Long known for his advocacy of the power of positive thinking, Brian Van Bower explains why he's also done all he can as a watershaper to get involved, stay involved and become part of social communities that have helped him advance his professional agenda for decades.
By Brian Bower
Many years ago, at a time when I was still pretty wet behind the ears, a young, attractive woman invited me to join our local Chamber of Commerce and attend a meeting with her.
“Sure,” I said. “I’ll give it a shot.” I showed up for the event and met a bunch of banker types, and it seemed like everyone was a vice president of something or other. I was just starting to get comfortable when the woman who had invited me explained that it was customary for new members to stand up and tell everyone about his or her business.
As luck would have it, I didn’t go first. Another guy stood up before me and talked for a few minutes about his carpet-cleaning business – a trade he obviously found to be less than stimulating. He spoke in a monotone voice and made carpet cleaning sound like, well, carpet cleaning. Inspired by his lack of enthusiasm, I decided to try a more positive approach.
When my turn came, I stood up and told this group of experienced business leaders that I did much more than dig holes and fill them with steel, concrete and water. “In fact,” I told them, “I make a product that provides health, fitness and relaxation, extends people’s lives, improves their quality of life, keeps families together, cools them off when it’s hot, relieves stress when they’re weary, creates visual art and beautifies their homes.”
In other words, I really got into it – and they stood and applauded when I finished. Later on, I received a number of positive comments and was warmly welcomed into the group.
VALUING THE STORY
It didn’t take much brainpower to realize that the reason I’d made a connection with these people – right after the gentleman with the carpet-cleaning service had almost put them to sleep – was that I had a positive mindset. Because I was proud of what I did for a living and was eager to tell them about it, the audience responded in a positive way.
It was a powerful lesson. It showed me that mindset has a huge effect on the things you say and how you say them, on the way you act and therefore on the impressions you make on other people. In the time since that meeting, I’ve come to appreciate how critical a positive mindset is to business success, because everyone you meet is either a potential customer or a potential referral. You just never know how the things you say today (and to whom) may influence whether or not you get a contract later on.
I’ve found since then that I tend to gravitate toward people who share this positive mindset, both in the industry and in my community. I’m at my best with people who represent their businesses with enthusiasm and confidence.
In my own case, this positive approach to watershaping means I won’t ruin the good moods customers have when they call me; rather, I reinforce them and build upon them in every way I can by being upbeat.
And I see a big difference between knowing this and practicing it: In other words, having the right outlook and saying and believing positive things won’t do much good unless you take the attitude out for a spin.
After my Chamber of Commerce experience, I began to work systematically in my community at stacking the deck in my favor. I became involved with a variety of organizations that let me rub elbows with professional (and generally upscale) people. In marketing terms, I made these folks my “target demographic group” – a set of people who feel good about what they do and are likely to have money and enjoy the good life.
One big step I took in this direction was joining the American Institute of Food & Wine. For one thing, I really enjoy food and wine. For another, my involvement in this organization puts me in an atmosphere where I’m promoting myself all the time, although it never really seems like that’s what I’m doing. I get to know people; when the time comes for installing a pool or spa, they start with me – and so marketing becomes an easy, natural extension of an activity I enjoy.
DIGGING INTO COMMUNITIES
The great thing about this kind of “community prospecting” is that there are so many different types of organizations that fill the bill.
For starters, I strongly recommend joining your local Chamber of Commerce. You should also look into local service organizations like the Rotary Club or the Kiwanis; if that’s not your thing, get involved with your local Little League or some other type of family-oriented organization.
As long as you have that positive mindset in joining and participating, the networking and prospecting will come naturally. You’ll find yourself building alliances with other business people, increasing your credibility and your standing among your peers. You’ll also make friends, do business with friends and get referrals to their friends. Hands down, it’s an easier way to go than making cold calls.
In fact, this networking is my total advertising program: I don’t run print ads or radio or television ads; instead, I make customer satisfaction my marketing approach.
To do so, I always try to do something in the process of the job that makes the customer happy. If I have to spend an extra $300 on some special feature that isn’t in the contract, I don’t make a fuss about it: I just figure that this is my “marketing budget.” In other words, I even look in a positive way at the problems you inevitably run into in the course of installing any sort of watershape.
As you take this mindset out for regular spins, you’ll find that something great will start happening. Before long, in fact, you’ll find that everything comes together – that the positive mindset supports the personal prospecting you follow up with personal service – and then with service to the referral business that flows your way. What happens is that the sales-and-marketing aspect of your business becomes a part of your everyday life; you don’t ever feel like you need to force it.
There are enough of you out there who know me well enough to know that I practice what I preach. To me, a positive mindset, appropriately applied, is the difference between the suede-shoe/aluminum-siding, mercenary type of sales and marketing yourself by participating in your local economy.
Try it. You’ll like it!