Posts filed under ‘Direct Marketing for Business Owners’
Your Question: I opened my business April 1, 2008, for classic and custom car restoration. I have over 25 years of experience and had small, but somewhat steady, jobs on a weekly basis. However, the economic conditions have impacted my business considerably and workflow simply stopped this month.
I do not want to have to be forced to close my door because I used the “WRONG” marketing approach and gambled my marketing dollars “just to see” if a target marketing campaign would work or, most importantly, fall for gimmicks of poor- response marketing companies..
I am a working man and do not have enough marketing savvy to spin my wheels or money on something that will propel me straight to the unemployment line. I cannot afford to hire employees until I have a stable flow of work; therefore, I could not handle a huge marketing response and would like to target to customers in my local area.
Any suggestions and opinions on what would be my best option for target marketing on a shoe-string budget for classic and custom car restoration would be truly appreciated. If I must do auto repairs for now to survive, I just need to know a successful marketing campaign for my industry.
Thank you very much.
Our Answer: You’re facing the age-old conundrum: “How do I get new customers when I can’t really afford to market right now? Yet, I know that if I don’t market, then I won’t be able to stay in business.” A Catch 22, it seems.
Luckily, with just a small investment, and some hard work, I think you have the ability to take advantage of direct marketing tactics to get the word out about your business. I’ll start with ideas that require only hard work and your time (read: no money!).
- Start participating in online forums dedicated to classic car collectors (start with Facebook and perhaps Yuku.com to find these communities). If you find the large forums, I’ll bet you that there are enough participants that you’ll be able to meet classic car enthusiasts in your own home town. The key here is to never come off as ‘sales-ey’. Give openly of your expertise and comment on topics where you KNOW your particular knowledge of restoration can benefit the other members of the forum. With that said, make sure that you are transparent about what you do–make it clear that you are in the business of restoring classic cars. Also, typically, these type of websites have a commercial area where you can post information about your services–another great way to get the word out about your services. (I’m assuming that you have a website–a necessity if you’re going to be participating online. If you don’t have one, you can easily and cheaply build one yourself using a service such as GoDaddy.com.)
- You’re probably are already doing this, but definitely, positively, participate in car shows in your town and neighboring towns. There’s no better advertisement of your work than to show your beautiful restored car (or a favorite clients’ auto) at a car show. Bring plenty of business cards and perhaps flyers about your service and hand them out to attendees and other car owners. You couldn’t ask for a more targeted event, can you?
- Make friends with local, complementary businesses. Car washes, auto repair shops, service stations and antique stores come to mind–places where people who like cars or appreciate antiques visit. Ask those businesses if they wouldn’t mind referring your services or posting a flyer/business cards. Consider offering them a finder’s fee or some sort of commission if any business results from their referral. Of course, offer reciprocity–try to send referrals their way, too.
The following ideas require a minimal investment:
- Consider a direct mail program targeting local owners of classic cars. Lists of classic auto collectors and high-spending car enthusiasts are available and can be targeted so that you’re mailing only to people in your town. Do your list research at Nextmark.com; I’ll bet you’ll be amazed at how you’ll be able to hone right in on your perfect prospect. When you do plan your mailing, the most important tip I can share is this: Make sure that your offer is compelling enough to elicit a response. Put on your customer hat for a moment and think about the hot buttons that might cause an owner of a classic car in need of some tender, loving restoration to call you. If the offer is good enough and your list is targeted to the right person, you should be able to generate some leads.
- Call your prospects. Yes, I know–telemarketing has a bad reputation… Yet, it remains an effective channel. At a minimum, if you’ve made the investment to send out a direct mail campaign, by all means, follow this effort up with a phone call. Your list vendor will only sell you phone leads of people who are not on the National Do Not Call registry, so you should feel free to do your best to get the word out about your new business. Again, remember that you’re calling people who really should be interested in classic car restoration; you will get rejected by many, but should get some new leads out of the effort.
- Yellow pages–both hard copy and on-line. You can’t ignore the classics. Consumers still use the Yellow Pages to find local services. It’s that straightforward. You probably need to advertise here.
I really hope that these ideas help. Because your market is so niche–so highly targeted, you can take advantage of going direct.
Good luck to you!
