June 11, 2005

American Entrepreneur - Show the World Who You Are!

I’ve discovered a pretty cool service wherein you can create a “fundable group” and then invite people to join the group. If the group gets enough people to join, it is automatically "funded" at the end of the preset period of time. If it doesn’t get enough people to join within the preset time frame (set by the person that created the fundable group) then everyone’s payments are automatically refunded and the fundable action, whatever it was, is not carried out and cancelled.

This is really great for fundraisers, but it can be used for so many other things as well.

American Entrepreneur Tshirt

I just created one. I’ve designed a very cool t-shirt. It’s called the American Entrepreneur. If we get 50 people to join this fundable group that I just created, by the end of July, then I will have this t-shirt made for all of us. It’s ONLY $12. That includes first class shipping. (If you require XXL or larger, I’ll need to get another $3 from you separate from the fundable group if it funds. So, please note this!)

The t-shirt will be on a high quality shirt (I hate crappy t-shirts, so you can be sure I will do the right thing here) and the image will be professionally screen printed onto the shirt.

It will also be a limited edition t-shirt. Meaning, only 50 will be made and I won’t make the same design again. (If more than 50 people sign up for this group, that’s fine. But once it closes in July, however many people have signed on… that’s how many will be made and no more.)

This is a VERY cool t-shirt to sport if you are an American Entrepreneur. So join our fundable group! Now! It’s only $12. That’s cheap for a t-shirt now a days.

You’ll also be supporting a good cause. My income. :-)

Click here to join this fundable group. You’ll have to create an account first. Then you can join the group.

May 19, 2005

Post-itģ Note Marketing Product Launched

I’ve finally gotten around to commercializing an idea I wrote about a while back having to do with Post-itģ Notes.

I’ve done some experimenting and have found amazing results advertising a special to my customers via a custom printed 3″ x 3″ post-it note.

I recently sent out our new catalog for Great American Collectibles. Here’s the post-it note (left) that I stuck in random locations inside the catalog. I used my i9900 Canon ink jet printer to print it. The seemingly inferior quality is from the scanning process. The actual printed sticky looks quite nice.

In this experiment, I offered this special discount on George Claus via a post-it note in half my mailing and the other half received the same special, but it was only mentioned in the text of the catalog with NO post-it note included.

Not surprisingly, I had FIVE TIMES the response to the special offered via the post-it note compared to the one offered only through the text in the catalog even though the special was identical.

If you send out mailings of ANY kind to your customers, you should NEVER pass up the opportunity to highlight something you want to make absolutely sure your customers see. Even if your customer quickly throws your mailing away, they WILL notice and WILL read your post-it note. It’s your one chance to yell at the top of your lungs, “DON’T THROW ME AWAY… LOOK WHAT I’VE GOT FOR YOU.”

And it works.

Up until my little invention, you’d have to order 25,000 Post-it notes if you wanted something custom printed in full color (or black and white for that matter.) But using my Ready-to-Print Sticky Sheetsģ, you can design and print (in full color) as little as just one sticky. This opens up an entirely new way to uniquely reach your audience. You can even personalize each sticky, for each customer.

As a business opportunity, I’m targeting churches in a big way to sell this product to. Stickys are a perfect way for churches to highlight something important in the Sunday bulletin. The reader is more apt to take the sticky and put it in their pocket or purse because we’re conditioned to do that with stickys when it has info on it that we’re in need of.

These are also great for door-to-door marketing. It’s so much easier to stick one of these things on someone’s door (not to mention the ease of carrying them while you’re hoofing it door-to-door) than it is to put a flyer on a door handle or trying to afix your message somehow so it doesn’t blow away. Also, it gets gobs more attention because they think someone they know has left them a note on their door.

If you want to sell these to local churches or have another idea of who could use these, email me (myself AT dandsherman DOT com) and we can work out a dealer discount if you’re serious about marketing them in your local area.

