Word-of-Mouth Marketing

You know the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? It’s who you know is all about word-of-mouth marketing. Earlier this week I needed:

  1. To hire a realtor
  2. To hire an electrician and
  3. To conduct market research

My search for the realtor began on the local Chamber of Commerce site for the city where I needed work done.  The Chamber is kind of big and so is the city so I quickly got overwhelmed. I thought about reaching out to realtors in my neighborhood, but I needed someone who knew the city where I needed to negotiate a lease.  So I reached out to a colleague who is well-known in the city. He recommended a realtor  and within 24 hours, I had spoken to the realtor twice and emailed with him once. Within 72 hours he had already worked through an issue with the seller’s agent (after 5 on Friday of a holiday week), assigned an associate to work with us, and the associate called me before the week was out with confirmation that we were all set for an upcoming showing of the property.  Home run! I was feeling really good about these guys because my colleague recommended them, but now I am on cloud nine and I haven’t even met them!

My search for an electrician started by essentially cold-calling some electricians in the city- only to get no response. So I contacted another colleague and got a referral. I sent an email- not even a call- and got not one, but two emails from two different company representatives within two hours. It turns out they were not the right kind of electrician for my needs, but one of the gentlemen called me and we talked for half-an-hour. During our conversation I learned that this nice man’s business was right around the corner from the place I was looking to lease-imagine that! I was able to find out from him some valuable information about the history of the location, occupancy of the entire neighborhood and some scoop on local competition. Oh and before we hung up, he gave me a referral of a good electrician who as he said, ‘has been around for 30 years and that’s good enough for me’.  Me too. Market research AND a referral for an electrician. A two-fer during a 30-minute phone call with a man who wasn’t even able to gain any business from me. Another home run for me and let me tell you, one for him too b/c I am definitely going to recommend him next time I come across someone needing his kind of work.

So that brings us back to the electrician. I emailed the electric company that the nice man recommended. By now it was about 3 or 4 pm on New Year’s Eve, so I wasn’t expecting to hear from anyone. I was wrong… I got an email from a woman assuring me they could meet our needs for our upcoming meeting and that ‘Rusty’ would call me on Thursday morning. New Year’s came and went and wouldn’t you know, my phone rang bright and early Thursday morning? It was Rusty. And guess what? He was looking forward to meeting me for my upcoming meeting and he already had the address including the suite #. So not only did they communicate with me, but they communicated with each other. From my perspective they already have excellent customer service and they haven’t even done any work yet! Priceless!

Folks this is the power of word-of-mouth marketing. In this fast-paced, self-centered, age-of-entitlement world we are living in, I encourage you to take some time to get to know the people you work with, go to church with, belong to associations with, walk on the treadmill next to, and sit next to at your kid’s archery tournament. You never know when you’re going to need a referral, a job, a dog-sitter, a realtor, an electrician or some market research. It’s all who you know.

Making the Most of Your Tradeshow

Participating in a tradeshow, craft fair or other similar venue, can be a daunting task for small business owners, not only because they can be expensive, but also because you’re essentially buying a small piece of real estate and creating a storefront for the length of the show, which can sometimes be out of your element. That’s a lot of pressure. And choosing which shows to attend is a confusing task.

Why should you consider attending a tradeshow at all? This is a good question. With all of your marketing efforts, the point is to get your name out there. You want to be the company someone thinks of when they need your service or product, so all of your marketing efforts should first and foremost be an opportunity to get your name out there. It’s hard to determine your return on investment if your only goal is to get your name out there, so you should consider some other goals:

  • Book a certain amount of business or sell a certain amount of product
  • Collect a certain number of leads
  • Meet a certain number people who can refer business to you
  • Launch a new product or service

Now that you have a few goals, let’s start with which tradeshows should you participate in? Definitely choose tradeshows that are going to draw people who fit the demographic for your target audience or participate in tradeshows that draw your target audience as fellow vendors.  Another thought to consider is whether you should have a booth or if you should just attend and visit the booths to promote your business to other vendors. Refer to your goals and think about which way you will best be able to meet them.

For businesses that sell to businesses (B2B), finding tradeshows to participate in are rather easy. If I were a builder and my goal was to develop a network of people to refer business to me, I would participate in shows that draw realtors, plumbers, electricians, painters, finish carpenters, etc. If my goal were to sell houses (business to consumer or B2C selling) I would attend a trade that draws homeowners, like a home show.

