When “Normal” Isn’t Working, Part 1

Stop me if you’ve heard any of these sayings before:

1)  Desperate times call for desperate measures.
2)  Necessity is the mother of invention.
3)  When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
4)  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.
5)  If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.

From where I sit, there’s never been a better time for most individuals, as well as the majority of corporations, to pick their favorite mantra from the above bunch — and start living by it!

Given the adversity we’ve all witnessed these past two years or so, going about “business as usual” isn’t necessarily going to cut it for most people until things rebound and restore themselves to some degree of normalcy.  While things definitely seem to be on an upswing, many folks are continuing to discover the hard way that the job market in 2010 still represents tough sledding for those who aren’t hyper-networked or don’t happen to be versed in the small handful of skills (e.g. nursing, mobile marketing, petroleum engineering) that are still in reasonably high demand.

I’m saddened to report, too, that this phenomenon doesn’t apply solely to the ranks of the unemployed.  Over the past 24 months, I’ve been contacted by at least a dozen or two small business owners who have approached me to see if I could help them return to the world of traditional employment.  And we’re not talking about starry-eyed newbies who just couldn’t hack it.  In several cases, the individuals in question have been running their own successful enterprises for more than two decades.  Their story, however, is largely the same.  These frustrated souls report that the way they have always have done things no longer seems to be working.  The calls simply aren’t coming in and clients simply aren’t knocking on their door in sustainable numbers.

So back to the series of quotes, above.  Clearly, this recession is far from the toughest period of adversity Americans have ever faced.  We’re still light years away from some of the tragic scenes this country experienced during times like the Great Depression.  And yet, things certainly aren’t rosy, either, and every sane person out there is likely harboring at least some anxiety about their livelihood and economic future.  That’s where the importance of adaptability and innovation comes in.  If the way you’ve looked for a job in the past doesn’t seem to be working this time around, change it.  If the way you’ve marketed, sold, priced, or delivered your services (as a business owner) no longer seems to be filling the pipeline, put your thinking cap on and invent a new way to generate leads and drum up business.

Examples of successful innovation are all around us, if you look for them.  I’ve got one particular story I’ll be sharing in the next few days about an enterprising guy I know who has came up with a really cool way to promote himself and showcase his talents.  A more immediate example, however, occurred when I was driving home last night.  While commuting back to Issaquah, I heard a radio advertisement from a local outfit called Tom Miller Construction (I’m not affiliated with them and had never heard of them before) that immediately resonated with me — and perfectly illustrates the point I’m trying to make.  Amidst the intensely competitive home construction/remodeling industry, which is reeling as much as any sector from the slowdown taking place, this company decided to get creative and appeal to homeowners with a unique marketing angle I’d never heard before.

Here’s the transcript of their radio ad, which I obtained from the company’s advertising firm, The Crandall Agency.

Tom Miller Construction: “Do It Yourself” Advertisement

(voiced by Tom Miller, company owner)

“Folks, are you feeling a little nervous about your investments and your savings?   Let me give you some advice.  Invest in your home.  This is Tom Miller of Tom Miller Construction.  Next to your family, your best investment is your home.  Focus on your home and increase its value and use it to build your future savings.  At Tom Miller Construction we can do that without breaking the bank.  We have a do-it-yourself program where we handle all the big work…the foundations, the walls, the roof, the windows,  and you help with the finish work, the painting, the molding, the flooring.  I just finished a project where a home owner got bids on a second story addition for $250,000.  I did all the big work for half,  the rest the home owner  finished with some hard work and the cost of materials.  Call me and I’ll tell you how you can make money by helping out with the labor on your next project.”

The written transcript alone doesn’t really do this ad justice, since the sincere voice of the owner really adds an extra dimension, but it at least gives you the general idea.  Rather than blathering on about the same old stuff EVERY remodeling company goes on and on about (quality, professionalism, timeliness, etc.) they thought hard about their audience, the needs/concerns of their potential customers, and what new value proposition they might be able to offer to set their firm apart from the crowd.

The result?  In my mind, they’ve found a very credible way to lower the price of their services, by allowing homeowners to lend a hand with the construction process, and they’ve also appealed to the need for people to feel that they’re saving in some way for retirement — even if they might not currently be able to add to their savings account or funnel as much into their 401k as usual.  Additionally, if we were to get really philosophical about it, there are probably many unemployed folks out there who are craving the chance to roll up their sleeves, get off the computer, and do something constructive.  And who also have a lot of time on their hands.  So the message of this ad seems like it could be highly appealing to many people, on many fronts.

So who knows?  Will it drive loads of new business their way?  Will it succeed in nudging hundreds of local homeowners off the fence and getting them to invest in some new remodeling projects, despite the tight economy?  I have no idea — and probably won’t be in a position to ever find out.  But I’m sure rooting for them, based on this thoughtful angle they came up with.  And I’d encourage many job hunters today to get equally inventive, as well!

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One Response to “When “Normal” Isn’t Working, Part 1”

  1. Price Taylor May 9, 2010 at 4:53 am

    I love the Tom Miller pitch! It’s optimistic about home ownership and at the same time, acknowledges the plight of consumers in 2010.

    I must write that it saddens me to hear of entrepreneurs, many in business since 2 recessions ago (the early 90s – “it’s the economy, stupid” timeframe) and now do not have enough customers to make a go of it.

    For those who are still seeking employment, the contingent workforce is a way back in. You must have the skills needed by employers, be resourceful, have a great network and probably get a little lucky.

    Unfortunately, the recent economic news in Greece (which is having a global effect, but particularly on Europe and the EU) and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is having the wrong effect at the wrong time.

    There’s nothing one can do about that but to keep the shoulder to the wheel and as Matt wrote, “get equally inventive..” as Tom Miller!

    -Price

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