13 Costly Marketing Mistakes

To be successful and profitable, you must ‘START’ using the most effective marketing strategies possible within your overall marketing plans.  Less obvious, is the fact that you must also ‘STOP’ using the most ineffective, money-wasting marketing strategies.

I call them The 13 Costly Marketing Mistakes. While this list doesn’t cover ‘all’ of the possible marketing mistakes, it does describe some of the most expensive, destructive and most ‘common’ made by many owners or traditional and home based businesses.

1. ONE-STEP MARKETING

The ‘One-Step’ marketing strategy is the most common marketing strategy used by most small business owners today. It’s everywhere — and it’s a big money waster.  It consists of an ad, flyer or other marketing vehicle that simply ‘announces’ the business name, possibly lists a few basic features of the product or service and ends with an address and phone number.  The prospect is now expected to respond to this type of marketing piece by immediately purchasing the product or service.  Unless you are offering an extremely ‘high-demand,’ ‘hard-to-get’ product/service (an original Van Gogh painting for $100, Super Bowl tickets, etc.) this marketing strategy ‘almost always’ results in little or no response. This strategy totally disregards the ‘psychological buying sequence’ of consumers. It’s very much like walking up to a stranger at a party and asking ‘Would you marry me?’ What do you think the response would be?

2. NOT KNOWING WHICH EFFORTS ARE WINNERS OR LOSERS

Not knowing for sure which of your marketing efforts are producing results and which are big ‘money-wasters’ is a guaranteed way to minimize your results.
Even new businesses are investing in up to a ‘dozen’ marketing devices at any given time. Not only are we talking about traditional media, like newspaper or Yellow Page ads but ‘many’ others that may not be as obvious.
These marketing devices are either contributing to your business profit or destroying it. Most business owners don’t have a clue as to which is which.
If they did, they could easily guarantee increasing their profitable results by investing more in the winning devices and eliminating the money-wasting, losing devices.

3. NOT TELLING YOUR PROSPECTS WHAT TO DO

Expecting your prospects to ‘know’ exactly what you want them to do guarantees low results.
Never, never, never assume. Take a look at most small business ads and you’ll see that the business owners are almost always ‘assuming’ that the prospect will know exactly what they want them to do . . . without telling them.
At the bottom of the ad there will be a phone number and an address. Usually nothing more. Ask one of these business owners what they ‘wanted’ the prospect to do after reading their ad and they will most likely reply, ‘Buy my product! Isn’t it obvious??’
The answer is a resounding ‘No!’
For one, there is rarely enough information in the typical marketing piece for a consumer to make an ‘immediate’ buying decision. Therefore, that can’t be the action expected from the consumer.
Second, the marketing competition for the prospect’s consumer dollars is fierce. The prospect is usually exposed to dozens of ads for basically the same product/service. Obviously, he or she is not going to take ‘action’ on every single ad.
How do ‘you’ insure that they will respond to ‘your’ marketing piece and take the specific action you intended?
Certainly, not by ‘assuming’ that they will ‘know’ or ‘figure out’ what you want them to do.

In order for a business owner to tell prospects exactly what action to take next, the business owner must know what that action should be. Once you know the ‘psychological buying sequence’ the next expected action becomes obvious.

4. CALL FOR MORE INFORMATION

Closely related to mistake number 3, is the marketing piece that again simply ‘announces’ the business name, lists a few basic features of the product or service, ends with an address and phone number . . . and then asks the prospect to ‘Call for More Information.’
One of the last things a prospect wants, is to feel dumb. What information should they ask for? Does this mean that the business doesn’t have a brochure or any other literature? Are they going to have to take notes?? Will there be a test?
The other thing ‘no prospect’ wants is to feel pressured. Whether it’s true or not, the average prospect ‘assumes’ that they’ll get a ‘high-pressured’ sales pitch if they call. Most do not want to risk this pain.

Therefore, the ‘Call for More Information’ tag is almost always ignored.
While ‘some’ prospects may not have a problem responding to this ‘vague’ directive, the majority do. If you doubt this . . . try putting it at the bottom of your marketing pieces. You’ll soon be convinced that few prospects, if any, respond to the ‘Call for More Information’ marketing mistake.

5. FOCUSING ON YOU INSTEAD OF YOUR CUSTOMER

It seems natural to tell your prospects about you and your company. We’re proud of what we do and how we do it and we ‘assume’ that our prospects will be impressed and motivated to take action.
‘We’ve been in business for 16 years…’
‘We are an award winning, cutting-edge organization…’
‘We are equipped with the latest micro-techno, laser-guided, nuclear-activated widget-gizmos…’
Too often these phrases evoke the following responses from prospects:

‘So what?’
‘Big deal.’
‘Who cares?’
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that your marketing materials shouldn’t include background information about you and your company and/or specifications about your product/service. I’m saying that this should be ‘supportive’ information, not your ‘primary’ marketing message.
It’s a costly marketing mistake to think that prospects ‘care’ about the same things you care about.
They rarely do.
However, they do care deeply about something entirely different. Once you know what that is, and you address it powerfully and clearly in your marketing, you will begin to draw prospects to you like a magnet.

