Thursday, July 23, 2009

Get a Unique Business Card

John Moore of Brand Autopsy likes to say that your marketing should "earn an opinion." One of the easiest ways to earn an opinion in a new relationship is with your business card. Get creative and make your card unique.

For example, John Moore's business card is a toe tag,


Waco, Texas real estate broker Andy Sheehy fashioned his over-sized business card after a sporting event ticket.


For my own business card, I decided to make it look like my logo icon and went with a round business card. It costs a little bit more, but it earns an opinion every time I give one.


When making your business card unique, think about using both sides of the card. Make a statement on the front, put the important contact information on the back.

How can you earn an opinion with your business card?

Need marketing ideas specific for your business? My company is The Marketing Spot and I help entrepreneurs and small business owners develop marketing plans and strategies. See my website for more details or give me a call: 254-399-8093

For more small business marketing advice, please see my small business marketing strategy blog: The Marketing Spot. You can also listen to my podcast: Power to the Small Business, where I discuss strategy and tactics with some of the brightest minds in marketing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Different Way to Do Door Hangers

Using door hangers as a marketing tactic is an intrusion, there's no way around it. It's like saying, "I just intruded on your space to get you to buy my stuff." Instead of gaining customers, you might actually drive them away. Why not do it a little differently? Help your customers get smarter.

For example, let's say you own a nursery and landscaping company. Distribute a list of the 10 Flowers That Best Withstand the Summer Heat. Or 7 Tips to Keep Your Lawn Green. Or Three Landscaping Ideas That Won't Break the Bank. You get the picture. Help your customers, don't just try to sell them stuff.

Once you've helped the customer, you now have the right to ask them for business. End with a call to action or a discount. At the bottom of door hanger place a coupon related to the tips. You might also create a special page on your website with the helpful information and print that web address on the door hanger.

How to do get your door hanger:

  1. I recommend that you use a local graphic designer to design your piece. This should cost between $100-$200.
  2. Use an online printer, they're much cheaper than local printers. You can print 500 door hangers for as little as $125, including shipping, at online printers such as Print Place.
  3. Diligently keep track of your results. Count the exact number of coupons that get redeemed. Ask people how they learned about you.
  4. If it works, use the tactic regularly, but no more than once per month. Each time you do, change the helpful information with new advice.

Need marketing ideas specific for your business? My company is The Marketing Spot and I help entrepreneurs and small business owners develop marketing plans and strategies. See my website for more details or give me a call: 254-399-8093

For more small business marketing advice, please see my small business marketing strategy blog: The Marketing Spot. You can also listen to my podcast: Power to the Small Business, where I discuss strategy and tactics with some of the brightest minds in marketing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Marketing Migration

Rather than trying to keep up with two blogs, I have migrated all posts over to The Marketing Spot. Please check it out for small business marketing advice here: The Marketing Spot blog.

It's easy to let future articles from The Marketing Spot come to you: Receive by Email or Get The Marketing Spot in a blog reader

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Guerrilla Marketing Time Machine: Advertising Specialties

Note: We are in a series examining "Old School" marketing techniques to see if they still have oomph. Jay Conrad Levinson's 1993 edition of Guerilla Marketing is our reference book.

Ad specialties don't get much love from professional marketers. I searched the 47 marketing blogs to which I subscribe and only came up with one entry specifically about advertising specialties.

Before we get into what Levinson thinks about ad specialties, let's get a definition: Promotional products that can be customized with a company's logo or slogan. (Eg, pens, t-shirts, cups/mugs, matches)

Levinson, in the '93 edition of Guerrilla Marketing, thought that ad specilties could be used to gain awareness of your business, but the tactic should only be part of your marketing mix.

"Consider these specialties ot be the equivalent of billboards. That means they are great for reminder advertising. They are usually terrible as your only marketing medium. They do, however, put your name in front of prospective customers."

