I have a new start-up service business that just launched but I am unsure how to start gaining traction? The concept is fairly unique and might take a few bold people to actually try it out before it catches on.
In previous businesses I've found going to the basics is the best. Ex. Passing out fliers to businesses or on the street.
Any tips on where to begin?
On the same note I've just began marketing my service and was going through the same line of thinking. Our business is a small 2 man video production service. It was really hard for me to segment our potential customers because, like your business, almost anyone who can afford may need it.
So far, our approach is to target the middlemen that can refer their clients to us i.e. graphic designers, web developers, and marketing agencies.
Doing a search for them in my area gave me 60 websites where I filled out contact forms and got 3 interested replies. Its not much but it got me started.
My next strategy is to print a ton of letters and flip through the yellow pages and mass mail them to businesses in my city. Maybe this strategy could work for you too?
I've searched all over Drodio's site for related blog posts, but haven't found a really comprehensive guide to small business marketing. If anybody could recommend some, or give me some tips as well I'd appreciate it :)
Lawrence: If you haven't already, you should sign up for these guys' email newsletter list: http://www.pixability.com/ and also check out a couple of their webinars.
They do an amazing job of outlining the Value Proposition for online video and what it means for businesses. You'll quickly pick up on key terms and metrics they use to sell their services to potential customers. That can do nothing but HELP you as you try to find your best elevator pitch.
I would highly recommend NOT mailing letters.
Get on the phone and start calling people. You'll learn a LOT from just talking to people.
If you call 50 and get zero clients, then you need to figure out a better differentiator before you continue.
You'll be wasting time, money and trees by sending letters out.
Thanks for the heads up. Do you still recommend using jigsaw or should I use yellow pages. I've read your post on learning how to sell, but I still don't quite know what to say.
"Hi Mr. (Director of Something). I was looking at your website and noticed there's a lack of video content. Could I give you more information on what I can offer you?"
Would that work?
Jigsaw is 1000x better than yellow pages.
If someone called you and said that, would you want to talk to them? Pick something that would make YOU want to engage.
First of all, start at the top of the company. Contact the CEO, or the CMO, or if it's a SMB then start with the owner. Don't start at a director level. Buy and read this book called Selling to VITO.
Have some case studies of other clients where you've enabled the business achieve its goals with your offering.
A lack of video content means nothing unless the opposite (having a lot of video content) means something valuable to the owner. "If we produced 50 videos for you, your sales would rise by 27%" means something to the owner.
And if you can guarantee that benefit, even better. It's a risk you take for a reward of getting the business. But what you're offering has to work. That's where you need to start. What results does your solution produce for your target audience?
A couple more thoughts I'll add ...
The conversation seems to have a lot of ideas on how you deliver your service (Your Core Product) than specifically on how to market it ... which is actually A-Ok .. because as you improve your Product, the marketing will (almost) take care of itself via word of mouth.
One thing it sounds like you're still evolving is your CORE value proposition ... why is someone going to pay you rather than a barber/stylist they usually go to.
Couple ideas here:
A) speaking in my own experience, I'm CRAZY-loyal to my barber. There's just something about sitting in the chair and not even having to tell him/her what I want done and being completely confident it's going to be consistently good. I went to the same guy for 8 years where I grew up in FL and have been visiting the same two guys here in VA for going on 6 years. The last two years I've lived over 20 miles away from their shop because I moved and now I get up as early as possible on Saturday mornings to drive to their shop before traffic gets bad around DC and to beat the rush of other loyal customers they have who, like me, will sit for up to an hour to wait for them, even though the other barbers are sitting there with no one in their chair. THAT's the kind of loyalty you'll want to make your goal. But you'll also be competing with that loyalty to win new customers.
B) I could be wrong, but I think you'll want to really position yourself as a PREMIUM provider. Add all the extras you can to your service. Hand guys an iPad with the paid MLB.com app on it (or any other cool apps or news sources/digital magazines). Make sure you provide the straight-edge razor shave around the edges. More on this here. I say this because you're offering a CONVENIENCE that really can't be matched by your everyday salon/barbershop ... people will pay comparatively more for that and there's quite a bit of price elasticity there. Also, your average profit-per-cut will rise significantly because I would imagine a lot of your costs are just getting in the door and/or the time lost while traveling to each location.
