NOTE: As I was preparing to submit this article, I had to think about which category was most appropriate. The content primarily deals with developing effective marketing tactics for your business. However, upon further contemplation, I decided to place this article under the Business Customer Service category because I’ve concluded that all effective customer service is the best and highest form of business marketing. I think you’ll agree.
An Intriguing Story
This true story is about the legendary marketing strategist, Claude Hopkins and the Schlitz beer company. Schlitz was about to go flat in the beer brewery industry. They wanted desperately to break into the top ten American breweries but didn’t know how to do it. That’s when they contacted Claude Hopkins.
Hopkins’ first item of business was to take a tour of the Schlitz facility. Even though the central brewing plant was located on the shores of Lake Michigan with its enormous fresh-water supply, the company had dug five, 4000-foot artesian wells because they wanted the purest water available. Hopkins was shown a special laboratory in which over 2,500 experiments were conducted by company scientists to cultivate the finest mother-yeast cell. He was taken through five different three-foot-thick plate glass rooms where beer was condensed, redistilled and recondensed for purity. The final stop was the tasting room where beer was tasted from five samplings on five separate occasions. He learned that the bottles they used were cleaned and sterilized twelve times!
After his tour, convinced of the company’s commitment to both its product and its customers, Hopkins exclaimed to his hosts, “My goodness, why don’t you let people know about this amazing process your beer goes through?” They replied, “This is the way all beer is made. ” Hopkins immediately responded, “That may be, but the first company that tells the public about this will make a fortune!”
What would you have done with Hopkins’ advice? The problem in American business today is not a shortage of good ideas; rather, it’s the lack of implementation of good ideas. The Schlitz company took Hopkins’ advice and became the number one brewery in America within six months!
How did they do it? They simply told the story you just read to all their customers and prospects.
Educate your prospects and customers about what you do, how you do it and why it’s important to them. This is not merely telling how you’re different from your competition; rather, it’s a preemptive strike against your competition by informing the public of what your business and industry actually do. The more information and expert knowledge you can share with prospects and customers, the greater the chances are that they will make an informed buying decision - the one you want them to make.
Here’s the point: The first one to tell the public about the how, what and why of your business and industry - even about “business as usual” processes and concepts - gains a marketing advantage. I call this the “W. Y. K. V. W. O. D. K. A. A. (A. W. )” (Pronounced, “Wick-vee-Wadkah”) marketing principle: “What You Know Very Well Others Don’t Know At All (or “As Well). ” Slap yourself in the face with the obvious and tell your customers and prospects about it and you’ll gain the competitive advantage.
How do you tell your customers and prospects about it? Write a report . . . .
Focus on Customers, Not Competitors
What about competitors getting hold of your report? Wouldn’t that be bad news? Chances are they already know much of what you’d be writing about. After all, they are in the same industry. The focus is on your customers and not on your competitors. Giving information to your customers gives them additional reasons to be loyal to your business. And if they remain loyal to your business, where’s your competition? YOU are your own competition: it’s not that others steal your customers, it’s that you don’t do those things that keep your customers coming back to you. One of those things that increases customer loyalty is providing expert information and on-going learning opportunities.
Whatever you do in your business, you’re giving your customers one of two things: a reason to come back or a reason to go elsewhere.
But wouldn’t the information in your report stimulate competition? That might happen, to be sure. But the likelihood of it happening is extremely remote. Even if it does, the caliber of competition will be low. Cassette Duplications Unlimited, in the late 1980's, circulated a report entitled, “How to Produce Your Own Audio Cassette Program” which was amazingly detailed, honest and straightforward. It also contained excellent information about the business of audio duplication and distribution.
A few did use the report as a blueprint to set up their own business and “compete” with Cassette Duplications Unlimited. However, these were small-time operations none of which lasted very long. Most who read the report must have said something like: “Golly, this cassette production and duplication business involves a lot of detail and effort. I never realized it took so much work. Cassette Duplications Unlimited really knows what it’s doing – they’ve got my business!”
This approach contributed to their eventual evolution into the infomercial giant Guthy-Renker International, purveyors of Fran Tarkenton, Tony Robbins and other marketing “cash cows. ”
By educating their prospects about how much expertise and work goes into an audio tape program, the company killed two birds with one stone: they discouraged most of their readers from becoming competitors while increasing their customer base from this very same group of readers!
Focus on your customers, not your competition. When you educate your customers, you dilute your competition.
Actions to Take Right Now:
Focus initially on processes you use to make and distribute your product(s) and/or the methods used to develop and deliver your services. Proprietary information does not need to be divulged or even hinted at in order to make the report valuable.
Check off those items you think they already know about. This is not to completely eliminate these topics from being part of your report. It may be that some of these “obvious” topics need to be included in order to establish a natural knowledge flow from what is known to what isn’t. That’s the way we learn new information: by relating it to what we already know.
