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Marketing Tips from Professional Organizers

By: Robert Middleton

Robert Middleton, of Action Plan Marketing in Palo Alto, Calif., has helped hundreds of professional service businesses attract new clients and get paid what they're worth.

His website is a resource for marketing professional services. Visit it at Action Plan Marketing.

A few days ago I gave a presentation on marketing to NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers). I have a special warm spot in my heart for NAPO because I've spoken to their association 5 or 6 times in the past several years and have seen dramatic improvements in the group's understanding of, ability to, and results from effective marketing. 

In the session I covered some of the basic marketing principles (the 5 Ps) and then turned it over to them to share the very best tips and techniques they'd employed over the years to attract new clients. They had some great ideas and I wanted to share a few of them with you.

We divided the tips into the 5P categories, so I'll give you a brief description for each section as we go.

Positioning - Anything related to how you communicate about your solution, uniqueness or special way you do business.

One organizer told me that she used to tell a lot about the "process" of getting organized and realized that it just wasn't communicating. She said to one prospective client, "What we'll do is organize your shelves, get things all cleaned up and put all your papers in files..." The prospective client, said, "why do I need to do this?" Realizing that "what she did" was not very convincing, she answered from her gut: "When we get your house all organized, your place will be beautiful, you'll love coming home every night and you'll feel great about having friends over!" The prospective client said, "that's what I want! Let's do it!"

This is a brilliant way to position any business - by communicating the bottom line, gut-level solution. That's what people want! Other organizers shared their simple intro phrase that they used when asked what they did. Here's a few. "I help simplify your life" - "I generate smiles by turning piles into files" - "I bring harmony to your home" - "I get rid of clutter and give you peace of mind." All of these are excellent.

Packaging - Your marketing materials - the tangible expression of what you do and how you do it as well as the visual identity of your business.

NAPO members shared the various types of brochures they used. Most agreed that a simple, concise description of their services (whether a traditional 3-panel brochure or simply printed on a flyer or on letterhead) that told what they did, along with the benefits and features of those services, was all that was needed. They also agreed that putting together such a description was as valuable for them as for their prospective clients. It's something I've emphasized for years. By writing down what you do, you gain clarity about how you can be of service. It takes the conceptual and intangible and makes it concrete and tangible.

I'm still amazed at the number of people trying to promote their services without any printed materials at all. It puts you at a great disadvantage.

Promotion - All the ways you get the word out about your business.

The NAPO members bombarded me with all the ways they promoted their services. Let me give you a laundry list: Postcards, newsletters, e-mail newsletters, trade show booths, speaking engagements, writing articles, getting PR, using reprints of articles networking and several more I can't recall.

There wasn't a lot that was new and innovative about what they were doing but that's exactly the point. The action is more important than the actual method. Most of the things that work to promote a service business take more time than money and succeed when they are executed consistently. They even work better if you do two or three of them and get what I call "Marketing Synergy."

Persuasion - Verbal communication that moves the prospective client from interest into action.

We focused on what people did or said to get appointments with prospective clients. As you know, this is often "where the rubber meets the road" in your business. If people won't get together with you, you're done for. I've seen people turn their businesses around simply by mastering the appointment-getting process.

I can sum up the essence of what NAPO members shared with me in what one young woman said: "It's very simple, I don't end the phone call until we've set up a meeting." Another way of saying this is that she doesn't wait for the prospective client to make the next move. She knows that she won't be of much use to that person unless she gets together with them, so she never forgets to ask for an appointment. Needless to say, she usually gets it. "I just ask them, when I know they're interested and I've told them all I can, if we can look at our calendars now.

I know this sounds too simple but I cannot count the number of people I've met with who simply don't ask for the appointment and wonder why their business is going nowhere.

Performance - What you do to provide service that keeps your clients coming back and has them pass your name onto other potential clients.

Finally, members shared what they do to "go the extra mile" in servicing their clients. Let me tell you, I was impressed and I came to the conclusion that we could all do much more in this area. One woman said she made it a habit, when she was out shopping, of picking up items for client's homes that she know they needed and presented it to them (charging only the face value) at their next meeting. One made sure to give gifts to special clients and another bought several bouquets of flowers as a welcoming home gift to a client that had been away on vacation. Another, a past president of NAPO shared with me once before that the simple of act of always sending handwritten thank-you cards to clients for doing business with her was responsible for filling her practice. 

I asked, "if you do things like this, why would they even consider looking for anyone else?" The answer is, they wouldn't! What are you doing to go the extra mile with your clients? What are you doing to make sure the only words they speak about you are positive and enthusiastic?

Hopefully these ideas can help give you a kick-start to your marketing in the New Year. And remember, it's not the brilliance of the idea, it's turning that idea into action. NAPO members really seem to have mastered that concept. Congratulations!

© Copyright 2000, Robert Middleton

Other Articles by Robert Middleton

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