With all that in mind, use basic best practices of engaging your customers via social media and providing them EVERY opportunity to share your story to their networks ... encourage Check-Ins to your "chair", wherever it may be located ... search Twitter in your general vicinity for people tweeting "haircut" and "time" to find people complaining about the problem that you have a unique solution for.
You're taking the right route by trying to become a PLATFORM rather than just depending on the service that you alone can "sell" ... but that will present an entirely different marketing strategy because then you're selling a different product (the platform) to a different audience (stylists/barbers) with a bit of a slightly different value proposition.
Great idea. This SCREAMS LivingSocial, Groupon or start off smaller with a PlumDistrict.com You could totally blow it out with one of these half off deal sites.
I like the idea of going to the office once a month or week and setting up shop and doing 1-5 people at a time. Hell, the company might pay for it. Less time wasted going to get a haircut and more time programming. Literally ask the boss to subsidize or pay for it all. I dont think you need to make it free or discounted, the service is powerful enough.
And this is from a guy that just hired TireVan to come to my house and install new tires. It was great.
I think you should focus on men.
Give a $1 discount if they Tweet with a photo of video of the event!
My #1 question will be the same as everyone else. How do you keep it from being a mess and how much of an area do you need?
How much more does it cost?
Maybe a one time $5 or $10 per office and then X per cut (so if one person wants just one cut, it costs $10 for the office visit and X for the person). So it encourages them to get their buddies to get a cut to reduce the office cost. Or do the living social model of if they get 3 more people to pay, then the #1 guy is free. (not sure what you do going forward if they want to come back).
Peapod has some aggressive discounts for the first use.
Thanks for the input! The living social idea is really great. I think having adding a group mentality would also remove the initial barrier of getting your haircut in the office. Some people might feel awkward if they scheduled a haircut alone but if their friend's didn't it would feel so "weird" getting a cut in the office.
To answer your questions we only need a small area (5x5). We provide a floor covering, a chair covering, and your standard drape to protect your clothes. We also use a pretty cool Japanese hair vacuum to remove the cut hair from your hair so it is not going all over your clothes the rest of the day.
@Tom88, yes definitely lots of tips on where to begin, but I need to know a bit more about the business first. Can you tell me:
- is it a B2C or B2B... or even B2B2C
- What's the Lifetime Value of your customer?
- How hard or easy is it to use your product or service? (And is it a product, or a service?)
- What else can you tell me about it?
- Do you have a budget for user acquisition?
- Have you ever tried getting press?
- What are your target goals for growth in a certain time period (month / quarter / year, etc.) Speaking of growth, here's an absolutely fantastic blog post by Paul Graham on the topic.
If you want to keep things kinda-anonymous, no problem, just answer these questions as best you can
Thanks for the reply!
-We are a B2B and B2C. We sell directly to our customers but also sell to enterprises.
- We are a service that provides haircuts in your office or home. Currently, we are marketing towards small and medium sized businesses.
-Our service is easy to use. All you have to do is make an appointment by calling our toll-free number or by doing so on our website and we send a stylist to cut your hair.
- Just read the post about getting press and it's starting to work already (!http://danielodio.com/the-secret-to-getting-really-good-press)!
- Our goals are reasonable by the end of the year (12/31) we want to give individual 200 haircuts.
We are also interested in meeting as many other start-ups as possible and giving free haircuts in their offices to give us a try.
OK a few more questions:
1) Is your service live yet? If so, how many haircuts have you given to date?
2) Do you have quotes from customers you can use?
3) Do you have any way to do before & after shots? For example, an app where someone posts their "before" the haircut shot, and then their "after" the haircut shot? That could be some great baseline content to use for social media marketing
4) Do you have a budget for user acquisition? If so, how much?
5) What's the LTV of your user? If you don't know, then take a guess. That will determine how much you're able to spend to acquire users
6) How are you funded? Self? Angel? VC? Are you looking for creative "bootstrap" strategies, or a "blow things out" strategy
7) What skillsets does your team have? Could you make a great video that has the capability of going viral, like the $1 shave guys did?
8) Do you have a way to get access to the barbers to get them to do promos with you?
