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The ladies really dig my shiny new membership card

Got a pre-election call from the National Rifle Association (NRA) the other day. It’s that time of year – my phone has been ringing off the hook with election-related calls. Yep, it came on the famous 13 call day (15 as it turned out).

The call is made under the guise of checking how you’re going to vote, but the real reason for the call is to find new members.

Anyhow, I had some ulterior motives for letting him talk, so I gave the NRA guy a minute or so just to see what he had to say (usually the call center delay is all it takes to get me to hang up). After a bit of small talk to find out where I was on gun-related issues, he said something about joining and that “your benefits include a membership card…”

That’s what he STARTED with.

Now, if you’re trying to sell someone a membership to the NRA on a cold call, is that really how you want to start a call with me? Is that the best benefit they could come up with? I know better.

  • He didn’t ask if I hunt (I haven’t in probably 30 years – Ouch, that makes me OLD!). If the answer is yes, the natural follow would be to find out more about what I hunt for.
  • He didn’t ask if I target shoot (I do, occasionally).
  • He didn’t ask if I own any guns (I don’t, got rid of a .410 shotgun a few years ago cuz I wasn’t using it) and if so, what I own and what I use them for. This would easily allow the caller to extend the conversation with questions about the history of them, where I got them, how I like them etc. Why? To develop some rapport and common ground.
  • He didn’t ask what I knew about the NRA and proceed to figure out which benefits of being a member would be important and beneficial to me – and focus on them.

If you’re cold calling (and I hope you have other, far better ways to generate leads), you have to quickly develop some rapport. Of course, the first part of that cold call is no different than your situation in an elevator, a trade show booth or when someone asks “So, what do you do?” and you *know* they could benefit from what you do or sell.

Had he asked the right questions, he would have found that I was interested in blackpowder instructor courses – because the boys in my Scout troop want to start a blackpowder shooting program. That requires professionally trained leaders. He might also have found out that I might be interested in the other training and gun safety programs they have – and perhaps that I could use a few of their experts at Scouting events now and then.

But he was too interested in selling me that shiny new membership card.  On a day with 13+ electioneering calls, that isn’t going to get me excited about staying on the phone and whipping out my credit card.

No matter what started the conversation, develop rapport. Sell benefits that make sense based on what your rapport has taught you about your prospect.


Advertising Marketing Positioning Small Business

Do your sales materials give people brochure boredom?

One of the ways I find new clients in my local area is by picking up brochures I see when I’m in a place of business, or a grocery store, etc.

The other day I found one for a health-related business. The entire brochure seemed to be focused on discounts, discounts, discounts.

On the inside, a list of products and photos containing a bunch of medical lingo that most people aren’t going to bother reading. All the product info was clearly straight out of the catalog.

Yet this brochure was sitting at the “Place an order” window at a pharmacy inside a grocery store. Clearly, it was pointed at the consumer, not the trained health care professional.

So why did they include all that medical lingo? Zzzzzzzzz.

The one thing that was of use in the brochure was a section where they answered the obvious question: Why should someone buy this stuff from them?

Here’s a summary of the list:

  • We want to sell you the stuff you need at the best price.
  • We want you to have a choice of brands/products.
  • We carry all kinds of stuff at lower prices.
  • We are owned by someone who has been working in this field for 8 years. That one, with some work, was actually useful.
  • We deliver (again, useful and important).
  • We offer internet pricing but we’re a local business (good point, needs some work).
  • We can deal with your insurance company.

What in that list would make you change where you buy prescriptions, health care, equipment, insurance, or anything health related?

Their experience, which they didn’t elaborate on nearly enough, the delivery and the insurance.

Think about what your clients WANT, not just what they need.

What’s the biggest problem they are dealing with that you can solve? Is it front and center on your sales materials?

In the medical field, they want someone who knows their stuff. They want someone who will hand it to them on a silver platter. They’d be happy to never again have to deal with insurance forms. They want to deal with someone who treats them like a family member would. They want to be able to depend on you, even if they are cynical enough to expect that you won’t.

Even if you aren’t in medicine, most of these things apply (insurance being the one that probably doesn’t).

