Tag Archives: promotion

Who’s the Best?

There are lots of things in life where you can clearly state what is “best”: in class, whoever scored highest on the test is the best student. In soccer, whoever won the World Cup is the best team. There are enough of them, in fact, that we frequently forget how many things in life cannot be clearly defined to be “best”.

Most pertinently, “best” can almost never be determined in business. When I was in college, “best” to me meant cheapest. When I graduated and got a “real job”, I was able to afford more expense, and “best” included durability and quality and price per unit (Now that my graduate student loans are coming due, “best” may go back to meaning cheapest.) If you’re handling neurotoxins, “best” means “safest”. There are lots of ways to define best, which means there are lots of ways to be the best.

If you can’t be the cheapest, can you be the fastest? If you can’t be the most insightful writer, can you be the funniest? Use what you do best.

Getting Started: Finding Customers

So you’ve decided what to do, you’ve planned a monetization mix, and perhaps even written a business plan. Now what?

If you’re in the business of selling products, you need to figure out how to get your products made, and how to get them to customers. But if you’re selling your time, you can’t even really do that; the first thing you need is for a customer to tell you what they want so that you can get started on making it happen. And for that, you need a customer.

This is a place where my bias my affect how useful my advice is: I’ve only ever seen this done in a US suburb, and these methods may not work as well in other settings. If that’s the case, hopefully this will at least give you ideas.

Make it possible to find you

Sometimes you’ll talk to exactly the right person at exactly the time they most need you. This is awesome… but rare. It’s more likely that you talk to someone who may need you in the future, or someone who doesn’t need you now, but knows someone who does, or someone who knows someone who might need you in the future.

In these cases, you have to give them some way to get back to you. The traditional method for handling this is the business card: you give it to them, and they file it in their call-when-we’re-redecorating file, or give it to someone they know. Your business may be better suited to brochures, or magnets, or tiny DVDs, but you need to give them some way of finding you again when they want to. And it’s probably a good idea to have a couple of business cards anyway, because it’s so very much the standard of business interaction.

Tell People

Tell everyone…

Now that you don’t have to rely on telling exactly the right people at exactly the right time, it’s time to tell everyone you know. If you’re already involved in social media, then post a twitter update, write a blog post, and share a note in Facebook. Tell everyone what you’re doing, and why (people feel more comfortable saying, “I have a friend who started her own design business because she wanted to give better service than her boss was letting her give” than saying, “You should use my friend’s design business because… um… she’s m friend.. and.. she’s… really cool.”)

You may not be comfortable telling everyone… I understand, and I sympathize. Whether your friends think you should keep your nice respectable job, or your parents think you’re not really qualified to run a business (though they’d never say it out loud), or your wacko uncle thinks all capitalists are evil manipulative bastards, there can be reasons that telling everyone would make your life very uncomfortable. Read The Invisible Mallet, and think about what you’re afraid of. Then use your best judgement… but know that the more people who know of your business, the more people can send you customers.

…with special attention for the important people

This is not “important” people in the sense of people with highfalutin’ titles or political sway. This is the people who are most likely to tell other people about you.

Do you have a friend who starts up a conversation with everyone they meet? They’d be perfect. Do you know a dentist, or a hairdresser, or someone else who has to make conversation with their customers while they’re working? Also good. Is there someone in your circle who’s the go-to guy whenever someone needs a recommendation for a plumber or a new dishwasher? Try to get on his recommendation list.

Set up a time to meet with them — maybe over coffee, or at their shop, or whatever’s convenient for them. Tell them what you do, what kinds of problems you can help with, and what kinds of customers you’re looking for. Emphasize that you’re not asking them to sell for you, and certainly don’t want them to recommend you to anyone who couldn’t benefit from your services. You only want to let them know what you do so that they can help out anyone who would benefit by knowing you. If it makes sense, you could offer them a discount or a free service so that they can judge for themselves how good you are. Answer any questions they have, and leave them some business cards. Offer to help them in some way by taking their business cards and promoting their services, by giving them some free consulting, or just ask them what they’d like.

Look for people who need you

Check out Craigslist employment ads and gig ads. Look for people who want someone to do what you’re already doing. Contact them and see if they’d be interested in your services.

My cousin works as a virtual assistant; many people on Craigslist are looking to hire personal assistants for their business, but many would prefer someone who works from home, doesn’t require regular or guaranteed hours, and isn’t asking for benefits. A perfect match!

