Make the Most of Your Time as an On-Line Chat Guest
Here's a marketing opportunity that too few people use--and if they
do use it, very few extract the maximum marketing mileage: being the
guest in a live on-line chat.
In some ways, chatting is similar to a radio call in--except that new
questions pour in right in the middle of your answer, You write two lines
and send it, then write the next two lines. In the meantime, another
message may crop up and interrupt you. Some moderators will control
this, but others let it all hang out.
To get the most benefit: First of all, publicize your appearance
ahead of time. Don't just rely on the host group, but try to extend your
reach. Thus, make sure you give yourself enough lead time to get the
publicity out. Find out what publicity the host will do, but do your own as
Second, make a transcript of your session, so that when you're
done, the whole thing is on your hard drive. Ask the moderator how to
During the session, be as helpful as possible with the questions you're
asked--but just as in a problem-solving article, leave them hungry
enough for more that they can turn to you for more resources. Don't hit
people over the head with your offers, but make them clear.
Jot down the e-mail addresses of everyone visiting--not just the ones
who participate. In America Online chat rooms, this information will be in
the "hi" and "Bye" lists--but only the ones talking show up in the log. As
soon as the session's over, send them all some follow-up.
And, of course, make use of the prestige you get as a featured
guest. Mention it in your bios and backgrounders.
How do you get to be a chat guest? Either come out and ask (with
your credentials and list of possible topics), or participate in newsgroups
and mailing lists in such a way that people come to you. I've done it both
ways. I approached America Online's Business Strategies Forum. Inc.
Online and other chats came to me.
Here's an actual transcript (typos and all) of my Inc. Magazine on-
line chat (held Thursday, April 26, 1996), as well as the follow-up message
I sent (excluding the "22 free/low cost
ways to market" freebie, which is available elsewhere on this
4/25/96 8:29:47 PM Opening "Shel-Inc. Chat Log 4/25/96" for
ShelHoro : Okay, that's done. Ready to start when you are.
IncCagiano : WEll, cvm, he's all yours. Why don't you tell him
about your biz.
Cvmclean : I have a janitorial service company in Okla.
not have a large ad in the yellow page
IncCagiano : Susan, welcome back.
Susan CKD : Thanks, how's it goin?
IncCagiano : Mel, what's up?
Cvmclean : but network with several organizations,
belong to the
Chamber, and will set up a booth at a
MelLoc : Hi, everyone.... I'm back
Cvmclean : local trade show in Oct.
IncCagiano : Our guest tonite is Shel Hororowitz, author
of"marketing without Megabucks."
IncCagiano : oops...Horowitz.
MelLoc : Hi Shel.... Indulge our silly questions, please....
ShelHoro : You're quick, Chris. I didn't even have to
you. Mel, that's why I'm here.
IncCagiano : Timmy, wlecome to Inc.Live.
MelLoc : Chris is a quick guy....
ShelHoro : Cvm, you don't necessarilly need large Yellow
ads--$100/month brings me lots of business.
IncCagiano : shucks, mel...
ShelHoro : That covers four phone books, several
one of them--but the largest ad is 1 inch.
MelLoc : Shel - Are there any businesses that wouldn't
fron the yellow pages?
ShelHoro : Sure... Those who have all they could handle
word of mouth, those who fill a more seasonal need
ShelHoro : such as snowplowing (newspaper service
are a better bet for them), t6hose whose clientele
MelLoc : How do you feel about publicity as a marketing
Timmy LI : I have been contacted by sprint about getting
no, any thoughts
ShelHoro : are not geographically based at all. They'd still
calls, but it might not be their best value.
IncCagiano : Kind of biz, Timmy?
Timmy LI : insurance
ShelHoro : Mel, it's the best thing since sliced bread.
I sent out a press release on the
ShelHoro : translation of my book into Korean and
local regional paper, serving a metro area of
Timmy LI :sprint wants a $200 committment
ShelHoro : about 300,000, turned thast into a 30-inch story
photo--and just enough errors that I was able to
ShelHoro :get extra mileage with a letter to the editor.
ShelHoro : Timmy, toll-free numbers are great, but I don't
you should lock into any kind of minimum.
IncCagiano : Sure, Many "smaller" papers are always
stuff to cover.
ShelHoro : Remember that numbers are portable--you
can take them
to another carrier. If you can't use that as
ShelHoro : a negotiating point to get out of the minimum,
your number from a more responsive carrier.