May 5, 2005

Create a Retail Destination, Not Just a Store

In 1936, after 5 years of hardly any business to speak of, a drug store owner in Wall, SD got an idea. (I guess it was his wifeís idea.) He went out to I-90, the major highway that went by Wall, and put up a billboard offering free ice water at their drug store in town.

The rest is history. If youíve never driven by Wall, SD, you wonít know what I mean. But Wall Drug is about the most famous thing in South Dakota (besides Mt. Rushmore) and has been one of the Top 10 roadside attractions in the US since. The famous billboards start hundreds of miles out so when you finally do get to Wall, you feel almost guilty for not taking the exit and stopping in to see what all the hubbub is about.

Wall Drug is essentially one big tourist trap. And I mean BIG tourist trap. Itís a sprawling 50,000 square foot testament to everything cheesy about America. But itís something I will NEVER drive by without stopping at, itís just that fascinating. (If I lived there, I would, of course. But if Iím driving by once every 10 years, Iím stopping in.)

So how did a drug store in the middle of no where (and I mean no where!) happen to grow to 50,000 square foot and be able to capture 20,000 visitors A DAY in the summer, with annual sales of $11 million?

In the beginning, they became known for something. They were known for free ice water, in the middle of the depression. Sure, thatís something ANY store could have become known for, but they actually did it.

Then they capitalized on that and made sure EVERYONE within hundreds of miles knew about it through their roadsigns. Their annual roadsign budget is $300,000. They also have managed to get signs in other countries, even. Youíll see Wall Drug signs from Antarctica to London. Theyíre known for displaying how many miles it is to Wall Drug. Youíll get that inside joke when you start travelling down I-90 in South Dakota. You start seeing signs that say, ďWall Drug - 500 milesĒ and youíll see them CONSTANTLY so when you finally start approaching the town of Wall, youíre so freaking curious you just have to stop.

The owner, Teddy, says theyíre selling an experience. Plain and simple. That right there should be a lesson for ANY business that has a physical location and depends on the public at large for their business. If you arenít selling an experience, youíre leaving money on the table and much of your marketing budget could be used much more effectively.

Hereís another example. We have a marine dealer that sells boats in Aloha (town outside Portland, OR) called Harveyís Marine. Itís right outside Portland, about 20 miles to the west in the suburbs. Now, this marine store is about as far away from any recreational body of water of significance that you can possibly get in western Oregon. Plus, access to it isnít really all that simple from the main arteries going through Portland, OR. Iím not exactly sure how long itís been in business, but I remember it as a kid in 4th grade when I moved here from California and Iím 41 now. So, itís been around for a while.

Harvey's Marine - Statue of RabbitWhatís the secret of their success? I donít know about their business plan, but I do know they are a destination like none other. This is what you see when you drive by it, from the major thoroughfare that passes right in front of the store. Thanks to google satellite maps, you can even get a peek at the top of Harveyís head from space.

The white spec at the end of the red line that Iíve drawn is his head. You can see itís even taller than the roof of the building itís next to and the building is very tall. (BTW: In case you are mistaking the solid green area below the building for water, itís not. Itís a big green field of grass.)

I canít know this for sure, but my guess is, if they hadnít become an icon around here because of the big Harvey rabbit, they might not still be going strong after all these years.

Oh, they donít just have a big rabbit. They also use it. Each year they dress it for the different holidays. Itís sometimes very hilarious but more to the point, itís not a static fixture. Itís dynamic and always creating a remarkable image in the minds of the local populace. I canít tell you the location of ANY other marine store and weíve got plenty of them in the Portland metro area. But I could give you detailed directions to this store and I donít even live near it any more. (I live about 45 minutes a way now on the other side of Portland.)

There was a guy in southern CA that had been in the news about a year ago because he couldnít find a way to get rid of his penny collection. No one wanted that many pennies. Even banks were turning him down. He had an entire garage full of boxes packed with pennies. They were stacked to the ceiling. At the time, my collectibles company was being housed in a semi retail building where we had a manufacturing shop as well. But at the time, our manufacturing was being done somewhere else so I had some room to play with. I thought about calling the guy to offer to purchase his hoard of pennies for pennies on the dollar (pun intended) and as part of the deal, haul them away for him. Then just stack the pennies up in the shop area and rope it off and create a roadside attraction from it.