6. NOT USING EFFECTIVE FREE/LOW-COST MARKETING METHODS

Ask the typical small business owner what marketing is, and he/she will probably reply, ‘Advertising.’

What kinds of advertising?
‘Yellow Page ads, newspaper ads, magazine ads, radio ads, television ads, billboards, bus cards, Val-Pak mailings, etc.’
While all of these advertising devices can certainly be a ‘part’ of a successful marketing strategy, there are also dozens of ‘low-cost’ and ‘no-cost’ marketing methods available to the small business marketer.

By simply discovering and applying these simple ‘low-cost,’ ‘no-cost’ methods, you will be able to significantly stretch the effectiveness and profitability of your marketing efforts.

It’s relatively easy to produce ‘profitable’ results with a well-planned, tested and ‘proven’ marketing strategy. However, it’s even easier to lose thousands of dollars by making ‘any’ of the following Costly Marketing Mistakes.

7. COPYING YOUR COMPETITORS MISTAKES

If ‘everyone’ else is doing it, then it must be the right thing to do. Remember mom’s admonition, ‘If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you want to jump too?’  Look at the local, small business ads in any newspaper and you will find the same basic format, same basic message, same basic strategy (see Marketing Mistake #1). . . and the same basic results; little or no response.
We feel safe in the crowd. Safe doing what everyone else is doing. We also ‘assume’ that if it works for them, it can work equally well for us.
Unfortunately, a business’s success is rarely from ‘one’ element in their marketing strategy. Their success is the result of ‘many’ diverse marketing elements; from their location, to their possible lack of competition, to their ‘personality’ and ‘abundance or lack of’ marketing aggressiveness.
But we rarely take all of these strategic elements into consideration when ‘copying’ our competitors. Copying a single marketing element from a competitor is like reaching into ‘their’ pile of puzzle pieces, pulling out one piece and then trying to make it fit into your puzzle.

It rarely works because your marketing puzzle is unique and each piece must fit ‘perfectly’ with all of your other pieces.
In addition, whatever success a competitor may be experiencing can often be from a ‘few’ of their less obvious or ‘visible’ marketing methods. Often the highly visible element (ad, flyer, brochure, etc.) is one of the least effective.
You end up copying the profit losers, rather than developing your own profit winners.

8. DIRECTING YOUR MARKETING TO EVERYONE

Directing your marketing to ‘everyone’ but to ‘no one’ in particular guarantees that your marketing will be ignored.
Many small businesses have failed to determine who their best prospects are, where those prospects live or how to reach them effectively and efficiently.
This is a critical first step in any successful marketing strategy. By skipping this step, they resort to running vague and generic ‘one-step’ ads in mass media, such as local newspapers, magazines, radio, television, cable, Val-pak mailings, Internet Web sites, etc.
Their ‘hope’ is that by presenting their ‘generic’ message about their business to the ‘greatest’ number of people, the result will be the highest number of sales. Wrong.

Unfortunately for them, effective marketing doesn’t work that way. The fact is, in most cases only a small percentage of the readers/listeners/viewers of mass media will have a ‘need’ for your product or service at any given time.
Some business owners may have a hard time believing this, but nevertheless, it’s true. ‘Everyone’ does not need or want your product or service.  By not targeting your marketing to your very ‘best’ and logical prospects, you are wasting most of your marketing dollars on people who have little or no interest in your product or service.
If there are only 100 ‘true’ prospects for your product or service out of 10,000 possible readers of a publication, why would you want to spend thousands of dollars presenting your message over and over to the 9,900 non-prospects?
Yet, this is the method most small business owners choose because they don’t know that there is a much more cost-effective and profitable strategy.

9. WASTING MONEY ON IMAGE MARKETING

A major marketing mistake made by many small businesses is pouring their marketing dollars into ‘image’ marketing. Some of their marketing pieces may be clever, even humorous.  That kind of marketing rarely asks prospects to take ‘action.’ The result? Wasted marketing dollars, vague ideas of who saw the marketing pieces and frustration. Giant corporations like Pepsi or Nike are interested in ‘name recognition’ and a specific ‘image’ for their brands. Therefore, they spend ‘millions’ of dollars on creative, often fun marketing pieces designed to impress their target market with their ‘image’ rather than to generate a direct or immediate sale.  Obviously your image and name recognition are important to the success of your small business. But even ‘more’ important are immediate and steadily growing sales. How can you determine if your marketing is primarily focused on ‘image’ marketing? It is if each of your marketing pieces don’t ask for ‘immediate and specific’ action from your prospects.
This money-wasting and sales destroying marketing mistake is much more common than you may think.

10. GIVING UP ON YOUR PROSPECTS AFTER JUST ONE OR TWO FOLLOW-UPS

Effective marketers know that persistence and repetition are vital for success. But too many business owners spend a great deal of time and money attracting prospects to their businesses and then either follow-up with them just once, or, as incredible as it may sound, never follow-up with them at all.
Successful people in sales know that most of the sales are made after the seventh or eighth call. Few are made after just one follow-up call.
Your prospects have many reasons for not buying from you immediately.

