Becoming your own marketing tool: a how-to

Today (March 19, 2010) a story in the Vancouver Sun showcased Cameron Herold, former CEO of 1-800 GOT JUNK, who is now selling advertising space on the cover of his laptop.  That’s right, you could have placed a sticker on his computer for the great deal of $2500 a pop.

And the greatest part?  He sold out.

This leads us to ponder over one of the greatest marketing lessons we can learn as business owners: you are your company.  Make yourself the famous expert in your field, and you yourself will become the tool behind driving in sales.

How did Herold do it?

He built 1-800 GOT JUNK into a $120 million company – a $118 million increase in 6 years.  His experience and success says something to people.  And that’s probably how he and his laptop started getting displayed on huge screens at conferences.  Then the million-dollar thinker thought, naturally of course: ‘people would pay to be seen up there’.  And he was right.

Ok, so you might think you’re not going to be able to sell a fifth of your laptop cover for $2500, but here’s how you can get on that road:

If you are an expert, and truly believe that you are, tell people about it.  Name your qualifications on your business card, your Web site, your e-mail signature, your LinkedIn profile – all of it.

Your accomplishments matter. Maybe they are small to you because you feel that in your own industry it’s no big deal.  But to people who have no idea about accounting, or law, or business, or ______ (you fill in the blank), it is a big deal.  Don’t downsize your accomplishments – hype them up.

Good at giving advice? Then offer it! Sure, maybe your kids don’t sound interested in the most recent tax changes or developments in carpet shampooing (you name it…), but lots of other businesses and consumers are.  Figure out who would want to know about what you’re good at talking about. For example, real estate agents will want to know about quality flooring.  Call up a realtor office and offer to give a presentation.  You might not be paid for it, but you will build credibility.  Send a press release on the latest and greatest at your company to the media; you’d be surprised how interested they might be.  And even more, blog about mini-topics related to your industry often.

Use your exposure for more exposure. When you get that speaking engagement or that coverage in the media, recycle the credibility.  Tell people in your profile, or your “why us” page on your site that you are covered in media and speak to audiences on your topic.  It acts as a reference and builds more clout for your business.

Get to know people. This is one that is often neglected due to the excuse of busy-ness.  If you feel you are really too busy to go networking, commit yourself to a limited schedule and fit it in.  Tell yourself you will go to one particular networking meeting a month and you will, no matter what, set up at least one coffee appointment a week to chat with a new contact about each others’ businesses.  Don’t sell, just have a nice coffee and be interested in what they have to say.  They’ll naturally do the same for you.  They will remember you and think of you as a friend they’ll want to help out.  When the time comes for an expert to handle the job, they’ll talk about you to their people, and their people will become your people.

Use Social media. This is a scary avenue for some people, but it is as plain as can be.  If you use social media to have conversations with people, building on the last point, you will only help yourself further.  Be yourself, and be interested in what others are saying, and comment, comment, comment.  Then say a little something about your expertise.  You’ll make friends you never knew you had (literally!)

You may not consider yourself a good speaker, and you may not want to be on camera, and hey, you may not own a laptop.  But there are ways to spread your talent nonetheless.  Follow the above points and in a year or two you will have calls coming in, people asking you to show up at events, and recommendations because, why refer a friend to anyone but the best?  Remember, your company can be great, but people like sending business to people.  So show off your expertise and you will be your own marketing tool!