Category Archives: Referral marketing

Network marketing: The greatest misconception

home exercise equipment

Network marketing (joining chambers, BNI, associations) is a terrific way to build a business.  In 2007, networking was responsible for over 50% of my new business.  I hear this echoed by dozens of business owners who join a business networking group.

On the other side of the aisle, though, are dozens of business people who join business networking groups, and then when their membership renewal is due, they fail to renew.  The MAIN reason they give:  It didn’t get me any business.

How do great networkers differ from poor networkers?

What’s the secret to great networking?  How come some businesses thrive on networking, while others fail?  One of the great misconceptions of networking is that by joining a roster, you’re gauranteed business. A roster spot does not mean a thing. Just because you’re listed on a Chamber of Commerce roster, BNI roster, or Builders Association roster, you can’t expect business.  Sure, you’re a member…on paper.  But it ends there.  You’re only going to get back what you put in. I’ll present to you a great analogy.

Home exercise equipment is a lot like networking

I was talking on the phone to Janet Kruger from Lights On in Mankato, Minnesota about commonalities in Builders Associations.  A local builders association has many members — some are active, and some are not.  What Kruger said, made a lot of sense to me.  “Home exercise equipment is a lot like networking,” Kruger explained.  “You can’t buy a piece of exercise equipment, and expect it to work if you don’t use it.  If you exercise daily, it will work.  If you don’t, it becomes little more than a clothes hanger.”  Kruger was Associate of the Year in the Minnesota River Builders Association.

Three ways to maximize your networks

Here are three specific ways to get the most out of any network you belong to:

  1. Join a committee. Get involved.  Meet other members by working together.  Show them your talents.  Let your work be your testimonial.  Become part of the leadership of the organization.  It starts with involvement.
  2. Attend the meetings. Whether is business-after-hours or membership meetings, use every chance you get to meet people face-to-face.  Business comes where it’s invited.
  3. Ask for appointments using this phrase:  When could we meet to discuss ways to help each other grow our businesses? What smart business owner is going to say no?

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Chris Mitchell is the President and Founder of 25-8 Marketing, Inc, a full service advertising agency in Elk River, Minnesota. He plans and implements marketing programs for small to medium-sized businesses. Mitchell is a consultant, speaker and author and has worked with hundreds of companies. He has over 20 years of real-world advertising experience, and understands the marketing challenges of the small business owner.

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Marketing Proverb: The best time to plant a tree

plant your marketing seeds today

The Chinese Proverb about planting trees goes something like this:

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.  The second best time is today.

This saying applies to so many realms of our lives, our businesses, and our marketing.  If you had planted a tree 20 years ago, you’d be enjoying the shade and fruits of your labor.  But what if you didn’t plant a tree 20 years ago?  Wouldn’t the second best time be today?

Plant your marketing seeds today

So many of the clients whom I meet with plan their marketing in a reactionary mode.  Need sales…react with marketing.  They are so busy working in their business…that they forget to work on their business.

What I try to explain is that by planting marketing seedlings now, you might see fruit (sales) in as little as three months.  If you persist in your marketing seedlings, your current-month-mode can work toward a great-year-mode.

What marketing seeds can you plant today?

  • The best time to update and organize your customer list with email and contact information was 6 months ago.  The second best time is today.
  • The best time to do a needs analysis with a key customer was 3 months ago.  The second best time is today.
  • The best time to do create a website or blog was in 2005.  The second best time is today.
  • The best time to strengthen your relationship with the top 20% of your customers was last year.  The second best time is today.
  • The best time to write your 2008 marketing plan was last October.  The second best time is today.
  • The best time to organize your logo, pictures and business graphics in one spot so you have everything you need to quickly create stunning marketing materials was a year ago.  The second best time is today.
  • The best time to ask all of the people you did business with last year for referrals was last year.  The second best time is today.

Do business like you plan to stay in business

Be proactive with your marketing.  The sooner you start your marketing with long-term in mind, the sooner the benefits will show up short term.  What are you waiting for?

