I had to run to the grocery store to grab some ice and bananas for a smoothie catering job. I decided to do a fun little test to see how many people would save and say hello back to me. From the time I got out of my car to the time I got back, I waved and said hello to 37 people. How many waved and said hello back to me? The result didn’t surprise me: 37 out of 37 people all waved or said hello back. One hundred percent of the people I embraced, embraced me back. The surprising part of this little test was the people who looked a bit grumpy or who looked like they wouldn’t wave back. It was those people who actually responded the most enthusiastically. One man, who had an annoyed grimace on his face when I waved and said hello, actually thanked me for “being human” and joked that I said “hi” instead of sending him an emoji text.
As I stood in line waiting to check out, I looked around and noticed the majority of the people were glued to their phone. As a lady got behind me in line, I started chatting with her and in a few short minutes learned she was an HR manager at a tech firm with a son who plays soccer and she was getting some groceries to bring to her mom who just recently got out of the hospital. She asked about me and why I had a basket full of bananas and ice. I joked that I had a monkey at home, but then told her I had a coffee and smoothie business and was buying supplies for a catering job. She was very interested because she was struggling to find a fun and unique thing to do for a staff appreciation event at her office. She asked for my card, called me two days later, and booked us for a $1,500 catering job.
What does this have to do with marketing? A lot!
As a small business owner on Main Street and beyond, you have a huge advantage to connect with people one on one. To wave and say hello. To have a real conversation. To make someone’s day. To build a relationship.
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Why is it that when it comes to marketing, small business owners want to hide behind the technology? They look for the next shiny object that promises to bring in droves of new leads, customers, clients, and patients. They pop up annoying messages on their websites begging for an email address, blast out generic emails, automate texts — anything that will give them a reason for not needing to actually talk to these leads, customers, clients, and patients. Just push a button and it will all be taken care of. Yeah, right!
Then there’s the time sucks. You know, spending countless hours on Facebook trying to get more “likes” — because that’s such an ego stroke, right? And if people “like” you, they’ll want to do business with you. Sorry, but you can’t deposit likes in the bank. Or we’re constantly checking phones and email, because if a Nigerian prince promised to give you $18 million maybe a potential customer, client or patient is lurking in there, too, offering the same. Come on! You know better than that!
There are so many ways you can market your business. How many do you plan on implementing?
Social media . . . email marketing . . . content marketing . . . SEO . . . mobile marketing . . . video marketing . . . reputation management, and so on.
Actually, according to chiefmartec.com, there were 5,381 marketing technology solutions you could choose from in 2017, 39 percent more than the previous year.
That’s a lot of shiny objects!
Now I’m not saying to completely ignore digital marketing. But think about it. Don’t we sometimes over-expect and over-depend upon the latest technology “promises” to bring you millions of dollars and droves of customers, clients, and patients so you’ll never have to work at your marketing again? The biggest disruptors you need to stay away from are the countless “easy button” solutions and instant-result fantasy options, not to mention the plethora of electronic time stealers that are sucking the creativity and time available to actually interact with prospects, customers, clients and patients.
My advice to you? Stop chasing, and start thinking. And don’t neglect the time-tested basics that really build your business. What if you were to wake up tomorrow and realize your business was $500K in debt and you had no idea where your next customer was going to come from?
That was my reality just a few years ago in my coffee and smoothie business. It didn’t matter if there were 5,381 marketing technology solutions from which I could choose. I didn’t have money to invest in any of them. I needed customers fast and cash now.
Here are the three things I did that took my struggling coffee and smoothie business from $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. Hint: None of it had anything to do with the latest, greatest technological gadget.
The fastest way to get business in the door was to ask for it. I called past customer. I called current customers. I called potential customers. I dialed for dollars. And it worked. I was amazed how open people were to having a real conversation.
Yes, that thing in your hand has magic powers if you use it correctly. All you have to do is dial 7 numbers and speak to someone. (Seriously, have words come out of your mouth, no texting allowed).
