A cautionary tale on marketing
From: Steve Farley (sfarleyigc.apc.org)
Date: Fri, 7 Jun 1996 11:00:02 -0500
This cautionary tale comes from the category of "if your friends won't tell
you, who will?"...

I am deeply involved in the marketing effort for our Tucson cohousing
group, as is my wife. Even so, it is easy to lose perspective from time to
time on how we look to a prospective member/outsider. We recently had an
opportunity to experience that perspective, and learned a lot which may be
helpful to others.

The main lesson is this: no matter how well-executed your marketing plan,
no matter how much interest you create in your coho project, you will fail
in your efforts if you do not follow through from your first contact with a
interested party. It doesn't matter how overworked you feel (and which of
us in this adventure doesn't feel that way?), you have to keep the spirit
and the dream alive in your communication with interested people.

My family is planning a long road trip this summer, and we realized that
this would be a great opportunity to visit other cohousing groups, get to
know a little about them, and share information both ways. Two
groups-in-progress in particular caught our eyes through their attractive
advertising, and their inviting announcements of welcome to visitors,
posted to this list.

Encouraged by their marketing, we adjusted our itinerary to pass through
these communities and spend a night in each place. Then, over a month in
advance, we called the contact people listed on the respective posts, to
ask if we could have coffee with someone and swap cohousing stories for an
hour or so.

We were given a major cold shoulder. In one case, our call was returned via
a collect call. Both people made it very clear that they were on the edge
and overburdened, and that neither they nor anyone else in the group could
spare any time at all to meet with us. They could not understand why we
would want to talk with them in the first place. They both ended the calls
by saying that they would "bring it up in a meeting."

Maybe they felt that, since we were already a member of another group, they
didn't want to waste their time with people who were not directly
interested in joining their group. However, members of other groups may
fall in love with your area/project/people and change over; or even more
likely, they will run into other people who are interested in living in
your group, and spread the word. No matter who they are, if someone has a
good experience with your group, they will pass that on to others. And good
word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing we have going for us.

I can certainly understand feeling overburdened in this process, and I,
too, have felt like telling people just to shut up and join, or else don't
bother me. But at those times I have bit my lip and realized the importance
of first impressions.

Less committed cohousers than us may have reacted to phone calls like these
by chucking the whole idea of cohousing. If I was exploring cohousing for
the first time and encountered these attitudes, I would worry about why
these people were so overburdened, and whether it just means that you would
go through all this work so you could live among a lot of people resenting
how much work they have to do.

Every time we show a public face this cold, it hurts _all of us_ in cohousin=

I know that for me, personally, from here on in, anytime someone contacts
me or any member of our group and says that they are passing through Tucson
and want to talk about cohousing, I will pledge that I, or some other
member of our group will not only talk to them, we will also do our
damnedest to find that person a member's home in which to spend the night.
And I encourage all others involved in cohousing to do the same for the
good of all of us.

Yes, we are all working hard. But getting to know our neighbors is what
it's all about. Let's not forget that.

And please take me up on this if you ever pass through Tucson. Just try to
give me at least a week's notice, if you can! ;)

Steve Farley
Tucson Neighborhood Development Corporation

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