This would have been a great way to create a destination. When you send out a press release announcing your collectible manufacturing business, you get a ho hum response. If you put out a press release that highlights the fact that your collectibles shop has the largest stack of pennies on earth, on display in your showroom, you get a TON of press. Probably from all over the world, eventually.

If you own a furniture store, donít just be a furniture store. Create something that can ONLY be seen at your store and will place the memory of your store above all other furniture store experiences. Create the tallest stack of chairs on earth. You could do this over time and set up a ďchair stackingĒ cam on the internet. One by one, as you receive cheapo chairs (they could be the foldable type that cost you $7, whateverÖ) start welding them together or gluing them, or whatever is the safest method to attach them to one another and keep building it. Sooner or later, you will attract attention from far and wide and youíll completely blow away your competition, even though theyíre probably flushing $10K in radio advertising down the toilet each month compared to your relatively inexpensive and longer lasting method of gaining exposure.

The ideas are limitless. Just think of OVER THE TOP ideas. You can always scale them back as need be, but start with just the most incredible and wackiest idea you can come up with related somehow to what you sell or do and you WILL find something that will create remarkability related to your business.

Itís not WHAT youíre selling that matters. Itís the experience you create while selling it that will be the difference between you being just another XYZ store and something truly remarkable.

As the new tagline of my blog says, ďIf you ainít remarkable, why?Ē

March 18, 2005

When it Comes to Marketing - Don’t Be Shy

I was minding my own business, driving home this afternoon from the post office and I noticed a huge pick-up truck next to me. It was obvious he was an artist from the text on the side of his truck and the big website URL emblazoned on the tailgate. But what was really remarkable and what actually caught my eye was that he had what appeared to be crossbars over the bed of the truck and on these cross bars he had mounted 3 of his huge sculptures. They were cinched down on the cross bars so as to be level with the sides walls of the bed of the truck and thereby visible by everyone driving by.

One of the sculptures was a huge eagle. I don’t much care for that “old west” type of art work, but boy, it sure caught your eye and you can tell he was very talented. He had a couple other ones visible as well, but the eagle got my attention and then he turned and I couldn’t keep looking because I was going straight. Here’s a picture of one of his sculptures.

But I went to his site when I got home. Turns out he lives in my town (population 16,000). His name is Lorenzo Ghiglieri and he’s quite the artist. He does paintings as well.

The point is what could you be doing with your own marketing efforts that you’re not currently doing just in your everyday lives. You could wear a nametag like Scott does. Or you could do like this Lorenzo guy is doing and displaying what he does in an unorthodox way. I would put money on the fact that Lorenzo is getting business from such a bold marketing manuever. It meets my litmus test of being “remarkable.”

What could you do to put a little “remarkable” into your business?

I’ve got a “remarkable” idea for those of you that have a retail store location or some other type of situation that relies on people to come to you. It’ll be in my next post.

March 7, 2005

Dan Sherman’s plan to save TiVo

If you aren’t using a personal video recorder (PVR), you’re either too poor to buy one (which is fine, just keep reading my blog and perhaps we can get your income up) or you are purposely living in the stone age, for whatever reason.

As you may or may not know, TiVo has become synonymous with the PVR industry. You’re not recording something with your digital video recorder, you’re “TiVo-ing” it. Regardless of whether you own a ReplayTV unit or some other unit.

If the name of your company is synonymous with your industry, you should be ashamed of yourself for bankrupting it.

TiVo has gone through more cash than the UN made from illegally selling Iraqi oil under cover of the “oil for food” program. I mean, GOBS of cash. And they aren’t even close to profitable. Yikes!

I recently wrote a letter to the company, with an idea that if implemented, would save their company from utter financial ruin and bring it way north of profitable within 2 years, if not much sooner.