How can you use it to achieve your goals? Call to thank new customers, clients or patients for their patronage. Call past customers, clients and patients to say “We miss you. Is everything okay?” Call prospective customers, clients and patients to learn more about their challenges and pain points. Remember, you have two ears and one mouth, so keep those proportions in mind. Be a listener, not someone who spews “sales talk.” Put the other person first and take a genuine interest in who you’re speaking to. This is something that most people don’t bother to do and will make you stand out and be remembered.
As I would sit in my empty coffee and smoothies shop, one person who did come in was the mailman. I’d take the stack he dropped off and sort it into 3 piles: A-, B- and C-pile mail. Most of it went into the C pile – the generic-looking postcards, the envelope addressed to “Business Owner,” the Val-Pak coupons. B pile was stuff I’d get to eventually – usually magazines and publications. The A pile was either the stack of bills waiting to be paid or something that got my attention because it was “different” from the other mail.
I knew that in order to save my business I was going to have to do something different as well. I created a “smoothie in a box” package that was sent to human resources and office managers promoting smoothie bar catering as something different than the typical ice cream social for their staff appreciation events.
It worked! For every three boxes I sent out, one prospect would contact me immediately to book an event. Another would contact me within a month. Two out of every three packages sent out got me a paying client. The package cost me $3.25 each with postage. My average catering job was $800. Would I want to wash, rinse and repeat? Heck yeah! Especially because online advertising was costing about $6 a click. One click. I was NOT getting two out of every three clicks to turn into paying clients. Far from it. So, I turned the online advertising way down and leveraged what was working – direct mail.
Bonus tip: Combine direct mail with the phone. If you send a memorable package, the person you’re calling will be much more amenable to speaking with you. It’s a marketing combination that packs a punch.
I’ve always been one to “move away from the herd.” As I searched for marketing strategies I could implement to get more customers for my coffee and smoothie business, I came across Groupon. I had never run a daily deal before, and everyone I asked about it said, “Don’t do it!”
That made my marketing radar pop up. It seemed that Groupon was a great way to get customers in the door fast. It wasn’t going to cost me anything out of pocket to do it. However, it was clear to me that the “typical” Groupon deal of “Buy $20 of smoothies for $10” wasn’t going to work because I’d only be making 25 cents on the dollar.
Instead of running a typical Groupon deal, I created a packaged called “The Ultimate Hawaiian Getaway Without a 12-Hour Flight” with smoothie and coffee bar catering packages that started at $575. It worked! It brought customers in the door – customers I never would have been able to reach on my own. It allowed me to build a list – because people would call asking for more information and/or to see if the day/time they wanted to hold their event was available. It gave me cash fast – I got paid immediately yet many times didn’t have to provide the service for months. I was able to upsell additional services such as alcohol upgrades (because what’s a tiki bar party with smoothies without alcohol?), additional serving time, decorations, etc. – all of which were done outside of the Groupon deal, almost pure profit, and went straight into my pocket.
It’s a strategy that I’m really passionate about because I know it works when it’s done right.
Three simple marketing strategies that saved my business. None involved anything “technological”, “hot,” or “trendy.” It frustrates me to see small business owners wasting their time and money, chasing the next shiny object that promises to save their business . . . if they haven’t got the foundational basics implemented first.
If you were granted just three marketing strategies you could implement this year, what would they be? I hope you’ll reconsider if the latest “easy button” is outranking more than two of my three proven methods.
Stacey Riska, aka "Small Business Stacey" is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small business and rebuilding Main Street. She helps small and local business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients/patients, MORE sales, and MORE money. Stacey is the founder of Small Biz Marketing Specialist, THE go-to place for marketing tips, techniques and strategies that get results. She's also the author of "Small Business Marketing Made EZ" where she shares the 6-simple-step plan to get your marketing into ACTION - literally and figuratively. Stacey is also the creator of the Daily Deals for Massive Profits, an online video training program that teaches small and local business owners how to use daily deal sites like Groupon to skyrocket their business growth and get massive profits. In this program she teaches from experience, as it was the key strategy that transformed her coffee and smoothie business from being $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. When not saving the small business world, she enjoys sipping red wine, eating chocolate (who doesn't!) and spending time with her amazing husband.
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