They may not be ready to make a decision. They may have more pressing things on their minds. They may not feel comfortable enough with you, or trust you enough to buy right now. They may have more questions about your product/service, that haven’t been answered. They may have information from you and 2-3 of your competitors and are trying to determine which company would be their best choice.

By following up repeatedly, you will have a dramatic advantage over your competitors, since few of them will follow up more than once. When your prospects are ready to buy, which could be one week from now, or six months from now, you will have a better chance of getting the sale if you are uppermost in their minds. You can only do that by consistently following up.

11. CHANGING YOUR MARKETING STRATEGY FREQUENTLY

Henry Ford once told an ad executive from his advertising agency, ‘It’s time for you to come up with a new ad campaign. We’ve been using this one for too long and I’m sure the public has to be bored to death with it.’
Ford was reportedly miffed to hear, ‘But sir, we haven’t even started running this campaign yet. The public has never seen it.
Having seen the campaign presentations dozens of times, ‘he’ was bored with it. He wanted to see something ‘new and different.’
You should never, never stop using something that is still working, because you, your employees or your friends are ‘bored’ with it.
In successful and profitable marketing you should only be listening to your ‘customers’ since they vote with dollars rather than opinions.

12. WAITING FOR REFERRALS TO MAGICALLY APPEAR

Word-of-mouth referrals are an extremely important element of any business’s marketing success. But most small businesses are making a big marketing mistake by believing that those referrals will come automatically.
It’s true that if you provide good service and your prices are competitive, you will probably get ‘some’ word-of-mouth referrals. But to generate an abundance and highly profitable level of referrals takes more initiative and effort.
Unless someone comes to us and specifically asks for our recommendation of a good dentist, doctor, veterinarian, insurance agent or auto alarm specialist we are probably not going to actively ‘promote’ these businesses to our friends and neighbors.
How often in any given year are ‘you’ asked to recommend a good dentist or auto alarm specialist? The chances are . . . not very often, if at all.
That’s why expecting referrals to come to you . . . just by chance (as most small business owners do), is a costly marketing mistake.
The most ‘Costly’ mistake of all . . .

13. BASING YOUR MARKETING ON GUESSES AND ASSUMPTIONS

Basing your marketing strategy on ‘guesses,’ ‘assumptions’ or ‘advice’ from friends, relatives or business associates is a sure way to guarantee little or no results from your marketing.

‘Guessing’ at the elements of your marketing strategy is like trying to guess the specific sequence of numbers needed to open a combination lock.
Since each consecutive step is linked to the success of the previous step, one wrong guess destroys your chances for success.
Most people, including many small business owners, mistakenly believe that marketing is more of an ‘art’ than a ‘science.’
Those of the ‘marketing is art’ point of view believe that anyone’s opinion concerning marketing is just as valid as anyone else’s.
In reality, marketing is very much a ‘science’ with specific principles, rules and ‘quantifiable’ results.
Because of this ‘marketing is art’ philosophy, most of what people believe about marketing is based on ‘myths,’ not ‘facts.’
Show ten people two ads and ask them to select the one they think is the better ad. Nine out of ten will select the profit loser rather than the profit winner. Why? Because they are unaware of and don’t recognize the marketing principles and strategies that make a powerful marketing piece a profit winner.

So they base their ‘opinion’ instead on such vague, subjective criteria as ‘cleverness,’ ‘cuteness,’ ‘different and artistic look,’ and the ads’ ‘fun/pun’ appeal.

These criteria rarely have anything to do with generating maximum response but they have everything to do with wasting your marketing investment and destroying your potential sales.
The best way to develop a successful and profitable marketing strategy is to use the knowledge, experience and skills of someone who has already discovered the marketing approaches that ‘do work’ as well as the approaches that ‘don’t work.’
These discoveries should always be based on measurable results from objective tests . . . never subjective opinions or assumptions.

Copyright © 2000-2010 by Joe Gracia – All Rights Reserved.

How Do Potential Clients Think? Ten Things to Consider

Potential Clients?A potential client walks in your front door, or sends you an email from your Web site. How did that client find you? How did that client choose your firm from dozens of other competitors that could offer him similar services?   Whether you are designing a Web site, developing a brochure, or even considering the layout of your lobby, everything you do affects the way a potential client thinks of your firm. It seems silly, but even the smallest things can have profound impacts. Leather chairs and a mahogany armoire in your office may impress some clients but scare away others.

This month we look at how potential clients think. As you read over these points, ask yourself two questions: first, who is my ideal client? Second, how do I need to change my marketing to conform to that client’s thought process?

