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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.

Another Fan of Duct Tape Marketing

Scott Allen the entrepreneur writer at About.com, contributor to Fast Company and author of the Virtual Handshake named little old Duct Tape Marketing as one of the Top 10 Most Practical Blogs for Entrepreneurs

The entire list is well worth a visit and I am thankful to be a part of it.

Network with the Rich and Famous

One of the quickest ways to get exposure, promote a book, gain an introduction, find a mentor, generate traffic, launch a product is to gain the endorsement of someone who already has all of those things.

Here’s a little often forgotten tip. Famous authors or other celebrities in your industry started out as people. Okay, some are still people and that’s the point. Approach them as such and you may find that your project or organization can gain some very favorable support.

If you read a book that you loved, write the author and tell them so (Almost all authors have blogs these days too)
If you like a product, write someone in the organization and offer your testimonial
If you find a particularly well written article in a magazine, write the author and comment on the topic

You can build a very powerful hi profile network of mentors, contacts and champions if you approach it in the right fashion.

First off, give before you ask. You know, prove that aren’t just some stalker looking for an author’s private email address and you will get much farther. Buy their book, link to their blog, send them an article or resource that pertains to their work. Build a relationship or at least get on the radar screen, don’t just send off an email asking them to endorse your product. (You may not be the first person that day to do so.)

A couple more tips. Be bold, but be realistic and polite.

You may have to hear, “I’m sorry, Mr/Ms Big can’t talk to you right now, call back when your somebody important,” a time or two before you hit paydirt.

One of my favorite responses was from someone I won’ t name. I asked this author to do an interview on a radio show I hosted at the time. I promised that we could tape the interview whenever it was convenient. The response was simple and to the point. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’ll ever be available.”

If you have a plan and you are personal and sincere, you just might catch Mr/Ms Big when they are in a good mood and remember when they were in your shoes.

Above all be creative. Propose something very specific and try like heck to propose something that will benefit your prospective big fish.

Okay, an example. I’m no big fish but a young guy contacts me the other day (young means he is only 3 years older than my oldest daughter.) and says he wants to buy a service I offer, implement it track his progress and then blog about it. Now, as you can imagine, he got my attention. I love the idea and I took him up on it by offering him some additional help and feedback. It just may be the start of partnership that could grow into other possibilities.

Some days, I can be as grumpy and arrogant as the next person but, the point is, in this case, he took a shot and I was receptive.

Make up your target list of people you would love to have in your network and devise a plan to make contact. What’s the worst that can happen?

Offer Proof With Checklists

It may not be that glamorous but one of the best ways to differentiate your business is to show your clients and prospects checklists.

See, lots of folks talk about quality, speed and accuracy but few really deliver it. If you could offer your prospects proof that you not only deliver the goods you have a 10 point system that guarantees it, well, I think your business would be the obvious choice.

Almost every business has checklists (even mental ones) that they go through to ensure the job gets done right, the order gets packaged right or the service is delivered on time. Few however, take the time to document those systems in the form of a checklist and fewer still think to use those checklists as marketing tools.

What if you produced a document that read: Our 10 point white glove inspection guarantees that your car will be spotless – and then proceeded to list all 10 steps.

How about your web site optimization process, your financial investment risk analysis, your safety process, your service punchlist. . . there is no end to the creative ways you can approach this. People love top 10 lists and checklists because they take something that is often complicated or boring and turn it into something that is simple and even entertaining.

SIDEBAR: Documenting the kinds of systems I’ve discussed above might actually be a good business idea anyway!