Archive for April, 2007

Get Ready for Tax Time!

April 8th, 2007

Here’s an idea that is pretty much guaranteed to get you some television time.

Get out the yellow pages and log onto the internet searching for newspapers in your area. Find mailing addresses, fax numbers, and contacts to send press releases. You should easily be able to find at least 2 or 3 papers even in very rural areas that serve your area. But also seek out local news stations for all the networks and any local cable access stations.

Write a press release announcing that you will be doing strolling magic at the post office on the evening of April 15. You want to create a very catchy title. If you think you can improve on the one provided, fine, but you may want to save yourself the time and just use the enclosed press release as is. Otherwise, feel free to use this one as a format upon which to create your own press release. Include a photo if possible, even if you have to stage it to look like a live performance.

The idea is that every year they do a news story about people paying their taxes at the last minute. You could be a new slant on that old-hat story.

Recommended Reading: “Free Publicity” by Jeff Crilley. This book was written by a newscaster who was tired of people sending in crummy press releases. It details step by step not only HOW to write a great press release that will get you free media coverage, but also WHEN to submit the release, HOW to behave and speak once you get your coverage, and shows you WHY the media outlets NEED you to send in good press releases. They are starving for your story. They WANT to put you on the air, you just have to package it for them in the right way.

Next week you’ll be doing your strolling magic for people paying taxes. You need to get ready by going through your magic closets and drawers and pulling out any money tricks that can be done standing up. As an example, you can do the six-bill repeat talking about how all you made last year was 1,2,3,4,5,6 dollars. Then you had to pay 1,2,3 in FICA taxes which left you with 1,2,3,4,5,6 dollars. But then you had to pay 1,2,3 dollars in Social Security taxes, which left you with….you get the idea.

Here’s the sample press release. Feel free to use it as you like.

For Immediate Release
Contact Name: [YOUR NAME]
Contact Number: [YOUR PHONE NUMBER]
Contact E-Mail: [YOUR E-MAIL]


Magician [YOUR NAME] decided to do something a little different this year by making everyone’s last minute tax concerns disappear. If you will be paying your taxes at the very last minute, you might want to ask [YOUR NAME] if he can make your tax bill disappear. [YOUR NAME] will be at the [YOUR MAIN POST OFFICE] to help entertain taxpayers as they line up to file their last minute returns.

“I can’t make a tax bill disappear” says [YOUR NAME], “But I do try to ease the stress that last minute filing has, especially when it is accompanied by the long lines at the post office.”

[YOUR NAME], who primarily performs at [YOUR USUAL VENUE] says that he enjoys the opportunity to perform for people like himself. “I work hard and as a small business owner, I totally understand the frustration that comes from the whole taxation process. But as a citizen, I appreciate the contributions each member of our community puts back, not only in the form of the taxes they pay, but more importantly, in the work they do every day to provide products and services to our community.” says [YOUR NAME].

“If I can make a few people laugh while they are in line, or go home thinking more about how I made their dollar bill float in their hand [OR WHATEVER EFFECT YOU THINK YOU MAY DO OR WHATEVER YOU HAVE A PICTURE OF] than they do about the huge check they had to send in to the bureaucrats in Washington, then I know I have done my job.”

[YOUR NAME] provides this service for free, but it is only at the [YOUR MAIN POST OFFICE, and make sure they are open late on tax night] and only on the evening of April 15, from 8 pm until midnight [OR WHATEVER HOURS YOU DECIDE TO WORK, but it is strongly advised that you don’t get started much later than 8 or you will NEVER make the 10 o’clock news, which is something that you really want to strive for] Now, if we can just get to him to make our paychecks double and our tax bills disappear, we’ll be set!


Another Phone Mistake…

April 7th, 2007

In January I wrote about how so many marketers WASTE their phone message with a voice that totally cancels the words that are said. If you say “exciting” but your voice is BORING, then your message is cancelled. If you are funny and enthusiastic, let it be heard in your VOICE, not just your words.

But there are two other answering machine/voice mail mistakes that I hear people make all the time and I want to make sure that YOU are not making them. Take a moment to call yourself and listen to what your customers and prospects have to listen to before they are allowed to leave a message.

