Giving Away Green and More

In bad economic times, sellers need to pay attention to what’s important.

Their knives are dull from slashing costs. But you can’t cut your way to profits. Now is the time to hug your best customers and nurture relationships with prospects.

However, in-person meetings with sellers keep dwindling.

How can sellers make an impact with a less available audience?

How do you create value even when you’re not in front of your client?

One of the best ways is free sampling. Give something away for nothing. It feels counter-intuitive at a time of cost-cutting. And I don’t mean rebates or discounts, either. I mean free. Here’s why.

One of my clients, Perry OP, an office products and furniture dealer in Temple, Texas, “walks the talk” when it comes to their core values of service, integrity and community. Earlier this year, they gave away a $25,000 Office Makeover that garnered local radio and TV attention.

At the same time—much more quietly–they delivered a check to a battered women’s shelter. The shelter was selected by Perry employees, who volunteered to contribute through payroll deductions. This they did behind the scenes, without fanfare. They just showed up with a check and blessed the shelter.

Perry’s current initiative is free “green”. Their “Bright Ideas for Going Green This Spring” campaign unashamedly occupies half the real estate on their homepage. Perry’s genuine customer focus demonstrates to prospects and customers alike that they are less interested in selling you something than developing a relationship with you. Their customer and lead nurturing program is sure to build trust between the Perry team and prospects/customers. Their “free samples” are real, fun and unique, for example:

• Bringing emphasis and awareness on Green “days” to calendar (St. Patrick’s Day, Earth Day, first day of Spring)
• Win a free HP tote bag by taking a green quiz
• Offering “green” product alternatives
• A Blogpost : “5 Easy Ways to Add Some Green to Your Office”

What did it cost Perry to give all this away? My guess is HP will donate the branded tote bags and everything else is just time invested in electronic info in various forms.

How big a deal is this? Very. It’s easy for days to become weeks, then months, between contacts. According to a recent CSO Insights study, 80% of sellers fail to follow up after the initial contact.

Since relationships are what differentiate sellers, out-of-sight easily translates to a decrease in buyer loyalty. Therefore, nurturing relationships electronically is a great way to stay in touch between visits.

What can you do to provide free sampling to your clients?

Here’s my top 5 list:

1. Blog (500-800 words) on something of interest to your audience, yet not self-promoting.

2. Publish an electronic newsletter. For about $15 per month, Constant Contact or iContact offer a user-friendly way to develop and track email marketing efforts with your audience.

3. Offer a free one-hour “strategy session” with a prospect. This is a great way for them to “free sample” you—the idea behind Selling by Doing, not Selling by Telling.

4. Send them out a timely email with topical information. Industry trends, regulation news, competitor updates, your new offerings that will help them (note: careful not to self-promote)

5. Client Spotlight – you’re reading an example of a “client spotlight” that features something unique from one of my clients. Why not show some love to your clients by sharing the things they care about that others can potentially learn from?

We’re really just scratching the surface of ways sellers can create value for buyers.

Free Medium Coffee and Warm Fuzzies

What did the new Dunkin Donuts store owner do right? The sign says it all…”Free Medium Coffee”.

Do you think he drove traffic to his new store? Lots. I had to look twice at the second line; “No Purchase Necessary."

That’s different.

Free just feels different.

New businesses offer discounts, coupons and rebates all the time. They imply, “We’ll give you a good deal if you come check us out.” Free, on the other hand, says, “We’re willing to invest in a relationship with you and know we’ll need to earn your business.”

Now flip it. How obliged do you feel after hunting for the coupon, clipping it out, sorting it by category and then remembering to use it before it expires? You feel like they owe you the coffee, don’t you? At best coupons and other promotions offer a balanced exchange; at worst, buyers feel distrust about the process. How much pain have you felt due to coupon or rebate issues? One study suggested that 50% of all rebates never get turned in.

Now let’s look since the savvy store manager erected the sign:

Day #1 – On your first visit, you look around as you approach the counter with caution. Suspicious of a catch, you place your order, “I saw your sign and I’d like a free medium coffee.” When the person on the other side of the counter smiles and promptly pours your Dunkin Decaf, you wonder if the other shoe will drop. When you realize there’s no string attached, they just went from stranger to friend.

Day #2 – You know you’re getting a donut with the coffee. Why? Because you feel a strange sense of gratitude for a second cup of free coffee. I bet you never felt a sense of appreciation after using coupons? (By the way, after day #1, you told at least three friends about the free medium coffee because you like to give away free stuff too, even if it’s someone else’s).

Day #3 – “Dunkin Decaf, cream, no sugar Mr. Slatin?” says the lady in a pink and orange uniform. “Thanks for remembering Janice, let me also get a half dozen glazed and a half dozen with sprinkles, an egg, bacon and cheese croissant and a box of munchkins.”

What just happened?

The seller created value by giving you something without expecting anything in return. Did he have a previous relationship with you? No. But now he does. He changed the feeling you had about his product or service from neutral to positive. Warm fuzzies. Why are warm fuzzies important? Well despite popular belief – all decisions are based on emotion and justified by logic. Dunkin Donuts went through your mouth to get to your heart.

What’s your “free medium coffee”?