Q: We are launching a new restaurant, and we are focusing on corporate deals more. What are the best steps to follow?
A: This is a perfect application for direct marketing, so thanks for asking! We agree that corporate clients are quite valuable for the following reasons:
- Repeat business–if you can get the large companies to frequent (and love!) your establishment, they’re essentially a captive audience. If the business is located close enough to your restaurant and (of course) if they like you, more than likely they’ll be back for more lunches, or business dinners. Heck, they’ve gotta eat, right?
- Profitable business–think about how differently people spend when they are entertaining clients, or simply using their expense account to pay for the meal. They’ll order better wine, spring for dessert and generally spend more with you. If you can capture this type of business from large corporations, it’s sure to be a profit-booster.
- Incremental revenue–if you offer catering, or to-go food, supplying corporations with food for meetings might be an excellent revenue-generator for you. It all comes down to offering good food, easy-to-eat in a boardroom setting and delivered, at reasonable prices.
So, back to the original question–how do you land business from large corporations? Here are some ideas.
Implement a direct mail program targeting executives working for near-by large corporations. The goal here is to build awareness of your restaurant and to start building a clientele from the near-by large companies. Remember to not only tell them about your restaurant, but make sure that you include a compelling offer that will entice the executives to act. Some potential offers may be: Come visit Restaurant X and your lunch (or dessert if you’re not feeling that generous) is on us!
- Collect business cards at your restaurant. Capture business email addresses and begin a dialogue with these customers. If you like, cherry-pick those customers who work for your target businesses and, again, shoot them a special offer that will make them visit you again.
- Think about extending a corporate discount to your target business customers. Maybe it’s a flat price discount, or perhaps give them a free appetizer or dessert when they eat at your restaurant. Think of ways to make the large corporations start talking internally about your restaurant and entice them to repeatedly eat there. If your offer is good enough, they may even include it on their internal website–a wonderful way to advertise and grow your business.
- Find out who typically arranges the meetings, and then figure out a way to let them know about your service. Perhaps you should consider hosting a catered lunch for those event planners, executive secretaries and other personnel who are responsible for catering decisions. The best way to advertise what you do (cook and serve yummy food) is to feed them, right?
I hope that these marketing ideas have provided some food for thought (pun intended!). Good luck in building up your corporate clientele.
Q: Could you please help me find an SEO or website expert? I have had my website up for a couple of months — to no avail. Although it is easy for disappointment to set in, I am just not going to give up. Any help you could give me would be appreciated.
A: First of all, congratulations on not giving up — and for figuring out that search engine optimization (SEO) could be the ticket to bringing traffic to your site. It absolutely does work. We were experiencing the same problem when we first launched our website. We worked with SEO expert, Daryl Clark (www.internet-search-marketing.com). Daryl worked with us to optimize our site and now the search engines readily find us. We are now at the top of both Yahoo and Google search engines for our key direct marketing terms. We highly recommend Daryl’s work, so give him a call (1-866-909-0839). And best of luck to you in your business!
Q: I’m a marketing consultant that would really like to work with the US Government. I know that there are tons of projects and they must need my services. Do you have any ideas as to how to get in the door with any local, state or federal US agency?
A: Well, you’re right — they totally need your services. It’s just figuring out how to get in. While we haven’t cracked the code on getting a consulting gig with any branch of the government YET, we’re still trying ourselves. Here are a few tactics that we’re using:
1) Get certified: There are a few key things to keep in mind here. In order to get work with the government, it helps to be certified as one of the following: Small Business, Minority, Women or Disabled-Veteran Owned Business. Depending upon what you qualify for, this is a foot in the door. Each agency has a certain percentage of budgetary dollars that they must spend with these certified companies in order to meet their goals. The only way you can be considered, however, is if you are certified through a recognized certification agency. For Women-Owned businesses, we recommend WBENC.
2) Check out the agency website: Each agency has their upcoming opportunities posted on their website. Most also hold networking and informational sessions on how to do business with them (they want to reach those budgetary goals — so they are motivated to help you get work with them). Check out the website, attend an event and get to know the folks that you are trying to get in with. The more familiar they are with your face and what you offer, the better are your chances. It’s like anything else, you have to build the relationship.
