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It's Not a Matter of Size. It's a Matter of Attitude.

By: Laurence Kaufman

Laurence Kaufman is a partner of Kaufman Ryan Stral Inc., an ad agency/PR firm, and of BigWorld Communications, web site developers.  He counsels numerous manufacturers' representatives and their associations, and also works with manufacturers and other business-to-business marketers.

This article originally appeared in The Representor, published for manufacturers' representatives in the electronics industry.  However, the principles articulated are applicable to businesses of many types, especially service businesses.
As I write this column, Iím also getting my thoughts together for what Iím going to talk about as a presenter next month at the ERA forum for small rep firms.  (If you were there, and this material sounds familiar, let me assure you that it wonít hurt to hear it again!)

Let me start by posing two questions. 
  1. How big is a small rep firm?
  2. How much smaller is the Mercedes driven by the solo practitioner than the Mercedes driven by the CEO of the rep firm with a staff of ten?  Twenty?  Fifty?
When I make marketing suggestions to my rep audiences, and even to my rep clients, Iím often amused (?) to get a response like, ďThatís OK for a big firm like Charleyís, but Iím too small to do that.Ē  Then when I talk to Charley, I hear ďThatís OK for a big firm like Joeís, but Iím too small to do that.Ē  Do I have to tell you what Joe says?

I will remind you what Tim Eyerman says.  Itís not a matter of size.  Itís a matter of attitude.  Or as another ERA past president (who shall be nameless) told me once, ďWhen reps donít invest in promotion, itís not because theyíre too small.  Itís because theyíre too cheap!Ē

Your spending is not a factor of how big you are, but of what you hope to accomplish.  If you limit yourself to representing small lines, or to calling on small customers, you can probably get by with a less glossy presentation than if you want to sell to or for IBM.

As a youngster growing up in Cleveland, I didnít understand the sign I often saw on the old Warner & Swasey plant at 55th and Carnegie: The man who needs a new machine tool is already paying for it.  (Today, of course, the PC wording would be The person or the company whoÖ.)  Let me assure you that the rep who needs a new company profile is already paying for it.  The reps who havenít made any changes to the web sites they put up two years ago are already paying for the changes they havenít made.

Without knowing the specifics of your business plan (much more meaningful than the generalities of your mission statement), I donít know what kind of communications materials you ought to be investing in, but I do know that whatever they are, they need to convey the right message about your company.  Business philosopher Tom Peters has taught us that perception is reality, and business philosopher Marshall McLuhan has taught us that the medium is the message.

The right message probably relates to what kind of products you sell, what kind of customers you sell them to, what territory you do it in, and what kind of professional skills and resources you bring to the task.  Those resources may include a high body count, but they also may not.  If youíve got it, flaunt itÖbut if you donít, why bring it up?  Just ask yourself what critical reality  you want your prospect to perceive (be the prospect a customer, a prospective principal, or a current principal).  Is it your size?  Or is it the value you bring?  Above all, use the medium Ė whether itís print, internet, PowerPoint, or whatever Ė to project the critical reality you have determined best reflects your professionalism.

© Copyright 1999, Laurence Kaufman, Kaufman Ryan Stral Inc./BigWorld Communications.

Other Articles by Laurence Kaufman

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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