Are your sales materials leaving people with the right impression?

Marketing Sales Small Business Strategy

Are most cold callers lazy? Absolutely.

While I really don’t have anything against cold calling from a pure marketing perspective, more often than not, it’s a really poor use of time and people. This is especially true when it is done by the lazy.

More often than not, it is done in a carpet bombing fashion, where everyone in the phone book (or everyone on a particular exchange) is called. That’s lazy. Really lazy.

If people used it wisely according to prospect demographics and psychographics, I’d mind it a lot less and it’ll waste a lot fewer hours – much less being far more effective.


Because if I’m the right prospect for that cold call, I might actually be interested. Assuming, of course, that you didn’t interrupt me at the worst possible time. If I do happen to pick up the phone (rare), once in a while I might actually be interested – especially if you put even a little bit of effort into market research before you made the call.

There is more to this than just choosing the right group of people to call. There’s that whole permission marketing thing that Seth Godin talks about. In other words, the Do Not Call list. Twice in the last 3 days, the same vendor has called two of my numbers that are on the Do-Not-Call list.

I understand that registering to use the Do-Not-Call list is expensive for a business that wants to make telemarketing calls. However, it isn’t as expensive as dealing with the FTC when they slap you around for violating the Do-Not-Call law.

Another problem with cold calling is that you haven’t done *anything* to begin to create a relationship when you make that call. Many people detest telemarketing calls, so you risk ticking off that person with your first overt act to contact them.

Some people swear by cold calling, and make no bones about it, in some markets it is very effective. But you won’t catch me doing it. I think it’s idiotic when done poorly. Maybe I just don’t appreciate the lack of effort most businesses put into finding the right people to call.

Cold calling done poorly is harder than selling a comb to a bald guy. If you’re going to do it, at least be smart about it.

I think you can do better.

Blogging Competition Entrepreneurs Internet marketing Mark Riffey Marketing Media Positioning Public Relations Strategy

Small business owners, like consultants, should be everywhere


A friend asked me the other day why I do a small business marketing radio talk show and if it had been profitable for me.

My answer? Because I need to be everywhere, and yes.

The question reminded me of a long-told story in marketing circles about the chiropractor (or whoever it was).

A famous lady chiropractor from the East Coast speaks at a chiropractic convention about her success, her practice and why she got into chiropractic in the first case. It’s a motivational piece, intended to instill “I can do it too” in the young chiropractors in the room.

When she leaves the stage, a number of people in the crowd have questions for her – a commonplace reaction at conventions like this.

One struggling young chiropractor steps up, introduces herself as Lee, and proceeds to tell her a story about her efforts to gain new clients. Lee talks about how she tries one thing and then another to get new clients. No matter what she tries, her office only gets a client or two or three with each ad that is placed.

Finally, she says “So after all of my struggles, I got really excited when I heard you say that you average 72 new clients every month…what’s technique are you using to get 72 new clients?”

The chiropractor shifts her weight and lays her hand softly on the woman’s shoulder and says “I’m sorry Lee, but I don’t know one strategy that gets 72 clients”. As she pauses, she can see confusion and disappointment on Lee’s face.

Then she shares the punch line: “However…I have found 72 ways to get one client, and I use every one of them, every month. You should try that and see how it works for you. I’ve very happy with the results.”

HotSeat Radio is one of my “72 ways”. So is the print newsletter, this blog, the email newsletter, and the Flathead Beacon column, just for starters.

“Be everywhere” is a core strategy that I teach my marketing clients, and I (as you may have noticed) put a significant effort into practicing what I preach.

If you need 50 new clients each month to make your revenue goals, do you have 50 ways in place to get 1 new client? Or 25 ways to get 2 new clients each month?

Sit down with a pad and paper (or MS Word, or whatever) and answer this question: How many ways does my business have to attract and meet future (and current) clients?

Is that enough? What other ways can you think of?

P.S. Notice there wasn’t a password on this post? The reality is that I’m collecting “evidence” for a future post. Not quite as externally obvious as yesterday’s survey, but just as important. More about that, probably next week.