MelLoc : You can always get deals from the long
carriers - just ask them....
ShelHoro : Inc, it's not just smaller papers. My wife once
press release picked up by the NY Daily News.
IncCagiano : Get out. About what?
ShelHoro : It was just a few lines on page 40-something
phone rang for days.
ShelHoro : About an energy conservation program for
that she used to run.
IncCagiano : Power of the press.
ShelHoro :I built my bgusiness on it.
IncCagiano : Will that change any with electronic media?
Timmy LI : shell, what sort of business are you in?
ShelHoro : Now I do press releases and other publicity for
businesses as well as my own.
MelLoc : It's a great business booster when business gets
ShelHoro : Timmy, I run a retail writing and marketing
emphasizing low-cost, targeted solutions
ShelHoro : where a business can experience market
with little or no outlay. Sure beats paying for ads
ShelHoro : Inc, I think electronic media are one more
went from print only to radio, TV, cable, Web.
ShelHoro : But print is still with us--and will be as long as
people can read--at least until you can com-
MelLoc :What about marketing specialists - Would they
worth the money for a small biz?
IncCagiano : But other than puttin up a WEb site. How do
people to copme to it?
ShelHoro : fortably read on the subway from the screen of
hanbdheld computer. And the newer media are just
ShelHoro : more places to get exposure; they
than compete w/, traditional publicity.
ShelHoro : Mel, it depends. For instance, I can write a
straightforward press release, in most cases, for
Susan CKD : I get leads from my association. Do you help
direct mail letters? And, is that a good idea?
ShelHoro : about $50. If that release gets picked up by 5
instead of one, do you think it's worth
ShelHoro : the investment? I do! But if a publicist asks for a
retainer of $1000 per month, most small businesses
ShelHoro : could do better on their own.
ShelHoro : Inc, coiuld you clarify? How to get people to
MelLoc : I think women have it easier in the marketing
ShelHoro :Susan, yes and yes! One of the great things
online marketing is youhave the intimacy of direct m
IncCagiano : The Web site. If you build it will they come.
ShelHoro : mail with virtually none of the overhead. But you
have to be aware of protocol, not ruffle feathers.
ShelHoro : You publicize a Web site by: listing in search
engines, putting it in your e-mail sig, sending out
Susan CKD : Since my business is strictly local, I wasn't
referring to online mktg., but direct mail.
ShelHoro : press releases, mentioning it during speeches
interviews, using it in all ads and publicity...
ShelHoro : Yes. If you've got the right list, direct mail is
powerful. Even with responses around 1%, it should
MelLoc : I only say that because women are more likely
other women biz owners for reduced fee
MelLoc : or free
Cvmclean :If your trade area is basically a local market,
it benefit using the web?
ShelHoro : be worthwhile. But there are methods of
and boosting response. I spend two whole
ShelHoro : chapters on this in Marketing Without
to Sell Anything on a Shoestring.
ShelHoro : Mel, that's true--but it's not just women. Any
organizational, ethnic, or subculture affiliation
ShelHoro : can be used as a marketing ":pull." Consider
alums--a very powerful constituency.
MelLoc : Shel - Have you ever bartered for advertising
so, what worked best for you....
ShelHoro : I barter for anything I can. At the moment, a
of my articles are circulatiog--with
ShelHoro :full contact info--on various ad sheets that
are paying for. I got over 40 responses from Greg
ShelHoro : Landry's e-mail classified sheet, by doing up a
profile of my business and offering to send a
MelLoc : Finally.... A bartering cohort.....
ShelHoro : handout on 22 free/low-cost ways to do
course, it plugs my book.
MelLoc : Shel - I realize you are an author - is that your
ShelHoro : I have a $3000 rug on my floor that I've paid off
about half of so far--in the form of press
ShelHoro : releases, fliers, and a newsletter. I'd never buy it
MelLoc : I buy very little for cash myself.....
IncCagiano : I got a $5 throw I got when I worked at Crate
ShelHoro : Mel, my primary business is consulting and
marketing materials for small businesses, non-
ShelHoro :profits, and individuals (i.e.,
résumés). I also
spend a great deal of time marketing my two books:
ShelHoro : the one on low-cost marketing I've already
and my new one on low-cost fun. It's
ShelHoro : called The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to
Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook.
