Most innovations are not the invention of something completely new, but rather an improvement on something in existence.
Change the Color
When General Motors offered cars that were any color you wanted, rather than Ford’s “any color as long as it’s black” approach, they immediately and critically dislodged Ford’s firm grip on the automotive marketplace. As fashion changed, Levi’s blue jeans had a hit on their hands when they went black. When SKYY vodka went to an unusual blue bottle, their distinctiveness soared.
Many businesses provide a total experience rather than just a product or service. These owners often focus in on the technical aspects of their businesses—making sure the place is clean, the greens are cut, the coffee is hot, or whatever general standards are applicable to their types of businesses. In paying attention the technical aspects, they sometimes miss the boat on other just as important experiential aspects of marketing their products or services.
Take restaurants for example. There are plenty of local restaurants near my home that sell good food: Casa Norma, The Rusty Duck, and Romano’s come to mind, but none of these quite delivers when it comes to the total package. While each of these places has its own charm, they are not the type of modern, upscale bistro that you would find in a big city.
Then came the Crystal River Wine & Cheese Company. It was the total package: the type of place you would expect to find in Los Angeles or Manhattan, but not in Crystal River—which of course is what made it so special. The place was small, the menu a little quirky, but the food tasted great, the service was very friendly, the jazz band good, and the whole atmosphere produced a great evening’s experience rather than simply dinner.
If you asked each of the following—all very nice people— whether they feel they have a good reputation for service, each would unequivocally say yes. Each would tell you how they love working with people, how they are excited about their jobs, and how everyone who deals with them has good things to say about them. All would be wrong because the service or the follow-up service I received from each will forever brand these people in my mind as also-rans.
The first house I bought in Florida generated a very large commission for the real estate agent who was both the listing and the selling agent. She spent a grand total of one day with my wife and me before we bought it. Now, admittedly, for one reason or another, we didn’t move in on time, but the fact remains she spent less than eight hours on a deal that made her firm tens of thousands of dollars. Did we have fruit waiting in the kitchen, a bottle of Dom Perignon, or a thank you card? NO! In fact, we got nothing—way to build your reputation lady.
No, this is not a sales pitch for your local paper. In fact, I am often critical of how people squander money in local publications. The upside is that local publications are…local. They have a loyal readership and you know that everyone you do reach is in your actual market area. The mistake many make is to run ads that basically say “Here We Are! Stop By!” or they use a discount only mentality. That may work in some businesses, but it is by no means always the best way to reach your customer.
The best way to use local publications, indeed most publications, is to use them as lead generators. Think of them as the first stage of a two-step process, not a direct sale. In other words, instead of judging the response to your ad based on the actual sales you make, base it on how many new relationships you are able to start. Most sales these days are based on some kind of prior relationship and that takes a little time.
Gaining a new customer for most businesses costs a great deal of money. In my business, I figure it costs me an average of $750-$1000 to get a new client. In some businesses, like car dealers, it might be $250, in others that sell high-end products like homes, it might be as high as $15,000 or more per sale.
Run an ad that makes it easy and painless to start a relationship with your company. Don’t run image ads; run lead-generation ad.
It’s a sad fact of life that there is money, big money in just about every disaster. It takes little talent or foresight to make an easy 10, 20, or even 50 percent gain in a matter of months, weeks, or even days. Over a period of a year or two, there is almost no chance you won’t win big nine out of ten times.
It is a thousand times easier to make money in niche markets than it is in large or general markets. I made millions in two niche markets, the karate business and the golf business. Both markets had mailing lists of between 12,000-18,000 prospects and so were easy to reach by mail. Both markets had limited competition when I entered and I had a knowledge of, and a passion for, both businesses.
I have written over forty books. The two most profitable ones, one making $150,000 the first year and the other over $200,000, were written for these specialized industries. The ones written for mainstream consumption took far longer to reach any kind of critical mass. The bigger the market, the harder and more costly it is to reach.