According to Levinson, ad specialties were good sales door openers, and items with a high perceived value created "a sense of unconscious obligation." However, he much preferred free samples.

Best Uses
There are five primary considerations when deciding to use ad specialties.

  1. The Item -Exactly what are you going to give away?
    It's tempting to buy the cheap pens so that you can have something to give away. But don't do it. Save your money instead. Make it something out of the ordinary. If your are going to give away a pen, do something like a folding carabiner pen. It's functional and it's unique. In a drawer full of free pens, this one stands out.

    We did this type of pen for a medical clinic I consult and gave them out during patient appreciation day. They were a big hit with patients and staff alike. The nurses started wearing them around their necks.
  2. The Customer - Who's getting your freebie?
    Match your item to your audience. Don't just buy a bunch of stuff that you will give away to everyone. For example don't buy a bunch of memory sticks and then give them away to the over 55 crowd. When the same medical clinic mentioned above did a health fair for senior citizens, we gave away ruler/magnifier.
  3. The Objective - What are you trying to accomplish?
    If your objective is to just put your name in front of customers, then save your money. Have a specific purpose in mind when you buy your specialty. With the medical clinic, we did big refrigerator magnets listing all our medical specialties and the appointment phone number.

    Our main objective was to educate patients that we were multi-specialty and not just primary care. In addition, we wanted to give them easy access to our appointment phone number. And because they hold little Suzie's homework up on the frig, they're always visible. People loved them.
  4. Your Business - Is your business right for ad specialties?
    Remember that the objective is not just to get your name out there. I don't think ad specialties work that well for businesses such as carpet stores. People don't buy carpet that often. And when they do, it's a major purchase. It's unlikely that your free key chain is going to have an impact on their buying decision. The same goes for car dealers.

    I think ad specialties work best for businesses whose products are frequently bought and and widely used by a large percentage of the population. I think realtors overuse ad specialties. Restaurants, however, probably underuse them. How often do people wonder what they're going to do for lunch?
  5. The Setting - Where are you giving away your item?
    Does your freebie seem out of place? Consider how your item will be perceived when you give it away. Giving away calendars at a county fair would seem out of place. However, giving away caps at a golf tournament would be well received.

    The best ad specialty we did for our medical clinic client did not even have our logo on it. We ordered some yellow ribbon pins (support the troops) and gave them away on Memorial Day. Almost everyone wanted one, and put them on while they were still in the clinic. It created a lot of good will with our patients and made the staff feel proud.

Where to Buy
Competition is fierce in the ad specialties world. You can purchase them easily online and there are probably several dealers in your town. Shop around and compare. I have ordered directly online and I have used a local rep. The more complicated the project, the more you need to use a local rep. Sometimes they are even price competitive with internet re-sellers. If you are going to need help with your artwork, local companies who specialize in ad specialties (not the ones that do it on the side) can be a big help.

Try to find a good local rep, especially if you order several times a year. They can be useful in suggesting items that you might not have considered. They can also save you time by doing order placement and keeping track of production.

Get a few price quotes from local reps and compare them with prices online. Keep in mind that the company you are dealing with is not the manufacturer. Just about all ad specialty companies order from the same set of manufacturers. If one company has a specific item, then you get bet just about everyone has that item.

Guerrilla Marketing Tactic?
Ad specialties are indeed a guerrilla marketing tactic, but not the primary one. Use it only as an additional marketing support weapon.

Have you used ad specialties successfully? If so, please share them here.

Small Business Marketing Seminar - Get a marketing plan for your business! DIY Marketing for Small businesses is coming to Temple, Texas on February 28. For details and registration information see our website: The Marketing Spot.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Guerrilla Marketing Time Machine: Direct Mail Marketing

Note: We are in a series examining "Old School" marketing techniques to see if they still have oomph. Jay Conrad Levinson's 1993 edition of Guerilla Marketing is our reference book.

