April 1, 2011 Issue #263
Lots of industries have lots of traditions regarding the way they market themselves. Make sure you're not just following the pack (and getting lost along the way).
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All the best,
Michael J. Katz
Founder and Chief Penguin
|Here in New England, the onset of spring is predictably punctuated by two things: |
- Snow. That's right, snow in April. Just when you think winter is finally over, Mother Nature, as she is doing at this very moment, likes to drop a few more inches, just to make sure everyone knows who's boss.
Of course, snow in April isn't all that troublesome. Like being threatened with bodily harm by an 8-year-old, it gets your attention momentarily, but it's mostly just cute and usually no cause for concern.
At first blush, it's not surprising that lawn care companies get in touch this time of year. After all, nobody around here is thinking about their lawn in January.
- Direct mail from local lawn care companies. In the past two weeks I've received a barrage of letters and postcards on a scale and intensity usually reserved for sperm in search of an egg.
My mailbox is overflowing with offers, most from close,
personal friends who know me by my nicknames, "Home Owner" and "Current Resident."
And yet when I consider the lawn-related mail I've received these past few weeks, I can't help but notice a missed opportunity. Here's what I mean...
- The mail pieces all use the same words (more or less), look the same way (more or less) and highlight the same points (more). "Spring is a time for renewal," "Enjoy a greener lawn," "Jumpstart spring."
Excuse me while I yawn deeply. In their defense, there's not much you can say about lawn care that's particularly different or particularly interesting. The facts themselves are indeed all the same.
What if though, you sent me lawn care information wrapped inside a story - your personal, true-life story? Not only would it be more interesting than a bunch of shiny lawn-ish words, it would be, by definition, unique.
Suggestion: Tell stories when you sell.
- The mail pieces only arrive in the spring.
What if, instead of contacting me just once a year (at precisely the same time as all the competition, I might add), a lawn care company sent me a ... (wait for it) ... monthly E-Newsletter? An E-Newsletter filled with useful information regarding the care and feeding of my property, all year round.
Then maybe when spring came, not only wouldn't I consider the competing offers of the other companies, maybe I'd even call you, the people I've come to know and trust throughout the year.
Suggestion: Don't wait until you need the sale to be in touch.
All of this, of course, applies in equal measure to non-power-tool-using professional services:
- The mail pieces assume I'm a stranger. The truth is, I don't fault the lawn care companies I've never heard of for sending mail. It's targeted, it's timely and you have to start somewhere.
But why is it that the lawn companies I've done business with in the past don't think to get back in touch with me as a former, presumably satisfied customer? Don't you think it's easier to sell to people who've already bought from you? (That's rhetorical; the answer is "yes.")
Suggestion: Past and present customers are the low-hanging fruit ... pick them first.
Most professional firms use the same phrases to describe their wonderfulness. Most professional firms reach out to their clients just once a year at the holidays. Most professional firms rely on marketing tactics that ignore hard won, existing relationships.
But don't despair; the bar for standing out is really, really low (and I'm guessing it always will be). Just try to avoid saying what everyone else is saying at the same time and in the same way as they're saying it. (You might want to read that sentence again.)
After all, if you want me to believe even half the happy chit chat on your web site about how different you are, maybe you should say or do something once in a while that demonstrates it.
I'll be out padlocking the mailbox if you need me.
Enough About You, Let's Talk About Us
And speaking of happy
chit chat, thank you to my bestest buddies in the whole wide world at Constant Contact for featuring me as a "success story" (are you listening, Mom?) on the front page of their "Solution Providers Program."
Click the image and scroll down for a 2-minute, 42-second video in which I do my best (unsuccessfully) to not bob my head and not draw attention to my wrinkly forehead (Hint: Don't watch this while eating.).
Thinking about signing up for the Constant Contact service? Click here and make us both rich.
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