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Chris Mitchell is the President and Founder of 25-8 Marketing, Inc, a full service advertising agency in Elk River, Minnesota. He plans and implements marketing programs for small to medium-sized businesses. Mitchell is a consultant, speaker and author and has worked with hundreds of companies. He has over 20 years of real-world advertising experience, and understands the marketing challenges of the small business owner.

Sharpening your Marketing Saw: What can you do?

sharpening the marketing saw

Stephen Covey talks about this anology in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:

What are you doing?’ you ask.
‘Can’t you see?’ comes the impatient reply. ‘I’m sawing down this tree.’
‘You look exhausted!’ you exclaim.
‘How long have you been at it?’
‘Over five hours,’ he returns, ‘and I’m beat! This is hard work.’
‘Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?’ you inquire. ‘I’m sure it would go a lot faster.’
‘I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,’ the man says emphatically. ‘I’m too busy sawing!’

When it comes to business, we’re all busy.

I ask clients who don’t blog, or do newsletters, or update their website, or develop a marketing plan…why? The answer is always honest. And it’s almost always the same. They are too busy. They are too busy working IN their business to work ON their business.

What can you do to sharpen your marketing saw? Here are four thought- starters:

1) Commit to organizing your database. Your database of customers is the single most important thing you have as a business owner. Once you have a contact management system or some sort (computerized, with name, address, phone, email), exportable to an excel spreadsheet, you’re set.

Y our database is part of the foundation of all the marketing you do. And probably most of the referrals you get.
2) Reading good literature. The average American reads four books a year. Don’t be average. Reading will give you insight and perspective. I am currently re-reading one book: Permission Marketing (by Seth Godin) and reading another: The God Questions (by Hal Seed and Dan Grinder).

3) Brainstorm Brown Bag. Set aside a lunch hour (once per month) for a brainstorming session at your office. Everyone brings their own lunch. The challenge is pre-determined…what new ideas can we use, what’s working, how are you handling this objection. You get the idea. Hint: Rule one of brainstorming…no idea is judged during the session.

4) Seminars and workshops. Most of us do professional development or continuing education. That’s great. But also try something outside the norm of your business life. You can probably relate it back. I recently took a 4-week meditation class from Kelly LaVine that was outside my “norm” and really enjoyed it.

Abraham Lincoln said this: Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. He was a pretty smart guy.

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Chris Mitchell is the President and Founder of 25-8 Marketing, Inc, a full service advertising agency in Elk River, Minnesota. He plans and implements marketing programs for small to medium-sized businesses. Mitchell is a consultant, speaker and author and has worked with hundreds of companies. He has over 20 years of real-world advertising experience, and understands the marketing challenges of the small business owner.

Are you trustworthy? Ride this marketing trend in 2008

liar liar

Trust is one of the key marketing trends of 2008

There is a prevailing smell of distrust these days. People distrust the government. And we’re in a political election year. People distrust big institutions. The price of gas is up. The mortgage industry is in an upheaval. Wall Street has beaten up investors of Citigroup, E-Trade, and Countrywide. Unemployment…sports legends on steroids…I could go on and on.

Consumers are looking for someone to trust

If you could pick one theme for 2008 to brand yourself or your company with, it’s trust. Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve says this:

“Our mindset is characterized by the Current DissedTrust; People continue to reject the “establishment” (government, commerce, religion, etc.) because they expect it to lie, cheat and abuse employees, communities and the environment. There will be rich rewards for any institution that can reach the bar of trust.”

What can your business do to earn people’s trust? FIVE things I suggest:

1) Use testimonials. Have a supply of testimonial letters ready, or include customer quotes in all of your marketing materials.

2) Join a professional association. It shows that you are accepted for measuring up to the standards of your profession. If you are already a member of a professional association, make sure your customers know, and that you participate in continuing education.

3) Meet your customers more often. As we continue to evolve into an email-driven society, it’s easy to lose touch. Frequently meeting customers face-to-face, and offering good service is one of the quickest ways to gain trust.

4) Add your address to your website. Do you ever go to a business website and can’t find their street address? How do you feel? What are they hiding? Are they going to rip me off? Doesn’t it make you suspicious? I know it does for me. Don’t do this to your customers.

