Random Acts of Marketing

About five years ago, Russ Lewis asked me where most of AD's business came from. It's a statistic I carry around with me in my head because it is an easy one. Eighty percent of our work is on referral. We get the call because someone with a connection to our potential client recommended us. (By the way, this is a pretty common metric for design professionals.)

Russ then asked a very strategic question. Did our marketing dollars match that percentage? At that point, the answer was "no." Print advertising, trade shows, responding to public RFP's...eighty percent of our budget went to chasing the twenty percent.

Russ' question created a major mental shift for me--and subsequently shifted the way I allocated my marketing budget. I could chase leads or I could take the more relational approach of developing pipelines and placing my people in places and situations where those types of relational connections could happen.

In his book, Love is the Killer App, Tim Sanders talks about the most important business strategy being in what you give away. Sanders gave words to the simple principles that defined the people I most admired in my industry. Sanders focused on sharing knowledge, sharing your network, and in sharing compassion. In my marketing report the year I read the book, I centered the report around those three tenets. It wasn't hard to find copious examples in all three. It is part of AD's DNA--though we never set out to design it that way.

The interesting thing is that this type of marketing approach is most effectively practiced with the 80%. It also takes a complete shift in how you spend your time. I can spend my time combing through reports with potential leads (that we have a low chance of getting because of the lack of relationship) or I can invest in the people in my network in helping them be successful.

The challenge is in making the connections. For me, this has to be an authentic thing. You can't force relationships. All you can do is explore possibilities and see if they develop. Something that now 80% of our budget goes to support.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall