Street Fighter Marketing

Generate customers using a shoestring budget.

Most mail advertising ends up in the trash. But a postcard with the right message can dramatically increase your readership. Here are several Street Fighter Marketing examples of low-cost, high-impact mailing campaigns.

The only time price becomes the key concern to the customer is when that customer does not perceive any difference between what you have to offer relative to your competition.

While in Las Vegas for an annual printing convention, the owner of a print shop in Solon, Ohio, bought 400 postcards from the MGM Grand. She took them back to her shop and had her kids hand-address them with the names of 400 businesses who were not her customers. The message on the card read, “Don’t gamble with your printing needs. Bring in this postcard for a 10 percent savings on your first printing order.” She received 100 redemptions! That’s a 25 percent return. The reason? It didn’t look like junk mail. The headline of, “Don’t Gamble With Your (insert the name of your service),” gets the reader to see and remember the offer. Plus, you save some postage by sending it for 26¢ versus 41¢.

Another postcard mailer was done by a realtor in Columbus, Ohio. This real estate agent mailed a simple postcard to several hundred homes offering a free home warranty if you listed with him. But, the postcard was boring—black ink on gray card stock. As expected, 100 percent of his mail was trashed. A week later, the same homes received an envelope from the same realtor. Inside the envelope was the same postcard that had been crumpled up and then flattened. Attached to the crumpled postcard was a yellow sticky note that read, “Please don’t throw this out again! This is important.” People must have been saying to themselves, “Is this guy going through the trash? He must really know the neighborhood. We’ve got to give him a call!”

Another clever use of an inexpensive postcard mailing was done by a San Francisco scuba store that planned a diving trip to Maui. Many customers inquired about the trip but only a third of them actually signed up for it. The store owner took the list of people who couldn’t make it and mailed post cards from Maui with brief messages saying what a wonderful time they were having. During the trip, he also provided each participant three postcards, with postage, and asked them to write a “wish you were here” message to their scuba friends back home. It was a great way to generate referral business.

Price Pressures
Price is an important issue in the buying decision, but not the only issue. The majority of customers and clients consider several other key elements before they make a commitment to buy, including a higher level of personalized service, more convenience, better quality and greater selection. The only time price becomes the key concern to the customer is when that customer does not perceive any difference between what you have to offer relative to your competition.

If you want to add some muscle to your sales, consider using client testimonial letters that tell the world how wonderful you are.

Ask yourself, “Why should someone pay 10 percent more to you for providing the same product as another business down the street?” Keep in mind that you can be competitively priced without being the lowest, and that little extra margin can make a big difference on your bottom line. Take, for example, the hair salon owner who built a nice business by learning the newest styles and providing great customer service. He charged about $15 for a haircut, which put him in the midrange for his market. A new discount haircut franchise opened up directly across the street, and the franchisee used a billboard in front to advertise this new location. With a plain blue background and plain white letters, the sign said simply, “We Give $6 Haircuts,” with a big arrow pointing to the store.

That is obviously a lot cheaper than the $15 haircut, so what can the salon owner do when he starts losing business because of price? He could cut his price in half and still not be competitive on price. Luckily, he thinks like a Smarketer (a smart marketer). He rents his own billboard in front of his own salon. Using the same blue background and plain white letters, he writes, “We FIX $6 Haircuts.” That turned him around instantly. If your customers forget that you offer something special, you need to remind them.

Philanthropy Atropy
A client was approached by a pro-amateur celebrity golf tournament about becoming one of 18 corporate sponsors. The cost of sponsorship was $750, which included a sign on one hole and his company name in the program—not a lot of exposure for your $750. My client said he wanted to do something special and would put up a $10,000 cash prize for the first person to get a hole-in-one on the ninth hole. Half would go to the golfer, and half would go to charity.

The tournament organizers were ecstatic. This added a whole new dimension to the tournament. Tickets sales shot up, and the client was personally interviewed on every TV and radio station. He had a fake check enlarged, complete with his logo, and displayed it on an easel at the ninth hole. The local newspaper took a picture of him standing next to it, and it ended up on the front page of the local paper. He couldn’t have bought that kind of exposure if he wanted to. He easily got over $40,000 worth of free exposure.

Getting what you want requires you to have the ability to convince someone that the value of your idea, product or service is worthy of his or her commitment.

Of course, there was some risk. What if someone got a hole-in-one? Well, as you might have already figured out, he took out an insurance policy protecting him should someone score the hole-in-one. Here’s the funny part. The cost of the policy was $450—$300 less than the sponsorship—and he totally dominated the tournament. Here are 17 other supposedly bright businesspeople, each putting up $750 and getting zilch. And this Street Fighter puts up less money and owns the event.

