A friend has come up with a new service -- one that sounds very useful. Since I don't even own a cell phone, I can't really judge demand, but it seems like the kind of thing that would work.
But how to sell the service?
(By the way Jared, come in an we'll set up a link.)
But I think coming up with a better mousetrap is only the beginning.
He's already running into the Catch-22 with the media. If you approach the media for publicity, they will try to sell you an ad. If the media approaches you, you get an article, for free. Not only is it free, but it's much, much more effective. Most of us are blind to ads these days, but an article is actual news.
More to the point, though, is that I have always found it pretty hard to pry money from people's wallets. They want to hang on to their money.
What I've found is -- much like the media -- if it's the customers idea, and they come to you with the intention of buying, then you have a chance of selling.
The only other way I really can sell anything is to have an item in stock that -- while they're browsing -- they remember they heard about, or remember they wanted, or that they have been looking for.
In other words, my solution to the problem of selling is to have as much stuff as I can, have it at a reasonable price, and have a location that people either seek out or stumble across.
And I always remind people who are trying to sell personal collectibles and having a hard time of it, -- "Look, I'm here 50 hours a week, and I feel lucky sometimes to sell one thing out of hundreds."
I think there are a couple of basic misapprehensions about a store works.
A. That you stand at the cash register and people come up with stuff and buy it.
B. Or that you show them really cool stuff and they'll immediately see its charms and buy it.
Impression ""A" is fueled by a couple of things. One -- they see T.V. shows and movies all the time where the store is bustling and people are merrily buying. Ads especially try to give this impression.
Two; they themselves tend to show when the majority of people are showing, thus giving a skewed impression of the level of sales. The minority is there when a minority of stuff is selling, right?
Impression B is sadly just wrong. It's actually pretty rare that you can sell something to a customer that they aren't already inclined to buy. Oh, you get impulse sales, but mostly in the cheaper range -- and mostly because the customer who is visiting has already shown that he's interested in your kind of store by coming in.
But talking someone into something they've never seen or heard of is nearly impossible.
My friend's problem is that he has to reach out to try to sell his service. And he's going to hit resistance BECAUSE he's trying to reach out and sell his service. I don't know that he can do what I do, which is have a location, fill it with product, and wait for people to come in and find it.
There are "guerrilla marketing" ideas galore; they may save money, but they are hard work. You get lots of resistance, so you have to be clever and subtle. Or you do it by blunt force Cold Calling, and expect a 99% rejection rate but live off the 1%.
I think for my friend, the trick will be to get at least one or two organizations to try his service. I don't think I would advise giving it away, necessarily -- I suspect that sets a bad precedent -- but certainly making it easy -- barter, or generous terms.
And then hope for word of mouth.
Once he's established -- then he can have a storefront (website) where they come to buy or browse.
Looking back on Linda's store, the Bookmark, it took a couple of years before enough people gave her store a looksie. It's has broken even from day one, debt free, but that was because we were very savvy in setting it up. But to reach a truly profitable level took a couple of years.
Pegasus Books, you might say, took 20 years, but was complicated by blown up bubbles and mistakes.
All in all, you usually can't just put something on the counter (or on the net) and expect to sell it easily. Just as likely, it will gather dust, or sell out and not be able to be replaced, or sell just enough to keep you in business....
4 days ago