Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Ice Cream Truck Effect in Your Business

    Summertime brings those all-too familiar sounds around here: children laughing, smaller children yelling "wait for me", motorcycles, lawn mowers, outdoor home improvements, boats and jetskis on the lake, and lest we forget the ever elusive "do your ears hang low, do they wobble to and fro" tune that overtakes your brain like a colony of ants on a fallen cheese puff.  *Shakes Fist*  Curse you Ice Cream Man!!!  (At least change your tune once in a great while.)  Aha!  I smell a business application coming on.  Yes indeed.  Annoying as his tune may be, the ice cream guy rolling through our neighborhood sparked a few thoughts on similarities in building a direct sales business.

    Yes, when thinking of an ice cream truck our immediate thought goes straight to that music.  It doesn't even have to be a familiar tune for the kids in the neighborhood to know which direction to run with money in hand.  It's classic conditioning (hey, that psychology course in college comes in handy now and again).  I bet you can practically hear the music now, can't you?  And because we've almost always associated that sound with an ice cream truck, every time you hear music that is even remotely close to that sound your mind gravitates to an image of an ice cream truck.  Classic conditioning meets branding?  Hmmm... mayhaps.  Classic conditioning meets marketing?  Now we're getting closer.  The public has been conditioned to recognize the tinkling music and associate it with ice cream, yes, and that indeed falls under marketing, but let's look a little further.  You see, it's not enough to have tinkling music playing from a vehicle to sell massive amounts of ice cream.  It's incredibly helpful to know a few things before venturing out on a hope-filled journey chanting "Gee, I hope I get some sales today".  Think about what the ice cream man needs to consider:

1) Identify Your Ideal Client/Customer
    Obviously the first potential clientele that comes to mind for an ice cream business would be children.  However, location can also mean a great deal.  If an ice cream man lives in an area where children are virtually nowhere to be found, can his business still thrive?  Well, consider this - are ice cream consumers only children?  If this ice cream guy lives in a college community he may very well hit the jackpot too.  In that case his marketing efforts will need to be adapted to his ideal customer and his musical truck may not be the best means for making a sale.  He does, however, have other options available to him and with some unique creativity he can build a business that he loves because it has his name written all over it.  Take some time to identify the type of person you prefer to work with.  Why subject yourself to just anybody and everybody for the sake of a couple sporadic sales?  Give your business the credit it truly deserves and work only with a client base that justifies your greatness.  You work with rockin' awesome people, not just anybody and everybody.  It is in fact acceptable (and wise) to turn away business that is not a fit.

2) Know Where Your Ideal Client Congregates
    The ice cream guy in our neighborhood knows the hot spot right now is the beach.  In the coming weeks he'll be wise to scope out the local festivals.  GO TO the clients rather than hope they'll come to you.  I remember early on in my Direct Sales business thinking sales, bookings and recruits would come to me if I was enthusiastic enough about the products and business opportunity and if I said the right, powerful words to "sell the sizzle".  It didn't take me long to learn that adapting these concepts as my main business activity was actually running my business haphazardly at best.  I often felt I was "barking up the wrong tree" so to speak and you know what? I was.  It was frustrating and exhausting to work with people I'd otherwise never associate with socially.  My business became much more enjoyable after I buckled down and stuck to my guns on who I work with.  And you know what else?  Because my business is more enjoyable I am able to better serve.  Now that's a win-win!

3) Know What Your Ideal Client Prefers
    Knowing our best sellers can indeed be helpful, but knowing the needs of our ideal customers will help to keep us ahead in offering top notch service. (I understand that "need" can be a relative term - especially when it comes to ice cream!) *grins*  Let's give our customers some credit in understanding they can decide things for themselves.  If we're being 'salesy' by telling them they "need" what we have to offer, they're outta there at mach 5 with their hair on fire.  Building a relationship with our customers, and recognizing their purchase patterns, will better equip us for not only offering rockin' service, but for having enough supply AND knowing what they'll be interested in when new products are released.  We can then say - IN TRUTH - "I thought of you right away as soon as I saw that new product!  I just knew you'd like it!"  Personalized service is a beautiful thing.  The ice cream man who has become familiar with his regular customers and remembers their favorites ("Hi, Jimmy, want your usual?") will surely generate more business for himself - which leads me to point 4.

4) Recognize and Repeat What Creates Repeat Business
    Great service is usually a given, especially in this day and age where customer service is virtually dead.  We in the Direct Sales industry have the privilege of going above and beyond the call of traditional customer service by providing/suggesting necessities/complementary items clients hadn't thought of, up-selling to matching products that make their experience even better, building a rapport/relationship so customers can be confident in their purchasing decisions and so on.  Does an ice cream man drive his musical truck through the neighborhood only once?  Heck no!  He knows to come back more than once because he understands the "out of sight out of mind" principle.  He also understands he needs to make himself available to his customers.  Does he hand out business cards and hope someone will call?  Ummm, no.  Making the rounds in the neighborhood is simply an ice cream man's friendly reminder of what he has to offer.  Am I saying drive around neighborhoods playing music from your vehicle?  Oh boy, no way!  I'm talking about making sure our customers know they can come to us.  It's not the customer's job to remember we're in business.  ;)

5) Create Faithful Clients: Become THE Go-To Source, Their FIRST Consideration
    Could clients go elsewhere? You bet.  Give 'em reason to stick around AND recommend us/our services to people they know.  BE YOURSELF.  Nobody wants to work with someone who is fake or uncomfortable.  Additionally, nobody wants to work with someone who doesn't keep their word or doesn't take action.  Point 4 helps with creating faithful clients, but it goes a bit further than that.  When we are genuine with our business it becomes a two-way street and people genuinely want to do business with us.  Again, does an ice cream truck circle the neighborhood only once and consider it a job well done?  Of course not. On particularly hot days he'll make his way around 2 or 3 times, won't he?  He understands the client's need to cool off and wants to be the solution to that need because he knows he can provide.  I don't care what you sell, consumable items or not, faithful customers CAN be made because they will be faithful to YOU, not necessarily just your products or service.

    These are simply the first few things that came to mind when the ice cream truck rolled through our neighborhood recently.  Does this application prove I've found the world's newest solution to building a HUGE direct sales organization?  No, in fact you've no doubt heard these concepts before.  However, have you ever thought about the correlation between what we do and what an ice cream man does?  I tell you what, when we can associate business concepts with an everyday thing, something so simple as a special afternoon treat for the kiddos, our eyes are opened to great possibilities.  So am I sharing tips on building a business, or the idea that we can be inspired dern near anywhere by dern near anything?  *grins*  Huzzah!

Now I'm in the mood for some ice cream, how about you?  Did this spark any other thoughts about building your business?  Do tell, leave a comment!  (Oh, and here's a napkin for your ice cream... want some jimmies?)  :)

© 2010 Jennifer Stoll 'The Stand Up Coach' All Rights Reserved

That would rock, as long as the following blurb is included in its entirety: Entrepreneur Jennifer Stoll, The Stand Up Coach, is founder and editor of "Java Jive" a free ezine for professionals in the Direct Sales/Party Plan industry. An Author, Speaker and Success Coach, Jennifer provides principal based resources in a fun, humorous and caffeinated way. If you're sick of the same old selling, booking and recruiting tips and want to have more fun in your business by making it YOURS, then visit Jennifer at .