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What To Do When a Prospect Says Yes

It’s funny how often small business owners will spend months chasing a new customer and then once they land them, they have no process in place to make sure they serve their needs and communicate key information.

When a client says yes you should be prepared to shift your marketing process to teach them how to get the most from this new relationship or product by putting a new customer kit in their hands. Your new customer kit, much like your marketing kit, allows your new client to fully understand what to expect now that they are a client. That’s right your educational marketing approach doesn’t end once you make a sale. Almost every type of business, service or product based, should develop “training” documents that communicate key bits of information.

Your new customer kit can contain pages that explain:

  • What to expect from us next
  • How to contact us if you have a question
  • How to get the most from your new product/service
  • What we need from you to get started
  • What we agreed upon today
  • How we invoice for our work
  • A copy of our invoice

I believe that creating a series of documents like the one’s suggested above and having a systematic step that allows you to communicate this information demonstrates a level of professionalism not always displayed by small businesses. Nothing derails a client relationship faster than failing to set and meet initial expectations.

Get something to work reasonably well

Think about this for a New Year’s Marketing mantra: Tis better to get one generation tactic working reasonably well than to run off chasing the next cool thing.

I’m guilty, I know most small business owners are, of chasing the next new thing. The truth is that most well-thought out marketing strategies will pay-off given your complete attention and a bit of time to take hold.

My advice as you are making plans for 2006 is to find one or two good strategies and tactics at that most and commit to them. If you find something that shows promise, focus on making it even more powerful. Don’t fall prey to the new shiny web 2.0 application that promises to make your life marginally better (or not)

Create one strategy, finish it, test it, improve it and use it without regret.

Will Google Take Over the World?

Google announced last month the creation of something they call Google Base. This seemingly useful new tool allows anyone with an account to upload a database of products. I have a client that has an online hardware store so it seemed logical to upload his product database and see what happened. What happened was that about 2000 items started showing up at that top of the results to product specific searches. That got my attention.

So I revisted the Google Base site and found that they are taking posts for events, course schedules, want ads, cars for sale, coupons, recipes, reviews, rentals and housing. Oh, and these posts need to be made using XML files. The interface for posting is a big too geeky for me but even I was able to muddle through.

Here’s the thing I’m wondering. At what point does Google take all these ever-changing XML files and create Google Cars, Google Help, Google Recipes, Google Rentals? Once they own the aggregating and filtering of data they will have no reason not to offer these services, free of charge, in order to sell the advertising and premium listings throughout the data and the feeds.

Look out Monster.com and Cars.com

So, get over to Google Base and get your products listed.

Send an Unsolicited Testimonial

One of the best networking tools I have found is to identify a party or two that you would like to network with and find a way to send them an unsolicited testimonial.

You can point out what you like about a product, service, book or their contribution to society in general.

Most savvy marketing type folks understand the value of testimonials in their marketing and are on the lookout for that at all times. When you punch this button, you may move your networking agenda to the top of the stack. I’m not suggesting that you hand out flattery disingenuously (wow, that was big word wasn’t it), I’m simply saying that if you can honestly take this approach, it may help you get a person’s attention.

It all things, including marketing, tis better to give first if you want to receive. This is a pretty simple way to do it.

Being First Is Often Enough For The Media

Business owners always want to know what they should pitch to media folks to generate a story. Guess what, it’s not your 5th anniversary, unless you are the first business of its kind to actually last five years.

The media loves firsts and so does the market. First to market is news!

Your job is to figure out what you’re first at and make it a core message for the media.

Firsts come in many forms. So what you if you’re not the first home remodeler in your area

Are you the first home remodeler to offer a 20 year guarantee or the first dentist to offer house calls?

Maybe you’re the first to put a couple things together. “We are the first financial planner to offer free
financial planning while we have your car detailed.”

Or maybe your first is packaging or delivery or bundling things.

The point is, with a little imagination, you can claim your first and create news. When you have news, the media can’t resist your message.

So, what are you first at?

Is It Unprofessional to Ask for Referrals?

This is fairly typical email I receive so I thought I would answer it via the blog.

John:

I have been listening to your podcasts and enjoy them.
A problem I have been struggling with is “As a dentist how do I ask for referrals from a patient of mine yet maintain my ‘professionalism

Any tips?
Bob

Bob,

The key is to change how you think about referrals and how you approach them with your clients.

First, you have to change how you think about them. If you have your clients best interests at heart you are doing them a disservice if you don’t also systematically extend your care to their friends and family.

Second, the most professional thing you can do is to set the referral expectation up front. If you know that your practice provides an exceptional experience, then make referrals part of the deal. Don’t wait and come back asking, make it an expectation up front.

When a new client comes to your practice, simply explain that you work primarily by referral and that you know they will be so thrilled with their new dentist that part of their responsibility is to provide you with 3 referrals on their next visit – if fact, go one step beyond and close your practice to referred patients only. If you want in, you must be referred. If you want to stay, you must make referrals.

Make sure that your marketing materials, your waiting room communications and your staff all speak to the referral point of view.

Then, do something exceptional. Add something to your practice that makes people talk about you. I read about a dentist in Australia that baked cookies in the office and gave them out as patients left.

Great smells in a dentist office!

This type of strategy takes some nerve, but it will become your primary marketing tool and almost guarantees that your practice is filled with clients that greatly value what you do – life’s too short to work with anyone else.

John

Making Your Case

Over the course of the last twenty years I have had the occasion to work with several very large non-profit agencies. One of the things that all non-profit agencies must get good at to survive is asking for money. The standard tool used in fundraising is something called a case statement.

A case statement, as the names implies, is a document created to make their case to the donor – to answer, why you should give us money.

When you think about it, there’s not that much difference between the profit and non-profit sectors. Almost every small business is proposing that the prospect trade money for something of value.

I have found the case statement to be a handy tool for cutting through the marketing hype and getting to reason why a prospect should trade their money for what your have to offer.

Dump the traditional sales a marketing speak and create a case statement to compel your target market to understand what they should give you their money. This one page document may be the most significant piece of marketing collateral you can produce.

Your case statement should address the following:

  • A statement of a challenge, frustration or problem that your target market experiences
  • An image of what life is like when the problem is solved
  • How they got here in the first place
  • A path for them to follow
  • A directed call to contact you

Make Every Document A Marketing Document

Every scrap of paper that leaves your business is performing a marketing function.

Today’s idea is not earthshattering, but it is one that many businesses, large and small, overlook.

You send invoices, fax covers, memo, notes, request and all other manner of “non-marketing” related correspondence to – you guessed it, your clients, referral sources and prospects.

It’s a pretty simple thing to A) make sure that these documents also conform to the image you project in your marketing materials and B) make them sell a little.

There no harm in introducing a new product in every communication, regardless of how mundane.

  • Put your company story on the back of work orders
  • List all of your products and services on fax covers
  • Insert a coupon for a special offering in your statements
  • Put two business cards in your thank you notes

Many small businesses make the mistake of assuming that an existing client knows all about everything your offer. No, they probably know about the one thing they buy from you. Continue to subtly educate at all times.

Heck, resell your internal clients (your staff)by reinforcing marketing messages in your internal documents.
You get the idea. Again, not a big breakthrough here but something you should be doing. It’s this type of attention to detail that, over time, adds to the collection marketing momentum your business needs.