Now, the next dilemma is what should you have in your booth? You want to answer the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’s’ of your business. Your booth is your storefront for the duration of the show. The first thing people will want to know about you is the name of your business. At most tradeshows, the organizers will hang a small white sign with your company name in black block letters, so you can find your booth. This is NOT an acceptable sign. Either take it down or cover it up. Consider talking to a sign shop and having a 3’ x 6’ banner made of your logo or logo and company name.  If your company name does not identify what you do (like Tina Newberry Designs doesn’t really say Websites and Marketing) then add a tagline so people know right away what it is you do. You want to attract prospective customers to your booth, so make sure people know what you do. Place your sign/or banner at eye level or higher because your booth may be crowded (one can only hope) and the view to lower signs will be obstructed. If the booth is draped in curtains (a service provided by the tradeshow organizers) hanging your sign high on the back wall is a great idea (bring large safety pins!).  Make sure you ask the organizers how the booth will be laid out. If there are no drapes, you’ll want to make other arrangements for your banner or go with a different kind of sign. Maybe a hard-backed sign or two you can put on easels in your booth.

Aside from a sign, your booth layout is going to depend on if you have a cash and carry product you can sell on-site or not.

Cash and Carry Booths

If you’re selling a product that is small enough to set up in the booth, think of constructing or buying a display system that you can set up to allow people to shop in your booth. If you’re just getting into the tradeshow scene, you can rent enough tables to cover the three non-aisle sides of your booth and then consider using concealed boxes or crates to raise some items to eye level for visual interest. There are many display tactics out there. Be creative! Pricing your items is important. People want to see the price. Label the different items if needed. For example if you’re selling candles of different scents and sizes, have small signs throughout your display with the pricing structure and signs on each scent identifying the scent. Don’t rely on people reading this info on your packaging. You also need to have a means for processing payment and packaging purchases. While you’re at the tradeshow, scope out how other vendors display their products.

Non-Cash and Carry Booths

You should consider having a table in your booth to display product, brochures, and examples of your work. Table placement is important. If you have an 8 x 10 or 10×10 space and you push a table out to the aisle and sit behind the table, you have just created a barrier between you and your potential customers and you’ve invited walk-by-shoppers instead of creating an environment to draw people IN to your booth. For service oriented businesses or businesses with large products (like a house) I always suggest that you have a table under you’re your sign at the back of your booth. And then you flank the table on the floor with product or plants. A tablecover is important. If the organizer isn’t providing a tablecover or even just to set your booth apart from everyone else, pick up inexpensive solid-color king or queen size flat sheets to drape your table. It would be wise to wash it prior to the tradeshow and iron it or at least throw it in the dryer for a de-wrinkle cycle before heading to the show. Some companies do a lot of tradeshows and choose to have a table cover with their logo or company name. This is a great idea too, but not needed if you’re just starting out. As you grow, you may also want to consider purchasing a media rack for your brochures and literature. Sometimes your product is too big to show in the booth or your business is service-oriented. Here’s where you need to get creative. A model of your product is good or visuals –such as pop-up banners, posters, a video or a slideshow on a large screen. As with cash and carry booths, I recommend you check out the other vendors and see how their booths are configured.

Now let’s face it… you’re going to get tired of standing for several hours. So a lot of people like to put their table right at the front of their booth and put a couple chairs behind the table. I don’t recommend you do this. Instead put that table against the back wall, like I mentioned and then have a chair or two off to the side. Tall chairs are the best because you can talk to people face-to-face while you’re sitting down- though I recommend you get UP if someone comes in your booth. By far the best chairs I’ve seen are bar height director’s chairs. Not only are they visually appealing, but you can set one on each outer corner of your booth, right next to the aisle and engage with traffic in a relaxed tone. And if you add a plant or two around the chair legs, you’ve just made your booth even more inviting!