MelLoc : you are two steps ahead of me - I've been
ShelHoro : Yeah, it's amazing what's out there for the
But a lot of people don't know how cheaply one
MelLoc : How do you get into publishing ??? To get
look at your work?
ShelHoro : can travel, dine, see music, etc. And almost
knows all the tricks--I didn't either, but I
ShelHoro : spent a couple of months researching them. It
really a fun book to write.
MelLoc : Ted Kaczinski has been doin it for years...... : )
ShelHoro : Mel, some of it is luck. I wrote a knock-em-dead
proposal that my agent sold to simon & Schuster
MelLoc : I'd love to get some of my work published
ShelHoro : almost immediately, but my timing was good.
She got a
similar proposal about two months later, and
IncCagiano : Whatya write Mel?
ShelHoro : told the poor unfortunate that the market was
saturated! And then my next four proposals were
ShelHoro : turned down, so I self-published Hedonist.
MelLoc : All kinds of stuff from business articles to
Generation X issues.....
ShelHoro : Mel, start with articles for community
make that a stepping-stone. Combine it with
ShelHoro : your love of pleasure and build a portfolio on
culture or sports reviews, for instance.....
MelLoc : Back to marketing... sorry to sidetrack....
IncCagiano : Hey, it's all marketing anyway...
IncCagiano :So, any suggestions for our local businesses?
MelLoc : What do you think are the three most cost-
best response methods for the
MelLoc : cash-challenged????
ShelHoro : Indeed, freelance writers understand
than practically anyone--it's a tough road!
ShelHoro : I can't generalize about local business. But if the
market is local, networking and community service
IncCagiano : Thank God I'm a staff writer.
ShelHoro : should definitely play a part.
MelLoc : I'm a good writer - just haven't figured out how
get it published yet....
ShelHoro : Mel: fliers; e-mail discussion groups (with a really
eye-catching sig); self-organized direct-mail co-
ShelHoro : ops
MelLoc : Do you really think fliers are that good????
ShelHoro : Mel, write for free for a couple of months. Then
the clips to low-paying markets. Then
ShelHoro : push higher. I've written for $7.50 an article.
contract has to be in the mid three-figures in
MelLoc : "Low-paying markets"???? Please explain...
ShelHoro : order to be worthwhile--and I'm a fast writer! As
result, I do very little magazine work anymore--
ShelHoro : not worth the hassles for the low return. But I
600 clips in my portfolio so I can concentrate
ShelHoro : on my over-the-counter work and my books.
MelLoc : Would you need an agent to do that?
IncCagiano : Hey! What's wrong with magazien work! :)
ShelHoro : Mel, before I was in the Yellow Pages, virtually
my business came from fliers. But of course
Susan CKD : What do you think about brochures for
businesses to differentiate your co. from others?
MelLoc : I have the utmost respect for the prowess of
pen, Inc...... : )
ShelHoro : it not only has to be the right flier, but where the
right people see it.
ShelHoro : Susan, brochures can be a greatg--and
inexpensive--sales tool. But often the reader has
Cvmclean : How did you dispurse your flyers..
ShelHoro : to wade through so much crap! It's a heavily
tool I believe in a clear, simple, direct
ShelHoro : approach. And it doesn't need glitzy graphics,
four-color photography, coated stock and a $20,000
ShelHoro : pricetag. Most of the brochures I write are six
eight panels (each panel being 1/3 of an 8-1/2x
Susan CKD : So, how do you define crap in a brochure? I'd
ShelHoro : 11 page. Maybe a little longer.
ShelHoro : Define crap? I guess you'll have to read the
that. Basically anything that's off the track of
Cvmclean : Shel, how did you dispurse your flyers.....
Susan CKD : Maybe you mean writing I I I instead of you,
ShelHoro : enticing the reader with benefits, or alarming
reader with fears, that accrue from using (or
ShelHoro : not using) the product or service. III is definitely
part of the problem. the reader doesn't
ShelHoro : care about how great you are--just what you
Susan CKD : But isn't a little bit of fear ok?
ShelHoro : Cvm, with a stapler. I live near a major university
with zillions of bulletin boards--and when I
ShelHoro : started my business, in 1981, my major service
typing term papers (thank goodness those days are
ShelHoro : gone! It forced me to use my brain as well as
fingers and make my living as a writer, because
ShelHoro : PCs have made typing services virtually
ShelHoro : Susan, oh yes. Fear is a great motivator. Jeffrey
Lant writes very eloquently about how to exploit
ShelHoro : it.