5) Increase your opportunity for referral marketing. Join a BNI chapter, or another local business networking group. Referral marketing plays a big part of building trust.

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Chris Mitchell is the President and Founder of 25-8 Marketing, Inc, a full service advertising agency in Elk River, Minnesota. He plans and implements marketing programs for small to medium-sized businesses. Mitchell is a consultant, speaker and author and has worked with hundreds of companies. He has over 20 years of real-world advertising experience, and understands the marketing challenges of the small business owner.

website: http://www.258marketing.com
email: chris@258marketing.com

Be different: Send your Christmas cards in July

christmas in july

Want to stand out in a crowded marketplace?

Here’s an idea that will accomplish exactly that.  How many Christmas cards to you receive at your home or business between Thanksgiving and New Years?  Lots.  How many do you receive in July?  None.

I tell my clients that when everyone is zigging, you gotta zag.

If you’re a business, consider sending out your holiday cards in July.  I guarantee it will stand out and get noticed. I found this image at www.100christmascards.com as an emailable card.  Contact your printer and customize a version for your business and mail it.  You have the next 4 months to get this done.  Dare to be different.

When everyone is sweating in the summer, anything with a holiday theme will definitely make people smile and leave an impression.

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Chris Mitchell is the President and Founder of 25-8 Marketing, Inc, a full service advertising agency that plans and implements marketing programs for small to medium-sized businesses. He is a consultant, speaker and author and has worked with hundreds of companies. He has over 20 years of real-world advertising experience, and understands the marketing challenges of the small business owner.

website: http://www.258marketing.com
email: chris@258marketing.com

No low-hanging fruit in 2008: Survival marketing tips

low hanging fruit

If you’re a business owner or salesperson, the days of easy sales are over.

From WiseGeek.com: A fruit-bearing tree often contains some branches low enough for animals and humans to reach without much effort. The fruit contained on these lower branches may be not be as ripe or attractive as the fruit on higher limbs, but it is usually more abundant and easier to harvest. From this we get the popular expression “low hanging fruit”, which generally means selecting the easiest targets with the least amount of effort.

Low-hanging fruit. Ready to buy. Easy money. Not in 2008. News media continues to pummel us with messages that we are in tough economic times. Duh! And as a business person, you sense that money is tight. Consumers and businesses are watching their budgets. What are you going to do to survive?

Three survival marketing tips to carry you forward

1) Stop dwelling in 2004. A lot has happened since then, and it’s long gone. You need to commit to a new mentality. Don’t do the same advertising and marketing you did in 2004, because everything has changed. Accept that. You’ll need to market differently in 2008.

Newspaper circulation is down. Reevaluate your print advertising. Television is fragmented. Reevaluate your broadcast advertising. Yellow pages readership is declining. Reconsider your spending here. People are spending more time in front of their computers. Reconsider your internet marketing presence. People are time-crunched. Consumers are given more choices. What was good enough marketing to get you where you are…is not good enough to carry you forward.

2) Find a specialty. In marketing, it’s called a niche. In advertising, it’s called your Unique Selling Position. It’s the thing(s) that makes you different. Why are you special? If you are a real estate agent, your niche is not first-time home buyers. Go deeper than that. Where do they live now? Where do they want to move to? Married or single? Kids? FICO score? Be specific.

If you’re a company that thinks expanding product or service lines is the easy ticket to increased sales, you need to rethink that proposition. Be better at fewer things. We are entering an era of specialization. We can thank the internet and keywords for that.

3) Increase your networking skills. Commit time in 2008 to broaden your business network. Ask business people to meet and discuss how you can help to increase each other’s business. Join a BNI chapter if you haven’t already. My membership to Star of the North BNI was responsible for over 40% of my new business development in 2007. BNI is the world’s largest referral and networking organization. Find a chapter near you.

With networking, whether it’s the local builders association, a BNI chapter, or the local chamber of commerce, you get out of your membership what you give. Don’t expect to sign up and reap rewards. It doesn’t work that way. A spot on the roster is worthless…until you get out, meet people, and exchange business.

