Where Should You Be Doing Business?

A famous business publication interviewed me once and asked me this question: “If every one of your marketing concepts but one was taken away, which would you hold on to at any price?” I didn’t need a second to think about the question. I immediately answered that I’d never give up using endorsements. Why endorsements? Because by using endorsements you get to leverage millions and millions of dollars’ worth of assets and good will for little or no downside risk.

You get to tap into a source of business that’s easily five times more likely to buy from you. You gain instant and enormous credibility, prestige, and respect. You expand your business immediately. Ironically, endorsements are rarely used — but they rarely fail to work. Let me show you how it’s done best: Identify who in business already has developed a solid relationship with the exact prospective market you want to reach.

Then, contact that person and acknowledge two things:

1. That the two of you are compatible and in no way, shape, or form competitive

2. That you greatly admire the cumulative investment of time, effort, manpower, and capital that has gone into creating the successful business he has established Next — and this is vitally important — take these two additional steps:

* Tell him that, at least from your vantage point, he has invested so much in building a relationship with his customers or clients that he owes it to himself to reclaim a greater yield.

* Tell him — again, from your perspective — that he owes his customers or clients whatever additional benefits or advantages he is in the position to give them. Next, bring it all together by showing him how you can provide a tremendous advantage to his customers by rendering your product or service to them on a preferential basis. Establish why and how your company or practice is different, better, superior in the results, performance, and advantages you can bring to his customer or client.

Offer to give the endorser’s customers a better price, greater guarantees, more support, additional bonuses, or free services. Then offer to share generously all profits resulting from the endorsement with the endorsing company. Tell him you’ll put together the promotion on a completely “turnkey” basis. But give him total control, editorial approval, and certainty over the project.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you are a Mercedes dealer. Instead of running inefficient and expensive display ads in your local newspaper, you would be much better off contacting companies that already have a strong credible presence in the affluent marketplace. You could go to a luxury jeweler and propose an arrangement whereby he sends a letter to all his better customers, introducing them to you and offering them, say, special pricing, a special free option package, or a certificate for $5,000 worth of jewelry (that you pay for) when his customers purchase a Mercedes from you.

You’d write the letter, subject to the jeweler’s strict editorial approval. You’d pay to mail it out. The jeweler would receive a generous profit share — say $1,000 per sale. When you present the concept, you might say, “I can’t be certain — but if my conservative estimate works out, you’ll help me sell 145 cars over the next six months. That would produce $145,000 dollars for you. You could use that money to pay to run a full-page ad in the local newspaper every week for a year … put a massive down payment on a new home … pay the build-out costs for a new store … etc.”

To find endorsement partners, sit down and make a list of every kind of generic business that has the kind of customers you’d like to reach. When you’ve made the most comprehensive list you can, look up actual companies in each field. Have your assistant, secretary, or a part-time college student find for you (in specialized directories or the Yellow Pages) the phone numbers, addresses, and names of the highest-ranking reachable P&L decision makers (owners, presidents, or general managers) in those firms.

Once you’ve done that, contact at least five targeted endorsers and propose this kind of endorsement relationship to them. I suspect two out of five will say “yes” immediately. The ones that don’t will become doable if you keep in strong and confident contact for six weeks to six months. Almost every company that turned me down initially came back and said “yes” within six months when I consistently communicated my certainty of the fact that this concept would benefit their customers greatly.