Cvmclean : OK, how would a janitorial service send out
thru the mail or during cold calling
ShelHoro : Cvm, hmmm. Who needs janitorial services?
business. Maybe you could approach your local
ShelHoro : or regional small business journal and find out
much it would cost to have your flier inserted.
ShelHoro : Start with a test market of, say, 10,000 fliers. If
it brings enough new business, next issue send it
ShelHoro : to the whole list. Or try this: my local chamber of
commerce will send a member's flier out to their
Cvmclean : I've tried advertising in a local business paper,
response during 6 months of ads.
IncCagiano : Ouch, cvm.
ShelHoro : whole list, enclosed with the newsletter. It's
ridiculously cheap:L $75 for almost 2000 prospects.
ShelHoro : Check with yours.
Susan CKD : I have, and I got good leads right away.
depends on the type of business.
ShelHoro : Cvm, some questions: 1. How noticeable were
Cvmclean : Now, I have a flyer inserted in a local theater
program, lots of money people go to and had
MelLoc : Sorry - I got knocked offline
Cvmclean : several responses the first play.
ShelHoro : How enticing were they? What was the "sizzle"
were selling? (for instance, a sparkling office AND
ShelHoro : the free time they wouldn't get if they did it on
Cvmclean : Well, an ad agency set up the ad....probably
problem was they used my picture,
ShelHoro : And how much more exposure would you
have gotten if a
flier fell out of the paper, rather than having
ShelHoro : to hope someone sees your ad.
ShelHoro : Yeah, your clients don't need YOUR picture!
before and after pictures of a messy office
ShelHoro : turned beautiful!
ShelHoro : That's the sizzle!
Susan CKD : In this age of information and more cautious
do people buy the sizzle as much as before?
ShelHoro : Yes--but they want the facts too. Sizzle isn't
enough, tofuy isn't enough (I'm a vegetarian--no
IncCagiano : People always buy a benefit when they want
ShelHoro : steak for me ) You need both.
Cvmclean : I don't expect immediate response, I want
recognination. I want people to remember
ShelHoro : People buy weays of making their lives easier,
satisfying, more productive, etc.
Cvmclean : me when they had a terrible experience with
MelLoc : That's the battle - making them remember your
ShelHoro : Cvm, I really and truly believe that EVERY
attempt should include the option of a
ShelHoro : direct response. If you do name recognition
should STILL include your phone number or some
ShelHoro : other way to get in touch immediately, if the
Cvmclean : Believe me, my phone number, pager, and
service numbers are listed...
ShelHoro : If you're after name recognition--consider
ShelHoro : Or do what I did and run for public office (not
the faint of heart, but it made me a household
Cvmclean : What about trade shows thru the chamber of
ShelHoro : word locally--and definitely helped my
Still, there are more effeective marketing methods
ShelHoro : in terms of time and energy. But it's also fun to
have a built-in soapbox for one's ideas.
EATPICKY : such as ? shel
ShelHoro : Do as many trade shows as possible. But do
inteligently! I see so many people waste effort by
ShelHoro : deliberately going after tire kickers--such
foolishness! They have aq drawing for some valuable
ShelHoro : prize that has nothing to do with their offer!
ShelHoro : Eatpicky, I was referring to running for office. I
agtressively went after publicity during my three
MelLoc : Alot of radio stations offer co-sponsorship for
publicity drives... And most welcome
MelLoc : small biz support
Cvmclean : So, if I offer a prize, it should be maid service
a week, of free carpet cleaning??
ShelHoro : political campaigns, and received about 40
in the t3o local papers each time. Virtually all o
ShelHoro : of thenm mentioned what I do for a living.
ShelHoro : Cvm, you got it! Mel, co-sponsorship is another
one. Night clubs would dry up and die
ShelHoro : without it. I donate my books for charity
fundraising, including local listener-sponsored
IncCagiano : Maid service!! Who wouldn't want that!
ShelHoro : radio and tv.
IncCagiano : I'm sitting on a pile of laundry as we speak...
Cvmclean : Maybe I should open a branch in Boston...
ShelHoro : Too bad you're in boston! You could mail it to
Susan CKD : My husband is folding it as I speak.
