Beer and Marketing

“Put me in a room with a guy and let me buy him a beer – I’ll close the business.”

That is what my potential new client blurted out at the very end of a one-hour circuitous meeting where we talked advertising and TV commercials.  We talked website and social marketing.  We talked about new graphics, maybe a new slogan or logo, and photos and YouTube videos – and then this statement came out, just like that, and I stopped talking and listened.

His business wasn’t really bad.  It was quite well established.  But, it was just a ‘little slow lately.’  It’s a family business, one that will provide retirement for more than one family member, and an income stream for those to come.

I was talking to the president of the company, who had taken over the business from his father and had been running it for over 30 years.  Business always came to him; he didn’t go after it in any strategic way.  He had done a few things to bring his PR and marketing up to date.  He put up a basic website, and did some traditional newspaper advertising.  He was thinking about radio.  Direct mail.  I asked him if he did any social marketing.  Was the company, or was he, on Facebook or Twitter?  No, he hadn’t done any of that.  Was he on LinkedIn?  Yes, he was.  OK.  Did he have a photo on LinkedIn and how many people were connected to him?  No photo.  32 connections.  Were his employees on LinkedIn?  And if they were, did they have the company name associated with theirs.  They were on LinkedIn and most of them did list the company.  All of them were in their 30s or early 40s, some in their 20s.  He thought maybe his daughter had put up a Facebook page, but now she was in grad school and he didn’t know “where it was.”

“Do you go to networking events?” I asked.

“I go to Rotary and sometimes to the ‘chamber.’”

“Do your employees go, and do they represent the company?  Do they have business cards, and a brochure or handout of some sort? Do they know what you want them to say – your elevator speech?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think so,” he said.

OK.  The roadmap appeared before me.  Perhaps if I didn’t have over 25 years in the business myself, I might not have understood what this executive needed to do.  But I did understand, almost immediately.  As a matter of fact, at that moment, I thought seriously about asking him if he wanted to get a beer, or, um, a glass of wine.

Marketing and public relations had changed.  Advertising had changed.  And many new things had been developed – social marketing, mobile apps and mobile marketing – that he knew nothing about.  “I feel your pain,” I said, “and I can help.”

If you’ve been pretty successful in business yourself, first, congratulations!  But if you notice that things are getting a little slow, and that’s starting to worry you, then let’s do a refresher.  Don’t worry.  There are many ways you can catch up.  And quickly.

The key is not to try to do these things yourself.  Your job will come later.  Right now, you need to hire yourself ‘the best’ consultant.  One you will trust and give some freedom to.  That person will do their research on your company, competition, your uniqueness, and your challenges.  That will form the basis of a PR and Marketing Plan.  Included will be a revamping of your branding or re-establishing your presence.  Website fine tuning, social marketing platforms, management and plans, messaging that will form the basis of advertising and collateral, even signage and employee training.  A full PR strategic plan will be set simmering for you.

While this is happening, you’ll want to do some branding of YOU, as well.  New photos, some institutional, some interactive.  Perhaps a short YouTube video or 30-second TV commercial, featuring YOU, of course.  Are you involved in your community?  Most likely you are, but we’ll want to ramp that up in a visual way. Your social responsibility plan should be woven into your business plan. Perhaps your company can sponsor a local Little League, or put together a Walk team, or sponsor a cultural activity.  Can you do a check presentation?  Would your company like to give away a small scholarship or make a presentation for community service?  Let’s do that and get it in the press.

Once there is what PR people call “buzz” happening about you and your company, then you can work the circles closest to you.  Start with those at the center – your loyal and best customers.  THIS is where that beer comes in!  You want to call them up and buy them lunch.  Or a drink after work.  Or breakfast.  Or stop by their office.  Or take them out for a sporting event.  You want to sit with them and do what YOU do best.  Form that relationship.  Fine tune and deliver that new elevator speech.  Don’t be afraid to get personal, talk about the family, and issues of the day. Leave them a few brochures or postcards about something new, and ask the person to give them to a few of their friends.  Ask them, also, what you can do for them. You’ll follow that meeting up with a short thank you email or even better, a personal note.  If you feel uncomfortable giving the cards out in person, you can insert them in the thank you note.

Like a ripple in a pond, work your circles from the center out.  Keep the rest of the marketing and PR simmering.  Once you’ve gone through the circles pretty well, it’s time to add in a wider networking mix. And you’ll have your choice of what to pick from.  From the formal sit-down-once-a-week-for-lunch group to the hub bub of a leads mixer with games.  What are you most comfortable with?  Take some employees with you to work the room, and make sure leads generation is put on their list of performance standards.  Develop a process of handling leads that come back to the office – follow-up is key!

You’ll meet new people.  You’ll have lots to talk about.  And, when you get that feeling that you are standing before your next best customer, seize the moment!  Ask to buy them a beer!  Or, maybe lunch.  YOU are on now.  You’ve done your homework, put your promotion on high simmer, so do what you do best – close the business.

Nancy Thomas

President, Tapestry Communications

Cranston, RI

nthomas@tapestrycommunications.com

401-447-8182

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