Should I offer a show special? Absolutely! Give people a reason to book an appointment with you or buy product. If you’re doing a cash and carry booth, the more you sell, the less you have to lug home. Offer them a deal they can’t pass up, but that doesn’t cut your profits too much. Some people like to do a drawing for a discounted or free service or for a popular gadget or electronics (iPad, grill, TV) and they’ll use an entry form for the drawing. You might think this is a pricey give-away. It doesn’t have to be. You can give away your service or product just as easily. The point of the entry form is to collect contact info for prospective customers. This is great for generating a lead list or establishing email marketing, but ONLY if you take the names and put them in a database or Excel spreadsheet and follow up with them within two weeks of the event.

Let’s talk about body language. When you’re in your booth, you need to interact and engage with the people around you. Meet your neighbors. Make eye contact with people walking by.  Every year there is a craft fair at the Florida State Fair and I like to stroll through the booths. Often times the artisans will either be sitting in the back of their booth in a lawn chair reading a book or they might be working on some new projects. I’m not in favor of sitting in the lawn chair in the back of the booth, but if you’re going to be crafting in the booth, I think this is a great idea if you set your work-station up in the front of the booth. People will want to stop and see you work, but if you’re in the back of the booth you’re not sending a good vibe. Now if you’re not an artisan, DON’T work in the booth. No working on computers or talking on cell phones! Your job is to engage people, you can’t do that with your head down or jabbering on the phone. And GREET everyone that walks into your booth.  Smile. Believe it or not I have seen tradeshows where the vendor has completely ignored someone who walked into their booth, thumbed through a brochure and walked out! A potential sale just walked out. Tradeshows are expensive; maybe that one potential customer could have paid for your whole tradeshow adventure. Remember your job is to engage people. Focus on that the whole time you’re there. A warm body in the booth is not enough.

A Few Miscellaneous Tips. When customers attend tradeshows there are three things that inevitably happen… 1) They get tired of walking. So maybe you have a bench in your booth and invite people to come in, hang out and take a load off. Great way to make friends with people. 2) They get thirsty. So maybe you have a water dispenser and some paper cups. Or maybe you invest in some water with your logo on it. Or maybe you just bring a cooler and some local spring water. The point is you will make some friends, if you hand out free water. 3) They get tired of carrying all the literature and promotionals (hats, Frisbees, stress balls) they’ve picked up along the way. Be the booth that gives away a quality tote bag or reusable shopping bag with handles and you will be friends with everyone. Plus your logo will be walking around all over the showroom floor and they’ll reuse your bag further promoting your company.

If tradeshows or other fairs are going to play a key role in your marketing plan, I recommend investing in some professional display equipment and graphics. I’ve been to shows for homeschool conventions, scrapbook conventions and turfgrass manager conferences in the past year and a half. I’ve seen booths with a footprint larger than my house and others about the size of a walk in closet. Bigger is not always better. The trick is to choose a booth size that makes sense for your product or service, is within your budget and meets your goals. Then put your best foot forward with the booth layout and equipment- while staying in budget. Remember people want to know:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • When you they can buy from you
  • Where you’re located and if you can serve them
  • Why they should buy from you
  • How you get it done

Focus on answering these questions from 10 feet away and then set up a booth that invites them to come closer for more information. If you need help with your booth, please give me a call. I’d be happy to give you some advice or help you figure out your plan.

The 30-second Commercial

I had the pleasure of attending a business leaders meeting in my community last week. The meeting was very informative. I was able to learn about 50 businesses in my local community. We each had a chance to give our ’30-second commercial’.  Think of the 30-second commercial as the opportunity to tell potential leads or referrers in a concise, informative and intriguing way what your business does while describing your target audience.

So for me, I usually start with ‘I’m Tina Newberry owner of Tina Newberry Designs- websites and marketing for smaller businesses’. But then I sort of fumbled a little. I should have delved into  ‘the perfect referral for me is a smaller business of 10 or less employees in need of a website, social media, logo, or other marketing materials,’ but I didn’t. Instead I spoke of my affiliation with a local organization and promoted my work on their website. You can tailor the 30-second commercial to fit the audience, but be careful to make the best use of the time.

30-seconds is a long time. Practice your 30-second commercial at home or in the car for two reasons. First practice allows you to choose your words ahead of time so they flow off your tongue and second practice allows you to time yourself.  You’d be surprised as how much you can say in 30-seconds.

The words you use are important, but so is your delivery. The room we were in was pretty large, there were round tables spread around the outside of the room. So in this layout everyone had their backs to one portion of the room. And there was no audio. The people who were most successful in delivering their 30-second commercial stood and walked to the front center or back center of the room. This allowed their voices to resonate and they were able to capture the most people face to face.

