This weeks Idea: Skip all that marketing. Just go get customers!

with Neil Godin

I just received a call from an MD member who said he desperately wants to open new markets. His high end product can only be used by a small percentage of buyers, and he feels that they’ve got about as much market share as they’re going to get here in OurTown (Vancouver, BC).

But (as always) there’s a problem. “We’ve been stuck on a plateau,” he said, “and there’s just no budget for all the marketing we’d have to do to get a new market open.” My response: “Why not skip all that marketing, and just go and get some customers?” His response: Silence.

Backing up a bit, I told him about an Ontario company that we wrote about here in Marketing Dangerously a few years ago. I think the story is well worth repeating, so here it is again.

A story from the past as current as this morning… 

Toronto. 2008:  A Marketing Dangerously member called and said he was in a real conundrum. Wassup, I asked. Seems they make a mobility product for the seniors market, with 60% of their sales in Ontario. Why so heavy in one area? Because the government subsidizes these products. But, the government has now lowered the ceiling price on the products they will subsidize, and his product is no longer covered. Result: From 60% to Zero Percent, in no time flat. A catastrophe. He went on to say that they can’t lower their price to meet the lower ceiling, because they manufacture a top quality product made totally in Canada. Hmm, I said. With tight quality control you can make a darn good product overseas these days. (But that’s another story). So. What to do? He said they were reviewing their options – including the possibility of shutting down the company. Ouch, I said. “Shut down because a government changes its policy? Nevah!”

I asked where the other 40% of their sales are made. “In Florida,” he replied. “In Florida?” I echoed, “that is the hottest seniors market on the continent. Why not expand your sales there – and across the Sun Belt – the whole American South and West?” Can’t do it, he said. Why? No time, he answered. “We don’t have time to develop a distributor network. To get into the trade shows. To get reps on the ground.” But why would you want to do all that stuff? I asked. “Why not just go down there personally, and open some new accounts – now?”

Introducing “Introduction Marketing”

I suggested that he use an approach that I call “introduction marketing.” All he had to do was call his clients in Florida. Tell them he’s coming down for a month. Line up appointments with each of them for golf, dinner, fishing, whatever. Then ask each one who among their fellow (non-competing) dealers he should be talking to, and doing business with, in the region. Notice that I didn’t suggest that he ask for referrals. In my opinion, referrals are not enough.  He needed full fledged personal introductions to potential new dealers, not just referrals. I urged him to remind his dealers how awkward it is to make and receive unsolicited sales calls, and to ask them to call their dealer friends and introduce him – before he called them. Or. Even better. To line up lunch meetings with all three at the table. (Now we’re talking).

Ah, the risk. What if his Florida dealers are lukewarm about the product, the program, the

relationship? Hmm. All the more reason to get down there – fast. Find out how strong (or weak) the relationships are. Do any fixes that need fixing. Then ask for those introductions. The reward: Almost immediate market expansion. At rock bottom cost.

Your call to action

You get the idea. Now, how could you apply it in your business?

See you next week.


Ps – If you know of a small business owner who could use coaching in marketing and sales (or a range of other topics), please read on…

I just received an email from the people who are running the BC Government’s Micro Business Training program, announcing that they have received funding for another 300 small business owners. This program provides $1500 worth of private, one on one, business coaching assistance at no charge at all. However, it is hard to qualify. One key qualification, strange as it seems, is that they must not have completed a post-secondary education program. And, their business has to be very small, with fewer than five employees. I’m one of a large number of coaches involved in the program, and I provide six hours of live or telephone coaching, supported by a collection of reference materials). If you know of someone who would benefit, please ast them to call me at 604.888.4570 or email me at Many thanks!

PPS – MD member and social media maestress, Debbie Peck, advises that she is hosting a 3-Day Social Media Virtual Training Event, this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The event features 12 experts that Debbie will interview – and the entire program is free of charge. Go to for details and to register.

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  1. Hey Neil! Great article – I would also suggest that he connect some potential people on LinkedIn that he could book appointments with while in Florida.
    Thanks very much for mentioning our event!

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