The reading level for this article is Novice

Names and addresses of people who have bought from you, shopped at your store, sent for your merchandise through the mail, or have given you business in some way are all members of an elite group: your house file of customers. These people are your most likely prospects for doing business with again, if you’d only entice them with a nice offer.

Especially great prospects are those that have purchased from you two or more times. They like your products or services; they’ve proven that by coming back. You don’t have to sell them on anything—they already know where your store is, as well as the quality of your merchandise or workmanship. Why don’t you drop them a nice note?

“Just going through my files and I saw your name. I wanted to thank you for all the business you’ve given me in the past. I appreciate it, and I thought you’d like to know.” They’ll get the idea. “By the way, our new extended hours are…”

Send Customers a Gift Certificate

Gift certificates are cheap to print, inexpensive to send through the mail, and always a delight to receive. Don’t give away the store, but make sure it’s of good and significant value. Include a letter of thanks for past business.

Write a Press Release

The most effective you can be in marketing is with a single sheet of paper. Yes, you’ve read that correctly: most effective with a single sheet of paper. Write a press release and send it. If you don’t know how to write a release, see the first chapter of my first book, How To Market a Product for Under $500, for almost 50 pages of explicit details on how to write a targeted, effective release designed to generate maximum response (from only your best prospects) and exactly how to submit it for the best possibility of getting it published. Also, reread the article “Getting Your Press Release into Print” in this book.

Go to Networking Events

As much as I hate it too, networking can be a viable source of immediate business. Section out events where your products or services are most likely to be needed—and go. Business events are held every month by most local chambers of commerce. Don’t forget civic groups like Lion’s Clubs, Optimists and Rotarians.

Take lots of business cards. When you’re there, don’t get bogged down speaking to one person for a long time, even if they seem interested in what you’re selling. Your function at a networking event is to meet as many qualified prospects as you can. When you speak with someone, first (and fast) qualify their interest and their candidacy, then get their business card, then move on to the next person. Would you rather go back to the office with one good lead that may or may not pan out, or a dozen?

Follow up every single lead you get at a meeting with a letter. New prospects may not need your services right now, and if your business card is one of a pack of two dozen, it’ll get tossed out. But they’ll file a letter for future reference.

Go to the Library

Look up books specifically on your business. Take about ten or twelve books to a comfortable table and scan the better ones. Read the marketing section of each. The different books will provide you with a handful of new ideas that you can test immediately.

Look up books on marketing and sales, too. Same procedure: Scan the better ones for immediate and practical ideas you can put into practice

right away. I’ve never been to the library without getting something great out of it.

Create an Idea Sheet

I hate lists. But if you need new business, you should create a list of the best ways to get it. This is your road map. Start with a blank sheet of paper. Write down “where to look for new business” in a short “key word” or one-sentence format. Write down the best ways you’ve made sales in the past. Write down every idea for getting business you can think of, no matter how silly it seems. Sorry, turn off the TV and radio when you’re doing this.

Finally, write down your best prospects, how you found them, and where you can find others that are similar. Allow one hour to do this initial writing. Let it sit for a couple of hours, then go back and add more ideas. Repeat this entire procedure two times. Finally, prioritize this entire list from best to worst, and engage.

Send a Letter

The most effective direct marketing sales tool—and my personal favorite—is a letter. If you can send just one business letter a day, I guarantee you will increase your business. (If you can send two, so much the better.) And if you have a regular business or are fluent on the computer, make it a personal goal to send 5 business-building letters a day—25 a week—and your business will flourish and grow. Definitely.

Pick Up the Phone

Geez, I hate making phone calls. But if you want instant action, the phone is the first place to start. It’s a necessity of business and of life.

The phone as a sales tool is a mixed blessing. It’s immediate, fast, and powerful, and it’s a much stronger medium for closing sales than a few sheets of paper. But it’s time consuming. And you certainly can’t contact 5,000 people a day like you can in a direct mail campaign. Not to mention call reluctance and burnout. Still in all, if you need immediate sales, call everyone you can think of “just to say hello.”

