So you finally decided to give the franchise route a try. You put down your deposit and attended training. As soon as you got back to town you rented space and hung up your sign. Then you hired a couple of new employees. So far, all the money has been flowing one way…out of your wallet. If you are looking for a few ways to quickly turn this equation around, the following five techniques have been proven to be effective in engaging the maximum amount of prospects in the shortest amount of time.
1. Host a Seminar
Organizations of all kinds are always hungry for guest speakers. Some of these organizations have memberships in the hundreds, or even thousands. If you are looking for a chance to engage prospects en masse, hosting a free seminar is one of the best ways to jumpstart your business. The trick to landing one of these gigs is to avoid the appearance of self-promotion. The best way to do this is to come up with a catchy title for the seminar that will get you past the gatekeeper. Titles along the lines of “Show Me the Money – Creative Sources of Capital for Today’s Emerging Companies,” or “Building the Buzz – Using Guerilla PR to Promote Your Firm Without Breaking the Bank,” will have great appeal to business organizations.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t solicit business during these events. It just means that you have to be subtle about doing so. The very essence of the seminar game is that you are automatically viewed by your audience as an authority figure. If the seminar is well received, it is not at all unusual for attendees to walk right up to you and ask your advice. Even if you don’t get approached right away, you are still permitted to offer your company literature and business card to all who attend.
Creating a seminar isn’t as tough as it once was since you can use Powerpoint slideshows and/or video clips to help move the show along without a lot of memorization on your part. I have even employed a gameshow element during seminars that resulted in everyone in the place providing their contact information. The trick to coming up with a winning seminar is to keep the tehno-babble to a minimum and the entertainment factor as high as possible.
2. Start a Newsletter, Podcast or Blog
If public speaking is only slightly less painful than root canal, there are several other ways that you can engage the public and promote yourself as an expert. Blogging is one of the most cost-effective broadcast mediums ever created. As with a seminar, to be effective as a blogger, the winning formula is one part information to two parts entertainment. This means that you first have to hook the audience and then you need to inform them. The trick to getting the readers to crossing over from your blog to your website is to provide a hook in the form of a free offer or tantalizing tidbit that can only be explained by going to your site.
With the advent of podcasting and viral video marketing, the web has turned into a veritable broadcast station. For the cost of a prosumer camcorder you can now produce episodic audio and videocasts that can be distributed in an amazing number of ways for FREE. Creating these online shows isn’t all that hard to produce either. In fact, one of the best tools for researching audio and videocasts is to go to such sites as YouTube and PodcastAlley.com and tune in yourself. You’ll quickly catch onto what works and what doesn’t. Then it’s time to gather around the conference table or kitchen table and pitch a few show ideas.
3. Do It Yourself PR
Another way to give your fledgling business a boost is by donning the Public Relations hat and start contacting the media. Particularly in your local area, this kind of campaign pays off big time. To start off, go to your local library and start perusing the stacks in the periodical room. Unless you live in a tiny hamlet, chances are your town is loaded with potential targets of opportunity, such as local newspapers, Sunday supplements, business journals and local and regional magazines that are always looking for content.
Start by collecting the names and contact information of the writers of articles that have a business slant. Then begin making contact with these writers via email and telephone. Explain to them what your business is all about and ask them if they, or someone else in their organization, would be interested in covering your business. The best approach is one of, “Perhaps you can help me.” This way even if the writer isn’t interested in penning an article on your firm, he or she might just pass you along to another writer.
Another approach is to pen an article yourself, then offer it to publications gratis. Particularly if you couch the piece as an article that features a number of different businesses, including your own, it might get picked up. Adding photos helps, since many periodicals, especially magazines, like to include a visual element with most every article they print. You can also post articles online at such places as EzineArticles.com, IdeaMarketers.com, Website-Articles.net, InvisibleMBA.com, ArticleStars.com and they will automatically be available for distribution to blogs and zines worldwide.
4. Create a Talking Business Card
Another creative use for video is to create a talking business card. While there are a number of different formats the most important element in this kind of campaign is to create a short video promo that can be viewed by prospects. The best clips should provide the same kind of pitch as with a seminar: informative and entertaining. The last thing you want to distribute is a talking head video that drones on and on about what makes your company great. To add a bit of production value, intersperse the narration with cutaways and action shots. Don’t forget to add music.
The best thing about video business cards is that they can not only be handed out to prospects, but they can be turned into a dynamic direct mail piece. The technology can also embed hyperlinks that when clicked will take the prospect to your website or shopping cart. So it not only makes prospects want to watch, it also makes them shop!
5. Offer a Free Trial
Now I realize that many businesspeople are averse to giving away products and services. However, this technique has proven time and time again to be one of the best marketing tactics of all time. Offering a free taste many times gets your foot in doors that otherwise would have remained shut. Particularly if your business is repetitive, offering a free trial is like putting your marketing plan on steroids. Contributing the proceeds to a charitable organization might also be just what your startup needs to make a splash in the media and get the public to take notice. Free offers can also be used to accelerate online registrations that can then be used to build a database that can be mined for customers.