  1. Understanding of the Legal Process .
    There are some people who – though not lawyers – live and breathe the law everyday. A tax accountant, for example, may not have a JD, but she no doubt has a pretty good understanding of the Tax Code, the IRS, and judicial proceedings. Contrast this knowledge to a person injured in a car crash. The car crash victim may have never given a moment’s thought to law, or what lawyers do. Suddenly, the pain and medical payments have forced them to seek representation. Depending on the type of client you are interested in attracting, your marketing needs to reflect the level of understanding your clients bring to the table. For people looking for a lawyer for the very first time, consider providing basic information, “how to guides” and “frequently asked questions” materials. For experienced clients, recently published articles on a particular area of expertise might be more appropriate.
  2. Urgency .
    A person is arrested for drunk driving and is in the local jail, waiting to be bailed out. The arraignment is set for 10am the next day. This client needs help fast! Now consider the in-house counsel of a large corporation looking for outside help on an upcoming patent issue. The DUI defendant has about 48 hours to find a good attorney; the in-house counsel might spend months. If you are serving DUI defendants, do you have a 24-hour answering service? Does your Web site state that you’ll return calls within a certain period of time? 
  3. Skepticism .
    It is a sad fact that some Americans either fear or dislike lawyers. At least until they need one, at which point they grudgingly contact an attorney. How do you combat skepticism? Some people feel more comfortable if they can ‘put a face to the name’, which may be an argument for including attorney photos on your Web site. Client testimonials can also help. And prominently advertising “free consultation” may also go a long way (if you offer that, of course).
  4. Personal Relevance .
    How personally involved is the potential client in the case? For issues like bankruptcy, divorce, and criminal law, the legal matter at hand may be one of the most important moments in a person’s life. Your initial interactions with that potential client may be vital to getting a signed client. If you recognize the significance of the case to the client (regardless of how many similar cases you have had before), you may put the client at ease. If you immediately point them to your paralegal, they may look for an attorney who cares. 
  5. Quantifiable Needs .
    Sometimes, choosing a lawyer comes down to simple ‘yes or no’ questions. Does the firm have more than ten years of experience? What’s the win/loss record? Will this cost me more than $1000? Is your office within 25 miles of my house? The more of this information you provide upfront – whether on your Web site, brochures, or other advertising – the more likely it is that you will answer important questions a potential client may have (and choose you over a firm that doesn’t provide this information). 
  6. Qualitative Needs .
    Some clients want an attorney who is “compassionate” and “understanding of their needs.” Others are looking for someone who is “a pit bull” and “aggressive.” If your firm has a distinct personality, why not advertise this to potential clients? After all, if all of your attorneys are really ‘pit bulls,’ a potential client that wants someone to hold their hand isn’t going to choose your firm anyway. 
  7. Internet Experience .
    Are your clients tech-savvy engineers from Silicon Valley who get excited by the latest gizmos, or hard-working blue-collar folks who want basic and straightforward information? Create your Web site to reflect the values of your potential customers. 
  8. Alternatives .
    Are there alternatives to using a lawyer for your potential clients? For example, instead of hiring you to draft their will, could they use a software product instead? If so, do you have an explanation for why a potential client should choose legal representation over the alternatives? 
  9. Preferred Method of Contact .
    Some people prefer to talk on the phone. Others only want to communicate by email. For some practice areas, the initial consultation may be followed by fancy dinners, tickets to theatre, and golf outings. Think about how potential clients prefer to engage with your firm. 
  10. The Tip of the Iceberg .
    The suggestions above are only a few of the hundreds of factors that go into a client’s decision to retain an attorney. The best way to really understand your clients’ behavior is to ask them – ask past clients, ask current clients, and ask potential clients. Gleaning this information now will help you win over more clients in the future.

100 Marketing Ideas for your Business

GENERAL IDEAS

  • Never let a day pass without engaging in at least one marketing activity.
  • Determine a percentage of gross income to spend annually on marketing.
  • Set specific marketing goals every year; review and adjust quarterly.
  • Maintain a tickler file of ideas for later use.
  • Carry business cards with you (all day, every day).
  • Create a personal nametag or pin with your company name and logo on it and wear it at high visibility meetings.

TARGET MARKET

  • Stay alert to trends that might impact your target market, product or promotion strategy.
  • Read market research studies about your profession, industry, product, target market groups, etc.
  • Collect competitors’ ads and literature; study them for information about strategy, product features and benefits, etc.
  • Ask clients why they hired you and solicit suggestions for improvement.
  • Ask former clients why they left you.
  • Identify a new market.
  • Join a list-serve (email list) related to your profession.
  • Subscribe to an Internet usenet newsgroup or a list-serve that serves your target market.

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

  • Create a new service, technique or product.
  • Offer a simpler/cheaper/smaller version of your (or another existing) product or service.
  • Offer a fancier/more expensive/faster/bigger version of your (or another existing) product or service.
  • Update your services.

EDUCATION, RESOURCES AND INFORMATION

  • Establish a marketing and public relations advisory and referral team composed of your colleagues and/or neighboring business owners to share ideas and referrals and to discuss community issues. Meet quarterly for breakfast.
  • Create a suggestion box for employees.
  • Attend a marketing seminar.
  • Read a marketing book.
  • Subscribe to a marketing newsletter or other publication.
  • Subscribe to a marketing list-serve on the Internet.
  • Subscribe to a marketing usenet newsgroup on the Internet.
  • Train your staff, clients and colleagues to promote referrals.
  • Hold a monthly marketing meeting with employees or associates to discuss strategy, status and to solicit marketing ideas.
  • Join an association or organization related to your profession.
  • Get a marketing intern to take you on as a client; it will give the intern experience and you some free marketing help.
  • Maintain a consultant card file for finding designers, writers and other marketing professionals.
  • Hire a marketing consultant to brainstorm with.
  • Take a “creative journey” to another progressive city or country to observe and learn from marketing techniques used there.