Ok, sorry for the delay between posts. Been working on a Starbucks re-experience project over on The Marketing Spot.
"Direct marketing is where it's at. Direct marketing is the name of your game."
- Jay Conrad Levinson - Guerilla Marketing
I have to agree with JCL on this one. Direct Mail can be a very effective marketing tool for small businesses, and very cost efficient.

Levinson cites these advantages of direct mail:
  • It's easier to track results
  • You can zero in on almost any target audience.
  • You can personalize your marketing like crazy.
  • You can compete with, even beat, the giants.

Levinson's rules of thumb for using direct mail:

  • The most important element is the right list.
  • Make it easy for the recipient to take action.
  • Testimonials improve response rates.
  • Test your results and keep good records

Tips for Getting a Maximum Response Rate

  • Always tell the person what to do next - Make a phone call, go to the website, come to the showroom.
  • The four most important elements in direct mail are the list, the offer, the copy, the graphics. Pay close attention to each.
  • Direct mail success comes from the cumulative effect of repeat mailing. Make them repetitive, yet different from one another.

I frequently use direct mail for clients, and for my own business, because of its versatility and cost effectiveness. Direct mail allows you to specifically target who you want to receive your mail. You can target by almost any category and combination of categories you can conceive. Some examples of targeting are geographic, demographic, income, family size, employment category, or any combination of the above.

Accuracy of the list is very important. Make sure you check the age of you list with the list broker. The list should be no more than 12-18 months old. And remember, you want to mail to a person, and not to a title. My advice is to eliminate titles from your list because they are often inaccurate and they are often truncated. Truncated titles like "Pres" and "Treas" damage your credibility. This is why you need to establish a relationship with a good mailing house.

The Most Important Thing
What do you want to accomplish with your mailing? Yes, you should use all marketing to advance your brand promise and image. However, if you are going to use direct mail, you need a stronger purpose.

Before you mail, decide the action you want the customer to take. Call for an appointment? Redeem a coupon? Visit your website? Then transform this goal into a prominent call to action on the direct mail piece.

Your Partner in Mailing
Do not try to mail things yourself. A dirty little secret is that you don't have to pay full price on postage if you sort things the right way. But you don't have to do the sorting. Find a good mail house with which to work. They can give you invaluable advice and save you money on postage, enough to justify the cost of using them. Many of them will also print your materials for you.

The key is finding a mail house you can trust and one that will give you good advice. The internet can set you up with just about any mail house in the country. I recommend going local if you can. Sometimes, you need to be able to sit across the desk from someone so that they understand your business is important. In Central Texas, I use MailMax Direct

Consider Using Postcards
Postcards are cheaper to print and cheaper to mail than letters or the fancy pieces direct mail marketers will try to sell you. More importantly, postcards are more visible. There's no envelope to open. The customer has to touch your mail piece when in arrives in their mailbox. There is no way that they can avoid looking at your message.

If you are going to use postcards, your call to action or your brand promise has to be immediately visible. And because you have less space to write, your copy has to be concise and powerful.

Tips on Using Postcards

  • Use large format postcards (8.5" x 5.5"). The cost to print them is not that much more and they stand out prominently in the mailbox.
  • To reduce printing costs don't use bleed (printing to the edge of the sheet), and print your piece in two colors rather than four color (this takes a skilled graphics designer).
  • Don't stick mailing labels on your postcard, have your mailhouse inkjet the names. This can actually be cheaper to do sometimes.

Brad over at Branding Strategy Insider has a great a great Direct Marketing Guide which you should bookmark as your reference tool.

Guerrilla Marketing Tactic?
Direct mail may be an even more effective marketing tool than it was when Levinson wrote the first edition of Guerrilla Marketing. Many big companies sink a lot of money into flooding your email box, leaving more space in your conventional mailbox to stand out.

Check out our other small business marketing blog: The Marketing Spot
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Guerilla Marketing Time Machine: Magazines

Note: We are in a series examining "Old School" marketing techniques to see if they still have oomph. Jay Conrad Levinson's 1993 edition of Guerilla Marketing is our reference book.


