What a Rude Doctor and a Fictional Detective Can Teach You About Getting More Customers

Cover of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by...

Cover of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve probably heard of Sherlock Holmes. He was Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous fictional creation.  But there’s something you may not know.

Sherlock Holmes may have been based on a real person.  When Conan Doyle was at school, he had a friend named George Budd.

George, like Sherlock, was very intelligent, and not much of a “touchy-feely” people person.  However, he did manage to become a very successful doctor.

And, his methods, were, to say the least, rather unusual.

Behaving badly to get more business

First, he treated his patients rather poorly.  He’d keep them waiting for hours.  Then, when he did see them, he’d frequently yell at them.

Sometimes he pushed them.  Or refused to see them at all.

One more thing.

Visits were free.  This might explain why people put up with his rude behavior, but how could he possibly support himself by being unpleasant and not charging a fee?

The exams were free.  No charge.  But, everyone got a prescription, and the pills and potions were for sale down the hall from his office.

Why did people buy them?  There was no requirement to do so.

The reciprocity principle

It worked because George also knew something about human psychology.  When someone helps us or gives us something, we feel obliged to return the favor.

It’s called the reciprocity principle.  Think about it for a minute.

If someone compliments you on your slick new Iron Man Macbook decal,  you feel almost compelled to tell them you like something they have.  When someone invites you to dinner, you later feel obligated to invite them back to your own home.

Reciprocity is wired into our psyches

It’s part of every society, regardless of where you live. It even happens when it may not seem to make much sense.  Back in 1985, Ethiopia was suffering from starvation, drought, and an economy in terrible condition.  Yet, they donated $5,000 to Mexico to help with earthquake relief.

The reverse would make sense, but why would Ethiopia, a country that could hardly feed its own people, send money to Mexico.  It turns out that Mexico had sent a donation to Ethiopia in 1935, when Ethiopia had been invaded by Italy.  Ethiopia was simply reciprocating and returning the favor.

Free samples boost sales

Giving things away is a good way to make money.   We’ve all gotten free pens, stickers, samples of conditioner and all manner of things sent to us by large corporations, direct marketers, and non-profits.  You get the free address  labels from Charity X, along with a letter asking for a donation. Or, a hair care company sends you a sample of shampoo.

Now that you’ve gotten that “free gift,” you’ll be more likely to make that donation or switch brands of shampoo.  And it works too.

I’m not saying you should give away everything for free.  Or that you should be rude to your customers as Dr. Budd was.  Treat them well (they’ll be more likely to treat you well too).

The Simple Three Step Marketing Strategy

three steps marketing successA three step marketing strategy?  It may seem crazy, but it isn’t.

Marketing strategies have a bad reputation.  That they’re complicated.  And involve large spreadsheets. And give you a headache.

However, your strategy for finding new clients and differentiating yourself, doesn’t have to look like something that escaped from a physics textbook.

In fact, it can be as simple as a single sentence.

Your marketing strategy only needs three things.  That’s right, you don’t need anything complicated.  Just three simple steps (hat tip to Michael Martine for this).

1. People

First, you’ll need people.  These are your customers.  The particular group of businesses or customers that will want your products and services.  Search for those people (and only those people).

2. Problem

Now that you’ve found your people, you’ll need a problem to solve.  What are those people struggling with?  Not enough time?  Want more sales leads?  What big, hard (for them) problem do they have, that you have the skills and knowledge to fix?

3. Product

Now that you’ve got your audience, and have found their problems, what can  you offer to fix that problem?  Can you show the lead-deprived how to get more?  Help busy CEOs produce blog content without spending 6 hours a day working on it (leaving little time for managing their companies).

No physics necessary!

To get your own, personalized three-step marketing plan, contact me here.
Image via pixabay

What Do You Really Sell? Why Your Marketing Should Be More Like Bacon

bacon rasher from pixabay

Most  business marketing doesn’t focus on what they’re really selling.

It’s full of vegetables (with not nearly enough bacon),

Most people like bacon, in fact they like it much better than say brussels sprouts.  Or kale.

The trouble is that many businesses sell the kale, which is good for you (instead of the bacon, which is delicious).

What is  your business really selling? Kale or bacon?

Here’s what I mean.

Say your business is growing and you need a part-time bookkeeper.  You hate working with numbers, and wrestling with them is taking hours out of your day. If you’re going to think about numbers, you’d much rather figure out how to buy that new Macbook you have your eye on.

So you talk to some people and get some recommendations for bookkeepers.  The first one highlights his twenty years of experience, several certifications, and a long list of services (bookkeeping, bill paying, checkbook reconciliation, etc.).

The business that’s really selling kale

At your first meeting, he looks at your books and advises you in the strongest terms to reduce your debt.  Sound advice, but it’s not  “fun” or appealing.  Rather like being told to eat kale.  You know it’s something you should do, but you’d much rather reach for the bacon.

The business that’s really selling bacon

The second one does something a bit different.  She listens carefully and finds out how much you hate number-crunching (and all the time it takes).  She also finds out how much you really want that laptop.

Rather than going on about her credentials, she promises to get you an extra two hours a day.  Except for a monthly report, you’ll never have to look at numbers again. Just send her all the paperwork, and she’ll handle it.  She says she’ll make the entire process easy and painless, so you can focus on your work, rather than your books.

And, instead of trying to “sell” you on debt reduction (vegetables), she shows you how to get the money to pay for that laptop (bacon!).

Which one do you think you’d hire?

What you really sell

Think about this for your own business. What is it you’re really selling?

A ghostwriter isn’t selling words; she’s really selling fame.

The authors of get rich (online or off) books aren’t selling books, they’re selling hope.  So is Weight Watchers.

Disney doesn’t sell theme parks, they sell happiness.