My partner’s computer-repair business got started when he found an existing computer-repair business that was overwhelmed with customers and needed someone to whom to send the overflow. He got a chance to build up his business and find clients, and they got to please their customers without having to hire a full-time employee.

Start looking at your promotional budget

All of that was stuff that costs only time, and hopefully has gotten you started. If you have some money, there are a couple more options to examine.

Join a networking group

In my area anyway, networking groups are run by the Chamber of Commerce, and you must be a member of the chamber to join. This can be a worthwhile expense because the networking groups are full of people who meet the criteria described above: they meet and talk to a lot of people, and they’re looking for ways to help their clients out.

Buy some advertising

What kind of advertising depends on your business, your area, and your monetization mix. If you have a good website, you may do best with pay-per-click ads from Google; restaurants like billboards; and many plumbers are still doing well with the Yellow Pages. It will take some experimentation to find what works for you. Do some research on what your clients read, where they drive, and how they do research; pick something that looks likely and fits your budget, and give it a shot.

Work on your other monetization methods

In my monetization mix case study, I talked about how your monetization methods should all reinforce and support each other. Once you’ve handed out business cards and everyone knows what you do, and until it’s time to check in again for a periodic update, the best thing you can do to get customers is to get your blog up and running, or your ebook ready to sell, or you YouTube videos ready for viewing.

Distillery Tours and Alternate Monetization

Since I’m in Kentucky right now with my family, in the heart of Bourbon country, we decided to take a tour of a distillery. We toured the grounds at Maker’s Mark in Loretto, Kentucky, and it was pretty cool. We got to walk down the bottling assembly line, stand in the room where they cook down the corn at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (not actually very appealing on a day when the ambient temperature was 98 Fahrenheit), and look at the 500-lb barrels of White Dog Liquor aging itself into Bourbon. And best of all? It was all free, even the two servings of bourbon at the end of the tour.

There are other ways to monetize

A lot of people have come up with ways to make value. I mean, there’s always something you’re better at than other people, by talent or training, or both. It’s not that hard to come up with something that other people like.

But then, many times, they insist on charging for it.

Now that’s OK. If you’re providing value, you should be able to get people to pay for it. But it’s not the only way to monetize.

“Free” doesn’t mean you’re not making money

Take the distillery tour. They let me into their factory, gave me an education on bourbon, and let me drink some of their product, for no charge. Suckers, right? Giving away their product for nothing. Providing value for free when they could have charged.

Well, let’s look at the “nothing” they got in return.


The tour, naturally, ended in the gift shop. Where, it happens, you can buy their bourbon. Or any number of other souvenir items, most dipped in red wax (the signature style of Maker’s Mark). Since a single bottle of bourbon probably pays the tour guide’s wages, and there were 15 of us on the tour, they’re certainly not losing money. The probably could have charged $5/person for the tour, for a total of $45 in revenue. But by not charging, they made us feel appreciated, and that we were getting something for free, and like we had money to spare. And at $20 per bottle, with 5 bottles sold (that I saw), they made $100 in revenue.

Educated bourbon drinkers

Bourbon is different from beer, and should be drunk differently. Appreciating the distinctions between bourbons, and recognizing a fine bourbon, is much easier when you know how to appreciate the scent, the taste, and the aftertaste. The tour guide educated us on the correct glassware, where the bourbon should be placed on the tongue, and other notes for proper bourbon appreciation. This education won’t make a difference in dedicated abstainers like me, but it could well make the difference between an indifferent bourbon drinker like my father and an enthusiastic bourbon drinker like my brother, which can in turn make the difference between a bottle every few years and a bottle every few months.

Brand Loyalty

People like familiarity. They like stuff they know about. I now have a relationship with Maker’s Mark: I’ve met their people, walked their grounds, learned about their signature red wax. When I walk into a liquor store, there’s only one bourbon I’ll recognize. Which am I most likely to buy?

Product Exposure

As I mentioned, we each got two servings of bourbon at the end of the tour. Glass #1 was the standard, original Maker’s Mark. This glass would be worth giving away just for the benefits mentioned above. But we also received, in Glass #2, the new pre-mixed Maker’s Mark Mint Julep. This product (dipped instead in green wax), is fairly new, and relatively few people are even aware of its existence. By offering it to everyone who goes on tour, they have an effective way of spreading the word about a new product for way less than the cost of a Superbowl Ad.

