A few months ago, I caught the bicycle fever. I had to ride my bicycle, had to train other muscles in my body than just the brain. I looked inside the garage and saw my bike: dusty, flat tires and just not very happy being left alone for such a long time. Ok, time for a little bicycle spa treatment. Oh no, don’t get me start working on that stuff. I will mess it up. Two left hands can’t work miracles. So, I drove down to the bike shop and asked them for help. I was expecting a major bill: New tires, new brakes, tuning – the whole enchilada.

The owner looked at the bicycle and said: “Give me 20 minutes and I’ll have it ready for you.” I grabbed a cup of coffee and returned 20 minutes later. There was my new old bicycle: sparkling, oiled and ready to race the world. When I asked the owner how much I owed him, he said: “Nothing.” I said “No, I owe you something. You worked on it.” And he answered “Look, it took me 5 minutes to fix your bike and I’m not going to charge you for it. All I ask is that you think of me next time you have a major repair or intend to buy a new bicycle.”

That moment I became the biggest fan of this bike shop. And all of us can learn so much from his marketing strategy. He wasn’t looking to make a quick buck. He’s building a real business. A brand I want to share with everyone. His brand mission: Do the best work, be honest and trust me. The bike store next door can be 50% cheaper. I won’t even look at them. He has my loyalty for the rest of my life. It’s plain brilliant. We all have stories about handymen, small shops that survive by ripping you off. And we’ve seen the local news revealing the seedy business practices of small shops. He just stomped the competition with his brand positioning. We’re not going to screw you.

What does this have to do with marketing?

4 months ago, I had a meeting with a prospective client. They were interested in SEO, SEM, banner ads, some Social Marketing. Problem is, we don’t do SEO, SEM and banner ads. And, we don’t do the typical Twitter/Facebook Social Marketing. We want to understand business issues and help to solve them. We don’t believe in quick fixes, fancy campaigns to cover up problems. Still, some clients need quick fixes and can’t focus on holistic solutions right now.

That’s understandable. There are business challenges that need to be addressed now. There are shareholder and sales imperatives. And there are deadlines. We could do it. But we wouldn’t be the best solution for the immediate problem.

So, we offered them to help find the right partner for the immediate challenges. We gave business away. Money we could have used to reinvest in our company.

But, did we give business away?

We started to develop a real relationship based on trust. We invested a lot of time to help this client. Never saw a dime. And it felt so good.

We became trusted advisors and skipped the supplier/vendor stage. It’s a different relationship. We’re here to help you. Nothing else. They trusted us like I trust the bicycle shop.

Which is why they called us today. To talk about business strategy for 2011.

We’re building a business here. Not a short-term profit center.