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Start Offline, Move Online

No matter how far this whole Internet thing comes, there will always be some great prospecting to be done offline. I don’t know maybe there will come a day when everybody shops and buys online, but right now, direct mail is enjoying a resurgence in effectiveness as more and more companies try to generate leads by way of email and other online advertising.

One of the best way to generate cost effective leads is to combine proven offline strategies with efficient online strategies.

Here’s my advice:

Go to SRDS.com and find a list of people who have purchased a product or service like yours, buy that list and send everyone on it a compelling offer. An offer found only on one page on your web site. (The page you advertise in your direct mail.) Capture the names and addresses of everyone that takes you up on your offer and start marketing the heck out of that list.

You can do this very same thing by running small, inexpensive classified ads in local paper or even USA Today. Make the reader an offer they can’t refuse and watch your web traffic and leads go through the roof.

Empower Your Marketing People

Let’s start with the assumption that anyone in your organization that comes into contact with a prospect or a client is a marketing person for your company. Like it or not, for good or bad, they are performing a marketing function with every interaction. So, why not give them to tools to do it well.

For today what I mean is this. Give everyone on your staff the ability to instantly correct a mistake or misunderstanding in a way that makes the client happy.

For instance, I made a purchase at a Radio Shack store and after I had completed the transaction the clerk noted that my purchase required batteries. Instead of requiring me to make a second purchase, he reached under the counter and grabbed two AA batteries and handed them to me free of charge. It wasn’t an under the table, don’t tell my boss kind of thing. You could tell is what done without hesitation as a gesture of service.

To some degree everyone in your organization should have the ability to right a wrong or fix something that doesn’t make sense, without having to pass the buck or call in the manager. I know some of you may be thinking that your employees will give away the store, so think it through and create some rules, but let them have some power to make customers feel good.

Guess what else will happen when you do this. Your people will immediately feel better about serving and will become much more solutions driven when they learn that you trust them with the tools to do their job.

Scott Allen on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast

I posted an interview with Scott Allen on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast today. Scott is the coauthor of The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online, published by the American Management Association. Have a listen!

Don’t Fine Print Your Offers

Make a strong, over the top, offer, guarantee, try before you buy, come in and get a no strings attached sample, and then boldly smile as your prospects and clients take you up on it. And, don’t ruin your offer with fine print.

I came across this seemingly killer marketing tactic as I sat in the parking lot of an Office Depot store. The burger joint across the street cooked up an awesome promotion intent on legally and ethically borrowing the traffic generated by the Office Depot store. “Come in and get a free cookie with your Office Depot receipt.” In the words of the Guineess ad guys, brilliant, I thought. But, then I saw the fine print – with the purchase of a combo meal.

This offer went from awesome to lousy with those seven tiny words. Get people in your store and you will make sales. Get them to sample your brilliant content and you will have their attention. Give the 29 cent cookie away with no strings attached.

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.