Write a loose script, so you’ll have a few interesting things to say leading up to your request for new business or a referral to someone who may need your service or products. The pecking order for calls is: First call all your old accounts—these are the most likely candidates for continued business. Then call your most likely prospects from your best house list. Then pick up the phone and call likely suspects from a new prospect list that you just bought or recently compiled. Keep all phone calls brief—under two minutes—until you smell a sale.

Join an Association

Whether you join the Possum Hunter’s Club of North Jersey, The American Society of House Sitters, or the local Lion’s Club, mixing with a fraternal bunch of guys (or ladies) who share the same interests and problems is always a good move. Ask successful people how they market.

Co-op advertising space or direct mailings with other newcomers. Share ideas. Learn what works and, as importantly, what doesn’t. Learn about your industry from the trade association bulletins, magazines,newsletters, and offers that are sent to members.

Go to Other Meetings

Need business immediately? What better way to get it than through an in-person presentation? Only one way to do that: show up. Attend events where you have a good chance of exposing yourself to potential prospects. Everyone likes doing business with people in their own neighborhood, so try school board meetings, library meetings, business presentations of other groups, civic meetings, and so forth. For example, I went to a meeting for small press publishers and sold several copies of my first book, How To Market a Product for Under $500. I doubt anyone in the room said to themselves that morning, “Hmmm, I think I’ll go to that meeting and buy Jeff’s book.” It happened because I was there. Check the newspapers and business journals published close to your home.

Create a Sign

If you are in a service business and your market is homeowners, a sign can account for bringing in about 25% of your new business. Just as realtors and roofers place their signs in front of houses, you can, too. Have several signs made up at a sign shop. Don’t be cheap; they’re an immediate impression of you and your company, so make them outstanding! Clearly state what service you offer, and have a large telephone number. If you offer free estimates, state that, too. Use reflective paint and increase your visibility into the night.

Ask friends if you can place a sign in front of their house for a month. Place one in front of your house, too. At least until that neighbor that never liked you complains and the cops ask you to take it down. If you can place about half a dozen signs, I guarantee you’ll get more business—way more business—than the signs cost. The results are immediate.

Get Trade Magazines

And read them. There’s usually a column in each on marketing or getting new business. If the writer is great, get old copies and read his column. You may even stumble on some of my writing. Ugh. A subscription to most trade magazines is yours for the asking; you can subscribe free if you qualify. But a subscription may take six weeks to start, and in this chapter we’re talking IMMEDIATE help. You can get a free sample of a magazine rushed to you first class (or priority mail) by calling the publisher and asking for a media kit (boy, my magazine publisher friends are going to hate me for saying this!).

A media kit is an advertising package about a magazine that its publishers send to potential advertisers. It includes their advertising rates, plus all the hype about why you should spend all your advertising money with them. When publishers get a call asking for a media kit, it gets sent right out—usually the same day! Make sure they include two recent copies of the magazine, and ask if they’ll send you any directory issue they may publish.

Get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of ALL the trade journals for your specific industry (find them in the Oxbridge Communications National Directory of Magazines, Burrelle’s Media Directory/Magazines and Newsletters, the SRDS Business Publication Advertising Source™, or Bacon’s Newspaper/Magazine Directory) at the library. When you get the package of advertising material in the media kit, check out the magazine audit page to find out if the magazine is sent free to qualified individuals. Never mind the paid subscription cards in the magazines; if others get it free, you can qualify, too. (My publisher friends are really gonna hate me now.)

This Marketing Contributed Content article was written by Jeff Dobkin on 3/1/2005

Jeff Dobkin is the author of How To Market a Product for Under $500 and Uncommon Marketing Techniques. He is also a speaker, writes response-driven sales letters, engaging web content, persuasive catalog copy; and exceptional direct mail packages. He also is a marketing analyst for direct marketing packages, ads, catalogs, and campaigns. To place an order, or to speak with Mr. Dobkin call 610/642-1000. Visit him online at
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