The Most Profitable Medium – Your Four Walls
Sandra picked up her brand-new car on a perfect summer day, under a clear blue sky with a cool breeze wafting off the ocean. Ron, the salesman who’d arranged her purchase two days earlier, greeted her at the showroom door with a broad, warm smile and a firm handshake. A waiting assistant promptly took the keys to her dusty, mile-weary trade-in and drove it around the corner, out of sight.
Ron had all the documents ready and laid out in the exact order Sandra needed to sign them. As she executed the title, financing, and other paperwork, Sandra enjoyed a freshly brewed cup of coffee and some friendly banter with Ron. In no
time at all, her sparkling new silver Lexus was purring at the showroom curb, her new partner in a journey that would take them many thousands of miles.
Sandra settled into the driver’s seat, breathed in the earthy scent of the new leather, and eased her new chariot out of the parking lot and into the afternoon traffic. She turned on the radio and pushed the first auto-select button to begin programming her preferred radio stations, the first act of new-car ownership. Her face lit up as her favorite top-50 station filled the air with a tune she was especially fond of. She warbled along as she weaved her way through traffic toward home. When the first commercial came on, she pushed the next select button. A swelling of violins flowed from the speakers. This was her favorite classical station!
Amazing, she thought. She tried the next button and on came her favorite all-news station. The fourth button summoned her husband’s favorite sports channel. This was getting spooky. Had technology reached a stage of development that made it possible for a car to read her mind?
She reached home, pulled into her driveway, and immediately telephoned
Ron to tell him about this amazing coincidence.
“You wouldn’t believe it,” she gushed. “I just had to call and tell you. I must be doing something right. Every one of my favorite radio stations was already preselected. What an amazing coincidence!”
Ron chuckled. “That was no coincidence. When a customer buys a new car and we take a trade-in, we check the old radio, write down the stations on the set, and then program the new ones to match.”
In that moment, Sandra became a devoted, loyal customer of the dealer and of Ron. And then, for the next two weeks, reveling in the honeymoon with her new chariot, she told everyone she knew about the dealer and what incredible service she’d received with her new car.
That’s Four Walls Marketing! No expensive newspaper ads, no annoying radio commercials, no slick TV ads. Just the cost of 15 minutes of labor by a mechanic. How many cars did Sandra sell for the dealer?
Do Something Remarkable
My dentist, Dr. Mitchell Josephs, of Palm Beach, Florida, asked me one day if I could brainstorm with him some ideas to grow his practice. Everyone’s business is hurting these days, and dentists in particular have been hurt by advances in technology that make tooth decay and gum disease almost extinct. Cosmetic dentistry, with the highest profit margin, is discretionary and not covered by insurance plans. In a bad economy, people don’t have teeth whitened, capped, and straightened.
“You’ve got to do something remarkable,” I said. “Now, your hours are Monday through Thursday, nine to five. I want you to be available nine to six, seven days a week. I want you to be available when your competition is closed and whenever your patients want you. I don’t want them ever to call and get an answering service or machine. I want you to give them your cell phone number, and I want you to answer it 24 hours a day.”
You might have expected him to start whining about being bothered at home, or when he’s out to dinner. After all, dentists and doctors are practically gods. But instead he looked at me with a broad smile on his face. “You know what I do on the weekends? I sit around on my butt and read the paper and watch too much television. I love my work, and I’d rather be doing it and growing my business than sitting at home watching my waist grow.”
To him it was an absolutely revolutionary idea. Next we talked about who might have the income in a bad economy to afford cosmetic dentistry. Doctors stay busy through thick and thin, and earn good incomes. Then it occurred to me that doctors can never find time to go see a dentist during office hours because they keep the same hours. When doctors are off duty, so are dentists.
So we contacted the neighborhood hospital and bought their mailing list of about a thousand local physicians. I told him to hire a graphic artist to design a postcard that featured veneer, the latest technology for tooth whitening. “Find an attractive patient willing to have her picture on the postcard showing her teeth before and after the veneers have been applied. The picture will say it all.”
Then I told him to put some text on the card that said, “I’m a health professional, and I know how hard it is for you to find time during the week to take care of your dental needs. That’s why I’m open weekends to serve you. Call me anytime on my cell phone, and I’ll be happy to see you when you’re ready.”
I warned him ahead of time that he would have to do a series of mailings. Once wouldn’t do it. Statistics show that consumers won’t act until they’ve seen a message between four and seven times.
Sure enough, after the fifth mailing he called to tell me he’d gotten his first patient, a neurosurgeon who had $22,000 worth of work done.
The single most important ingredient in a successful business is having a customer. Customers buy to feel good or to solve a problem. Customers want you to be available when they are available. Why are grocery stores open until 10 o’clock at night? Why is Blockbuster open seven days a week? Because the customer wants them to be open.
I gave my dentist a number of other revolutionary suggestions: Never stand over your patient. Always sit at the same level. Make sure your waiting and treatment rooms are decorated with pleasing colors. The chairs must be comfortable. The magazines need to be updated regularly, not just every three or four years. Four Walls Marketing is all about the environment, the feeling, even the music. Make patients feel they are walking into a cozy living room. Get rid of the dehumanizing intercom patients have to buzz to get in. Have your receptionist sit out in the waiting area where everyone can see and talk to her. Your office isn’t Fort Knox.
Always call patients within 24 hours of treatment to ask how they’re doing. They appreciate knowing that the dentist cares about them, even if they’ve only had a cleaning. For the pennies it costs to make that call, the opportunities that follow-up phone calls present are amazing, from defusing a misunderstanding that could cause a patient to go to another dentist to selling other services that the patient thought about after getting home.
I told my dentist to do some research about his patients. “Have your receptionist ask your patients what newspapers and magazines they read. Then contact those magazines and buy their mailing list. Even The Wall Street Journal sells its mailing lists. Find those people who are in your primary trading area, from their zip codes. Then communicate with them. Send them a series of direct mail letters and promotional pieces once a month for seven straight months.”
I hear all the time from businesspeople, “I sent out a direct mail piece and it didn’t work.” If you’re going to buy a television campaign, are you going to run just one spot? Of course not. Why would you expect a big result from one mailing? Yet most business owners make that same mistake. It’s all about continuity.
Finally, I told my dentist that when he’s finished major work on a patient, send a gift each month for the next six months. A fruit-of-the-month basket is easy and inexpensive. Remind the patient that you care, that you’re there for him, and turn your customer into a marketing ambassador.
The marketing battlefield has changed. It’s critical to downsize your marketing to match your prime market. Your business is a far better advertising medium than newspapers, radio, TV, or billboards. Most of us were taught the mass media theory of marketing: think big. But profits today are being made by those who think small, and the smaller the better. Single store, even for the biggest chains, is the best of all.
Have you ever seen a mass market ad campaign for Starbucks? Absolutely not. Paul Newman’s food company doesn’t advertise. The Virgin Group of companies gets along quite well without much advertising. What about restaurant chains like The Cheesecake Factory, or clothing stores like Tommy Bahama? What about Krispy Kreme? No mass media, right? Yet these are some of the most successful marketers in the world.
As you read on, you’ll find out how these companies and many others have enjoyed phenomenal success without going broke buying ad campaigns that don’t work.
Mass media advertising was developed for another age in another marketplace. That’s why I say that face time, the personal touch inside your four walls, beats air time, advertising, every time.
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