Give your business a boost by talking to people

SMALL BUSINESS

September 21, 1992|By JANE APPLEGATE

When you get depressed and feel like this rotten economy is never going to turn around, it's natural to want to hide out and mope. But sitting in your office feeling sorry for yourself only makes things worse, according to word-of-mouth marketing experts Gene Call and David Dworski.

One great way to boost your business is to get out and say hello to 100 people a week, said Mr. Call, founder of Business for Professionals in Santa Monica, Calif.

Business owners who sign up for his word-of-mouth training sessions practice talking to strangers in elevators, in drugstores and on the street. And best of all, you don't need any special equipment to take the course.

"Small business owners all have a mouth," said Mr. Call, a former advertising agency executive and retailer. He also urges business owners to explain what they do, rather than what they are.

For example, Mr. Call and Mr. Dworski advised a child psychologist to say he is a "friend finder," not a therapist. They urged an accountant to tell people he has a "passion for numbers and solving problems."

Doug O'Bryan, a marriage and family counselor in Irvine, Calif., thanked Mr. Call and Mr. Dworski for transforming him from a "Cave Man" to a "Networking Crazy Man." Since Feb. 1, Mr. O'Bryan's practice has grown by 30 patients.

No matter what you do, if you don't feel excited about it, how can you expect anyone to want to buy something from you or hire you?

"You have to start spreading the word about the good work you do," said Mr. Dworski, a former literary agent and entertainment industry executive. "In marketing, the cardinal sin is being dull."

Carolyn Campbell, founder of Campbell Communications in Los Angeles, took Mr. Call's course when she realized that most people are confused about public relations. "Some people think it's advertising, some just glaze over at the mention of PR, and people often think I represent artists as an agent," she said. While Mr. Call and Mr. Dworski help people market their businesses, Godfrey and Gregrey Harris emphasize the importance of getting customers to speak well of you.

Their book, "Talk is Cheap," is packed with tips to generate good word-of-mouth advertising for your business. For instance: Hire a photographer to shoot portraits of your best customers for a "wall of fame."

Try giving customers samples, coupons and discounts to encourage them to bring in their friends and associates. They also urge you to ask your best customers to refer you to other potential customers.

The Harrises praised the owner of Junior's, a popular West Los Angeles deli, for occasionally surprising a lucky patron with a free cake to share with friends at the table.

The authors, principals in the Harris/Ragan Management Group in Los Angeles, suggest asking your best customers specific questions about how they like or don't like your products or services. And, when people complain, not only solve the problems quickly but reward them with a gift for speaking up.

"Talk is Cheap" is published by The Americas Group and costs $9.95. For information, call (800) 966-7716 or write The Americas Group, 9200 Sunset Blvd., Suite 404, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

The weekend Word of Mouth Marketing Training costs $179. For information call (310) 829-6494 or write to Business for Professionals, 1821 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, Calif. 90403.

* * *

If you hate junk faxes, relief is in sight. Beginning Jan. 1, California business owners can put an end to unsolicited faxes.

"Finally, small business owners who have spent hours standing in front of fax machines clogged with junk advertising will be able to receive the important documents they need in a timely manner," said Assemblyman Richard Katz, D.-Sylmar, who authored a bill signed into law by Gov. Pete Wilson.

AB 2438 requires senders of unsolicited faxes to include a toll-free number. The recipient can call the number and request that future transmissions stop. Violators are subject to a $500 fine.

(For a free copy of Applegate's "Small Business Owner's Resource Guide," send a self-addressed, 29-cent stamped envelope to: Jane Applegate, P.O. Box 637, Sun Valley, Calif. 91352-0637.)

(Jane Applegate is a syndicated columnist and author. Write to her through the Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053.)

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