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Archive for October, 2006

The Close is really just the Opening

October 25th, 2006

It was 9:18 in the evening when the doorbell rang. That’s pretty late for uninvited guests, but when I looked through the peephole I saw a distorted image of my neighbor, so I opened the door.

Turns out, it wasn’t my neighbor at all. It was a lady trying to sell vacuum cleaners, and she quickly launches into her sales pitch while my wife is trying to dress my daughter for a bed time that passed 18 minutes ago.

Now, normally I’m a sucker for a good sales pitch. I think all salesmen are at heart. But I’ve dealt with this vacuum cleaner thing before. The thing is, our entire house is floored with hardwood and ceramic tile. Even the bedrooms and closets are all floored with hardwood. There is not a stitch of carpet in our house other than the welcome mat and a throw rug in the master bedroom.

So when she finishes her brief spiel I say, “Good luck, but unfortunately we don’t have any carpet in our house at all. You are standing on the only carpet we own.”

She doesn’t bat an eye. She continues as if I were a bad actor who forgot my lines and the real lines were “Tell me more!”

“It only takes 20 minutes for a complete demonstration” she tells me with a smile as fake as my sister’s diamonelle ear rings.

“A demonstration of WHAT?!” I asked, now more than disappointed in her complete lack of concern for my needs, than I am irritated that she has interrupted our daughter’s bed time routine in order to try and sell me something I cannot use, and demonstrate it on carpet that I simply don’t own.

I really try not to be rude to sales people. I love to hear a good pitch. I study them. I love to be sold because I love to FEEL the psychology that goes into it. I love to analyze what I’m feeling and why. You can get a doctorate in marketing for just a few hundred dollars spent buying things sold by good sales people.

But this lady was not good. She was offensive. She didn’t care the least about what I needed or how she could help me. All she wanted was to make the sale at any cost.

And the cost would have been mine.

This sort of vampire marketing might be effective when you are just trying to make a sale and then skate town. But if you are serious about building long term relationships, getting re-bookings, generating good word of mouth, and ultimately building a long-term, sustainable business model; If you are interested in spending your time doing something other than going out every day, pestering people, lying to them, and struggling to sneak past their defenses so you can hoodwink them into buying something they don’t need then getting out to cash the check before they put a stop payment on it, then you need to realize that “the close” is not the end of the process.

It’s just the beginning.

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Reaching Critical Mass

October 16th, 2006

I just finished watching an episode of “Studio 60“. I’m not a big TV watcher but there are two shows I try to always watch: <>Saturday Night Live and <>CBS Sunday Morning. Because I like SNL, I also try to catch the new “Studio 60″ which parallels SNL pretty closely.

Anyway, on “Studio 60″ tonight, they had Sting as the performing artist. Curiously enough he was also on TV just a few hours previously on Sunday Morning. On both shows he was presenting music from his new album. This is no coincidence.

But Sting is a very intelligent man. He knows that it is much more valuable for him to appear multiple times in rapid succession than to trickle in through various media over the course of several months. I can only imagine that Sting is making other appearances in other media across the spectrum if he appeared in two of the only three shows I watch each week, both in the span of a few hours of each other.

In fact, a quick Google search for “Sting music” revealed <>11,700,000 sites. With over 11 million web sites devoted to him and his music you would think he could just release an album and it would be a hit. But he’s a businessman. As much as he presents himself as a pure artist, he is very business savvy. In fact, the very act of presenting himself as a “pure artist” is in fact a very conscious business decision, but that’s a topic for another post.

Sting knows that you don’t make an announcement and hope that everyone heard it. You also don’t make an announcement and then wait a month to make it again. You announce it over and over and over in every medium you can find in as many ways as you can create, with a rapid succession so that you reach a sort of critical mass.

How to apply this lesson in YOUR business: Remember that you can increase your efforts by 50%, and increase your exposure by 50% but wind up with 100 or 200% more results. The more you work, the more you work. It “Snow balls”, with each exposure growing the impact of the next exposure.

Think about ways to reach this “critical mass” where your results grow disproportionately from your efforts. This is what Malcolm Gladwell calls “The Tipping Point” and it is a concept that holds amazing power when you understand how to use it in your marketing.