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Chris Mitchell is the President and Founder of 25-8 Marketing, Inc, a full service advertising agency that plans and implements marketing programs for small to medium-sized businesses. He is a consultant, speaker and author and has worked with hundreds of companies. He has over 20 years of real-world advertising experience, and understands the marketing challenges of the small business owner.

website: http://www.258marketing.com
email: chris@258marketing.com

Your Prescription for Marketing Success: Part II – Your customer list

Constant Contact customer list

Quiz question: What is the most valuable asset of your business?

Like most business people, you may take a quick mental survey of your balance sheet. Is it your property? Your accounts receivable? Your equipment?

You won’t find the answer on your balance sheet. Your most important business asset, likely, is your customer list. It is more expensive to find a new customer than to service a current or past customer. It is more difficult to get a new customer than to take care of your current ones.

Companies spend the majority of their time and marketing resources prospecting new customers, meanwhile ignoring the dollars sitting in their current customer bank accounts.

Build a wall of service around your customer base

You have already earned your current customers trust. And with each additional transaction, that trust builds. Did you know it costs 5 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain a current one?

One of the most important things I encourage with my clients is to make a plan to maintain contact with your current customers. This serves three very important purposes.

First, it keeps you on the shopping list. If they are not ready to buy, you have top-of-mind awareness. Second, you are asking them to buy more from you. Remember, they are already your customers. You have that trust bond already established. Finally, it allows you to ask for referrals. This is huge. It takes commitment to make and follow this contact plan. And I am going to show you three ways to do it. You should plan to incorporate all three methods over the course of your business year to maintain your contact with current customers.

Compiling your customer list

About 50% of the business owners I talk to do not have an organized system to maintain a customer list. Most POS systems have this built-in, but I’m surprised at how many businesses use it.

At the very least, you need to compile your customer list in an excel spreadsheet by name, address, phone number, and email. You should also add categories for the amount of dollars they spent with you, by transaction and by date.This list is a basis for your three-pronged customer contact maintenance plan.

Contact Method #1: Direct Mail Postcards

Direct mail postcards are a vital part of keeping in touch with your current customers. Keep them up-to-date on current promotional offers with one of the most cost-efficient manners available. Postage costs less than a letter. Bulk mailing permits are easily available. And with technology advances, laser inscribed addresses make the entire process turn-key.

Postcard direct mail uses? Your business should be mailing thank you’s to first-time customers. How about We miss you to lapsed customers? Quarterly sales promotions? Special customer appreciation events?

25-8 Marketing Inc. has introduced a new postcard marketing program. With low minimums, no set-up charges, low in-the-mail prices, and fast 48-hour service, please visit this link for prices and details.

Contact Method #2: Email

Why is email a great way to contact your current customer base? It’s inexpensive; there are no postage costs or printing costs. It’s fast; you can send out a sales message to a group of customers quicker than direct mail. It’s accountable; you are able to see how many customers read your message.

Leveraging information gathered from previous interactions, a company can personalize the customer experience to up-sell and cross-sell customers and generate additional revenue.

I recommend you look at Constant Contact, (click on the link for a 60-day free trial) or a similar email contact management system.

Contact Method #3: Newsletters

Do you want to be a sustaining resource to your clients? Newsletters from your company are a great way to do that. Newsletters put your company’s name and current news in front of your customers, reminding them that you are still active and eager to do business with them again.

Many of us are already overwhelmed by the daily deluge of mail, so your newsletter will need to be much more than just ads for your products or services. Including informative articles or other information may help entice your customers to actually open and read your newsletter.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to determine what kinds of information would prove valuable to them. If your company sells collectibles, for instance, a survey of trends in the market would be a great way to get your customers to look forward to each issue of your newsletter.

Newsletters can be quarterly, or seasonal. One hint: Ask for referrals in each newsletter from your current customers. And reward them for each referral.

NEXT: Part III…Your website…using it to attract and retain customers.

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Chris Mitchell is the President and Founder of 25-8 Marketing, Inc, a full service advertising agency that plans and implements marketing programs for small to medium-sized businesses. He is a consultant, speaker and author and has worked with hundreds of companies. He has over 20 years of real-world advertising experience, and understands the marketing challenges of the small business owner.

website: http://www.258marketing.com

email: chris@258marketing.com