PRICING AND PAYMENT

  • Analyze your fee structure; look for areas requiring modifications or adjustments.
  • Establish a credit card payment option for clients.
  • Give regular clients a discount.
  • Learn to barter; offer discounts to members of certain clubs/professional groups/organizations in exchange for promotions in their publications.
  • Give “quick pay” or cash discounts.
  • Offer financing or installment plans.

MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS

  • Publish a newsletter for customers and prospects. (It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.)
  • Develop a brochure of services.
  • Include a postage-paid survey card with your brochures and other company literature. Include check-off boxes or other items that will involve the reader and provide valuable feedback to you.
  • Remember, business cards aren’t working for you if they’re in the box. Pass them out! Give prospects two business cards and brochures — one to keep and one to pass along.
  • Produce separate business cards/sales literature for each of your target market segments (e.g. government and commercial, and/or business and consumer).
  • Create a poster or calendar to give away to customers and prospects.
  • Print a slogan and/or one-sentence description of your business on letterhead, fax cover sheets and invoices.
  • Develop a site on the World Wide Web.
  • Create a “signature file” to be used for all your e-mail messages. It should contain contact details including your Web site address and key information about your company that will make the reader want to contact you.
  • Include “testimonials” from customers in your literature.
  • Test a new mailing list. If it produces results, add it to your current direct mail lists or consider replacing a list that’s not performing up to expectations.
  • Use colored or oversized envelopes for your direct mailings. Or send direct mail in plain white envelopes to pique recipients’ curiosity.
  • Announce free or special offers in your direct response pieces. (Direct responses may be direct mail, broadcast fax, or e-mail messages.) Include the offer in the beginning of the message and also on the outside of the envelope for direct mail.

MEDIA RELATIONS

  • Update your media list often so that press releases are sent to the right media outlet and person.
  • Write a column for the local newspaper, local business journal or trade publication.
  • Publish an article and circulate reprints.
  • Send timely and newsworthy press releases as often as needed.
  • Publicize your 500th client of the year (or other notable milestone).
  • Create an annual award and publicize it– as an outstanding employee of the year.
  • Get public relations and media training or read up on it.
  • Appear on a radio or TV talk show.
  • Create your own TV program on your industry or your specialty. Market the show to your local cable station or public broadcasting station as a regular program. Or, see if you can air your show on an open access cable channel.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or to a trade magazine editor.
  • Take an editor to lunch.
  • Get a publicity photo taken and enclose with press releases.
  • Consistently review newspapers and magazines for possible PR opportunities.
  • Submit “tip” articles to newsletters and newspapers.
  • Conduct industry research and develop a press release or article to announce an important discovery in your field.
  • Create a press kit and keep its contents current.

CUSTOMER SERVICE AND CUSTOMER RELATIONS

  • Ask your clients to come back again.
  • Return phone calls promptly.
  • Set up a fax-on-demand or email system to easily respond to customer inquiries.
  • Use an answering machine or voice mail system to catch after-hours phone calls. Include basic information in your outgoing message such a business hours, location, etc.
  • Record a memorable message or “tip of the day” on your outgoing answering machine or voice mail message.
  • Ask clients what you can do the help them.
  • Take clients out to a ball game, a show or another special event– just send them two tickets with a note.
  • Hold a seminar at your office for clients and prospects.
  • Send hand-written thank-you notes.
  • Send birthday cards and appropriate seasonal greetings.
  • Photocopy interesting articles and send them to clients and prospects with a hand-written “FYI” note and your business card.
  • Send a book of interest or other appropriate business gift to a client with a handwritten note.
  • Create an area on your Web site specifically for your customers.
  • Redecorate your office or location where you meet with your clients.

NETWORKING AND WORD OF MOUTH

  • Join a Chamber of Commerce or other organization.
  • Join or organize a breakfast club with other professionals (not in your field) to discuss business and network referrals.
  • Mail a brochure to members of organizations to which you belong.
  • Serve on a city board or commission.
  • Host a holiday party.
  • Hold an open house.
  • Send letters to attendees after you attend a conference.
  • Join a community list-serve (email list) on the Internet.

