At Least Listen Before You Decide

This past week saw an interesting contrast in companies.  Last Tuesday morning in central Massachusetts, I met with a small manufacturer who we’ve worked for previously.  However, when I first met with the president a couple of years ago he warned me that his Vice President Sales & Marketing wasn’t receptive to new ideas.  He was right about that because we prepared and distributed two product news releases for the company and generated terrific exposure and his VP did nothing to integrate our efforts with her marketing program.


She should have put our press releases on her website where they could be found by searchers interested in her company’s products.   There’s a web rule of thumb: you can never have too many web pages.  Consistent with her behavior, their website SEO hasn’t been upgraded since 2007, according to their source code.  I was not surprised to be greeted by this Vice President Sales & Marketing with no specifics about what she was doing from a marketing perspective and a lot of resistance to any discussion about my area of expertise:  niche marketing using product publicity.


Frankly, I was taken aback.  I am proud to have been acknowledged by many trade press editors as the “best in the business.” In fact, the American Management Association asked me to write a chapter on product publicity for one of their books, I was selected by The International Rotary Foundation to tour South Korea as an Ambassador for six weeks, served the Governor of Massachusetts as a Small Business Advisor, was invited to become a member of the Norbert Weiner Forum at Tufts University to study the impact of technology on society, and have built my business from a $300 investment to one which has provided millions of dollars in publicity and marketing consulting services to many satisfied clients for over 36 years.


Unfortunately, it appears that because of the insecurity and rigidity of this person who insisted she was doing everything that I would do – on her own – and simply wouldn’t listen, the company will not become a committed client, despite the fact that what I do is perfect for them.  Again, she would produce no specifics and would only say that she had 16 years experience and knew her market and that publicity wouldn’t help her company.  Naturally, she didn’t even ask me what I would propose for them.


The next day, however, was totally different.  I met with a new client in the morning who is thrilled with my recommendations and looks forward to working closely together.  I also visited a prospective client in the afternoon who called me the next day to set up a meeting to begin his first project.  What these two companies have in common were marketers with an open-minded attitude which allowed them to see what I offered. That is especially important today, given the tremendous impact of the internet on B2B marketing.  Of course, they both listened first before deciding.


The reason for this essay is to “vent my frustration” about the fact that those companies who need my help the most are often the ones who are the most protective of their own turf.  It reminds me of a sales visit I made when I first became a product publicist in 1975.  It was in Oakland, California and the small company manufactured portable hair dryers.   I remember talking to the owner about using product publicity as a marketing tool to enable him to compete more effectively and his response was, “don’t tell me how to increase my business, I’ve been in the business longer than Oster and all the other big companies.”


All I could do was say, “why do you think you are small and they are big?”  Needless to say, I didn’t make the sale!   Well, I didn’t make the sale at the small company in central Massachusetts either because that person was also unwilling to listen to new ideas and then decide.   Her mind was already made up.

Note:   I like and respect the president of the aforementioned company, but respect his decision to delegate to his VP.  However, I do feel badly; he has no idea what he is missing, or does he???


©2013  Steven M. Stroum

Steve Stroum

Steve Stroum

Steven M. Stroum, founder and president of Venmark International is a seasoned publicist, marketer, and entrepreneur who has been featured in INC Magazine, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, Industrial Marketing, OMNI Magazine, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, The Middlesex News, San Francisco Chronicle, and other media outlets. He has also appeared on numerous radio and television programs, addressed many business and civic groups, and been a guest lecturer at Boston College, Babson College, MIT, and his alma mater Northeastern University.

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