ShelHoro : I'm here writing to you instead of tucking my
in. My wife got that job tonight.
Susan CKD :Likewise.
ShelHoro : Nine minutes left, folks. Anyone want to sstart a
quick new tangent?
Cvmclean : What about newsletters. I'm not a writer so
any companies that write newsletters
Cvmclean : for specific industries?
Susan CKD : But, this is one of the best chats I've had here.
EATPICKY : newsletters work for me, my clients call when it
been awhile inbetween
ShelHoro : Oh yes. My own is one of them. There are also
newsletters available in many fields, but
MelLoc : Most desk-top publishing biz can do
did them for a long time CMV
ShelHoro : I personally don't think much of them--not
or individualized enough.
MelLoc : I think newsletters are great for existing
and for word-of-mouth referrals
ShelHoro : Thanks, Susan! Mel, I do think good writing is
important in a newsletter--or any marketing--and
MelLoc : Repeat business, too
Cvmclean : Well, were all bootstrappers here working on
limited budget, so always looking for the
Cvmclean : most for the least buck..
ShelHoro : I'm not convinced that DTP firms typically have
I'm a writer with some DTP skills, but if
ShelHoro : someone wants a visually cojplex project, I
the design. None of us can be expert in
ShelHoro : EVERYTHING.
EATPICKY : i do everything myselft, brochures, newsletters,
IncCagiano : cept mel...
ShelHoro : I took over a sideline business from my dad. The
first thing I did was computerize the mailing list,
MelLoc : Funny, hunny
ShelHoro : and the second thing was start writing a
It was a mail-based business anyway,
ShelHoro : so there was no significant overhead--and a
deal of benefit to me and the clients.
Susan CKD : How do we keep our name in front of other
diff. businesses that we want referrals from?
ShelHoro : No, Mel, I'm serious! He was doing 1200-piece
mailings with a typewriter! Jeez!
EATPICKY : good one susan
Susan CKD : I. E., I design and sell kitchens and baths; I
referrals from architects and remodelers.
ShelHoro : Susan, work out mutual aid agrements. There's
transcriptionist that sends me tons of résumé and
ShelHoro : a few marketing clients. I send her every tape
transcription referral I can. Susan, what
ShelHoro : advantages do you offer them that other
bath people don't have? In other words, what's
ShelHoro : your Unique Selling Proposition (standard
Susan CKD : I work from a design studio (home office). I'm
mobile, no allegiance to mfrs. like other stores,
Susan CKD : Impartiality is what I'm about, independence;
architects like tha philosophy.
ShelHoro : Okay, then--here';s your hoimework. turn those
features into benefits and write some sizzling
ShelHoro : copy to make your point. If that feels too hard,
to me and we can do it for you.
Susan CKD : I love to write. But, I believe people have
specialties, and that's not mine, so leave your #.
ShelHoro : Wow! I'm impressed that several of you have
for the whole hour. Thanks for listening and
ShelHoro : asking!
Cvmclean : Where do we find your book?
ShelHoro : My number is 800-683-WORD, my e-mail is
Web site should be up and running within
Susan CKD : Am I write IncC that this was a great hour?
ShelHoro : about two weeks.
ShelHoro : Cvm, I'll e-mail the info to everyone who
I bought it back from Simon & Schuster, so
IncCagiano : I was just sending Shel an instant message to
ShelHoro : it's basically available only from me.
Susan CKD : I thought you were gone because your wife
made you do
IncCagiano : Boston Brownstone. No in-building laundry.
Susan CKD : I love the way I wrote "write" instead of right.
Maybe I better not attempt to write.
EATPICKY : i'd have been here sooner if i could have
are transcripts provided for these sessions?
ShelHoro : Bye, everybody!
4/25/96 9:31:20 PM Closing Log file.
Now the follow-up:
..for stopping by at my conference Thursday night. Here's a freebie on
more ways to market cheaply (see below).
Feel free to get in touch.
By Shel Horowitz , marketing/frugality consultant and author of Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World, Marketing Without Megabucks: How to Sell Anything on a Shoestring, The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant's Pocketbook, and other books. Visit Shel's 500+ page other Website, http://www.frugalfun.com, for free advice and monthly tipsheets on frugal marketing and frugal fun, as well as Global Arts Review, Global Travel review, and Down to Business magazines.