- how you do each item
- why it’s important for your customers that you do it that way (but also soliciting their feedback and suggestions on how you can improve)
- steps customers can take to make it easy (easier) to do business with you
Take time to come up with a powerful title. Your title is the sizzle that sells the steak. People are motivated by the potential for gain and/or the avoidance of pain (loss). Your title should create an emotional response toward gain and away from pain (loss). What about the title of this report? Gain is explicit while avoiding pain (loss) is implied. Consider the possible combinations of “gain/pain” in your title. This also holds true for any classified ads you might place.
Some title suggestions:
“How To . . . , ”
“Secrets Of . . . , ”
“The Truth About . . . , ”
“A Guide To . . . , ”
“X Ways To . . . , ”
“. . . Made Easy, ” or “ . . . Revealed!”
“7 Ways To . . . ”
“10 Sure-Fire Tips For . . . ”
“5 Big Reasons To . . . ”
“The Untold Story Of . . . ”
“Tips On . . . ”
“Instant . . . Strategies (Tactics) Anyone Can Use”
“10 Deadly . . . Sins”
“You Want To . . . ?”
“Your . . . Is Already Out Of Date!”
“New Methods for . . . ”
“Who Knows Why . . . ?”
“People Are Saying . . . ”
“Now Is The Time To . . . ”
“Save Money The Easy Way”
You get the idea . . . .
According to Richard Bayan, author of “Words That Sell, " the most effective words to use in a title are (in order of effectiveness): You, Your, How, New, Who, Money, Now, People, Want and Why. Check classified ads to see what other words might prove to be effective in creating a desire for your report.
Keep it broad-based and general. Be specific only when you feel it’s necessary and you’re comfortable in doing so. Remember that this most likely will be new information for your customers and prospects, so don’t overwhelm them with too much detail.
Use anecdotes, stories and examples to make your points; use the KISS formula: “Keep It Short & Simple. ” To paraphrase a wise author: “The truly great writer is the one who can give the most to his/her readers while taking the least amount of their time. ”
There are at least five effective ways you can distribute your report.
1. Mail it to everyone on your customer and prospect mailing lists with a cover letter that tells them that this information will help them better understand the benefits of doing business with you and why you’re at the top of your industry.
Repeat the mailing every three months. The report should always be included with every mailing regardless of the purpose (discount coupons, special sales announcements, administrative information, invoices, etc. ).
2. Take out a classified ad in the newspapers in your market area. The ad could read something like: “The Whole Truth About XYZ Company (or Industry) Revealed! Free report from insiders tells all. Call today xxx-xxxx. ” Mail on an “as requested” basis.
3. Place a stack of your reports at every check-out register and entrances/exits in your location(s) for customers to voluntarily pick up and take with them. You can also include a copy of the report with every purchase. As mentioned above, think about including a report with every invoice and other paper you mail. You could even hand them out to people who are inside and/or outside your establishment.
4. Offer your report free on your website. Customers will be able to download it easily and quickly for instant access whenever they want.
5. Publish your reports in the Ezine (Electronic Newsletter/Magazine) you email your opt-in customers and prospects at regular intervals (weekly, monthly, quarterly). Highlight a single section of your report(s) each time you send out an issue to emphasize one of your main points and reinforce its value for the reader. Repetition is the mother of teaching and learning and is the best approach to shaping perception and changing habitual behavior. Repetition is the mother of teaching and learning and is the best approach to shaping perception and changing habitual behavior. It’s true!
All the above methods for distributing your report can be used simultaneously or in any combination you desire. Your customers and prospects will eventually read the information and become better educated about you and your business, specifically regarding:
1. Competence in conducting your business
2. Commitment to your customers
3. Benefits experienced when doing business with you
4. Industry facts and trends
5. Uniqueness of your business within your industry
6. The on-going value you offer to your customers over the long-term
A Concluding Story
Here’s a great story to put us all in our proper place.
Tom Selleck, star of Magnum P. I . , a 1990’s television show that was filmed in Hawaii, relates the following incident. “Whenever I get full of myself, I remember the nice, elderly couple who approached me with a camera on a street in Honolulu one day. When I struck a pose for them, the man said, ‘No, no - we want you to take a picture of US. ’”
Who’s the star of your show? Be sure to point your camera in the right direction by focusing on your customers by proactively providing them with useful and practical information about your company and its personnel, your industry and the long-term value you bring to loyal customers. When you make your customers the stars of your show, they will make you a star in their economic universe.
Ken Wallace, M. Div. , CSL has been in the organizational development field since 1973. He is a seasoned consultant, speaker and executive coach with extensive business experience in multiple industries who provides practical organizational direction and support for business leaders. A professional member of the National Speakers Association since 1989, he is also a member of the International Federation for Professional Speaking and holds the Certified Seminar Leader (CSL) professional designation awarded by the American Seminar Leaders Association.
Ken is one of only eight certified Business Systems Coaches worldwide for General Motors.
His topics include ethics, leadership, change, communication & his unique Optimal Process Design® program.
Tel:(800)235-5690 Claim your free Leadership Self-Evaluation Checklist by visiting the Better Than Your Best website.