When we last traveled together, we learned a few things about business from Asian food carts, ancient ruins in Peru, and Chinese dumpling shops.
You picked up handy souvenirs for your business like getting started as soon as possible, creating a catalog, and getting personal with your customers.
On today’s tour, we’ll be visiting the remote outpost of Siberia, stylish apartments in Denmark, and discover why you can find an Irish pub in every city in the world.
For those of you new to our 3-part tour, my name is Betsy Talbot, and in 2010 my husband Warren and I left the US for an open-ended trip around the world.
As we’ve simultaneously traveled and published and promoted our books, we’ve learned invaluable marketing lessons from some unlikely sources and today we’re sharing three more of those with you.
Got your walking shoes on?
The tour starts now.
Siberia is an isolated place. It takes 48 hours to get there by train from Ulan Bator, Mongolia, in itself not an easy place to get to. It is truly the middle of nowhere, earning its rightful place in every joke about about remote destinations.
But once you finally get there, you’ll be surprised to find groves of birch trees and wildflowers wherever you look, one of world’s largest freshwater lakes, and clean, well-constructed cities with skinny-jeaned hipsters sharing the broad sidewalks with traditional babushkas in headscarves. The middle of nowhere is a surprisingly modern and colorful place.
You know what else you’ll find? Blazing fast Internet.
We were so surprised by this fact that we asked a US friend if it was the new norm and we had just missed it by traveling in remote areas for so long. She was as surprised at our speeds as we were, and we marveled at how such an isolated place could be so über-connected.
When I think about Siberia now, I think of bright colors, crisp, cold tap water from Lake Baikal and screaming fast Internet, 3 things I would not have associated with it before. Had I known Siberia was so connected, I might not have waited so long to visit.
Your potential customers may harbor similar incorrect stereotypes about your business. They dismiss your products and services as an option for them because they have outdated or false information.
It’s up to you to correct this.
- Surprise people with a reality check. Your business may catch a lot of unfair heat due to outdated media portrayals, such as ambulance-chasing lawyers, slimy used-car salespeople, or even money-grubbing Internet marketers. (And yes, if you sell a product, idea, or service online, you are an Internet marketer.) Proudly proclaim what you do and just why you were drawn to it in the first place.
- Turn your quirks into talking points. Your business may not get fully colored by these false perceptions, but you may be battling the stereotypes that go with your age, sex, or geographic location. Instead of trying to ignore it, speak up and tell people why they should work with a female auto parts store owner, a 25-year-old life coach, or a filmmaker in Siberia.
- Challenge your own stereotypes about your audience. Do you know why they buy from you? Why they don’t buy from you? We often think we do, but we neglect to do the one thing that would give us the answer: asking. Bust the stereotypes you have of your customers by emailing or phoning a few and simply asking them what they like about your offers and what’s missing for them. Gain fresh understanding and build a whole new product at the same time.
Case Study: Copyblogger’s Internet Marketing for Smart People de-sleazes the maligned art of selling online. For those who want to sell something online but not be that guy, this is a powerful and common-sense approach, and this is how they appeal to their market.
Provide unexpected delights
When we reached Copenhagen, Denmark, we were on the next-to-last leg of our 6-month journey from Thailand to Portugal. It had been an 11-hour train travel day, and we were looking forward to a couple of days of downtime before boarding the ship that would stop at our official end-point of Lisbon, Portugal.
As we did in many locations in Russia and Europe, we booked an apartment through a service for our short stay. Many times this option is cheaper and more comfortable than a hostel or small hotel, and it allows us to ‘live like a local.’ We exchanged emails with Martin, the apartment owner, and he said he would meet us at the train station to take us there. We were a bit surprised since no apartment owner had ever offered to do this before.
Along the way, he told us bits about the history and geography of Copenhagen and suggested things to do during our short stay. He pointed out landmarks that would make it easy for us to orient ourselves, and he told us how to work the bus and metro systems.
He pointed out the closest grocery store and bakery for our shopping. Once there, he offered us coffee or beer to drink and showed us the breakfast supplies he had stocked in the refrigerator for us.
We were not expecting this level of hospitality in a short-term rental, and we were blown away by Martin’s attention to detail. As long-term travelers, we are heavy users of this kind of rental service, and we have never had such a welcoming experience with a host.
These rentals thrive on positive reviews, and visitors to major cities like Copenhagen have dozens of apartments from which to choose. Martin has invested very little time and money to make sure his reviews are always terrific, which is why his apartment is almost always rented.