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Business Card Idea

October 15th, 2006
I am a big believer in having other people sell my show for me. So I create systems where my customers become my unpaid sales force. I covered this in some pretty good detail in my Viral Marketing system. Here is another idea that I recently encountered that fits that same sort of strategy.

I have always felt that photos are better at stimulating conversations than logos are. Few people will ever ask “What company does this logo represent?” in reference to (for example) a magnet on your refrigerator. But when people see photos, particularly interesting photos, they often ask “Who is this?” or “What’s happening in this picture?” People like to know about other people much more than they want to know about corporate logos.

So I’m at my parents house last week and I see a business card magnetically attached to their fridge. It was a very typical photo business card layout, with a full-color head shot on the left side, and contact info on the right side. But what really caught my eye was the fact that it was a picture of a VERY young child, no more than 7 or 8 years old.

The business was one that was clearly NOT owned by a 7 or 8 year old. So anyone looking at the card HAD to ask the obvious question…

“What is this kid’s picture doing on this guy’s business card?”

Now, the guy who designed the card really dropped the ball because he didn’t have (or didn’t provide to my parents) a compelling (read viral) story to tell. He could have created a story that was funny enough or interesting enough to be worthy of telling and re-telling. It isn’t that hard. Here are a few examples of stories that would have really inspired me to spread this guy’s business story:

1) That’s a picture of the guy who started this business taken when he was 8 years old. That’s the year he first started doing this line of work.

2) That’s a picture of the CEO of the company. Really. They set up the corporation and made their kid the CEO. He’s a natural genius and supposedly they are doing really well under his guidance.

3) That’s the 37 year old man who runs this business. When he says that his product makes you feel years younger, he’s not kidding!

The point is that with a little bit of thought you can create simple systems that virtually FORCE people to talk about you. If you plan a little bit, think a little bit, then you will provide them with something compelling to say when they do talk about you. This is how you CONTROL word of mouth. This is the difference between typical word of mouth (in which you HOPE and PRAY that people will talk about you and that they will say nice things about you) and Viral Marketing where you FORCE them to talk about you and you tell them EXACTLY what to say when they talk about you.

The results are amazing. You literally create armies of unpaid sales people who gladly and regularly tell others about you and continue to sell your shows for years and years.

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Flaky Performers

October 8th, 2006

Yesterday was Saturday. It used to be such a huge day for me as I often would perform magic shows at 3-5 birthday parties every Saturday and usually another one or two on Sunday. I stopped advertising birthday parties about three years ago, when my daughter was 18 months old. I knew she would begin ballet, and have kindergarten plays, Girl Scout events, and other such weekend things that I wanted to be a part of.

I still do a few birthday parties each month but they are all repeats and referrals. I don’t accept parties unless they’ve seen me perform before. This keeps most of my weekends open, but still allows me to go out and do a few birthday parties. I love doing them, I just like having family time on the weekends, too.

So anyway, I was surprised to have someone call me and ask me to help them out. It seems they got a call from someone who hired a magician who decided at the last minute not to show up. This guy was trying to help them out by locating a performer for them.

I used to get calls like this almost every Saturday. I often thought it would be a profitable business to run an ad that said “Don’t Hire me! Just keep my number handy for when the guy you DO hire doesn’t show up”. I would imagine that a performer could keep very busy with nothing but this tag line.

Here’s a little secret, if you care: You charge a fair price and then do what you promise. You answer the phone when you can and return calls promptly when you can’t. You mail what you say you are going to mail and you show up when you say you are going to show up. You then do what you said you would do and voila! Before long you have a growing, viable business model.

Not much of a secret to success, is it?

But when you watch what so many others are doing, you would think it is a secret.

I recently met a guy who truly understands this. He acts as an agent for other performers and offers his customers a very unique guarantee. If one of his performers doesn’t show up, not only do you NOT have to pay any fees, his company will actually PAY YOU the fee you were scheduled to pay.

While this is no substitute when you are a parent with a six year old who is crying because the magician never showed up at his party, it must seem rather reassuring to a client.

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