Testimonial Letter Testosterone
If you want to add some muscle to your sales, consider using client testimonial letters that tell the world how wonderful you are. The best time to get one is right after you’ve completed a good job for a client. Simply say, “You know, I’m very happy that we were able to work with you. It would really be helpful to me if you could send me a brief letter, on your letterhead, with a few words about how wonderful we were to work with.” Most clients are happy to accommodate you. In reality, though, only a few get around to writing one. If you don’t get a letter in a reasonable time, try calling back and offering to write the letter for them. They can make changes if necessary and have it typed on letterhead. Or, better yet, suggest they send you several pieces of their stationery and you’ll type it up for them, mailing it back for approval and signature in the self-addressed, stamped envelope that you provide. Some of the best testimonial letters I got . . . I wrote!

Getting testimonial letters should be an ongoing part of your marketing and sales effort. The more you collect, the more ammunition you have. It’s also a good idea to index your letters by type of client and, perhaps, even by objection. For example, when talking to a new potential client whose concern is whether or not you can meet the deadline, have 10 letters from previous clients mentioning what a great job you did in meeting their difficult deadlines. That enhances your credibility.

Customer Fidelity
In business you can’t afford to violate the trust you build with your customers. If you make a promise to a customer, keep it no matter what it costs. Once, I was confirmed six months in advance to deliver a keynote speech for Sony Corporation on a Monday morning. The engagement was a week earlier than I thought it was, so when I looked at my calendar, it was instant panic.

If you make a promise to a customer, keep it no matter what it costs.

I started looking frantically in the Yellow Pages for charter planes. I called six or seven but no one was answering at two in the morning. Finally, an air ambulance service answered. It turns out that they have LearJet ambulances on 30-minute standby in different cities throughout the country. It was just a two-hour flight straight to the Marco airport, which was just five minutes from the hotel. They could pick me up in an hour and still get me there several hours before my speech.

The client was very impressed and appreciative that I was able to honor my commitment to them and was willing to do it regardless of the cost. Oh yes, the cost. It was $7,000. It was an adventure I won’t soon forget—especially the bill. But the client was ecstatic and has called back several times since. Plus, because it was such an unusual story, I got a lot of word-of-mouth exposure with other potential clients. I can safely say that I got back my “investment” many times over and the reason is I never lost sight of my priorities. Keeping your clients’ needs first never costs. It pays!

Echo, Echo, Echo
Getting what you want requires you to have the ability to convince someone that the value of your idea, product or service is worthy of his or her commitment. It boils down to: Talk less. Listen more. Ask more questions.

Asking questions and listening allows you to gather important information about the needs and wants of your subject. The more you know, the easier to discover what it’s going to take to get a “yes.” One way to keep your subject talking is using a technique called the echo. Take the last few words of your subject’s comment, and echo it back in the form of a question. It may sound something like this:

“I’m not sure how this applies to our situation.”
“Situation?”
“You know, with the merger going on.”
“The merger?”
“Yeah, it’s a real mess. This company from overseas is making an offer on the company and we really don’t know where we stand.”
“Where you stand?”

No matter what the subject tells you, respond with an echo and they come back with more details. You will keep them going for hours if you want to. So the next time you find that you’re not getting your point across, ask more questions and listen to what the other person is saying. “Saying?”

Contests
A surefire way to get your employees out in their neighborhoods hustling to bring you new business is a contest. Here is one example.

Each employee receives a certain number of special value cards entitling the bearer to a savings or added value of some kind at your business. Be sure to include an expiration date on the card. An employee signature line on the card authorizes it and makes your employee feel special. Also, by having the employee sign each card, you are transferring the responsibility of the savings from you to the employee. Thus, the savings are made possible by knowing somebody on the “inside.”

Once the value cards have been printed and handed out to all employees, then the contest begins. Their goal is to distribute these cards to family, friends and acquaintances in their neighborhood.

The cards cannot be passed out to already paying customers and must be done on the employees’ own time. Whichever employee has the most cards redeemed at the end of the 30-day contest is the winner.

Getting testimonial letters should be an ongoing part of your marketing and sales effort. The more you collect, the more ammunition you have.

Remember this contest gets all employees—part-time and full-time—involved in the promotion. Not only are you getting the cards distributed free, but you are subtly getting one of the best forms of marketing, organized word-of-mouth advertising. Prizes are essential to make this contest fun and profitable for employees. We suggest the majority of the prizes be traded out with other businesses. Examples could be car washes, records, movies, dinners, etc. Find out the kinds of prizes your employees would want and accommodate them. The most successful grand prize we’ve ever used is a day off with pay. (Surprisingly, it was one of the cheapest! Clients have told us that the winner will often come in on his or her day off to gloat.)

It is very important that everyone wins. If an employee participates in the contest, and has at least one card redeemed, then the employee should get something for his or her efforts. You could also have weekly winners and then at the end of the contest the Grand Prize Winner. The contest should only last one month. After a while your employees will get tired of the contest. Also, the cards should be passed out in the first week of the contest.

These are only a few examples of street fighter marketing you can apply to your gases and welding business

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
69a_slutskyjeff Meet the Author
Jeff Slutsky is president of Street Fighter Marketing Inc., located in Gahanna, Ohio, and on the Web at www.streetfightermarketing.net.