Marketing Methods That Immediately Grow Your Small Business, Part 3

Joint venture arrangements are one of the fastest ways to get new customers. They work because you “borrow” the credibility, trust and customer base of another organization. Regardless of the business you are in or the products or services you offer, there already exists a number of organizations that have established relationships with your target market. The joint venture process enables you to leverage those existing relationships and, in the process, generate a flood of new customers.

There have been a number of $1,000+ courses written on this subject that include hundreds of pages and dozens of legal forms. But for most small businesses, these types of courses can be more intimidating than inspiring. I’m here to tell you that you can create lucrative joint venture relationships, easier and faster than you ever thought possible. The fact is, at its root, this method is so straightforward and so immediately effective you owe it to yourself to test it in your business.

The building blocks of this method are simple. First you must have a handle on who your target audience is. Then you create a list of potential joint venture partners. Next, you create the offer you wish to make to your target audience. Then you approach the organizations you identified as potential joint venture partners and present your case. Finally, you and your partner iron out the details of the joint venture agreement. Sound simple? It is! So let’s get to it!

Identify your target audience:

Do you know who you are marketing to? Have you already identified your target audience? This is a crucial step in the process because you must get your message into the hands of people who will respond to it. The best offer in the world will fall as flat as a pancake if you don’t get it into the hands of the right people.

One quick way to identify your target audience is to profile the top 20% of your existing customer base. A detailed customer profiling discussion is beyond the scope of this article but if you can identify the commonalities that your best customers share, you are well on the way to identifying the essential elements of your target audience. Once you have done so, it’s time to move on to the next step which is:

Identify potential joint venture partners:

In this step you first identify the types of organizations and businesses your target market already has a relationship with. For example, if your target market is golfers, your list might include golf courses, golf shops, athletic stores, golf cart manufacturers, and so on. Once you have listed the type of businesses your target prospect is likely to do business with, you can then list the organizations within each type of business.

In this phase, you develop a list of actual organizations who likely do business with your ideal prospect. By identifying the types or classes of business before the actual organizations you will find that you automatically broaden the scope of your potential joint venture partner list. Armed with your list of potential partners it is time to move on to the next step, where you:

Create the offer you want to communicate to your target audience:

As you will be making the offer through your joint venture partner(s), you will want to make your offer special. The phones won’t be ringing off the hook if all you offer is a 10% discount. You want the reader to perceive that they are getting something special as a result of their relationship with your joint venture partner. So give them something special!

Free always works (see Part 2 of this series) and so does buy one get one free. You could offer an extended guarantee or warranty, or a sizeable discount. You could offer a sneak preview of a sale or an invitation to a special event. Whatever you decide to offer, make it so special that your potential joint venture partner(s) will immediately see the value in your offer and your target market will feverishly respond to it.

Approach your potential joint venture partners with your offer:

Before approaching each partner, it’s a good idea to research a little about the way they do business. Do they endorse or promote other businesses? If so, how do they do so? What types of offers do they promote? You want to get a sense for joint venture projects they have already agreed to. Then, package your first project in a similar way.

You can approach your joint venture partners through any medium you wish. This is one area where email communications tend to be least effective. My favorite way of contacting potential joint venture partners is by phone. But some small business owners don’t have the time (or the inclination) to do a little cold calling so I also recommend that you mail your potential partners a letter highlighting the benefits of your joint venture proposition (as discussed below) for them and their customers.

About a week after mailing the letter you will receive a call from your potential partners. If not, you simply call them. By following up your letter with a phone call you can increase the effectiveness of your campaign three-fold! Best of all, there is no cold calling with this method!

Of course, if your potential partner is local and easily approachable in person, head on over and discuss your idea face to face. You’ll often leave a personal meeting with an agreement and plan securely in place.

If your potential joint venture partner has not participated in a joint venture before, be prepared to educate him or her on the process and how it creates a win-win-win result. Their customers win because they get a special deal because of their relationship with your joint venture partner, the joint venture partner wins because they benefit from the agreement (we’ll discuss this more in a moment) and you win because you get to extend your offer to more highly targeted, potential customers. This method truly creates a win-win-win result!

Ironing out the details of your agreement:

The specifics of your agreement with your potential joint venture partner will need to be defined and agreed upon. They could involve a share of the profit you receive from the sales related to their endorsement, or you could barter your product or service in exchange for their endorsement. It could be that you agree to endorse their offering to your customer base in an endorsement exchange scenario. Your options are limited only by your creativity.

You will also want to define your roles and expectations of each other. This includes any operational and financial arrangements you have made. For example, if you propose a mailing, it is best if the mailing appears to come from your joint venture partner, written on their letter head.