But will they listen? My guess is no. Why? Because my idea is too unorthodox and not glamorous enough for a company, again, synonymous with their own industry.

I’ve touched on door to door selling many times in my blog. There’s a reason. It’s a much maligned way of selling, but it sure is effective if you have the right product.

TiVo is the right product.

Here’s why:

1) Brand recognition. There are VERY FEW doors you can knock on in an average neighborhood in America and not find at least someone that’s heard of TiVo.

2) Highly demonstrative. Once you’ve experienced watching your favorite programs when YOU want to watch them, without commercials, and without much technical know how, you will start referring to your past as pre-TiVo and post-TiVo. Colors become more vibrant, taste more lively. You will love harder, hate less, sex is better… okay, you get my point. Experience it for a bit, you’re hooked. (Kind of like crack cocaine I would imagine, without the financial ruin and premature aging.)

3) Relative low cost. This lends itself to an easier close for the sales person. I mean, heck, millions and millions of dollars were made by vacuum sales people selling their suck machines door to door for years and years. You were asking someone to write you a check for a good chunk of change on those sales calls. Now THAT was hard.

4) One call close. In the sales biz, the “one call close” is what separates the super stars from the “also mentions.” If you can’t sell someone during your first meeting/visit/consultation, you’re toast. Period. Sure, you might get the sale on a subsequent meeting or call, but if you plan on taking on a mortgage, you better master the one call close. (In general… I’m not talking about multi billion dollar deals or real estate… etc.)

5) Proactive sale. You are GOING TO YOUR CUSTOMER and not waiting for the sale to be “clerked.” There’s a difference between clerking and selling. Clerking is when you have 1 million TiVo units in 100,000 stores across the USA along with a thousand other electronic items. Then you sit there and wait for someone to mosey into the store to buy one of your boxes. If you’re lucky, you get a store employee who has a TiVo and can say something other than, “I don’t know, let’s read the manual” when queried about your product. In other words, you wait for someone to pick up your product and purchase it. Most products are FORCED to operate this way, assisted with a butt load of advertising, if your smart (or rich.)

But selling is a different animal. Sure, you can sell in stores. You can have your manufacture rep in stores, talking up your product. But you’re still waiting for people to come into the store looking for a solution. If you go door-to-door, and you know that a vast majority of the doors you’re going to knock on can use your product… now THAT is selling, folks. You’re going out and proactively looking for customers. People that weren’t even thinking of you and your product 30 minutes ago are now allowing your sales person to hook up a trial TiVo unit and their not only allowing you, but because of your expertly trained sales person, they are actually giddy with excitement over this new magical box that has just arrived out of the blue, to bring joy to the entertainment center. They’ve heard all the hype about it, but just haven’t done anything about it yet, or they’ve been intimidated by the setup… etc.

6) Controlled growth. If you want to sell X number of units next month, recruit and train X number of sales people this month. When you’re selling in stores, you can’t just ship 2,000,000 units more next month and expect to sell them. You have absolutely no control over your growth, other than advertising which is a shot in the dark. With door-to-door sales, you can EXACTLY predict what you are going to sell, based on the number of people you have on the ground selling and the average sell you have experienced for each placement in a home… etc. It’s just a matter of doing the math and executing.

7) Company profits. Right now, a large portion of TiVo’s income is from agreements with satellite companies and the TiVo licensed units they have sold or rent to their customer base. But those agreements are going by the wayside. So, they are going to lose that revenue stream because of another company’s decision. All door-to-door sales will be company owned customers. Way more profit. (I mean WAY more profit, per customer.)

I’ve sold insurance door-to-door, folks. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that if I had the opportunity to sell TiVo back then, instead of insurance, I would have done back flips and said, “where do I sign.” I can’t think of ONE commonly used product today, that is better suited for selling door-to-door than a PVR. You give the customer a free week trial and install it for them right then and there. If they don’t like it after a week, call and you’ll come back out to remove it. If they do like it, keep it and billing will automatically start. It’s the classic puppy dog approach. You give someone a puppy dog to take care of for a week, they fall in love with it, and don’t want to give it back.

