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Answer: In essence you are right. Our core competency (an academic synonym for ?what we get paid to do better than anyone else?) is not marketing. However, if each of us does not understand the subject or how to apply it daily, we may not be able to practice our ?core competency? the way we believe we can be most effective. We might as well get used to the fact that a service that does not market does not exist.
Three months ago, I taught a three-day class in ?Emergency Services Marketing? at the Executive Officers Institute of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association. I asked the class in advance the following questions:
The class project was to work out these problems and to assist in planning for the achievement of the initiatives. Approximately 80% of the initiatives and problems had a direct relation to marketing, especially in terms of how the students viewed the problems and how they planned to deal with them.
We will spend the next few columns on a short course in marketing that you can literally carry in your wallet or stick on the dashboard of your rig. Marketing is a simple business and we should not make it any more complex or important than it is. It is nothing more than a tool, just like a halligan or an ax.
"The Four Ps"
There are four key elements of marketing known as ?The Four Ps?: place, price, product and promotion. There are many variations on these themes and we will address these modifications and their uses, but at the core these are the basics.
Most marketing professionals would probably start this little study with product (in our case I will use product and service interchangeably). I am going to start with place because I believe that it is absolutely critical to our success. The reason is simple. What is one of the first things most of our customers see as they drive through the neighborhood? The firehouse. (We might also want to think of our rigs as a modified version of place, especially when we are making ?house calls,? but for now, let?s concentrate on the fire station.)
There is a firehouse in every community in the country. This began when Ben Franklin founded the first organized fire company in Alexandria, VA, and it has continued its expansion (and some contractions now and then). This makes sense, as we need to be close to our customers and to the point of the origin of the reason for our existence: suppressing fires and handling life emergencies.
If we think about this even more, however, we can make a case for prevention as well, such as voluntary home inspections. After all, we are just down the street. The firehouse is the place where we keep our apparatus and where we live, train and maintain our watch on the citizens and property in our little corner of the world. It is our community and we live there. We should know everything about the safety needs in the neighborhood around our firehouse. Do you know the major potential safety among your customers, in addition to the key physical hazards?
From a marketing perspective, we probably have the next best access to our customers after McDonald?s! There are approximately 32,000 fire departments in the U.S. What kind of marketing clout does this give us? More than you might imagine.
Place and Proximity
Of all the things that predicate marketing success, one of the most significant is proximity and place ? being close to the customer. Here is an example from real life. About 30 years ago, I was recruited by a small wine company in Washington State called Chateau Ste. Michelle. There were eight of us in the sales force. Living in Bethesda, MD, I was the ?national account? manager. My job was to call on big hotel and restaurant companies. I ?made up? the job based on my skills (and the fact that I couldn?t do much else). Of course, I had no idea what I was doing other than the fact that I had to sell this Washington wine nobody knew about in a sea of French, Italian and California competitors.