Working as the Marketing Director of a successful Boston agency for many years, I was always encouraging the sales agents use direct mail, online marketing, social media, and (in the olden days) print advertising. So when I struck out on my own recently, what was my first step? Did I complete a website? Did I design a mailer? No. I called potential clients or stopped by to visit with them. Why? It took me a little while to put some words to it, but I think I can provide insight for those of you who own your own businesses (that means YOU, real estate agents, musicians, photographers, interior designers, etc).
What did I expect to get from a phone call that I wouldn’t get from an email?
1. I needed to listen to clients to help them
Part of the answer is that it was far more personal to reach out in person. I wanted these people to hear how excited I was to speak with them. I also wanted to be able to hear the nuances in their responses so that I could react in a way that would allow our conversation to be as fruitful as possible. There is a lot that can get lost in an email – sometimes one simple question or response can be a conversation killer. I wanted to listen to what THEY had to say. If I was going to help them put solutions in play, I needed to know what problems they were facing.
2. I wanted my first step to be very active
The more I thought about this, the more I realized that a truly good marketing plan, especially for a small business, has “active” marketing at its core. So, what is “active” versus “passive” marketing?
Active marketing is when you speak with a potential client on the phone or in person. There is an efficiency and a personal element that is unmatched by other forms of communication. So, is active marketing really just sales? Not necessarily. Hosting a class, participating in community events, and socializing with potential clients are all active marketing. There is an element of those exchanges that involves you listening to their concerns and sharing ideas that could help them. This is the strongest method of marketing yourself.
Passive marketing is when potential clients hear from you, but not in person. Passive approaches include direct mail, email marketing, websites, print ads, etc. The role of passive marketing is to assist in developing “front of mind” awareness in your potential clients (some people call this process “incubating leads”). The National Association of Realtors tells us that 90% of people say they would work with their Realtor again or would recommend them to someone else – but only 9% do. That is because their Realtor didn’t keep in touch. Our daily lives are filled with noise from not just advertising, TV, social media and such. The daily noise is also from the stress and demands of our jobs, families and everything else we do. Don’t expect someone to remember your name and what you do when they haven’t heard from you in months or years. Make it easy for them to remember you. Make an effort to stay in their lives.
3. I wanted my passive marketing to have more impact
I think that the passive marketing methods have more impact when they follow an active experience. Think about this: if you haven’t heard from someone in a long time or you’ve never met them before, how much impact will a piece of direct mail or an ad have on you? Probably not much. In order to make a lasting impression with passive forms of marketing, you would need to get in front of people weekly or bi-weekly. But, if you start and maintain some active marketing, your passive marketing can be monthly.
4. I wanted to stand out
In this day and age we are deluged with advertising and we can mostly tune it out. My phone call or visit was unique in someone’s day. It stood out.
Sometimes my clients say to me, “I don’t want to call people. They don’t want to hear from me.” Well, that is probably not true. And if it is, you will be able to hear that and react to it by saying, “It sounds like I caught you at a bad time. Let’s talk soon when you are not so swamped. I just wanted to see how you were doing.” When I called my people, I did my best not to interrupt them too much. I was always friendly and I offered free advice whenever it felt appropriate. I had to do it “my way” (Frank Sinatra, eat your heart out).
I didn’t think of these as “sales calls”. I thought of them as an opportunity to catch up with an old friend or to meet someone new – and it would be great if I could help them out by offering my assistance. It was a genuine motivation – not one that was driven by making money. I’ve found that money comes when I work hard. So, I aim to work hard.