From Chapter 17 of Guerrilla Marketing:
"A properly produced magazine ad, preferably of the full-page variety, gives a small business more credibility than any other mass marketing medium."

That's quite a bold statement. But it also holds a lot of validity. Levinson further explains his strategy:

"Consumer confidence will not necessarily be gained from one exposure to
your magazine ad. But if you run the ad one time, you can use the reprints
of that ad forever."
Levinson's suggested strategy was to run a single regional ad in only a single issue of a national magazine such as Time. Now that's a pretty huge suggestion given that a full page ad in a Time can cost around $30,000. That's a lot of money, especially in the guerrilla marketing jungle. Why would you do this?

Magazines have evolved through technology and necessity. To combat declining national advertising revenue, the top magazines now print many different regional editions and even local editions for major metropolitan areas.

For example, Reader's Digest, America's largest circulation magazine (not counting AARP's mag) offers 10 regional editions and 10 major market editions. A full-page color ad in the national edition would run you $251,000. However, a full page color ad in the southern regional edition is just $87,000 and only $16,000 in the Dallas/Ft. Worth edition.

The key is the use of reprints to establish credibility. Even if you spend $16,000 instead of $251,000 to be in Reader's Digest, you still get to say on your reprint: "As seen in Reader's Digest." And that was Levinson's point on credibility.

Using Reprints
Reprints of your ad could then be distributed as newspaper inserts, direct mail pieces, or large posters in your store window.

I have to say this idea somewhat intrigues me. But I don't believe you need to go that far to establish credibility.

From time to time we have recommended local magazine ads for some of our clients. One of the primary reasons for doing so was credibility. Yes, we are an increasingly online society. And yes, marketers love to taught the new media. But the old media still maintains a credibility edge according to this survey from Nielsen.

Local Magazines
In Waco, we have two high-quality, widely-distributed community magazines, including the Wacoan. It has a polished presentation and the ads well-constructed. Unfortunately, you can't see the magazine online yet (hint, hint to publishers Robert & Michelle, who live about a block away from me).

If you have a magazine of this type in your community, you should consider using it for credibility. In fact many people pick up our Wacoan magazine just to look at the ads. Your primary considerations are presentation, distribution and ad cost.

How To Use Magazines
To use magazines, I suggest you use a tactic from new media and integrate it into your old media magazine ad. Advertise in a local magazine, but don't advertise. What I'm saying is give something of value instead of an advertisement.

I encourage you to listen to episode #4 of my Power to the Small Business podcast with guest Steven Van Yoder. We talk about how it's time to stop trying to sell stuff and start giving people something of value. This is the tactic that establishes credibility: it's what I call cultivating your customer.

Take a look at your local newspaper or magazine today and read the ads. You will see that the two primary uses of these ads are selling or branding. Odds are, you will not see one single ad that is providing useful information that makes the reader better. And that's good for you.

Put together an ad that provides something of value to your customer: helpful tips, timely product news, industry insight. Or you can reprint your full page ad "as seen in Reader's Digest."

Guerrilla Tactic?
Whether or not you want to drop 16 grand on Reader's Digest to test Levinson's theory is up to you. But if you use local magazine advertising, do it like a guerrilla marketer and not like everyone else.

Have you been a local guerrilla marketer lately?

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Our other marketing blog: The Marketing Spot

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Guerrilla Marketing Time Machine: Yellow Pages

Note: This week we are examining "Old School" marketing techniques to see if they still have oomph. Jay Conrad Levinson's 1993 edition of Guerilla Marketing is our reference book.

Yellow Pages
All the yellow pages reps in Central Texas love me! (sarcasm intended) The thing is, except in rare occasions, I just don't think that yellow pages advertising is a wise investment of your marketing kitty. Let's look at what Levinson says, and then I'll add my rant.

