Quite a few of my friends, especially those in the fitness industry, are trying to start local businesses at the moment and seeing the guy selling The Big Issue this morning it got me thinking about spreading the word.
How often have you actually stopped and bought a copy of the Big Issue? I have to admit that for me, it is extremely rarely. It’s not that I don’t support the concept behind the magazine and the good job it does helping the homeless to help themselves; I just sometimes get annoyed by the tactics and spiel used by the vendors. Some just shout “Big Issue” and ram the magazine into your face whenever you get within shoving distance. Others stand blocking the doorway to sandwich shops and supermarkets and act as if the purchase is an entry requirement.
Unfortunately shoving and blocking is not selling and it is selling that is needed here.
I am sure that it is not the fault of the Big Issue vendors. Perhaps they are not advised how to sell the product and are just given a satchel full of magazines to hit the streets with. But there is one vendor in Edinburgh who is completely different. He doesn’t shout, ram or block. He sells the content and the benefits of the magazine. He’ll say, “In this issue read a great article on the new series of Doctor Who. Matt Smith’s interview is worth the cover price alone. Hear what he really thinks of predecessor, David Tennant.”
That sort of messaging does grab my attention. It makes you realise that the magazine has content you might want to read. This guy knows what he’s doing and I would bet that he sells many more copies than those working in busier locations. Perhaps he should be teaching the others how to sell.
It is one of the basic rules of business – sell the benefits not the product itself. When you open a new business you have to let people know you are there. Drop leaflets, advertise locally, talk to journalists, go on local radio and announce your presence and most importantly tell them what you can do for them.
If you own a shop you would change the window display frequently so that people who pass by everyday suddenly see a new reason to slow down and go in. If people weren’t coming into your shop you might stand outside and try and entice them in. Again to be successful with this you would focus on the benefits rather than the actual products. I can see that you sell fruit; that’s obvious and I might walk past. But tell me that you have the new yellow raspberries which are much less sour than the red ones and I might pop in and buy some.
Some products are less visible than even the most poorly sold copy of the Big Issue. Selling a service, like personal training may have no obvious “shop window”. Without a shop window we cannot expect people to know who and where we are. But the modern world of internet, social media and digital communications offers an amazing array of selling tools that can be become your shop window in the local area.
Use Facebook ads to target the local population and age demographic. Send regular press releases to your local newspapers and radio stations. Drop leaflets into doctor’s surgeries and and other places where people have time on their hands.
A Big Issue vendor wanting me to buy the latest issue has to tell me that there is something inside it that I really want to read as opposed to just reminding me that the publication exists. Awareness isn’t enough, but fortunately there are very cost effective tools that exist to enable you to turn that awareness into interest, then turn that interest into an opportunity.