Why Vendors Should Act Like They're Running for School Board
I try to be a responsible voter by learning a reasonable amount about the candidates for various political office before casing my ballot. I always have well-formulated opinions about the people at the top: president, senator, congressional representative, governor, state senator, etc. But inevitably, there are other, lower profile candidates further down the roster, and my familiarity with them typically wanes the deeper into the ballot I get.
And the nightmare category is school board. Often there are several candidates, none of whom I really know. My first reaction when being asked to “choose three” from a list of seven or eight school board candidates is to vote for the names I’m most familiar with.
This is not a good strategy, mostly because I typically know nothing about what any of them stand for. All I know is that I’ve seen some of the names on yard signs and glossy, oversized postcards that have stuffed my mailbox for the previous month. So I’m tempted to check those boxes, just because I recognize the name.
There is a lesson here: when people are forced to select a person or a company from a list, they often gravitate to the familiar, even if they know very little about them.
As a consultant working with entrepreneurs trying to maximize their success in the healthcare market, I regularly remind them that people do business with people they know, like and trust. So the first step is to become known. For politicians, it’s largely a matter of yard signs, robocalls, mailers, and static cling car window decals. It’s a bit more complex for vendors. You want people to know you and your company, but you cannot annoy potential clients.
Currently, Georgia’s 6th congressional district is preparing for a run-off election to fill the vacancy created when Tom Price became Secretary of Health and Human Services. Even though I don’t live in the 6th district, because I’m in the Atlanta TV market, I am bombarded by an endless stream of irritating negative ads from both candidates. I can’t wait of June 20 be over!
Since vendors must avoid turning off potential customers at all costs, I tell my clients, “Think of creative ways to get your name out there to position yourself as a resource to the industry.” This could involve attending or even speaking at educational meetings, volunteering for local trade associations and personal membership societies committees, contributing newsletter articles, etc.
The objective is to become the first one a potential client thinks of when someone at an internal meeting says, “We need someone who does (fill in the blank). Who do we know who does that?” Because you’ve developed a reputation as a contributing member of the ecosystem – as opposed to someone whose only objective is to “sell, sell, sell” – you should be top-of-mind.
So being known is key. Make sure your “box” is the one people check because of your profile and reputation.