In Chapter 15 of Guerrilla Marketing, Levinson says that you can turn yellow pages into gold. In fairness, he does say that not all businesses can benefit from yellow pages. My take is that most businesses cannot benefit from yellow pages advertising. I'll explain why shortly.

How To Do Yellow Pages
If you do have to advertise in the Yellow Pages, Levinson gives this advice:

  1. Determine the geographic make-up of your customer base and decide whether or not you need to be in more than one directory.

  2. You will probably need to list yourself in more than one category.

  3. Don't use your other advertising to direct customers to your yellow pages ad unless you have the biggest ad.

  4. When readers go to the yellow pages, they are in a buying mood. You should be selling.

  5. Ask a "say yes" question in your ad.

Jay vs. The Yellow Pages
So what's my beef with yellow pages? Besides being the most difficult media to purchase, it's just not as effective as it used to be.

The culprit? Google, and the other search engines. Let's face it. It's much more convenient to use Google than it is to use the yellow pages. That point is illustrated beautifully by Newt Barrett over at Content Marketing Today.

Newt's done some great research on the declining relevance of yellow pages advertising, including this well-researched piece: Is It Time to Abandon Your Yellow Pages Advertising?

There is a local business (sorry can't give his name away) who spends $50 a month on Google AdWords and he gets more response that most businesses get with their $500+ per month yellow pages ad. $50 a month!

No Longer A Guerrilla Tactic
So this is one guerrilla marketing tactic that didn't survive the new millennium. Small businesses would be better served to invest money in basic search engine optimization and Google AdWords than yellow pages.

I will ad this one plug for yellow pages. Just one. The older the demographic, the more likely they will use yellow pages to search for local businesses. So if your customers are old or they are not internet savvy, they you might consider yellow pages.

If I wake up in the morning and my house is TP'd, I'll know it was a yellow pages rep.

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Our other Blog: The Marketing Spot

Monday, January 21, 2008

Guerrilla Marketing Time Machine: Personal Letters

Note: This week we are examining "Old School" marketing techniques to see if they still have oomph. Jay Conrad Levinson's 1993 edition of Guerilla Marketing is our reference book.

Personal Letters
In chapter 10 Levinson says that:

"simple, personal letters -- is one of the most effective, easy, inexpensive, and overlooked methods of marketing."

In the age of email, I would have to agree. It seems what goes around, comes around. Virtually no one sends personal letters any more. No one even talks about sending personal letters any more. I did a quick internet search and couldn't find one solid article or blog post on personal letters.

This sounds to me to be a terrific new, old guerrilla marketing technique. Personal letters allow you to communicate truly personal feelings. And with everyone sending emails, you can reach a special place in the mind of the reader.

How To Do Personal Letters
Here are Levinson's instructions on personal letters:

  1. Include as much personal data as possible - Not just the person's name, but mention things about the person's life, business, car, home...etc.

  2. Write another personal letter within two weeks, then call the prospect on the telephone - Your second letter should contain new information, then use the phone to develop a relationship.

  3. Have a clear idea of your prospects "leading appeal" - What factors will influence the buyer's purchase decisions?

  4. Make sure the letter is personal and not "personalized" - Personalized letters are impersonal letters with the person's name and salutation in the body of the letter. The same letter is sent to many people.

  5. Make it unnecessary for your prospect to respond - Whet your reader's appetite, but tell them you will be telephoning them within a week to set up an appointment or firm up a sale.

  6. The letter should be about the reader and not about you - It should be in the reader's terms, about the reader's life or business.

Levinson's technical advice for personal letters:

  • Keep your letter to one page.
  • Keep your paragraphs short.
  • Indent your paragraphs.
  • Don't overdo underlining, caps, or writing in the margins.
  • Keep your letter from looking like a printed piece.
  • Sign your letter in a different-colored ink than it is typed in.
  • Include a P.S. and have it contain your most important point and a sense of urgency.

So are you ready to give traditional, personal letter writing a try?

Try our other blog: The Marketing Spot
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