ADVERTISING

  • Advertise during peak seasons for your business.
  • Get a memorable phone number, such as “1-800-WIDGETS.”
  • Obtain a memorable URL and email address and include them on all marketing materials.
  • Provide Rolodex® cards or phone stickers pre-printed with your business contact information.
  • Promote your business jointly with other professionals via cooperative direct mail.
  • Advertise in a specialty directory or in the Yellow Pages.
  • Write an ad in another language to reach a non-English-speaking market. Place the ad in a publication that market reads, such as a Hispanic newspaper.
  • Distribute advertising specialty products such as pens, mouse pads or mugs.
  • Mail “bumps,” photos, samples and other innovative items to your prospect list. (A bump is simply anything that makes the mailing envelope bulge and makes the recipient curious about what’s in the envelope!)
  • Create a direct mail list of “hot prospects.”
  • Consider non-traditional tactics such as bus backs, billboards and popular Web sites.
  • Project a message on the sidewalk in front of your place of business using a light directed through words etched in a glass window.
  • Consider placing ads in your newspaper’s classified section.
  • Consider a vanity automobile tag with your company name.
  • Create a friendly bumper sticker for your car.
  • Code your ads and keep records of results.
  • Improve your building signage and directional signs inside and out.
  • Invest in a neon sign to make your office or storefront window visible at night.
  • Create a new or improved company logo or “recolor” the traditional logo.
  • Sponsor and promote a contest or sweepstakes.

SPECIAL EVENTS AND OUTREACH

  • Get a booth at a fair/trade show attended by your target market.
  • Sponsor or host a special event or open house at your business location in cooperation with a local non-profit organization, such as a women’s business center. Describe how the organization helped you.
  • Give a speech or volunteer for a career day at a high school.
  • Teach a class or seminar at a local college or adult education center.
  • Sponsor an “Adopt-a-Road” area in your community to keep roads litter-free. People that pass by the area will see your name on the sign announcing your sponsorship.
  • Volunteer your time to a charity or non-profit organization.
  • Donate your product or service to a charity auction.
  • Appear on a panel at a professional seminar.
  • Write a “How To” pamphlet or article for publishing.
  • Produce and distribute an educational CD-ROM, audio or video tape.
  • Publish a book.

SALES IDEAS

  • Start every day with two cold calls.
  • Read newspapers, business journals and trade publications for new business openings and for personnel appointment and promotion announcements made by companies. Send your business literature to appropriate individuals and firms.
  • Give your sales literature to your lawyer, accountant, printer, banker, temp agency, office supply salesperson, advertising agency, etc. (Expand your sales force for free!)
  • Put your fax number on order forms for easy submission.
  • Set up a fax-on-demand or email system to easily distribute responses to company or product inquiries.
  • Follow up on your direct mailings, email messages and broadcast faxes with a friendly telephone call.
  • Try using the broadcast fax or email delivery methods instead of direct mail. (Broadcast fax and email allows you to send the same message to many locations at once.)
  • Using broadcast fax or email messages to notify your customers of product service updates.
  • Extend your hours of operation.
  • Reduce response/turnaround time. Make reordering easy– reminders. Provide pre-addressed envelopes.
  • Display product and service samples at your office.
  • Remind clients of the products and services you provide that they aren’t currently buying.
  • Call and/or send mail to former clients to try to reactivate them.
  • Take sales orders over the Internet.

How to get traffic – tip 3 – Connect with People. Face to face.

One of the best places to make business contacts in your field is in forums or groups. We have been using Linked In Groups to meet new people and they have been lovely to talk with.

Meet people face to face
Meet people face to face, grow your network by introducing yourself to others, say what you do and who you are and they'll respect you for it. Listen to who they are and try to be there if they need you.

For example, if you’ve started an affiliate web site that sells specialty dog training devices, hang out in the many dog-related forums and newsgroups.
But instead of trying to help end consumers so they’ll visit your site, make friends with experts in related fields. In this case pet sitters, roomers, dog trainers, veterinary assistants, and even animal behaviorists can all be excellent contacts.
As with all business networking, look for ways to help your colleagues. If they have their own site, offer them a link on yours. If they have an opt-in list, perhaps you can set up a special web page, and give them a rebate on any commissions you make. If they write their own articles, perhaps you can turn them into a mini-ebook and offer it to all your visitors.
And there’s no reason you can’t be proactive, and send an email to noncompetitors
– or even competitors – whose sites you admire. You don’t have to consider every competitor your enemy. In a future special report we’ll explain exactly how you can create powerful partnerships with your competitors. But for now, simply look for opportunities to be helpful.

One very easy way to help people is to give them feedback (polite feedback) on items that are not working on their website (links, images, or even the odd crash).

Another way to make powerful friends online is to read your Spam. That’s because ALL online merchants want to know if someone is promoting their affiliate product via Spam. It’s not just the Spammer who can suffer some stiff legal penalties – they can too. So if you see someone’s ebook or software being sold via Spam, write to them and let them know. Make sure you keep the original Spam, and send it to them as an attachment (not
forwarded) so they receive all the headers intact.

Meet people face to face
Meet people face to face

How can networking help get you targeted traffic? If you make 20 strong, personal, one-on-one business contacts every month, at least five of them will end up sending you traffic. Somehow, someday, they’ll start pushing the right kinds of visitors to you.
It might be by linking to you. They may mention your site in a viral ebook or one of their articles. They might want to do a joint venture or partner on a money making project. They might do all these things – and many more.

Yes, it’s old fashioned. It’s not autopilot. It’s not passive. But networking costs you nothing except time – and can be worth gold in the long term.