In addition to their position in the room, the people who waited to speak until they were standing still and who spoke slowly and clearly were the most likely to be heard. There were a lot of people talking while pushing their chair in or who were speaking so rapidly, I didn’t get a chance to hear their name, company or what they do. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an opportunity for everyone to pass out their card, so I left there thinking I had heard about several businesses who may be in need of my services or who would be great referrers, but I don’t know who they all are.

At this particular meeting, it was acceptable to pass out information about your business prior to the start of the meeting. Had I been prepared, this would have been a great opportunity to hand out a brochure of my services. I think it’s time to get started designing a brochure for Tina Newberry Designs, as well as honing my 30-second commercial so I can be more prepared next time.

Are you Making the Team?

OnDemand television brings me to places I’ve never been before. I was show surfing and came across Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team 8.  I’m not the cheerleader sort. Although I did get ‘most school spirit’ in high school, grace is not my middle name. I have always envied the musicality, cheerfulness and strength of cheerleaders, so I tuned in to an episode and found admiration for the organization’s commitment to their brand.

Whether or not you agree with what the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (DCC) stands for, there are some lessons to be learned in the way this team’s brand has been protected over the years. There are rules about the look, character and behavior of the cheerleaders and the team is expected to follow them. There are standards for the type of events for which they will perform. The team has a mission and vision and all decisions are business- not personal- decisions based on the mission and vision. This is branding at its best!

I am amazed at the level of detail put into the brand of this entity. Right down to the rhinestone stars on the vest. The mission and vision seem to have stayed the same since the beginning and the uniform itself has had only a few major changes over the years. Despite the rigor of the program, the harsh protection of the brand, and the pathetically small compensation received by the team, positions on the DCC are highly sought! Women literally line up to be a part of this prestigious organization and some feel like making the DCC team is the highest honor of their cheering career. Now that is brand loyalty.

Here are some take-aways for small business owners…

  • Determine what your business stands for and stick to it.
  • Set rules/standards for how you will conduct your business and hold yourself, your employees and your vendors accountable for them.
  • Make decisions based on what’s right for your business, it’s not personal.
  • Determine a visual identity- logo, color, fonts, uniforms- that fits with your image and use the elements on all business communications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting the Cart Before the Horse- Assessing Your Marketing Efforts Part 1

Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand. In some companies products and services are developed, marketing materials are created and then distributed to the sales team. This is Marketing Driven Sales. In some cases, the products and services exist and the sales team is selling them and the sales team requires marketing materials to sell the products or services better. This is Sales Driven Marketing.

No matter whether your company follows Marketing Driven Sales or Sales Driven Marketing, your efforts need to be cohesive. And before you can have cohesive marketing efforts, you first need to have direction. Just as it does no good to put the cart before the horse, it does no good to throw money at marketing and advertising if you haven’t yet defined a goal and made a plan.

  • Do you have a Business Plan? Your business plan helps define your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; your products, services and those of your competitors; your prices and features; your opportunities for growth and expansion; and your goals. This is the time to plan your long-term journey.
  • Do you have annual Sales Forecasts and Budgets? What are your projected sales? What are your projected expenses? Are you planning to introduce a new product or service in the next 12 months and how will that affect your projections and budgets? This is the time to plan the short-term trip that will lead you to your long-term journey.
  • Do you have a Marketing Plan? Marketing serves a multitude of purposes. Two are: To inform and educate current and prospective clients on 1) the surety of your company and commitment to your company values and 2) the value of your products or services. A solid marketing plan will outline how you plan to inform and educate your current and potential customers.
  • Is your company mission and vision defined and have you communicated it to all of your employees? It’s important that everyone is on the same page with regards to what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Have you defined reasonable, achievable and measureable company goals? Again, everyone needs to be on the same page and making forward progress.
  • Have you defined your company brand? One cohesive look lends to customer confidence that you know what you’re doing and you’re a company that can be trusted. You appear professional.
  • Have you implemented your company brand all internal and external communications? Websites, social media, letterhead, invoices, envelopes, business cards, uniforms, trucks, signage all need the same branding elements.

In my upcoming blogs, I’ll go into detail about topics presented in this issue.