Lower the Barrier to Becoming a Client

Sampling has long served certain types of businesses as a way to get a prospect to try a new product.

Just the other day my daughters enjoyed a snow day off of school at the local neighborhood sled hill (apply named Suicide Hill.) The manager of a newly opened Chick-fil-A restaurant showed up with heated bags full of sandwiches for the kids and parents sledding in the cold. Smart move? Guess where we ate lunch the next day?

But, this practice shouldn’t be seen only as a way to promote trial of a food item or laundry soap. Service businesses can employ this successful tactic in the same way.

A free “how to” or “industry trend” report is a sample of your brilliance as a consultant, isn’t it? An ebook, sold for $49, that teaches a business owner everything they need to know to get started doing something can be the perfect way to convince them that what they should actually do is hire you for $4900 to solve their problem. Often, someone seeking information doesn’t really want to know how to do something, they just want to be darn sure the person they hire does. Don’t hold back anything.

I once worked with an architect who was particularly savvy at working the various municipal agencies for zoning variance and the like. We created a “feasibility evaluation” product and offered it for $499 to anyone considering building a commercial building. This quick snap shot product saved contractors and developers tons of money and headaches and guess who got put on the short list when they considered hiring the architect for the project?

Every service business in the world should consider developing a suite of information-type products and starter services that allow potential clients a taste of what they can get before they take the big plunge.

The Small Business Advertising Dynamic Duo

Small businesses often complain that advertising is too expensive.

This can indeed be true, but I’ve seen countless examples where one business successfully uses advertising to generate leads while another simply wastes money doing the same.

The difference – two things – successful small business advertising requires ruthless application of experience and measurement.

Experience includes – past experience gathered from clients, experience of an honest ad sales rep, knowledge of your industry, experience gained from measuring past campaigns (competitive experience – usually contrasuccessful)

Measurement – don’t even consider running advertising if you can’t measure the results, it’s too risky. Measure every medium, daypart, and location, online and offline. Measure every element that can be measured – headlines, offers, images, type, copy. It may feel extremely tedious to do so but when you have a limited budget it’s suicide to do otherwise.

Make Mine a Million Event

Open from American Express presented the Make Mine a Million (M3) event yesterday at the Manhattan Center just off Times Square in New York.

The Make Mine a Million program is part of the Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence organization and provides a combination of money, mentoring and marketing tools that women entrepreneurs need to help their businesses grow to a million dollars in revenue and beyond. The event was built around a competition between business owner finalists – ala American Idol meets the Apprentice. 20 new women business owners were awarded with a package of money, mentoring, marketing and technology tools to help propel their businesses into million dollar companies.

The program began at 4pm with a speech by Susan Sobbott, CEO of American Express Open and Nell Merlino of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence (Nell is well-known for her work in spearheading the “Take Our Daughters to Work Day.”) Suze Orman, host of the Suze Orman Show, delivered the keynote address.

There are 10 million women entrepreneurs in the US. Most are stuck at the $250-350K level. So the M3 program is all about moving the dial to $1M for more women entrepreneurs. Only 3% of women-owned businesses are presently over $1M annually. The M3 program has enlisted 15,000 women who’ve taken the pledge to get a million of the 10 million businesses to $1M in annual revenues or beyond by 2010. Partners include AIG, QVC, CISCO and others. 30 finalists competed by giving a 3 minute elevator pitch of their business concept and growth strategy/plan, the audience voted and a panel of judges used the result to pare down to 20 finalists who will receive one-on-one mentoring (heavily emphasized concept for the movement), marketing assistance, a line of credit from OPEN, a loan from Count Me In, technology support from Cisco Systems and the opportunity to take part in QVC’s product search and sell their products on the network.

Interesting insights: Men need to raise their skills to match their confidence, women need to raise their confidence to match their skills; research shows that women entrepreneurs are less optimistic about the 6-month outlook on the economy (61% vs 67% of men), but 42% of women owners love what they do and can’t imagine doing anything else. 87% of women owners have taken steps to make their business more environmentally friendly (vs. 78% of men). Captial investments planned in the next six months 45% of women vs. 66% of men. Plan to hire in the next six months 29% of women vs. 36% of men.

Presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton made a surprise guest appearance, spoke eloquently about her involvement with Count Me In, and announced a new fund of $1.5M from AIG to support the M3 program.

The Best Place to Advertise in Your Town

In this week’s Duct Tape Marketing newsletter I pointed out a list of some the better resources for locating newspapers, magazines, radio, television stations, and other potential offline advertising opportunities in most major cities.

I also mentioned, although their is no national network, the idea of “community advertising”

Here is a list of some of the most “duct tapey” places in your town that you might consider testing for ROI. (Please add your favorites to the comments)

  • Church bulletins
  • Public Library bulletin boards
  • Coffee shop bulletin boards
  • Grocery store bulletin boards
  • School sports programs
  • Delivery service ride along flyers
  • Hotel rack brochure boxes
  • Pizza boxes

Add your favorites to the list!

Your Advertising Should Be More Like Dating

Not many people in this day and age would be drawn to the notion of marrying someone they’ve barely or never met. Yet, that’s the approach that most advertisers take. “Here’s my ad, here’s my phone number, you don’t know anything about me, but call me so I come on over and sell you something.” – more or less the same as if you walked into a crowd of people and ask the first person that appealed to you if they would like to get married. Flash around enough cash, ask enough people, and maybe you get lucky with this approach every now and then, but it’s no way to build a small business.

Advertising for the small business should be approached more like dating. Your ads should be asking for a date, not a sale! Give your prospects a compelling reason to meet you for coffee, in a public place – by offering some sort of free, valuable information that they can gain access to with very little commitment. Then, move up to the movie, add a nice dinner, meet the parents – maybe, just maybe, it’s time to ask for the order – or better yet, simply say yes when the prospect asks you.

Don’t try to do too much with your ads. Don’t try to be too cute with your ads. Use them to attract and educate. Then build an information arsenal that will allow your prospect to come to the conclusion that you are indeed someone they would like to spend the rest of their life with. (Or at least some of their money with.)

What Will Marketing Become?

The title of this post is the catchy positioning for The Influx M2 conference being held at the Golden Gate Club in San Francisco’s historic Presidio on October 3rd. John Battelle, Chairman and Publisher of Federated Media, is a featured presenter. The line-up also includes Josh Quitter, Editor of one of my favorite magazines, Business 2.0.

Great location, great line-up, very reasonable fee to attend. Check it out.

My Secret Envelope Trick

Standing out in the crowded mailbox is one of the chores facing any direct mail campaign.

I’m a big fan of the regular old direct mail letter in the regular old #10 regular envelope. Problem is, that delivery mechanism can be, well, regular.

One of my secret weapons (okay, not really so secret, just rarely used) is to employ the #12, not so regular, envelope. The primary difference is size. A standard #10 regular business envelope is 4 1/8 x 9 1/2 in size while a #12 is – 4 3/4 x 11. This little extra size allows your envelope to stand out and get attention, whether you are mailing a handful or thousands. It also allows you to include some oversized materials inside as well.

While they may cost a little more to buy, you can still use regular first class postage on them. I believe the extra attention, sales and appointments are worth the extra cost.

You can acquire #12 envelopes from most any office supply store, your local print shop or online printers such as Action Envelope.

Opt-In Email Deliverability Checklist

Getting your opt-in email opened is one part of the equation, but you can’t get them opened and read if you can’t get them delivered.

Sparklist, an email marketing service provider, is offering a handy email deliverability guide, Opt-in Email Marketer’s Checklist for Inbox Delivery that features 10 very solid recommendations to help increase your email deliverability and identify service providers who care about fighting spam and working with legitimate marketers.

Notification of this white paper came from another service I like – White Paper of the Day – a daily email notification from DMNews promoting marketing white papers from a variety of sources.