Now is the Time to Promote your Business

By Donald Cooper

Whatever product or service you sell, your market is over-served and under-differentiated. There’s no better time than right now to stand out, promote your business, differentiate yourself, get some free media exposure, or create social media buzz.

The folks at WestJet, the upstart Canadian airline that delights customers and makes money, are great marketers. Last Valentine’s Day – February 14 – anyone with the last name Valentine, Love, Rose, Sweet or Heart (Hart would do) or anyone with the first name Rose, was able to fly anywhere in Canada for just $14, plus taxes and airport fees. This is very clever and got them a ton of free publicity all across the country, including the 11 o’clock network news.

During the last recession, Hyundai Motors received a ton of media attention for their innovative and helpful approach to difficult times for their customers. Under their Hyundai Assurance Plan, if you bought or leased a new Hyundai vehicle and subsequently lost your job within a year, you could return the car, without any credit hassles.

If you’re a small business, you can still do neat things to get noticed and get talked about. Check out this chiropractor’s roadside mailbox. Does this cost more than a six-foot cedar post? Of course, it does. But this is guaranteed to get noticed and talked about – and to make people smile. We all need to make people smile these days. Joy is good. And it’s contagious.

There are just two simple steps in this game of getting yourself noticed and talked about.

Step One: be a story. Do something original, bizarre, wonderful, innovative, helpful, joyful or heartfelt.

Step Two: tell your story. There’s no point in doing something wonderful if you’re going to keep it a secret. Put it on your web site, send out an e-mail to your customer database and to all media contacts who might be interested in telling your story. Clients ask me, “Why would the media do that for me?” They’re not doing it for you. They’re doing it for them. They need content. They need stories. So, be a story and then tell your story!

In the case of WestJet, a month before Valentine’s Day they could have sent an e-mail blast to all their customers named Valentine, Love, Rose, Sweet or Hart to announce the special offer. Then they would send out a press release to their media database and posted on their social media.

Hyundai went the media press release route and got talked about and written up across North America. If the chiropractor with the amazing mailbox post was smart, he would have featured it on his web site and then sent a photo and brief story to his local newspaper and could have ended up on the front page on a slow news day. Then, the local TV station would likely have picked up on it from the paper and the chiropractor could have appeared as the whimsical feature they often include on the 11 o’clock news, so we won’t go to bed too depressed.

Of course, to make this free publicity thing work effectively, you need to build a customer database as well as a media and key influencer database and get active on social media. Get started on that today if you haven’t already done it. It’s a great project for a student intern.

So, what neat things could you do to stand out, get noticed, differentiate yourself and get people talking about you? What will your story be? Then what will you do to tell that story? Sit down with a few of the best minds and hearts in your business and see what great ideas you come up with. Then, make sure each thing you decide to do has a champion who will make it happen.

Here are a few things to get you thinking or smiling:
Quote of the week: When things go wrong in your business, you can spend your time figuring out who’s to blame, or you can spend your time fixing what caused the problem. Choose wisely.

Quick business tip: Are you partnering with ‘pros’ or struggling with amateurs? We’re in the process of booking a long-anticipated safari in Tanzania, with a side-trip to Zanzibar for late November. With ‘free’ points flights not being available, the best business class fare I could find online was $14,000 for the two of us. So, I called a pro – the travel agent we used before flights became bookable online.

Elaine quickly found efficient business-class fares, with lie-flat beds, with only one stop each way for just $8,000. She has also organized airport transfers, hotel and wonderful excursions at great prices and advised us on what shots we need. That’s what pros do!

My slightly irreverent phrase about this is that ‘sex is usually best with an enthusiastic amateur and everything else in life is better done by a pro.” Are you partnering with pros in your business? Do you have an accountant/tax expert, lawyer, web designer, social media person, financial planner and key management team members who are experts? Or have you surrounded yourself with amateurs who ‘would love to give it a try’ at your expense?

Zombie companies. It’s estimated 25% of all U.S. companies can barely afford to pay the interest on their debt. They’re referred to as ‘zombie companies’ – the walking dead. The same situation likely exists here in Canada.

As interest rates rise, or if there’s a mild recession, most of these companies will be insolvent.  Many will go out of business while some will survive by convincing their creditors to take a financial ‘hair cut’ on the money legitimately owed to them.

Why new hires leave quickly. A recent survey shows 33% of new hires start looking for a new job in their first 90 days on their current job. The most common reason for preparing to ‘jump ship’ so soon is that the job or the business culture don’t align with what they were told it would be.

That’s if for this week. Stay safe! Live brilliantly!

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