Round and round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows!

Round and round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows!

Hey there Rainmaker, today is an off day for me.  Thursdays are supposed to be packed with writing time, and I got some writing done, but I’m having trouble keeping momentum.

I need to start this email this way, because admittedly I’m not moved to write like I am most days.

I’ve had a few folks recently comment on how prolific I am — and now this!

I guess it goes to show, we’re all human.  (Don’t EVER forget that about anybody.)

Today, because I’m looking for something to inspire me, I’m going to play a game.

I grabbed our local phone book (yep, they still exist!), and am going to do something I first heard on very early episodes of the I Love Marketing Podcast.  It’s called “Yellow Pages Roulette.”

This is where I flip through the phone book, at random, and come up with a marketing strategy for whatever business category I land on.  (I guess this may not seem as believable in writing as on the podcast, but trust that I’m not picking out businesses to look good!)

I’m also going to choose a theme for this — a type of marketing strategy…

Let’s say…  Lead generation!

That’s a common enough issue that just about every business out there wants to solve, so I’ll go with that.

Okay, flip open the Yellow Pages, and I land on…


Okay, first off…  Most of these folks really need better Yellow Pages ads.  They do absolutely the bare minimum.  In an ad for a caterer, the obvious thing is that you do catering.  And yet, that’s ALL they say!  “Let us cater your special event!”  “Let us make your next event special.”  “Quality catering.”  Duh!

There’s nothing there to differentiate, nothing to make them stand out, nothing to make me choose one option over the others.

So, first off, I’d go with the idea that you can always use information to sell.

Here’s what I might try.  “There are 7 questions to ask a caterer before you hire them.  Do you know what they are?  Visit to get the questions — and the answers the caterer MUST give if you want your catered meal to go off without a hitch!”

I’d then put together a report that laid out the questions, the answers they should expect, and how I would fulfill on them.

But that’s all very standard direct response.  Let’s make this interesting.

Let’s say I had the challenge of doing more than just Yellow Pages or this type of responsive advertising.  Let’s say I was going to generate leads for a catering business, where I had to go out and proactively generate demand.

What would be my thought process?

Well, first, I’d think, “Who could I reach easily who’d be most likely to spend a lot of money on catering?”

While I think a lot of the catering business caters (pun noted) to one-off, private parties, I think the BEST customers for caterers are larger businesses.

So what I’d do is rent a list of all businesses within driving distance that had offices with maybe 50 or more people.

I’d come up with a “free lunch” offer.  I’d cater a free lunch to 10 of their staff including the office manager.  It would be presented as a way to sample our corporate catering service.

As part of the free lunch, I’d do a very short presentation on employee satisfaction and workplace perks.  How if they offer their employees a delicious, nutritious lunch for free, they could increase productivity and workforce satisfaction.  Since talent and turnover are big issues for most large businesses, this would most certainly be appealing.

I’d offer a program where once per week or once per month, we’d do a catered meal, on retainer.  Meaning, they pay us (preferably a flat fee, based on expected number of diners), and we show up.

Depending on the frequency of business, they could get a better rate.  If they wanted to retain us for longer, they could get a better rate.

There would, of course, be no obligation or cost to this free lunch.  Except for considering my offer.

I figure if my food is good and my rates affordable, this would be a very effective strategy.  My goal would be to keep offering these free lunches until I was catering five days per week, every week of the year.

And when I had one crew getting full, I’d hire another, and another.

Okay, on to the next biz…

Internet and online services…

Okay, this is a bit tricky.  Because in our community, the internet service I like (cable, it’s the fastest home service available right now) is a government-protected monopoly.

So it’s hard for me to get excited about selling internet service, unless you’re bringing fiber into my neighborhood (hint, hint, anybody in Lincoln that’s reading!).

The nice thing about internet service is you typically have to really screw up to lose a customer.  And they pay you every month, like clockwork.  Especially those who put down their credit card, so you can charge it automatically.  And since we’re ever-increasingly an always-connected culture, customers are definitely going to stick around.