TiVo… please take my advise. Do a test using this concept. See that it works and then make a splash by putting out a press release saying all TiVo units will cease being sold through retail outlets as of X date. After that date, customers will only be able to get TiVo through your website or through your independent neighborhood sales reps. This would do several things.

First, there would be a run on machines in the stores. So, there would be a boost in sales, right off.

Second, it would provide a huge surge in press coverage. It’s an odd tact for a major company to do, so that is valuable exposure, right there. Almost everyone would know that you’re now selling them door-to-door and so this would create a receptive atmosphere when your reps actually do start knocking on doors. You may even get people who are WAITING to be knocked on so they can get a free install… etc.

Third, you would set yourself up to do like Dell does and sell directly to the customer. Cutting out the retail store in your case is about the smartest thing you can do. (Remember, you have great brand recognition… heck, stores should be paying YOU to carry your product, actually.)

There’s an old saying… “If you continue to do what you’re doing, you’ll continue to get the results you’re getting.” It’s time for TiVo to create a Purple Cow. Seth Godin, if you’re reading this, back me up. TiVo needs to break out of the standard retail mold. Make a splash. Do something remarkable. I wanna see them around for a long time to come.

February 14, 2005

Kicking the Niche

I love what Salesprocessdiva had to say about specializing or as she says it, “being first in your category.”

Be the first in your category. If you can’t be first, create a new subcategory in which you can be first. For example, who was the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean? Lindbergh, of course. Who was the second? No one knows, even though Number 2 presumably flew faster and more efficiently. Who was the third? Amelia Earhart. How is it we all know the third person and not the second? Earhart created her own niche in which she was first Ė the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Here’s another example. For years the market was full of cold medicines, many of which have since faded beyond memory. But we all know Nyquil Ė the first “nighttime” cold medicine. Distinguish your product or service to the point where it has no competition.
[Via Business-Opportunities.biz]

I love this concept. It reinforces many of my own ideas that focus on being very specialized. For example, if you sell shoes online, don’t try to be the number one seller of shoes online. There are multi-billion dollar companies that are always going to beat you in that game.

Instead, be the number one seller of men’s size 13 by selling ONLY size 13. Or ladies size 6… whatever. I know most people’s immediate reaction to that suggestion is, “No way.. you’re missing out on 98% of the public.” True, but look at the pluses. You are narrowing your market so you know EXACTLY who your market is. Before, your market was mankind. Try doing an effective marketing campaign to “mankind.” But if you just sell men’s size 13 shoes, it’s much easier to reach your target audience. Heck, you could walk in the mall and just look at people’s feet and give a card to each person you see that appears to be about a size 13. I’m assuming that since you specialize on that size, you’ll probably get pretty good at spotting a size 13.

There are more benefits to going after such a specialized market. Once someone in your market knows about you, they are infinitely more jazzed about your store or website. Being someone who is a size 13, I know how hard it is to find good shoes in that size. If I came across a site that sold only size 13, I’d flip and never buy from another shoe store again, for the rest of my life. You are creating a social affinity group, just by selling one shoe size. As a size 13 person, it would feel pretty cool to shop at a site that knows me and can identify with me.

Another benefit is being able to undercut your competition. Think about it. First, your expenses would be WAY lower than a typical shoe seller because you don’t have to stock 10 sizes for one model shoe. So, you need a 10th of the space (or thereabouts) of what a traditional shoe seller needs and at the same time, offer a much bigger selection.

So instead of beating your head against the wall, trying to outperform, out market, out price the big shoe sellers, take the easier road while at the same time expanding your business. I’d rather have 10% of the size 13 shoe market than .00005 percent of the total shoe market. (You get what I’m saying… the numbers are just examples.)

So, kick the niche. The tighter the niche, the more likely you are to succeed on the internet as a small business.