It may also be that your partner collects the funds from such a mailing and sends you an amount equal to the payment less their commission and you fulfill the order. The more complex the agreement, the more attention you will have to pay to operational and financial processes, roles and expectations. But this is true of any business agreement, right?

Here’s a BIG TIP when creating your proposal for your joint venture partner, make it as easy as possible for them to benefit from the project. The less they do, the better. The closer you can get to “money for nothing,” the more responsive your potential partner will be.

While I’m at it here’s another BIG TIP: make your first project a guaranteed success, pull out all the stops and make sure that everyone benefits. Put together a great offer for your target audience, reward you partner for their participation and make sure that everyone has a positive experience. Do this and your joint venture partner will be excited about the next opportunity to work with you. And as I’m sure you know, the real profit in your business comes not from the initial sale, but from repeatedly selling to your customer base. Are you with me?

What do you do now?

You get started! Schedule a 30 minute appointment with yourself (I’m serious – what gets scheduled gets done) and follow the outline I have shared with you in this article. At least get to the point where you have identified several joint venture partners. You can easily do this if you invest the time.

Remember, a joint venture doesn’t have to be complex. It can be as simple as agreeing to do a mutual exchange where you and your partner distribute each other’s business cards. Once you complete your first successful joint venture and see how effective they can be, you will be hooked! So schedule that appointment with yourself now!

Now you know the basic process for creating joint venture projects. The process is the same regardless of the scale of your project.

For those who pursue this method of marketing their small business the rewards can be great. You really can create an avalanche of new customers sales and profit in your small business with joint venture marketing. The question is will you?

Join me next time for the fourth and final installment in this series where we will discuss how you can generate thousands of dollars worth of publicity for your business, completely free of charge.

Marketing Methods That Immediately Grow Your Small Business, Part 4

Press releases are one of the most effective ways of getting free publicity for your small business. Many small business owners fail to capitalize on this method because they just don’t know how to write or successfully submit press releases. This article will show you exactly how to do this so you can add this method to your lead generation and customer acquisition tools, immediately.

What is a press release?

Let’s start by stating what a press release is not. A press release is NOT an advertisement or thinly veiled sales pitch for your small business. Instead it is an informative, newsworthy piece, submitted to the media with the intention of it being included in their publication or programming.

Why should I use a press release?

When published, press releases can draw the attention of your target market to events taking place at your company such as a new product launch, a sale, or a new venture. A successful press release can peak the interest of your ideal prospects and have them beating a path to your door.

You can also use press releases to establish yourself as an authority or expert in your field, an excellent strategy for building credibility in the eyes of your audience.

What can I write about?

The short answer is you can write about anything newsworthy that would be of interest to editors, journalists or producers of publications and programming for your target prospects. Here are seven of my favorite, tried and tested, newsworthy events to spur your press release ideas:

  • Events related to current affairs and news
  • An amazing, incredible and/or unusual story
  • Results of survey or study
  • Customer case study
  • Community events and involvement
  • Lists, related to timely news
  • Timely “how to” information

The most important thing regarding the subject of your press release is to be sure that it is newsworthy material your media contacts will want to publish. Never, ever submit blatant advertisements or sales pitches for your products, services, or business as press releases. You may create an unfavorable representation in the mind of the media professional that may prove difficult to overcome.

How do I write a press release?

When writing a press release, this first and foremost thing you should have in mind is your audience. Remember: your primary audience is NOT you target prospects. It is the media representatives who publish or produce programming for your target prospects.

As in all marketing, you write with your audience in mind. In the case of press releases, you are writing to editors, journalists and radio or TV producers. Your media contacts must find your release compelling or your target prospects will never see it. Therefore, the better you target your message to the media, the more likely you are to have your press release published.

Once you have determined what you are going to write about, that is, the point of your press release, you need to state it in a compelling way in your headline. Your headline should grab the reader’s attention and entice them to read more. The principals of writing headlines for direct marketing work beautifully here. If you need help in this area, drop me a line, I’ll be happy to send you some free resources to assist you.

After the headline, comes your introductory paragraph. The goal of this section is to draw the reader into the rest of your release. After your headline, the first 15 words of your introductory paragraph are the most important words of your entire release – choose them wisely.

While I can’t guarantee that every press release will run based solely on the strength of the content of this paragraph, I can absolutely assure you that releases are rejected based on the irrelevance or other perceived weakness of this paragraph. So communicate the most important elements of your story succinctly. Keep this paragraph sort and sweet and reiterate the headline of your story.

In the second paragraph, you can summarize your point. You must be factually accurate. Discuss facts and specifics. In this section you are building credibility. Do not exaggerate, as you will appear untrustworthy.