Digital Certificates & Encryption

This is a white paper dedicated to Digital Certificates & Encryption, how they work and apply to Internet Commerce

The Need for Security
On the Internet, information  you send from one computer to another passes through numerous systems before it reaches its destination. Normally, the users of these intermediary systems don’t monitor the Internet traffic routed through them, but someone who’s determined can intercept and eavesdrop on your private conversations or credit card exchanges. Worse still, they might replace your information with their own and send it back on its way.

Due to the architecture of the Internet and intranets, there will always be ways for unscrupulous people to intercept and replace data in transit. Without security precautions, users can be compromised when sending information over the Internet or an intranet. This has serious implications for Internet Commerce. For Internet Commerce to exist, there has to be a means to secure data sent over the Internet. Without a secure means of communication, commerce cannot exist.

How do I protect my data?

Encryption & Digital Certificates are the solution for Internet Commerce. Used together, they protect your data as it travels over the Internet.
Encryption is the process of using a mathematical algorithm to transform information into a format that can’t be read (this format is called cipher text). Decryption is the process of using another algorithm to transform encrypted information back into a readable format (this format is called plain text).
Digital Certificates are your digital passport, an Internet ID. They are verification of you who you are and the integrity of your data.

Combined, encryption and digital certificates protect and secure your data in the following four ways:.
* Authentication: This is digital verification of who you are, much in the same way your driver’s license proves your identity. It is very easy to send spoofed email. I can email anyone in the world pretending I am the President of the United States. Using standard email, there is no way to verify who the sender is, i.e. if it is actually the President. With digital signatures and certificates, you digitally encode verifiable proof of your identity into the email.
* Integrity: This is the verification that the data you sent has not been altered. When email or other data travels across the Internet, it routes through various gateways (way stations). It is possible for people to capture, alter, then resend the message. Example, your boss emails the company president stating that you should be fired. It is possible for you to intercept that email and change it saying you deserve a $10,000 raise. With digital certificates, your email cannot be altered without the recipient knowing.
* Encryption: This ensures that your data was unable to be read or utilized by any party while in transit. Your message is encrypted into incomprehensible gibberish before it leaves your computer. It maintains it encrypted (gibberish) state during it’s travel through the Internet. It is not de-crypt until the recipient receives it. Because of the public-key cryptography used (discussed later) only the recipient can decipher the received message, no one else can.
* Token verification: Digital tokens replace your password which can be easily guessed. Tokens offer a more secure way of access to sensitive data. The most common way to secure data or a web site is with passwords. Before anyone access the data, they are prompted with their user login id and password. However, this is easily cracked using various security software (such as Crack 5.0, etc.). Also, passwords can be found with other means, such as social engineering. Passwords are not secure. Token verification is more secure. Your digital certificate is an encrypted file that sits on your hardrive. When you need access to a system, that systems asks you for your digital certificate instead of a password. Your computer would then send the certificate, in encrypted format, through the Internet, authorizing you for access. For this to be compromised, someone would have to copy this file from your computer, AND know your password to de-crypt the file.
How does it all work?

Encryption

To understand how this all works, we need to start with the basics. Encryption has been around for centuries, Julius Caesar used encrypted notes to communicate with Rome thousands of years ago. This traditional cryptography is based on the sender and receiver of a message knowing and using the same secret key: the sender uses the secret key to encrypt the message, and the receiver uses the same secret key to decrypt the message. For Caesar, the letter A was represented by the letter D, B by the letter E, C by the letter F, etc. The recipient would know about this sequence, or key, and decrypt his message. This method is known as secret-key or symmetric cryptography. Its main problem is getting the sender and receiver to agree on the key without anyone else finding out. Both sides must find some “secure” way to agree or exchange this common key. Because all keys must remain secret, secret-key cryptography often has difficulty providing secure key management, especially in open systems with a large numbers of users, such as the Internet.
21 years ago, a revolution happened in cryptography that changed all this, public-key cryptography. In 1976, Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman, introduced this new method of encryption and key management. A public-key cryptosystem is a cryptographic system that uses a pair of unique keys (a public key and a private key). Each individual is assigned a pair of these keys to encrypt and decrypt information. A message encrypted by one of these keys can only be decrypted by the other key in the pair:
* The public key is available to others for use when encrypting information that will be sent to an individual. For example, people can use a person’s public key to encrypt information they want to send to that person. Similarly, people can use the user’s public key to decrypt information sent by that person.
* The private key is accessible only to the individual. The individual can use the private key to decrypt any messages encrypted with the public key. Similarly, the individual can use the private key to encrypt messages, so that the messages can only be decrypted with the corresponding public key.

What does this mean?

Exchanging keys is no longer a security concern. I have my public key and private key. I send my public key to anyone on the Internet. With that public key, they encrypt their email. Since the email was encrypted with my public key, ONLY I can decrypt that email with my private key, no one else can. If I want to encrypt my email to anyone else on the Internet, I need their public key. Each individual involved needs their own public/private key combination.