Think about your monetization

Does this mean you should never charge people for your value? Of course not. Even in the above example, the distillery is charging for their bourbon. The goal is simply to get the proper mix of direct and alternative monetization.

Don’t just slap a price tag on everything you create. Look at everything you do, and ask yourself.

  • Is this of value to my customers? Why is it of value to them?
  • How much would someone pay for this?
  • How else could I monetize this? Sell ads? Advertise my own products? Affiliate marketing? Lead customers towards high-margin products?
  • What other benefits could I derive from this? Traffic increases? Education? Buzz in social media?
  • What is the best way to derive maximum benefit from this value I’m providing?

Resources for Further Reading
Free: The Future of a Radical New Price

What Would Google Do?

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The New Concept of Marketing

Once upon a time, when I was a kid growing up in the 80s, mass production was the rule. The economics looked something like this:

  • My local cobbler can make a pair of shoes that fits me perfectly. It costs $50.

  • My local Payless Shoes can provide me with a pair of shoes that fit OK. They cost $20.

By ignoring their customers’ needs, and focusing on what will turn out the most shoes in the least time, manufacturers were able to drastically reduce the cost of shoes. In turn, we all got used to ignoring our own needs, in order to get lower prices.

The 4 Ps of marketing, then looked like this:

Price (as low as possible) ->
Product (whatever we can make cheaply) ->
Promotion (make people think they want our product) ->
Place (wherever we tell them to go)

In other words, you made what you wanted to make, and then spent money to convince people to buy it.

The new rules

I admit that shoes are still pretty much produced the same way. But your local shoe store has many more options, and there are thousands more online. Whatever your requirements, you can find a shoe that meets them.

There are several driving forces for this, but the long and the short of it is that power has shifted. We no longer have to settle for a product that’s good enough. We can almost certainly find a product that’s ideal.

Many, many companies have yet to realize this. But the intelligent ones have shifted their focus from internal to external. A 5th P has been added, to look like this:

Participation (Talk to people, find out what they like and what they want) ->
Product (Whatever the market wants) ->
Price (as low as the market will bear) ->
Promotion/Participation (let people know that you have what they want) ->
Place (wherever is convenient for your customers)

That is, you make what people want to buy, and then let them know it’s available.

What it means to you

The good news: you no longer have to be a conniving, deceptive weasel to be successful in business. Marketing is no longer about manipulating people into buying stuff they don’t want or need.

The bad news: you can no longer make what you want and manipulate people into buying it. You have to make what other people want.

This brings us back to the venn diagram of happiness in business:

You have to find something that overlaps between what you want to make and what people want to buy.

But at least you don’t have to be a lying scumbag.

Resources for Further Reading
Happiness In Business Diagram
Product Is the New Marketing
The Price Is Right

The Hardest Thing You’ll Do

Robert Kiyosaki, in Rich Dad, Poor Dad tells a story of a reporter and author who confessed how much she hoped to be a best-selling author like he is.

Kiyosaki looked at some of her writing and proclaimed it much better than his (which I’m sure is true), and suggested that she take a few courses in sales techniques. Offended, the reporter proclaimed herself a “professional” who had obtained her masters so she wouldn’t have to be a dirty, pushy, sleazy salesperson.

Kiyosaki pointed to her notepade where she had written, “Robert Kiyosaki, best-selling author.” Not, he pointed out, best ‘writing’ author. She stormed out in a huff.

You’ll Face This Too

This is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do in your transition from relying on others for money to monetizing yourself. As long as you’re working for a company, you can rely on them to do all the nasty, ugly hard work, like accounting and sales.

Accounting you can pick up. It’s boring, but it’s not difficult. And you don’t have to be very successful before you have enough to outsource it.

Sales, ultimately, you cannot outsource; even if you get others to sell your product for you, you have to convince them that your product is worth selling… you have to sell it to your salespeople.

One way or another, you are going to have to stand in front of people and say to them,
“What I have here is a great product, and you will be worse off if you don’t buy it.”
That’s hard under the best of circumstances. And it’s really hard when the product you’re selling is yourself.

I don’t have an easy answer for you. But know that you’re not alone.

Resources for Further Reading
Sales Dogs
The Sales Bible
The above product links are affiliate links. If you enjoyed and appreciated this information, you can give me monetary reward by buying products through those links. Learn More.