NOTICE: This is entirely different from pressing the “Hear Message” option as I’ll explain below!!

MISTAKE #1: Don’t waste time telling people how an answering machine works. There is no need to tell ANYONE that in order to leave a message they have to wait for the beep. Answering machines have been around for over 30 years now. We ALL know how they work. Worse is that most voice mail systems AUTOMATICALLY add a very long message telling listeners how to…

“press one to page this person now [long pause] press two if you would like to send this person a text message now[really long pause] if you would like to leave a message [DUH!] wait patiently while I mention seven other functions that no one uses and THEN I’ll play the beep, but not a second sooner.”

You can turn this option off and I highly suggest that you do. There is no need for it, and it wastes everyone’s time. I truly believe the cell phone companies do it because they know it adds a minute to every single phone call made that doesn’t connect directly. The result, after literally BILLIONS of cell phone calls made each day, is a noticeable increase in revenue. You don’t have to participate nor do you have to force your customers to participate in this invisible scam that steals more than cell phone minutes. It steals everyone’s valuable time as they listen to pointless instructions. Disable this function on your voice mail!

MISTAKE #2: Not telling people alternate ways of getting the information they want. People have become accustomed to instant gratification. If you can’t serve them immediately they either move on to someone else or lay aside their conversation with you to get to at a later date. That later date might not come. Your answering machine message should mention your web site at least as well as alternate phone numbers if you allow customers to call you on those lines.

There are lots of other little things you can do to improve your answering machine message, but most are a matter of preference and specific goals. These two things (combined with using a positive and enthusiastic voice) are NOT options! Implement them today!


Self Capitalizing Gratuities

April 1st, 2007

The Houston Zoo recently had an offer that they would give you $1 off your admission during spring break if you came to the zoo via Houston Metro (our bus system). This, in effect, paid for some, possibly all of your transportation to the zoo.

Why would they do this during the busiest week of the year? I mean, every spring break, they have more people than they can even get into the zoo. Why would you offer a discount to anyone during your PEAK season? That’s when most companies RAISE their rates.

The answer of course, is that the offer was a self-capitalizing gratuity (SCG). This is a term for discounts that actually pay for themselves through the increased revenue they generate.

As an example, let’s look at The Houston Zoo during spring break. We are members of the zoo so we don’t pay admission at all, but we also don’t visit during peak days and times. However, we spend a lot of time in the museum district where the zoo is located (we are also members of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Natural Science) and can tell you that during peak times, every parking spot within miles is long gone.

So what usually happens is the parking lots fill and then the streets fill and then people begin parking illegally and the parking tickets begin to flow and people change their plans and go to the beach 60 miles to the south instead of fighting all the traffic.

By encouraging people to visit via public transportation, the zoo is able to free up parking spaces for those who didn’t know about the discount or couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity for some reason. The zoo, you see, can hold far more patrons than it’s parking lot can hold cars. So when the parking lot is full, the zoo still has plenty of room for visitors.

Some have suggested that the zoo remove the 280 granite blocks that form the courtyard and replace that area with a paved parking lot. While this would help the zoo on a small level it is not as cost effective as the implementation of a well-crafted SCG.

Be careful not to confuse SCGs with SLGs (Self-Liquidating Gratuities). SLGs pay for themselves, but don’t generate ADDITIONAL income. For example, when you offer a discount for a library system that books you for two shows instead of one, you both benefit. But the additional show is effectively done at a discount.

This is not a problem but recognize the difference between having something pay for itself (SLG) and having an offer than brings in 100% pure profit. SCGs are self-CAPITALIZING, in that they bring in only pure profit. When the zoo offers a discount for someone who rode the bus, that patron is (in effect) pure profit since if they would have come in a car they would not have been able to enter the zoo at all. There is no additional cost to the zoo to have that patron enter so their entry fee thus has a zero cost base.

When you further calculate the average concession sales that each customer makes, you can see that SCGs are a great way to grow a business.

If you are considering new ways to grow your business, think hard about how SCGs can help you out.