, they remain skeptical and doubt that anything can be done.

You may feel skeptical about your situation, but you can take a "proactive" stance. Business in general may really be slow for a while, but there are always shops that are still busy. Simply "waiting for business to pick up" is a "reactive" position which yields to the opposition of skepticism. If even one other shop is busy, you could be too.

Sweep aside that reactive attitude of skepticism by ignoring those shops that are slow and focusing on what busy shops are doing to bring in business. You may not be able to do it all, but would you be satisfied with just a percentage of the business that top shop is doing? Mastering just one new marketing trick may be enough to do that for you.

Blind Optimisim Counter Strategy:

The blind optimist prefers not to face up to the possibility of major negatives just over the horizon, and so often discovers a crisis too late to do anything effective about it. In a world changing as rapidly as ours is today, it's best to assume it will be necessary in the future to do more marketing, more sales and get more jobs just to survive.

Nevertheless, failing to face up to reality in time to take effective counter-action can prove to be fatal. You can see how often this happens by the many shops declaring bankruptcy and/or closing their doors. Effective marketing is never a last-minute solution. It takes time to develop and build new business. Look at some of the suggestions under the section on "impatience" below. Unrealistic optimism is an opponent which must be swept out of the way before a realistic marketing plan can be developed.

Procrastination Counter-Strategy:

This opponent calls for a more in-depth analysis because so many of us give in to it. Take me, for example. With the new year, I resolved to make some changes. I wanted to bring some new office furniture and filing cabinets into the office. If you're like me, new year's resolutions often don't make it very far. Here it past mid-year and I still haven't kept that resolution. Our best intentions for future development may be good, but the follow-through can get lost in the multitude of things that must be done to just maintain the business of the day.

But there are generally other reasons why resolutions get dropped as well. Major preparations haven't been made that would allow the resolved change to take effect. For instance, my intent to bring in new office furniture immediately runs up against the question, "what do we do with the old furniture."

"Well just throw it out," you might say, but that's not always so easy. An old desk may carry with it old memories of a better time. The replacement for that old comfortable chair may never feel quite as good.

We get emotional ties to things and places, and they can be hard to let go of. I have an old computer that I used for years to develop several businesses. Now it's obsolete and probably worthless, but I hate to throw it away. It still runs all of the programs it in as well as it ever did, but those programs are no longer state-of-the-art, and so the machine stands in a corner, gathering dust.

Humans have a way of holding on to old things. This is especially true of non-physical things, like old habits, old procedures and old connections. Companies pay thousands of dollars to consultants to come in and analyze their procedures and advise them on what changes to make. I've been told by several top-of-the-line consultants that a majority of companies never implement the changes they suggest. The three-inch-thick volume of proposed changes their client paid for sets on a shelf, gathering dust. People love to hold on to old procedures and old ways.

The replacement principle

New sales and marketing procedures must replace old ones -- or they must replace non-sales and marketing activities. We may stop procrastinating on those changes when we figure out what we can eliminate from our schedule to open up time to market and sell. We can sweep aside the barrier of PROCRASTINATION and get real marketing power when we determine how we can shift funds to marketing and sales that are now being allocated to less essential areas of the business.

Provincialism Counter Strategy:

Get out and around. Many of us live in some of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. There are major differences between the markets served by shops in the inner city, the close by suburbs, and the more remote outlying areas. Shops at the opposite end of the metropolitan area or the county are probably not in direct competition with you. Visit a few. See what they do. Go through that area's yellow pages and local newspapers and magazines. Read the ads. Compare them to your own. If you travel to other parts of the country, do some body shop marketing research. You are certain to get some new ideas and widen your scope of possibilities, as well as your own business.

Impatience Counter-Strategy:

We become impatient when we have risked too much in the short term and haven't yet seen a return on our investment. Instead, lay out an entire year's marketing budget. Start with low-cost measures first. Why spend the big bucks if you haven't tested what you can do on the cheap? Find ways to get effective advertising and marketing without spending so much you feel you have to get an immediate return or suffer a major loss. Invest in a plan that you can afford to continue for the three, four or more months it may take to bear fruit.


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