Marketing in Tough Times: Part 1

marketing1 Today on The Bigg Success Show, we begin a discussion with John Jantsch. John is the author of the great book, Duct Tape Marketing – The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide. Forbes chose his Duct Tape Marketing blog as one of their favorites and Harvard features it on their marketing site. He also writes a monthly column and does a podcast for Entrepreneur magazine.




That’s a long intro and it’s not even everything!



That’s good … we wouldn’t want to bore people right off the bat!



marylynnJohn, I have to tell you. You’re the guy we wanted to come to because with everything going on with the economy, small businesses are struggling right now. A lot of the money that they might have had for advertising and marketing just isn’t there right now. So we want to talk with you about how to promote yourself on a shoestring budget.



johnA lot of small business owners have done that. The headlines are that the Dow is down. Big companies are cutting back all kinds of jobs. The newspaper industry is in turmoil because of losing advertisers. But the typical small business owner is not putting out hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising. In many cases, they have gotten to where they’ve gotten because they worked on a shoestring anyway. I wrote a column this week for a publication and talked about the natural competitive advantages of small business. I think that we can have this tendency to get in this “the sky is falling” mode and quite frankly, my experience at least is, that it’s not falling on the small business owner. The small business owner is now finding that the market momentum, sheer momentum, is perhaps not carrying them and that they have to get better at doing some of the things that maybe they should have been doing anyway. But my current soap box right now is to say, “Hey, everything is okay. Let’s just buckle in and do some things right.” So that was my long-winded intro to answer your question. Right now is the best time ever to get closer to your customer.



So what are some customer-building strategies that don’t require spending a lot of money?



johnYour customer, whether it’s a business or an individual, is feeling some of this economic pressure as well. This is a great time to huddle up and say, “What more can we be doing with you, for you? How can we get together and help each other?” Strategic partnerships have always been a great way to go for folks who are strapped for making the phone ring. Go out and find other people that have your ideal customer in mind. Find ways to co-brand some of your marketing materials, put workshops on together, or maybe just literally pass out each other’s materials. One of the greatest partnerships I ever put together was a plumbing contractor. They were going into people’s house every day. So we said to them, “Let’s find an electrical contractor, a roofing contractor, and three or four other people who treat their customers the way you like. Why don’t you all start going in and recommending each other?” You know how that happens – once you develop trust with a customer, they’ll ask you for every resource you can give them! So doing things like that – things people should be doing, good times and bad. It really does put the spotlight on them now if you haven’t been doing them.


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Thanks for reading today’s post. Next time, we’ll continue our conversation with John. He discusses ways to add value for customer loyalty. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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Increase Your Sales without Spending a Dime on Advertising

hilton We were at the Hilton in Las Vegas recently for the New Media Expo. When we checked in, they offered us an upgrade for $25. We thought that an “upgrade” just meant a better room. But we knew we weren’t going to be in the room much. We’d be at the conference all day and meeting up with people in the evening. So why upgrade?


One evening, we were at dinner with some friends. One of them had upgraded. She got access to the spa and fitness center, a private breakfast, and more! As our friend described it all, we wished we would have gone for it!

However, the employee didn’t talk about the benefits (or even the features) when he offered us the upgrade. He didn’t give us a single reason to do it.

But at least he offered it; some employees don’t even do that. Or there’s the other extreme – selling so aggressively that you begin to wonder if what you were thinking about buying is any good at all. You start to question the company and its products or services.

We don’t know if Hilton…

  • has an incentive to reward employees who are successful at selling upgrades.
  • explains why upgrades are good for customers, employees, and the company.
  • Thoroughly trains their employees to present the benefits of upgrades.

We do know that …

  • We would have bought if the upgrade was presented how our friend presented it.
  • “What’s in it for me” applies to employees too!
  • We still love Hilton!

The power of offering more

Every sale presents opportunities for more sales. One of those opportunities is upselling – selling more of the same thing. According to the great book Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, customers like choices “that fall between what they need at a minimum and what they could possibly spend at a maximum.”

The authors say that if you give your customers two choices, they will likely choose the least expensive one. However, you’ll make more sales than if you don’t offer a second choice at all.

The magic of 3

When you add a third product or service to the process, magic begins to happen. When that third product costs more than the other two choices, customers tend to go for the moderately priced product instead of the least expensive.

georgeOne of my businesses was a heating and air conditioning business. We had always offered our customers service agreements – we would schedule preventive maintenance of their furnace and air conditioner. We expanded that offer to include predictive maintenance (we automatically replaced inexpensive items that regularly broke down) and an all-inclusive program (our customers didn’t pay for anything else). We found that we sold more agreements than we did before. About 8% of our customers bought the high-end service, around 12% bought the low end package, and the rest bought the middle one!

marylynn So it pays to present your customers with a good – better – best offering. Your sales will skyrocket … as long as you can get your employees to tell your customers about it! Do you have any examples to share of good or bad upselling? How about some suggestions on how your business upsells to customers? Share your stories with us by leaving a comment.

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Are You Fishing for Customers in the Wrong Hole?

“If you want to catch a trout, don’t fish in a herring barrel.” – Ann Landers

George said he’s been fishing at times when he would have been happy to catch any fish at all. He’s even had times when his friend a few feet away was catching all kinds of fish.

So he found out what his friend was using – what bait or lure – and changed his, but he still didn’t catch any fish. He concluded he was fishing in the wrong hole.

Fishing for business
Sometimes we experience the same thing when we’re fishing for business. We’re putting our line out but we don’t get any bites.

It may be that the customers aren’t where we’re fishing – they’re in another hole!

For example, maybe your customers are primarily shopping for your product or service online and you’re only marketing offline or vice versa.

People don’t use the internet for that

George remembers having a debate with one of his business managers. This happened to be a plumbing business. They were discussing how to allocate advertising dollars between various media. George thought they needed a bigger online presence. His manager insisted that customers wouldn’t go online if they had a plumbing emergency.

After surveying calls that came in, the manager reported back to George that an overwhelming majority of the people who had called with a plumbing emergency during that time period had found them via the internet.

Sometimes we think we know where our customers are, but our perceptions are clouded by our own biases. Fortunately, there’s a way to find out for sure.

Today’s bigg action item – survey your customers.

Find out how they learn about new things. The odds are your future customers are probably a lot like your current customers.

How one car dealer did it

One example of this is a car dealer. He had the employee who pulled the customer’s car into the service bay record what radio station was playing. He analyzed this information to determine which radio stations to use.

Is there some way in your business to naturally find out what media your customers use? If there is, develop a system to track the information so you know in which hole to cast your line.

Work with your direct mail supplier

Here’s another example from George’s service businesses. His mailing service was able to take his customer lists and ping the national databases to see where their existing customers fit in. Then they had a good profile of the people to target with future advertising – target people who are similar to your existing customers.

Survey them directly

You may just have a survey form that your customers fill out. Offer them some incentive to take the time to complete your survey. It may be a product or service you offer that’s relatively inexpensive …

… or cut a deal with another merchant – maybe even work a trade – to offer an incentive to your customers (e.g. movies, dessert, or gas)!

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