9) Do you have some kind of mobile van unit, or mobile kit that a barber uses when going to a person's home to give a haircut?
Some initial thoughts/feedback (some of this depends on the answers above)
I love the idea of giving haircuts to startups, although I'm not sure how much ROI you'd get from that. A better approach might be to give free haircuts to people that could get you publicity. Imagine things like:
- Giving Oprah a haircut on-air
- Giving a local newscaster a haircut on-air
- Giving Howard Stern a haircut on-air
- Giving Robert Scoble a haircut that he blogs about
How about setting up a station on the street in a very public place, and then offering free haircuts to people who obviously need a haircut? Kind of like a "fashion police" type of thing.
Also, I'd bet that women care a lot more about the quality of their haircut than guys do. Are you looking to service men, women or both? The types of marketing you do will be determined by this answer. I doubt that many women would up for a random haircut offer from someone who set a station up at Union Square, but men might be.
I'll send this thread to a few creative entrepreneur friends to see if they have some thoughts/advice.
Thanks this is all very helpful!
1) Yes, our service is live. We launched on Monday and so far have given under 10 haircuts.
2) Currently, we do not have customer testimonials but do have the capability to record them on our site.
3) Great idea- this is something we tossed around. Our stylists could take before and after pictures of the haircuts and we can post them on instagram or Twitter instantly.
4) Our budget for CPA is around $30.
5) Not quite sure a good guess for LTV is $5,000.
6) We are currently funded by angels. We think we can bootstrap the rest of the way as we make money the moment we give a haircut.
7) We have a lot of connections with companies around the area. We are hoping to be offered to employees as a corporate benefit and start the word-of-mouth from this angle.
8) So far the only thing I thought of is to have salons sign up on our website and use our system for their reservations. Basically, they can add themselves to our network and their clients can schedule a haircut and pay on our system but still go to them.
9) We developed a mobile kit for the stylist to bring with them when they travel. We have no plans for a van or truck.
I love the idea of just giving haircuts in the street. We are going to do this tomorrow in DT SJ. We are targeting men at first so I agree that these forms of marketing would be more applicable.
Naming the cuts rather then having the customer describe would definitely provide some distinction. We could also provide pictures.
My example- "Spice Guy" cut like David Beckham (you know because he's married to a spice girl ahah!)
We would definitely go into SOMA. Is there a way we can get in touch with them easily? Daniel is there anyway I can help you out- your help really means a lot!
@Tom88, I don't exactly understand who's cutting the hair: Are these stylists who do this part-time for you, or a dedicated staff of stylists that only cut hair via your booking engine? (Or are you not sure yet?)
Another idea: Setup shop at a place like SOMAcentral ( http://go.DanielOdio.com/somacentral) and give free/discounted/fullprice haircuts there for a day, or on the first day of every month.
There are lots of similar co-working spaces in SF and many cities.
Also: You could brand certain types of haircuts. Like the "Giants World Champs" haircut. Or the "Tech Nerd" haircut. Dunno exactly what those cuts would look like (or maybe it's a coloring thing?) but it might create some differentiation.
The Wall Street Journal has run a series of articles about the app economy this week, identifying the app ecosystem as a $25 billion business. They write:
If you're interested in mobile, and apps in particular, I highly recommend searching this series of articles out.
When my co-founders and I started PointAbout, a mobile app dev shop in 2008, we had a really hard time convincing businesses that apps were more than just a fad. Then in the 4th quarter of 2009 something significant happened: I started to see budgets for app creation move from the "experimental" bucket to a dedicated budget. That's when the most forward-thinking businesses started to build mobile apps and we were able to build a strong business making apps for Disney, The Washington Post, Cars.com and many others.
But still, many businesses don't get it. I recently wrote a warning to Fortune 1000 CEOs because I'm convinced many of them will be fired for underestimating the impact of mobile on their businesses.
In one of the comments someone asked what I plan on doing now that I'm done with gambling. It's a good question, and one that I don't totally have the answer for.
I feel like I'm a little bit behind, since it hit me so fast. Normally I would prefer to have a solid new plan in place before stopping one business, but that's not how it always works.
My approach has been to get involved in a lot of different ventures, and to let time sort out which are worth doing and which aren't. Actually, this post is more for me than you guys, just so I can take stock of where I'm at.