Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tale of Two Marketing Approaches

Photo courtesy darrenhester of Morguefile.com

I was asked to come up with a complex packaging solution. As a designer, this is rather exciting because I don't get to do a lot of real creative packaging design. Although I've done packaging design projects before, this was very different. It involved a series of interconnected pieces designed to hold a series of marketing materials. I was also allowed to be creative with it.

However, there were some important parameters concerning budget, use (mailing considerations), and not looking too expensively done. These parameters presented a bit of a challenge with the complexity of the project. The first thing I needed to do was to contact different vendors to get an idea of what I can do, and the cost associated with it.

One vendor I contacted called me back with some questions. This is perfectly understandable, since I was unclear of what I wanted to do. I just needed some guidance. So, I told her what I was up against. And her response was that she didn't know what I needed because there were a lot of options. I just need to settle on something specific, and she will email me some options within that framework, with quotes. So, I gave her specific dimensions and so forth, and she emailed me some packaging options based on my specs, and pricing.

But there was another vendor who listened to me, and did something a little different. She asked me what I felt. I told her about my dilemma, and she recommended that she would pull some items and come in to see me and my client to discuss. In this way, she was enabled to understand what I needed and guided us in the process. She didn't want any decisions yet. She just wanted to present ideas and help us develop some solutions.

To put it mildly, I was stoked. This is just what I needed. She and I even got into a discussion about some ideas she got after talking with me. To make a long story short, she got the job before we even came up with a final solution.

Here's what I've learned from this experience.
  • Don't underestimate the power of face-to-face time. I talked to quite a few vendors and most were quite satisfied to email me some options to think about. But the second vendor came in to see me. I was able to see her facial expressions and body language. I felt listened to and cared about. Not that the other vendor didn't care — she did — it's just that visiting us communicated something a little extra. She's here to help.
  • A partner is more valuable than a vendor. I needed a good vendor. They both were capable. But, this vendor came alongside me as a partner to help me come up with ideas and a viable solution.
  • Listening is better than trying to make a sale. It's not wrong to try and get me to buy what you're selling. It's just a little shortsighted. If you listen, you might just find out what your potential client really needs. I said I wanted packaging options. But what my vendor heard in between the lines — and I wasn't really aware of myself — was that I needed guidance. She made more than a sale. She won a loyal fan.

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