Marketing Can Level The Playing FieldI’d like to respond to Mr. Ted Thompson’s letter [“Uneven Playing Field,” Feb. 4.] about the seemingly unfair practices that have held his smaller company hostage to remain as such, while bigger businesses get — and keep — a strong advantage.
I totally understand, but there’s a qualified “however.” This response could be several pages long (yawn) and include many references to why capitalism has flourished in this country. What sounds “unfair” on your end of the desk is a “just reward” to companies that have achieved the right (in their estimation) to throw their weight around.
You have now been in business for 12 years. I absolutely guarantee that this single fact has yielded you favors not bestowed on yesterday’s upstart. Yes, your “weight” gets thrown as well. And this cycle of reward will — and should — continue in America.
So let’s ask this differently: “What can I do to accelerate these advantages to my side? How can the small or newer contractors ‘level out’ the differences in long-term relationships or big-volume sales?”
First and foremost, differentiate yourself from every other newer or smaller company that plays the exact same games in a futile effort to outwit the competition. Develop your unique identity; lay out a marketing plan that is full of uniqueness, not sameness. In other words, spell out your differences and you’ll be listened to; attempt to convince suppliers or lenders of your differences “because you’re you,” and you’ve lost your audience.
Forgive my preaching, but when you said, “Therefore I had to sell my equipment at a lower cost,” I almost choked. Lower margins sentence you to lower pay, less resistance to slowdowns, less ability to hire top quality employees, and at least three more paragraphs of ill-advised outcomes.
So forget the brand on the equipment as your excuse to lower prices. Make the brand “Ted Thompson’s” own. Let your excellence be packaged with all-inclusive warranties, 24/7 service for in-warranty customers, a “total comfort” pledge, a first-year prepaid maintenance plan, an indoor air quality upgrade, a referral coupon book, or any of those, packaged to make your “box” become a “system” of “unshoppable” virtues, at a margin that sustains growth.
Please bite your tongue the next time you’re tempted to lower prices as your way of expressing justification for getting the job. Countless studies prove customers choose value over price.
Much of this solution is gained by enhanced “marketing,” which is that distinctly gray area between your business license and your sales volume. Some contractors swear that marketing has made them millionaires; others simply swear at it. The truth is that you have superb technical skills. The truth is that you have ethics and an honest desire to give satisfaction. The harder truth is that these are invisible to the market that doesn’t know you.
Therefore, market yourself as a distinctly different contractor to the vendors and the check-writing public who wants and needs to know you and your qualities. The market, as they say, responds to their needs, not yours.
Make their needs the singular priority of your marketing message. Force that message into their lives. You will reap rewards totally commensurate with your desire. Let the leveling begin!
Adams Hudson, Montgomery, AL, www.hudsonink.com
Publication date: 03/11/2002