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Making a List and Checking it Twice

Making a List and Checking it Twice
What Successful Companies Have In Common
by John Waiveris
December 2004

If there was something you could do today to increase business, would you try it? Seriously, I think I have an answer. I talk with quite a few small business owners every year and one thing always amazes me. The really successful businesses have good mailing lists, and many of the others don't know where to start.

It's understandable because it's not a normal life skill. Even the best of us just have some sort of personal address book scribbled in pencil. On the other hand, most businesses receive 70% of their income comes from existing clients...so a mailing list is FAR more valuable than any sort of advertising. In fact, it's probably the MOST important aspect of your marketing.

But Where Do You Start?

But Where Do You Start?
Sure it's a good idea, but too much work. Running a small business is a lot like coping with the holiday season. There are so many demands for our time and money...and we find it hard to sit back and enjoy. The last thing we want to do is commit to something new.

Ironically, this is a great time to jump start our marketing. It's easy. Just sit down and make a list of 20-30 customers, and buy a nice package of holiday cards. Keep in mind that you just want to stay in touch, show that you care, and make it sincere. Don't spend too much time or money, feel like you need to send out hundreds of cards, or plan a special holiday sale.

Also, don't make it too complicated or set yourself up for failure. A friend once got a postcard suggesting ways to lose weight. Do you think he'll do business with the real estate agent that sent it to him?

What Comes Next?

What Comes Next?
At first it's important to just make a small list and send SOMETHING out. The next step can be several months later - but it is important to follow up with something else. You know your market best...or perhaps the people on your list best. What would they find useful? It helps to teach something about your business and/or your relationship to them.

Regardless, sometime in early winter pull out your mailing list and send something else out. Is there news to share? How about an article that you or a hired writer put together? Or what about a newspaper clipping or short email. Again, you are just staying in touch and sharing your message. Perhaps it's time to throw a party (sale or opening) and invite your favorite customers?

Don't be surprised when you list grows over time. In the long run, you just want to develop a habit of reaching out to stay in touch with your customers.

Customer Profile: Bushy Hill Orchard

Customer Profile: Bushy Hill Orchard
Harold Law is a nice older gentleman with a happy laugh and what seems to be an ideal life. He and his wife Nora own a sweet little apple orchard in rural Connecticut (Granby). Scout troops and elementary school children make fall visits to learn about apples, and they sell wonderful pies and treats out of the apple barn.

Harold also knows quite a bit about marketing: "It's the sort of business where you need to stay in touch with your customers. People want to plan a weekend to pick their favorite apple, but every growing season is different."

One of the most effective methods of staying in touch is the Fruit Fone. Every week Harold records a short 1-2 minute message about what's ready to pick, the hours, directions, etc.

"It's like a movie theater. Some days the Fruit Fone rings off the hook. It's great because people get to hear my voice and know what's going on, and I don't need to stay by the phone." Harold Law

The Fruit Fone transitioned perfectly into a website and email "Applegrams".
People really seem to appreciate being able to visit the website and get the latest information.

"Once we got through many of the technical hurdles, managing a website and sending out email Applegrams fit in well with the Fruit Fone. It works better than direct mail, and costs less too." Harold Law

For more information about Bushy Hill Orchard, visit www.bushyhill.com

Customer Profile: DayJams

Customer Profile: DayJams
Steve Wnuk runs a rock and roll day camp (part of a bigger organization called National Guitar Workshop). Students get the sort of musical education that doesn't come anywhere else in life: how to be a rock musician.

"Running a national marketing plan requires organization and planning. Last year we had camps in 11 cities, and this year we're expanding to almost 20 locations". Steve Wnuk

Ironically, it's the sort of marketing plan that you could put together for your business.

"We use traditional advertising such as radio and newspapers which encourage people to visit our website or call. Once they are in our database we send out periodic invites for early enrollment, open house tours, etc. Invisible Gold enables us to gather addresses, and send out email mailings to lists exported from our database."

Steve stresses the importance of nuance and really taking care of your customers. "It's so important that people understand that we are listening to them and not just blindly sending things out. Having a good customer database makes all the difference"

For more information about Day Jams, visit www.dayjams.com and www.guitarworkshop.com.
John Waiveris writes about small business marketing for Invisible Gold, LLC. For more information, visit www.invisiblegold.com or call 1-888-408-7453.
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