Okay, so folks are typically only going to switch internet companies under two conditions…

First, they’ve moved.

Second, they’re dissatisfied with their current service.

In terms of the first, you could buy “new mover” address records.  But for most folks, that’s way too slow.  By the time they’re listed as a “new mover” with the postal service and your direct mail list brokers, they’ve already signed up somewhere.

So, the best place to advertise for internet service is in a place like the Yellow Pages or Google AdWords, where you can respond to a customer query.

I’d have to spend some time thinking about how to differentiate in this business.

First off, what I might do is create a comparative speed chart of the top 10 services in the area.  Ideally, I’d be able to show that my service is consistently faster than my competitors, or consistently faster than everybody at the same price as mine.

Or, because I know customer service is an issue in this industry, I might make the same promise Ting did in the cellular industry, and offer “live human phone call, no phone trees.”  This would definitely take work to make sure I nail it, and can cause some growing pains.  But like so many industries, the internet companies have buried their support and service reps under so many layers of phone trees, that it feels like you can’t get a human on the line.  This would be a great place for differentiation.

But we’re running long.

Let’s talk about how to get folks who are dissatisfied with their current service.  I think this is great, because so few internet companies do it.

I think what you do is you look at your best zip codes in the area, and rent a mailing list of people in those zip codes who are not yet your customers.

You send them a very direct letter that addresses the fact they may not be happy with their current internet provider.

In that offer, don’t charge a set up fee, and if they’re dissatisfied with your service, offer to reimburse the setup fee of switching back to their old provider.  Make it as risk-free as  possible to try your service as an alternative.

Only time for one more…  Auto repair!

Okay, this was fortuitous.  I have a service that I’ve wanted for a long time, so I’ll just mention it here as both a very interesting business model for the auto repair business, AND a great way to bring new customers in through the door.

By far, the most regular service any auto needs is oil changes.

They’re fairly low price, but they get the car in the shop on a regular basis.  When the car is in the shop, it also gives the auto repair business a chance to do a quick check-up and see if there are any other items that need to be addressed.

Also, for someone like me who is busy with kids, work, and everything else, the last thing I want to be doing with my day is taking my cars in for oil change.  Frankly, I don’t care so much about the money cost of it — I care about the time cost.

So, what I’d recommend is building a service around concierge oil changes.

The most convenient thing most auto repair shops do is offer you a shuttle to and from wherever you need to go, when you bring your car in for an appointment.

This would work the other way around.  They would actually send a driver out to get your car from you, wherever you are, and then drop it back off when they were done.

Yes, there are logistics and insurance/liability issues around this.  But those could be figured out and built into the price.

The idea is that in the morning, I’d drive my car to work. I would have received a notice call, letting me know the oil change was scheduled, so I’d know to leave my keys at the front desk.  Or, since I work at home, in the front door.

They send someone out, without me having to be there or interact with them, and that person takes my car back to the shop.  While the car is in the shop, they change the oil, and do a full check-up, making sure everything else is in order.  Perhaps even the “white glove” version of this service would come with a borrowed car for the day.

At the end of the day, the car is already back where they picked it up from.  I didn’t even notice it was gone, but they changed the oil, and performed a full check.  They gave me a report on any additional items that might need to be addressed.

Built into this could be additional regular maintenance, so I wouldn’t have to think about it.

This service could easily go for 4X-5X what a normal oil change goes for.  And probably only cost 2X-3X to deliver.  Not only that, the price could be done in monthly or quarterly payments, depending on how you worked it out.

It would be a very high-value service, for a certain type of clientele who would value the hands-off approach to having their car taken care of.

As such, to generate leads and new customers for this service, I’d send a direct mail offer targeting affluent neighborhoods within a preferred service area.  I might focus on professions where the average person doing that work spends a lot of time at work, and may value their time very highly.

I might even offer the first oil change free, to get them started on the service.

Okay, time to hit send…

I hope you’ve gotten a lot of value out of this “Yellow Pages Roulette.”

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets

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