Thanks to social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.), it only takes a couple clicks for someone to share something special with their friends. And if those friends share it with their friends, who share it with their friends, who share it with their friends, you suddenly have a “viral” campaign.
But getting hundreds or thousands of people to turn your advertisement, video or publicity stunt into a viral marketing campaign is extremely difficult. The idea is very attractive to most small businesses (free advertising on a large scale), but making it happen requires real skill and savvy. Five secrets to success are included below.
#1 It has to be unique
If you want your ad, video or publicity stunt to go viral, it has to be unusual, different, new, unique. The “content” (the video, photo, message) and the idea have to be things people haven’t seen before. Simply copying another viral campaign won’t work.
For example, in a very unusual YouTube video campaign promoting the kitchen blender Blendtec, the company’s chief executive put random items into the blender. The blender reduced an iPhone to dust in one of the videos. More than 12 million people watched the videos – leading to a 700 percent increase in Blentec sales. See the Blendtec YouTube video.
You’ve sent press releases and made follow-up phone calls, but your ideas for featuring your company in news articles aren’t getting any attention. Sound familiar? Included below are the most likely reasons:
You’re targeting the wrong reporter
Reporters typically work “beats” – which means each of them covers a specific type of news issue. If you’re targeting the wrong reporter, chances are very slim that person will forward your idea to the right reporter. Sending your story idea to an editor or the general “news tips” email account means it will have to clear a number of gatekeepers before reaching the right reporter.
You could call the front office and ask which reporter covers your issue. Or, sometimes the information is listed on the news outlet’s website. But, even then, the details can be vague.
By far your best option is to monitor the publication/broadcast and see for yourself which reporter tends to cover issues/businesses like yours.
College marketing professors spend their days researching which promotional techniques and strategies work, and which don’t. They’re unbiased sources of information with a deep understanding of what drives sales, referrals and bottom-line profits. So we searched out some of the collegiate world’s most respected marketing experts and gathered their best advice below:
Tip #1 – from Philip Kotler (Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management):
Stop soliciting everyone and anyone and instead identify a specific category of clients you want to acquire. Figure out what that target audience really wants, then build a reputation for doing that better than anyone else. Write articles, give speeches and send marketing materials that all position you as the best of the best in those key areas.
Tip #2 – from Jeffrey Pfeffer (Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford):
Too often, sales people view networking as something uncomfortable and inauthentic; a marketing effort cloaked in personal friendship. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Before trying to network with someone, use social media to learn as much as you can about them. Once you find something(s) you both have in common, it will be far easier to strike up an honest, heartfelt conversation that could lead to a long-lasting and productive working relationship for the both of you.
There’s a reason why semi-trucks, city buses, delivery vans, work trucks and even some passenger cars are covered with advertising: Moving vehicles make good billboards.
But what if your work vehicle is also your family car? How can you leverage your vehicle’s advertising capability without your children – and spouse – needing massive-embarrassment therapy?
Magnetic door signs are passé
The magnetic door signs people slapped on their cars in the 1980s and 1990s are old-school. While the easy-on/easy-off nature of the signs was supposed to make it simple to switch between your work and personal lives, few people ever took them off. Then they became popular with construction contractors and lawn-mowing services. Once every beat-up work truck in the city was sporting a pair, magnetic door signs eventually came to symbolize the fly-by-night operator.
Use vinyl lettering instead
It used to be that custom, vinyl-lettered vehicle advertising was only an option for big companies. It was too expensive for independent real estate agents. But as the technology took off, the prices came down. Today, you can transform the rear window of your vehicle into a vinyl-lettered ad for about $50.
Public open houses are an ingrained part of the real estate business. Sellers love them. They’re ideal for getting feedback. And, of course, they’re one of the best means for meeting prospective clients.
The trick is to maximize the business-boosting elements. Included below are some dos and don’ts.
Have three types of handouts on-hand
In addition to the listing sheet / flyer for the house, you should also be ready with targeted marketing materials you can hand out to prospective clients. Handing those folks a business card with an encouraging “call me” comment is weak. It doesn’t set you apart from every other agent at every other open house. What you really need are two separate marketing flyers/brochures: one highlighting the advantages of listing with you; another highlighting the advantages of buying with you.