What people really buy

What people really want isn’t the service or the product. They really want the result.  What will they get by buying from you or hiring you?  Happiness?  Hope?  Money? Glory?

Rational arguments (like the first bookkeeper’s advice to save money and cut back), aren’t nearly as powerful as emotional ones (new toys!).

Think about your own business. Go look at your web site or your other marketing materials.  Are they selling vegetables? Or bacon?

What Your Business Marketing Can Learn From The Hope Diamond

Hope Diamond

Hope Diamond. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Hope Diamond is the most famous diamond in the world.  Its large size (over 45 carats) and deep blue color make it instantly recognizable.

The purported curse doesn’t hurt either.

But what does this have to do with creating a remarkable marketing strategy for your small business?  After all, you’re likely not selling diamonds.

Why this matters for your small business

It’s an only.

It’s the only diamond like it.  And that makes it remarkable, and worth talking about.

Being an  “only” can make you much more successful.  It’s one way of eliminating your competition.

What is an “only” business?

An “only” business is a company that does something unique; a company that offers a product or a service that your competitors can’t easily copy, or copy at all.

It gives your business an edge and helps spread the word about your products and services.  The more unique (or hard to copy) it is, the better.

Only Ivory Soap is “99 3/4% pure.”

Only Zappos lets you return your shoes at any time for any reason, even if they know you’re cheating, and even if you do it repeatedly.

How to be an “only”

Let’s say your firm specializes in ghostwriting guest blog posts.  You’ve got a team of writers standing by to write posts for people who don’t have the time or the skill to do it themselves.

And,  you offer really fast turnaround — you’re the FedEx of blog post ghostwriting. You can tell your customers, and potential customers, that “only Supersonic Ghostwriting offers an overnight blog post service.  Your posts go from our keyboards to your inbox in 24 hours.”

Or, take my friend Phil.  He owns a toy store in Michigan.  Toy stores aren’t all that unusual, but Phil’s is.  For one thing, he offers a toy lending service to local schools.  Teachers can come in and choose from a selection of toys — for free.

His staff carries lists of favorite toys in their pockets, so they can help confused customers make the right selection.  They don’t push the newest toy or the most expensive, instead they recommend the toys that are most appropriate.  His customers know this, and trust him even more for it. (Sometimes, he even sends free toys to his friends; my nephew loves the Matchbox trucks Phil sent me, and guess who’s his favorite aunt).

Be the hope diamond of your industry

It’s what we marketing types call a “unique selling proposition.”  That’s just a fancy way of saying you offer something remarkable that your competition doesn’t (or can’t).

Suddenly, instead of being one of a crowd of writers or toy store owners offering interchangeable products and services, you’re unique.

Now, some homework.  Go think about what makes you unique, and how you can be an ‘only.”  If you need help, email me.

Diamonds are optional.

Get More Clients Without Selling

No Cold Calling Zone

No Cold Calling Zone (Photo credit: markhillary)

Self-promotion sends shudders down the spines of many small business owners and freelancers.

You have to do it.  However, the thought of making cold calls or yet another round of bad coffee and stale bagels at some networking event makes you just want to go back to bed and hide under the covers.

You think, maybe I’ll just go take the dog for a walk instead.  Or go get a latte.

The problem is, that without promoting yourself, in some way, you’re unlikely to get work (making it hard to feed the dog or pay for that latte).

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get more clients without selling? Or irritating people?

Cold calls are annoying

Calling people and interrupting them is irritating.  They’re busy.  They don’t want a sales pitch while they’re trying to get Bob from accounting to pay the invoice for the new company website.

You tend to freeze up, and get nervous.  You wonder what you were thinking.

Networking is not working

We’ve all been to networking events with speakers who drone on and on and tell jokes so bad you want to run screaming out of the room.

Or, everyone sits around a table.  Each person introduces themselves and gives a short “pitch.” Inevitably, these are duller than watching paint dry.  You start dreaming of that latte again.

You leave with a few business cards, almost inevitably tossed in the trash.

You wonder, “Why do I keep going to these things?” You want to give up.

 Skip the prospecting entirely

That’s right. Skip it.  There’s a better way to do this. You don’t really have to “sell” at all. The secret is something else entirely. No selling, no phone calls, no boring events.

Be helpful

Instead of trying to push something on people, be helpful. When someone has a question in a forum, track down a useful link or video that will help them. If a LinkedIn member is looking for a coder (and you know a good one), refer that person.

Both people will thank you for it. Show that you care about your clients. Go out of your way to help them build their own businesses (send them referrals, for example).

I’ve gotten several clients from an online forum where “selling” or even linking to your own site is discouraged. I took a few minutes to rewrite or comment (when asked) on marketing ideas or copy. I pitched in on a few group projects, and answered newbie questions, building up trust.  No pitch, just clients.

Build relationships

The online world gives us much greater reach than we had 20 years ago, but people are still people — and the human touch makes a difference. Being connected to 50,000 people on LinkedIn (or an “open” connector), doesn’t mean much. Neither does having 10,000 likes on Facebook. Neither one is particularly meaningful.

Find complementary businesses, and really connect with them (a real estate broker and a bank loan officer for example).

If you link to someone, follow up and offer to help them with a problem they have, regardless of whether it earns you anything right away (aside: of all the people who have linked to me on LinkedIn only one has bothered to follow up – who do you think I’ll contact if I need the service she provides).

Build your own network

Bring together those complementary businesses, and help them help each other. Hold a Google Plus hangout, bring everyone in for lunch (if practical), and have a real conversation. You can even make up a website or directory and send potential clients directly there (pretty easy to do with a wordpress blog).

None of this is selling in the traditional sense. There are no cold calls, no objections to overcome, and much less competition. You may never cold call again.