You might cite a source or an expert to establish credibility for your story. Create a connection in the mind of your reader between your story and the credible source. You could include a quote in this paragraph, ether from the source or from a representative related to your business or from a customer or client. In this section you are building a logical, rational support system for your story. Remember, you are building credibility.

In the third paragraph, I like to inject some personality into the release. This is where you authenticate any claims made in paragraph two and communicate them with enthusiasm and passion. In this paragraph, you connect at the emotional level with your readers.

In the fourth paragraph you elaborate on your story by providing more details. The answers to who, what, why, where, when, and how are included in this section. This is a great place to add bullets to your release. Bullets make this section easy to read and scan and help the reader glean the main points of this section. You could also include some biographical information about a source you quoted earlier in your release, and perhaps extend their message with an addition quote from them.

In the fifth paragraph you can include more specialized details of your story. These details will likely be less important to the general readership as a whole, but could appeal to those interested in the granular level detail of your story.

In the last paragraph you give a general overview of your business. This is a great place to communicate your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

Once you have written your press release, read it aloud to uncover any sticking points in the sentence structure. Next, proof read the release and eliminate any spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Finally, have at least one other person read your release before submitting it to the media.

How do I format my press release?

Formatting your press release is simple. Forget about fancy formatting, you’re not attempting to win any design awards or dazzle the media rep. with your graphic design skills.

Start with standard, letter size paper. Incorporate at least a one inch margin all the way around the page.

Begin with your headline, in title case (NOT ALL CAPS), in a bolded 12 point font. The bold formatting will draw attention to your headline. The remainder of your release will be in the same font, only without the bold formatting. Use two spaces after each sentence.

Begin the introductory paragraph with your city in capital letters, state and date followed by a dash symbol. Then lead straight into your opening paragraph. For example: LAS VEGAS, Nevada, July 1, 2010 – The Ivory Tower Hotel and Casino has announced that…

Wherever possible, limit your release to a single page. If you must, use two pages, but never more than two pages. If you cannot tell your story on a single page, finish the last sentence on the first page and indicate the continuation of the release by ending the first page with the word “more” between two dashes, centered on the page as follows:

– more –

Once you have completed your story, include your contact information. Make it as easy as possible for the media representatives to contact you should they wish to. Include all of your contact information including: street address, phone, fax, email, and website address.

Finally, signal the end of your release with three pound or hash symbols, left justified as follows:

# # #

In the event that you plan to print and submit your release via regular mail and it is more than one page, print on one side of the paper only.

How do I submit a press release?

The best answer to this question is in whatever manner your media contact prefers it. This will depend on the organization you are submitting your press release to and the individual receiving it.

Remember, when submitting your press release you are submitting it to a person, not a machine. Therefore, anything you can find out about that person’s preferences regarding press release submissions can only serve you. Why not call the person directly and ask them? Tell them that you have a story you think their audience will appreciate and communicate the essence of your headline. This approach can create anticipation on the part of the media representative and virtually guarantee that your submission will get noticed, once you submit it.

If you are not sure of how best to submit your release, a call to the organization or a visit to their website will usually clarify this matter for you. Usually, an emailed version of your release is acceptable, even preferred. Always check to be certain.

What do I do now?

Now that you know how to write, format and submit your press release, you are that much further ahead than the vast majority of small business owners who don’t know and haven’t invested the time to find out. My suggestion for you is to schedule 10-15 minutes with yourself either now or later today and review the seven newsworthy events we discussed earlier and come up with at least three angles for your press release.

Then get to work! Pick your favorite angle, write the release and submit it to the media representatives that serve your targeted prospects.

For best results, combine this approach with the other methods you have learned in this series. Why not issue a press release regarding a free offer you are making? How about announcing a joint venture or strategic partnership? The possibilities for generating leads and adding new customers to your small business with these methods are endless. All you have to do is take action and implement the ideas I have shared with you in this series. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get to work!

Small Business Marketing Plan Revisited

Creating a small business marketing plan as a subcategory of your overall business plan is vital for evoking and accelerating business growth. When you have a plan, you are able to focus on the right things at the right time and measure your progress toward a goal.

Many business owners are resisting planning. When you’re running a business, you can easily be consumed by your day to day responsibilities. But failing to plan can be a great mistake.

Now, what is the essential function of marketing? To generate qualified sales leads. There are any number of methods that can be used to do that but how do you know which methods to use if you don’t have a plan?

And how do you know what your lucrative marketing activities are? How do you invest in those activities if you don’t know how big your budget is, or know what results you are trying to produce?

