July 31, 2008

Solving the "Toothache" Marketing Problem

Seth Godin recently blogged about solving the marketing problem that dentists have with trying to market toothache repair services. From a marketing standpoint, this is a very tough audience to target due to the timing problem.

Nobody can identify which people are about to have a toothache, which makes it tough to reach them. Incidentally, this problem occurs in many businesses, including plumbers, surgeons, lawyers, network security consultants, CPAs that specialize in IRS audits, and any other business that deals with solving the unexpected problem.

Here are a few of the extremely clever examples that I've seen.

The first was a 6" x 10" wide bright yellow postcard that was also a sticker. It's "What to do in case of a water heater emergency" sticker.

I've included a black and white version below:

It's really a very clever piece of marketing. At first I thought that it was a consumer advisory label from my local utility company. It looked exactly like something they would send me. I had to do a doubletake until I realized (after I put it on, incidentally) that it was actually an advertisement, placed in precisely the location I'd be looking at if or when I had a problem.

This ad drives their competitors insane. I know this because I did have a water heater leak, called the company I've used for years first, and the sales guy saw the sticker and was visibly flustered–I guess he sees his competitor's ad a lot.

The underlying principle of this strategy is to tie your marketing for an "emergency" type problem into some type of leading indicator. In this case, the need to replace a water heater is precipitated most often by a water heater leak.

Another example I encountered was about a very marketing savvy personal injury attorney. In his city, he bought rights to magnetic signs on all the doors of all the tow trucks in town. Why? He realized that most people who get into a serious car accident end up calling a tow truck before they ever consider calling an attorney.

As you're sitting on the curb waiting for your car to be towed feeling that pain in your neck, you're staring right at his ad.

It's brilliant!

Of course, not every business lends itself to this kind of specific tactic. But here is a tactic that can easily work in every business that follows the same idea. The approach I'm talking about is using automated marketing follow-up.

Get your prospect to request something free from you, a Bookmercial, a white paper, audio, video, or webinar replay. As part of the offer, include the ability to receive a free printed newsletter, email-based tips newsletter, fax broadcast alert service, or other type of ongoing useful communication vehicle.

Then use the ongoing follow-up piece to continually stay in front of your prospects. It's important that this ongoing communication has real value in it–otherwise it'll get ignored.

The idea behind this approach is to "catch" the prospect right around the time he or she has a problem that pops up that your company's products or services can solve.

So if your company sells network security consulting services, you could have a newsletter on how to prevent intrusion attempts on your network. This is a great excuse to stay in touch with your prospects while demonstrating the value of expertise. If they get hacked one day, and receive your regular and trusted communication the next, you've "caught them" at exactly the right time… making it that much more likely to get the sale.

Follow-up at all times is critical. The top performing sales pros will do this by phone. The best business-to-business marketers do this through media. I recommend doing both whenever possible. Follow-up is a proven way to solve the marketing timing or "toothache" marketing problem.

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Filed under Lead Generation by Victor Cheng

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