Why not combine them into one brochure and save money? When these marketing materials are separated, it allows you to focus on the things these two very different kinds of clients really want to hear.
If you really want to save money, use marketing postcards as your brochures. Postcards are much cheaper to print, faster to produce, easier to handle, and still capable of making a big impact on your target audience.
Too often, real estate agents and other professional-services providers write things in their marketing materials that very few people beyond their office walls would honestly care about.
For example, it’s not uncommon to see marketing statements that read something like, “Over the last three years, business at our brokerage has been growing by leaps and bounds. In 2013 alone, we managed more than 1,100 real estate transactions for our clients.”
The One Question You Should Always Ask Yourself: "Who Cares?"
If that sounds like a statement you might like to include in your next marketing brochure, keep reading (because it’s a bad idea).
You could argue that boasting about the number of sales completed shows you’re running a successful brokerage. But to many potential clients, a statement like the one above will come across as unimportant. It doesn’t resonate for the reader. They won’t care enough to keep reading.
They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. And when it comes to marketing, many small- and mid-sized businesses are all too happy to imitate what their competitors are doing … which means they often wind up copying the mistakes, too.
Copying a marketing idea simply because you see someone else doing it is not a smart way to run a business. Borrowing ideas makes sense. But you need to know they’re winners before moving ahead with something similar. And that calls for some diligent monitoring.
Start systematically monitoring your competitors
Choose five key competitors (maybe even choose a different group each year), then “Like” their Facebook pages, follow their tweets, sign up for their mailings, subscribe to their customer newsletters, and regularly check their websites. In other words, act like an interested customer.
There are also online services that can help:
- Sign up with Google.com/Alerts, and you’ll be notified via email whenever something new about a competitor appears on the Internet.
- With WhosMailingWhat.com, you can see actual samples of your competitors marketing mailers, marketing email and more.
- Use Moat.com to see the ads your competitors are placing on the Internet.
Separating the hits from the misses
With all the so-called marketing experts making spectacles of themselves online today, it’s harder than ever to separate the marketing strategies that really do work from those that are duds, lies, scams or repeats of ideas spread by people who have no business offering marketing advice.
So instead of letting the loudest voices lead the way, we decided to search out some of the most successful small businesses, and investigate the marketing strategies they use to pump up sales and attract more clients.
Some of the businesses using these ideas are real estate agents and longtime Xpressdocs’ clients, some are from outside the real estate industry. But they all have one thing in common: they’re proven winners.
If you’re on the hunt for marketing strategies with true breakthrough potential, follow the examples set by the leading small businesses:
They ‘integrate’ their marketing
Instead of relying too much on one method of marketing (direct mail, email, social media, public relations, etc.), the most successful small businesses combine a variety of those mediums into an integrated marketing campaign.
No one likes to be badgered and bullied into moving forward with a business deal. But if prospective customers are left to their own devices, most will take the path of least resistance, which is usually to take no action at all.
If you want to be successful at sales, you need to be able to help people make up their minds and overcome their natural tendency to procrastinate.
Of course, every sales process should be focused on drawing out the unique needs of the prospective buyer, and establishing a personal relationship. But at some point, the paperwork needs to be signed and handshakes made. The deal needs to close in order to be considered a sale. That’s when you need to do something like …
According to recent predictions from two different companies that study consumer trends, the 2013 holiday shopping season is either going to be one of the worst in recent history for retailers, or just mildly slow. But play your cards right, and your business will be one of the ones that comes out on top when all is said and done.
The best way to combat lethargic consumer spending is with creative discounts and exciting special offers. Big discounts can cost big money – and often only produce short-term wins. But if you’re creative and strategic with your specials, the benefits will not only be rewarding but long-lasting. Included below are some of our very best ideas.
Offer a discount in return for more marketing access/customer information – This kind of offer not only helps to move product now, it fills your marketing database with valuable customer contact information for later. Ideas include:
- “Update your customer profile in the next five days, and we’ll give you an extra $5 in bonus rewards.”
- “Get free return shipping when you register as a VIP customer.”
- “Sign up for our email newsletter and save 10% on your next purchase.”
- “Like us on Facebook and we’ll ship your next order for free.”