Small, unexpected delights do not have to cost you a lot of time or money, but they will pay big rewards in loyalty and referrals from your clients. For instance, here I am writing a post about Martin to thousands of international readers who might just rent from him some day.
- Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What would make the use of your product or service more pleasant for them? A small touch like a card, a followup email, or an unexpected article on a related subject can bring a happy customer to loyal fan status.
- Overcome any objections to your service or product before they have a chance to be voiced. Martin knew his apartment was a bit hard to find at night from the train station, so he took us himself. He neutralized a possible negative in a customer review (critical for his future sales).
- Show customers how to best enjoy your product or service. Martin helped us enjoy our time better in Copenhagen by explaining the bus and metro system, highlighting Danish foods we should try, and recommending sights for our limited time frame . He’s selling more than a bed for a night, and he knows it. You are also selling more than just your product or service. You are selling an experience.
Case Study: When we published our last book, Strip Off Your Fear: Slip Into Something More Confident, we included a book club party planner with a suggested menu, a playlist on iTunes, and a custom cocktail recipe designed by a friend. The topic of worrying about what other people think is important, but it doesn’t mean it has to be dull.
Keep it familiar
It doesn’t matter where you travel in this world, you can almost always find these 3 things: Kit-Kat bars, orange soda, and an Irish pub. It’s a little bit of comfort to see this trusty trio in a far-flung destination, and more often than not you’ll also find plenty of Western ‘traveler-friendly’ restaurants.
These restaurants always sell pizza, spaghetti, hamburgers, and coffee. In areas heavily visited by Aussies, you’ll also find vegemite and marmite on the menu. The Brits get their gin & tonics plus proper English breakfast tea. Shops catering to the French will always have bread and imported cheese, and of course the Belgians and Germans get their beers from home. I’ve read that there are more Irish living outside of Ireland than in it, so that explains the abundance of Irish pubs in the world.
You’ll see signs out front of these shops like “We speak English” to call out to passing travelers. These places are always busy, even when there are better and cheaper food options from local merchants. The food often isn’t even that good in comparison to home (try getting a delicious hamburger in a country that doesn’t eat much bread or beef), but it doesn’t stop travelers from stopping in.
Whether they’ve been gone for a week or a year, these foreigners just want a taste of home, a reminder of where they came from, and something easy in a land that is sometimes complicated for them.
If your type of business is complicated or unusual to a segment of your market, making it familiar using their language and customs or showing you understand their needs will go a long way in recruiting new business.
- Use case studies or testimonials to show customers how your product or service has worked for other people just like them. When they see another mother, writer, salesman, traveler, or homeowner using your product successfully, they can envision themselves using it, too.
- Call out to your less savvy customers so they know you understand them. Dali SEO Company promises “SEO so easy your mother could do it.” The thought of learning SEO can be daunting for a solo entrepreneur already overloaded with work, but since we all think we’re more Internet-savvy than our moms this is a powerful line.
- Sell the end result, not the product. A grandmother who has always talked to her grandkids via phone won’t necessarily see the benefit of Skype until she realizes she can see them as they talk. She may not care about the technology, but she does care about seeing her grandkids as they grow up, especially if she lives far away. Make your product or service relatable to your customer’s existing lifestyle.
Case Study: PEMCO Insurance in Seattle, Washington has a funny campaign called, We’re a Lot Like You (A Little Different). It highlights the quirky people in the Pacific Northwest, like Sandals and Socks Guy, Accidental Tech Millionaire, and Relentless Recycler. The ads are funny, and they inspire Pacific Northwesterners to choose a local company for their insurance needs rather than a national one.
Taking your souvenirs home
This concludes today’s tour. In summary, your souvenirs include:
- A used train ticket to Siberia to prove to everyone you’ve actually been to the middle of nowhere (and a reminder to counter the stereotypes in your own business)
- A delicious slice of Danish bread to inspire unexpected delights for your own customers
- A Kit-Kat bar to recall the need to make your offerings familiar to the visitors who come to your site
When you get back home, you can use this trio of reminders to bash stereotypes in your business, add unexpected perks to people who do business with you, and instantly communicate with visitors who don’t necessarily speak your business language.
Remember, no matter where you travel, even if it is just to your local bakery to buy a Danish for breakfast, there are business lessons all around. Learn to view the world like a traveler and you’ll pick up every one.