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You Cannot Not Market
by Debbie Allen, CSP

No matter how long you have been in business or how successful your business is, if you stop marketing, you will very quickly see the effects in lost profits and sales. You will lose ground to your competition. In the competitive market today, you simply cannot afford to not market.

I’ve seen the effects of not marketing first hand. There were times when personal problems affected my mood and, therefore, my self-promotion and, eventually, my success. Not only did I have to work harder to build my business back up, I had to work hard to change the mood that had affected my entire business.

Your mood effects your beliefs, which in turn reflects onto your sales staff and then onto your customers. If you are in a negative mood, it will sweep through your business like a wild fire. Staying positive and enthusiastic is essential to the shameless self-promoter. A positive attitude along with contagious enthusiasm will support your groundwork to effectively self-promote–even if you think of yourself as a marketing zero. You’ll make a good start toward becoming a marketing hero if you have a positive state of mind and contagious enthusiasm.

Not Marketing Can Be Disastrous
(Excerpt from Confessions of Shameless Self-Promoters by Jim Rubin)

The first week of 1992 was a gentle one in the San Francisco Bay Area, unlike the torment of the year before. That January a cold wave (well, cold for Northern Californians!) swept through the area, destroying plants, increasing sales at Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean, and bringing snow (gasp!) to downtown San Francisco for about a minute and a half.

While the radio bemoaned bumper-to-bumper traffic on clogged freeways, I leisurely took my daily 40-foot commute to my home office, complete with a computer, radio, TV, coffee warmer, and a dog at my feet. Business boomed and I was comfortable, tucked away in my second-floor sanctuary. I belonged to no networking groups, chambers of commerce, or other business or professional organizations. I didn't advertise, didn't promote myself, and did virtually no marketing of any kind. Why bother--I had all the customers I could handle.

How could I know that my idyllic, isolated working world was setting me up for business failure? January 1992 turned harsh in a big hurry. On successive days that first week I lost two of my three biggest customers. The recession hit California like a sledgehammer, and for the first time in my entrepreneurial career, I felt fear. Would I survive, or would I have to get a real job?

The fact is that 90 percent of businesses fail in the first five years. I wonder what percentage of those simply give up, just throw up their hands and say, "This isn't worth it."

And so I learned my first invaluable business lesson the hard way: No matter how successful you are, no matter how many customers you have, no matter how much the bank account is bulging, you always have to promote yourself. Constantly. Consistently. Continuously. You must be unrelenting in reminding potential customers that you exist. I learned another invaluable lesson with this experience: There's no shame in self-promotion if you're promoting something of value.

In the ensuing years I've tried a little bit of everything in my quest for the right promotional mix for my business. Some strategies have worked, some haven't. Below are seven techniques I used to rebuild my business in the nineties. They illustrate the most profound lesson I've learned about self-promotion: Who you are means more than what you're promoting.

Seven Guaranteed-to-Work Marketing Strategies
  • Be reliable. This is one of the most important competitive advantages you have.
  • Say "thank you" three times--once over the phone, once in writing, and once in person.
  • Maintain high standards of integrity and excellence. Even people who don't hire you will recommend you.
  • Be a problem solver. This is more important than having a good product or service.
  • Sell value and you'll make more money. Don't charge your customers for every breath you take on their behalf.
  • Don't be cheap. Prospects will respond more readily if you present a polished image.
  • Take a long-term view of your promotional activities. Patience will produce consistent results and steady growth.
  • One final thought: Spend less time pursuing dollars and more time pursuing relationships. Business success is about relationships, and relationships take time.
Self-Promote or Disappear!
(Excerpt from Confessions of Shameless Self-Promoters by Larry James)

There are several signs in my office that read, "Do something everyday to promote your business and yourself!" Why? It is it so easy to get wrapped up in all the stuff it takes to make my business work that I sometimes forget to promote, promote, and promote. So I give myself reminders.

Why self-promote? To make sure everyone remembers you. Early in my career I discovered that if I was going to make it, I was the one who was in the best position to do the promotion. I believe in the value of my work and I know my area of expertise better than anyone, and as a result I made a decision to become a do-whatever-it-takes kind of guy–a shameless self-promoter. I even talk in elevators.

The first rule of promotion is to talk about your work to anyone and everyone all the time. I do this by being curious and asking questions about what others do. Eventually the conversation shifts to what I do. You call attention to yourself by paying attention to others.

If you don't feel comfortable in promoting and selling your work, get over it! Shy people seldom make it to the top. Be assertive. Speak up. Make sure everyone knows what you do.

Consistency is the key. I've tried just about everything. Some things work. Some don't. However if you think something won't work before you have tried it, you are certain to be right. I would rather be happy and promoting than right. . . so I will try anything that doesn't compromise my integrity and has worked for someone else. It's exciting to try new ways to promote yourself. It helps make life an adventure.

The marketing idea that has reaped the greatest benefit for me has been to appear as a guest on more than 450 radio talk shows. I will talk about my business and the benefits to the radio listeners to any radio host who will have me; large or small markets; for five minutes to a record 2 1/2 hour guest shot on a nationally syndicated radio show.

Create a good story with a hook that is informative and entertaining then get yourself booked on lots of talk shows. You have a better chance of getting the interview if you can create a link with what you do to a relevant topic or current event. Always remember--to promote your stuff, you must also provide entertaining content for the radio audience. Talk show hosts will seldom invite you back if you do not first have their audience in mind.

Accept speaking engagements to share helpful information and to promote your business. Afraid to speak in front of groups? Get over it! When you do the thing you fear the most, the death of fear is certain. Make your talk entertaining and informative. Take a speech class or join Toastmasters to fine-tune your speaking skills.

Network for ideas. It has been my experience that successful people are more willing to share their promotional secrets than unsuccessful people. You must ask for what you want!

Every piece of mail that leaves my office, including the bills that I pay, has my business card enclosed.

If they can stuff my bill with promotional stuff, so can I. I have received business from the people who receive my bill payments. From time to time, I receive offers for subscriptions and various other things. Regardless of whether I am interested in the product or service, if a self-addressed stamped envelope is enclosed, I stuff it with my business card and brochure and mail it on my next trip to the post office.

The most exciting part of being a shameless self- promoter is sharing my ideas with others. Never be afraid of competition. To me, it doesn't exist. There is plenty of business to go around.

One of my mentors, Sheldon Detrick, once told me that if you ever want to get anywhere in life, you must consistently "put something back!" By that he meant that you must share what you know to help others; become involved in groups and organizations that give you the opportunity to share. I believed him and it has worked for me.

Shel also taught me that you cannot help others, you can only help them help themselves. You can only share what you know with others and they must do something with the information. Use it or lose it.

I love self-promotion. I love the excitement of discovering a new idea that introduces more customers to my business. I enjoy brainstorming with others about ideas that have worked for them. Most great promotional ideas can be adapted to your business with a little creativity.

Never pass up an opportunity to promote yourself and your business. If you stop promoting, your business will die a slow death. Never stop!

Bio: Debbie Allen is one of the world’s leading authorities on sales and marketing. She is the author of five books including Confessions of Shameless Self Promoters and Skyrocketing Sales. Debbie has helped thousands of people around the world attract customers like crazy with her innovative, no-cost marketing strategies and secrets to sales success. Her expertise has been featured in Entrepreneur, Selling Power and Sales & Marketing Excellence.

Copyright Debbie Allen. All Rights Reserved.

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