As previously noted, I've been doing a bit of landscaping recently, which involves the task of selecting providers of various products and services, such as excavating, shade sails, equipment hire and various types of dirt, like road base and sand.
Not knowing anyone in the area is a good way of evaluating the marketing-sales funnel at work. The usual starting point is aggregators - whether on or off-line. In my case, the search was principally online. Here, Google leads you to more aggregators like TrueLocal and other lists of owner-operated businesses, many of which still don't have websites.
So it becomes a call and hope process - phone call and hope they turn up on the day to quote. In most instances they did arrive - it being winter in Melbourne and most in the outdoor reshaping business being a bit hungrier than in the warmer months.
Presentation quality varied significantly among potential providers - some bringing their dogs to help quote, others arriving after being held up due to an 'emergency' callout. Some gave the impression that the emergency call out was the alarm clock's fifth attempt to get them out of bed after a hard night.
Quotes, if written at all, are provided on letterhead and the backs of business cards with graphic design that would struggle to get in a school child's portfolio. In other words, the sales and marketing collateral usually left much to be desired and in no way helped the purchase decision.
One guy I did hire was the excavator, largely because by accident or design, he had managed to secure the internet domain excavate.net.au, which I didn't think was a bad effort for a one-man operation supported by a choice of a 5-tonne or 1.5-tonne bobcat. He didn't strike me as a social media guru of any sort, but perhaps I misjudged him.
Apart from that, what did drive me through the marketing-sales funnel to purchase the other stuff. As I look back, it came down to my assessment of the authenticity of the guys (there were no gals) that I met. Personality, service approach, likely capacity to work with me to resolve my planning and resourcing issues.
It made me think that while we run all kinds of research, analysis and creative workshops to develop corporate brands, perhaps we overlook the bleedin' obvious.
I chose these guys based on criteria that were simply about their capacity to support me as I strived to achieve my goals. They were walking-talking brands, winning business and referral on the basis of delivering what was expected and, in one case, a lot more. Perhaps that's really all there is to successful branding.