Now, the big question is, when you initially receive someone’s public key for the first time, how do you know it is them? If spoofing someone’s identity is so easy, how do you knowingly exchange public keys, how do you TRUST the user is really who he says he is? You use your digital certificate. A digital certificate is a digital document that vouches for the identity and key ownership of an individual, a computer system (or a specific server running on that system), or an organization. For example, a user’s certificate verifies that the user owns a particular public key. Certificates are issued by certificate authorities, or CAs. These authorities are responsible for verifying the identity and key ownership of the individual before issuing the certificate, such as Verisign.

Authentication & Integrity

We now have a secure means of encrypting data, one of the four methods of securing data on the Internet. Two others, authentication and data integrity, are combined in what is called a digital signature. A digital signature works as follows:
* Authentication: a specific individual sent a message (in other words, no impersonator claiming to be the individual sent the message).
* Integrity: this particular message was sent by the individual (in other words, no one altered the message before it was received).
When you email someone, your public/private key combination creates the digital signature. It does this using the following format:
1. The sender uses a message-digest algorithm to generate a shorter version of the message that can be encrypted. This shorter version is called a message digest. Message digests and message-digest algorithms are explained in the next section.
2. The sender uses their private key to encrypt the message digest.
3. The sender transmits the message and the encrypted message digest to the recipient.
4. Upon receiving the message, the recipient decrypts the message digest.
5. The recipient uses the hash function on the message to generate the message digest.
6. The recipient compares the decrypted message digest against the newly generated message digest.
* If the message digests are identical, the recipient knows that the message was indeed sent by the person claiming to be the sender and that the message was not modified during transmission.
* If the message digests differ, the recipient knows that either the message was sent by someone else claiming to be the sender or that the message was modified or damaged during transmission.
The encrypted message digest serves as a digital signature for the message. The signature verifies the identity of the sender and the contents of the message.

If the message is sent by someone claiming to be the sender, this person does not have access to the sender’s private key. The person claiming to be the sender must use a different private key to encrypt the message digest.

Because the recipient uses the sender’s public key to decrypt the message digest (and not the actual public key corresponding to the private key used to encrypt the message digest), the decrypted message digest will not match the newly generated message digest.
If the message was modified during transmission, the hash function will generate a different message digest when applied after the transmission.

Tokens

Tokens represent the fourth security option by replacing passwords. Tokens are simply your digital certificate residing on your hardrive. When a computer prompts you for your password,  your computer sends your certificate over the Internet instead. Your certificate verifies your identity instead of the password. This is a more secure (and easier) means of verification.

How Secure is all This?

Just how secure is encryption. The strength of encryption is measured in bits, or how big the key is. The bigger the key, the stronger the encryption. There are currently 3 commonly used key sizes used commercially, 40, 56, and 128 bit. Originally, the government allowed only 40 bit keys for exportation. However, this proved far to weak for security. In February of 1997, a college student was able to crack 40 bit encrypted data within 4  hours .
Berkeley — It took UC Berkeley graduate student Ian Goldberg only three and a half hours to crack the most secure level of encryption that the federal government allows U.S. companies to export.

Yesterday (1/28) RSA Data Security Inc. challenged the world to decipher a message encrypted with its RC5 symmetric stream cipher, using a 40-bit key, the longest keysize allowed for export. RSA offered a $1,000 reward, designed to stimulate research and practical experience with the security of today’s codes.

Goldberg succeeded a mere 3 1/2 hours after the contest began, which provides very strong evidence that 40-bit ciphers are totally unsuitable for practical security.

In June of 1997, a organized group of people were able to crack 56 bit DES encryption in 140 days. This group shared their resources throughout the Internet utilizing software called DESCHALL. With a possible 72 quadrillion keys to test, this distributed attack would require an incredibly large amount of computing power. And compute the DESCHALL team did, at some points testing almost seven billion keys per second.

In the end, the DESCHALL effort solved the DES challenge after only searching 24.6% of the key space. (about 18 quadrillion keys!) The winning key was determined by Michael Sanders, using a Pentium 90 MHz desktop PC with 16 megs of RAM.

Many believe this security is good enough. By the time your data can be compromised, (3 months) it is of little value because it took so long.  However, to truly ensure the security of your data, most Internet Commerce uses 128 bit encryption. Keep in mind, key strength increases exponentially, making 128 bit encryption thousands of times more difficult to compromise. Because of its strength, the government has prohibited its exportation, it can only be used within the United States. At this time, no one has cracked this encryption. 128 bit encryption is expected to remain secure well past the year 2000.

What it Looks Like

Below is an example of a message that has been encrypted and signed, but intercepted before the recipient has received it.   Notice how the body of the entire message is “gibberish”, i.e., the message cannot be read.  That is what encryption looks like.

Below is an example of the same message, but received by the intended recipient.  The recipient has decrypted the message and verified the message’s integrity & /authenticity.  The protocol or Internet standard used for Digital Certificates is X.509 & S/MIME.  Any email system that has these open based standards can use Digital Certifcates for Internet Commerce.  The image below is of Netscape  Navigator, which is both X.509 and S/MIME compliant.

Conclusion

Utilizing digital certificates and encryption, users can easily and securely communicate on the Internet. This combination of ease of use and security lays the foundation for commerce. As users gain confidence and experience using these tools, Internet Commerce, much like encryption, will grow exponentially.