Filling the Stadium

Since this is the “Marketing” blog, I will assume you have something you want to sell. Most of you got the domain name worked out and even have the website done. Some of you are on the road to actual income with a shopping cart, too. But you are far from “filling the stadium” until you build the seats.

Many think that starting a business today is pretty simple, right? It seems easy compared to the “dark ages”: the pre-internet days. Imagine (if you can) what it took to get a product or service out into the marketplace. Whether you were selling business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C), both had specific routes to be followed to bring you sales. And lots of costs up front.

The “good old days”?

Back in the day, even door-to-door selling meant you had employees in order to do the volume you needed to cover all the expenses. And mail order had some pretty narrow pathways, too. Both models required creating solid and compelling printed collateral, like brochures and sales letters. Creating a catalog is not for the faint of heart. For snail mail marketing, even the size. shape, and color of the envelope made a difference.  Plus you had the whole mailing list issue, too! Sending to “occupant” was a tough way to sell.

Pre-internet, if you created a gadget, like a mop, a line of lampshades, or a Pet Rock, you needed to get your product into a store. Artists and other creators are the exception – they have had retail art fairs for decades, but even those required quite a commitment – they still do. Lot’s of moving parts to setting up a tent somewhere for a weekend and actually making a profit.

But other then that, there was no B2C model for something that needed retailing like there is today. Today, the internet is filled with shopping carts for every conceivable product or service.

Not such different hoops and plenty of them to jump through

We hear “stories” all the time about people who are racking up sales online on Etsy or Amazon. Thousands per day are signing up to sell on hundreds of third party sites. It’s a never ending wagon train heading for gold country, but if you don’t have a shovel and know where to dig… just sayin….

Today, one person can mount an entire selling “machine” with a cell phone! Think Ebay! Set up a photo light box somewhere, take a few pics, and post them without setting down your phone. Although Ebay is a very competitive outlet now, it’s still possible for one person to have a full time job and support themselves by selling stuff at “auction”.

Today, you can sell a mattress online! I just bought one. It came in a box and then poof: it turned into a mattress! So, while you can actually sell just about anything online, no matter what you are presenting, you need to jump through some of the same hoops that have always made a difference to successful selling.

(And by the way, if you are jumping through hoops, why not drive traffic to your own site instead of a 3rd party site?)

Let’s look at some hoops. But to get you in the mind-set, I want you to imagine what you would do if you had to resort to selling without a computer. You would need some of the same fundamental collateral (selling materials) and follow the basic rules:

  • You need to look professional. You need to have great visuals like graphics, logo, photos of your product and so forth. You can’t take a snap shot and be effective. There is no excuse for not taking the time you need to learn how to take a good quality photograph – worse case, pay a pro. That full page ad in the newspaper (I know… what is a newspaper?) needs excellent photos and graphic design. So. Do. You!
  • You need to have compelling copy. You need to move people to want to “learn more” and move from just learning about you and your product or service to actually considering doing business with you. You need to move them into the decision stage. How do they make that choice to spend money with you? That must be earned – it’s never a given.
  • You want people to “act now”. As an analogy, if you put out a postcard advertising a sale, you would make it an immediately exciting offer. If you are posting big news or special offers in an email, on Social Media, or splashed across your home page leading them to a squeeze page, you always need them to act now. You need Selling Words on that page and a path your customer will follow until they say, “yes”.
  • You need to have a way that people can actually “act now” and do business with you immediately (think door-to-door sales). What would work in a mail piece? What do credit card companies and banks, or real estate firms, or insurance companies send you? What’s it look like? What are they “doing” to get your attention? They pay upwards of hundreds of dollars per word – pay attention to them. When you get offers from any source and you begin to think about spending money, what was working? What made you consider doing business with them? How can that apply to you, your product, or service? How can you apply this to a website page?

Be Prepared – Here’s the List:

Think of every page on your website like a postcard. Then think about your sales page(s). Think of what would work in a full page ad in a magazine or newspaper and what that page would look like on your website. Your site is dependent on your PR department and advertising department. YOU are those departments. Or hire people who can be those departments for you. Your site is not just pretty pictures and an About Page. This list goes much deeper:

  1. A phone number. I cannot stress this enough. You need a phone number on every single page if you are trying to get a total stranger to give you money over the internet. They may have a nagging question and just don’t want to spend time searching your site for the answer. Make it EASY for them to contact you instantly.
  2. A media “package”. Depending on your product or service, you may benefit from a landing page on your website devoted to the needs of the press. Just today, Carolyn Edlund of Artsy Shark put out her Call for Artists and I know she will be digging for information – as always.  Make it easy for you to be featured in magazines or your local press – online and off. I already gave you the rules for a great press release. Are you ready for unexpected calls or website visits from the press.
  3. UP TO DATE INFO! Okay, look at your site right now (hurry back!) and look at your copyright date on the footer. But don’t stop there. If you haven’t blogged in two years, you may want to deactivate. Seriously – if you look like you visit your own site, don’t care, don’t follow-through, and don’t even have time to update your site, then you look like you are not in “business”. No one can know if you are still in business if you have nothing “currently” going on. Do you have a list of upcoming events (and past events) that you have not taken time to update? Come on…look alive!
  4. Depending on your industry, you may need sales collateral to put into an envelope and send. Do you have the “right” envelope? Do you have the right postage? LOL! This is probably making some eyes roll, but this is a list about being prepared! 

I saved that for last because today, people think putting something on paper is no longer needed. For many this simple marketing tool has been ignored or considered obsolete. I recommend to many of my clients that a slightly oversized postcard or a clever envelope with a really good “sales letter” is very powerful today.

ARTIST SIDE BAR: Have you added every show or award and kept that CV up to date? If not – just go do this RIGHT NOW. Are you killing your opportunities? If a magazine editor landed on your site right now, would they want to interview you or feature you? Do you have a blurb they can copy and paste for your bio? Is there a photo of you they can use? Do you have what it takes to look current and professional? Could they contact you BY PHONE (they are really too busy to be bothered with filling out a contact form online) and are you prepared to send them everything they need in an email within 10 mins? Do you have a file a click away with containing a headshot, bio, and some “print-ready” resolution sized pictures of your art work?

Just the start

My commenters are so often in the “midst of it all” and full of ideas. What other things can you add to this list? Please share your ideas! And stay tuned – next Marketing Blog will dive deeper into a “Media Kit Landing Page”