3) Check out the Small Business Administration website: The SBA has a plethora of information — and they sponsor a whole other set of events and networking sessions where they bring both large corporations and government agencies together with small business owners. The SBA has offices in all major US cities. Here is their website, so take a look at what they have to offer. They sponsor many matchmaking sessions through their Business Matchmaking sessions. Take a look at the site to see if there will be an event in your local area any time soon.
In addition, the key is to follow-up. There are literally a bazillion of us trying to get gigs with these large agencies. Let’s face it — if you get in, it’ll most likely be quite lucrative. If you do a good job, you’ll probably get awarded — or at least get a crack at– other opportunities. While being annoying isn’t an option, try to build your relationships respectfully, and contact them as often as they tell you that it’s OK to do so. If they don’t get back to you right away, it’s because they’re busy. However, that just means that you have to continually contact them. It’s a numbers game, and sooner or later it’ll work. Find the balance between being persistent and annoying. : )
Good luck in getting in . . . and if you find something that works outside of what I’ve outlined, please share it! We can all use the help !
Q: I am a direct marketing consultant specializing in creative and print services. While I’m a small firm, I spend a lot of time with my clients making sure that they are happy with the services that I provide them. How do I get in the door of large corporations that traditionally work with really large agencies? How do I convince them to trust me as a small business to even get the first meeting?
A: What a conundrum . . . and one that we are VERY familiar with. As small consultancy firms, this always presents a dilemma. Here are a few things that we’ve done to break through and get large companies to listen to us:
- Use your network. If you know ANYONE who knows ANYONE within the company that you’re targeting, use that person to get you an introduction in to the marketing folks. If you’re like us, once you get in and talk to the actual client, you usually get the gig or at least an opportunity down the road. If you need to build up your network, try to figure out where your target audience hangs out and go there. One great venue for us has always been the Direct Marketing Association’s Annual Conference. We never attend one of these conferences without ending up with some business. In addition, look at other local association meetings where your target companies may be involved on the board — i.e., the local DMA or AMA — and start to attend those meetings so that you can introduce yourself and start to build the relationship.
- Partner with other direct marketers. One of the things that we’re trying now is to partner with other direct marketers who offer services that we don’t. So, you’d be a perfect partner. We don’t do printing or creative services. Our niche is in data and analytics. So, work with people like us who offer complimentary services to what you offer. Why do this? (A) the other firm may have contacts where you don’t have them and vice versa and (B) you are able to present more comprehensive service offerings this way — as opposed to just your own.
- Practice what we preach: We are all direct marketers, right? Use the principles of direct marketing to make yourself appear just as professional and talented as those big guys. Let’s face it, some of the bigger agencies don’t present themselves all that well. Take a hard look at your website, your marketing materials, your blog, your e-marketing messages . . . the whole shebang. Make certain that you are presenting a package that would appeal to any business — regardless of size. Use multi-channel marketing to get the word out about your superior services. We tell our clients to do this and sometimes forget to do it ourselves!
We hope that these three ideas provide you with a framework of how to tackle that next large corporation. Good luck!
A: Hmmm . . . great question. The truth is, there is no way to ensure that they (whoever they are) won’t use your idea and take credit for it. Unless it’s something that is very specific and you can patent it . . . say for example, you came up with a solution that utilizes very specific technology or expertise in a way that it hasn’t been used before. If this is the case (it’s your invention), I’d write it up as your new “product” and submit it to the US Patent office (or to the patent office of whatever country you’re in).
This will provide you with some protection if you can prove that the large corporation or agency used your idea. If you think this is going to happen, I would consider doing the following:
1. Document your meetings, your presentations, their feedback — pretty much any interchange that you have with the company/agency fully. This way, if you do find out that they used your idea, and you took the time to patent it, you can get compensated for it. In addition, we suggest having the client/agency sign a mutual non-disclosure agreement. It will also provide you with some protection.
2. And, this would be my top recommendation . . . don’t do business with those whom you cannot trust. I understand that it is tough to know who you can trust and who you can’t. However, if you already have a feeling that you cannot trust these people and you think they are going to steal your idea . . . I mean, is it worth it to give your idea to them? Why not find a company that you can work with that you trust and think will actually buy your idea from you . . . as opposed to stealing it from you? Just a thought.
I hope this helps you with your dilemma . . . let us know how it turns out if you get a chance.