A marketing plan doesn’t need to be a huge document. First, start with your business goals for the next six months. You should already have these, for example your target revenue, if nothing else.

Now, what marketing goals align with those business goals? Ok, you want to make 100k. How many leads do you need to generate in order to allow your selling activities to close the deals necessary to reach this revenue target?

Next, what marketing strategies are necessary to meet your business goal? Will you need to get more publicity? Expand into a new market? Reach more people in your current market? Create a direct mail campaign? Create sales partnerships?

You must pick one or two that deliver on what you are aiming for and hit your target revenue. Now, determine what specific activities will achieve your strategies.

At this point it gets a little bit tricky. You must choose from a vast pool of marketing options/activities and you must choose the activities that will work best for the potential customer you want to reach. You might need to participate in trade show events where you get face to face with your market.

You might need to launch a new website, you might need to implement a referral program for current customers. The list goes on and on.

Whatever your activities are, put them together into your plan and create target metrics (e.g. number of leads collected, number of prospects you talked to, etc).

Finally, you end up with your marketing plan.

The next step, your sales plan, tells you how the leads generated by marketing will be converted to customers, and how back end sales will be made to those customers. Sales metrics include conversion rates, overall revenues, or revenue per customer/per square foot/per time spent in the store, etc.

The great thing is that now you have something to measure against and you can review things periodically to see if you are on track or if something needs to be adjusted.

This process or call it small business marketing plan, doesn’t need to take a lot of time but the benefits to your business can be huge. Having a plan will give you a lot more insights into your well oiled business machine or parts of your business that need some tweaking.

Marketing Methods That Immediately Grow Your Small Business, Part 2

What if there was a proven way to generate a surge of leads and new customers for your small business any time you wanted to? Would you do it? Well, there is a way to do just that. All you have to do is:

Give something away for free.

One of my favorite methods to instantly add new customers to your small business is giving your prospective customers something for free. This is by far the fastest way to attract new customers to your business. Now, if the idea of giving something away for free concerns you, relax. You don’t have to give away the entire farm for free! Just give a free sample of your product, service, or expertise.

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

The owner of a new restaurant mailed 120 highly targeted letters to potential customers in the area announcing the opening of his new restaurant and offering the reader a free lunch. The results? 100 of the 120 people mailed accepted the offer and visited the restaurant to claim their free lunch. Half of those people were accompanied by one or more people who purchased lunch at the regular menu price. Most of the people who visited became regular customers.

As a result of using targeted direct mail to promote his business, the restaurant owner was able to build in six days what would have otherwise have taken him six months to accomplish with traditional print advertising. What about you? How much could you grow your business if you gave something away for free to attract new customers?

What can you give away for free?

The simple answer is whatever profitably entices your target audience. Your small business is unique, but here are a few examples to get your creative juices flowing:

Professional service providers such as lawyers, accountants and health care professionals could offer a free consultation. Restaurants – a free appetizer with a main course. Pool services – a free pool chemical inspection. Cleaning companies – offer to clean one room for free. Golf courses – free golf cart rental. Brakes/muffler/A/C shops – a free inspection.

Case in point: a local auto parts store offers free battery testing and replacement. Through their offer to give something for free they get the sale of a new battery and a new customer. They also offer to diagnose the problem when the dreaded check engine light comes on. On the weekends, there can be a line of people waiting to receive this free service. Many of them purchase the replacement part that caused the problem. I could go on and on and ON, but you get my point: to get something, give something of value first.

Why does giving something away for free work?

Giving things away for free works because it takes away all the risk from the initial transaction and establishes a relationship between you and your ideal prospect. It also engages prospects in your product or service who were not involved with it previously. Once a prospect has become your customer they are far more likely to buy from you again and again.

In effect, giving something away for free can give you the ultimate double whammy – you get the initial free transaction which often leads to an immediate, profitable sale and you get to bank the lifetime value of the customer. Now, I have a quick a word of caution:

You must test your free offers on a small scale before ramping them up.

When making a free offer, the goal is to do so in a way that is profitable. After all, you’re running a business, not a charity. Ideally you will convert many of the prospects wanting to take advantage of your free offer into profitable sales and customers immediately. Some you will convert later as a result of collecting their contact information and following up with subsequent offers.

Once you have proven that your free offer is profitable on a small scale, you can crank it up a notch. If it remains profitable, crank it up again, and again. The point here is not to get ahead of yourself. By all means create free offers, but do so only to the extent that they add new customers, sales and profit to your business.

That’s all I have for you in this, the second article in the series, “Marketing Methods That Immediately Grow Your Small Business.” Join me in the next installment when we discuss how you can quickly get new customers by legally accessing the customer lists of other businesses.