Pint-sized vendor offers valuable sales reminder


The small table and sign went unnoticed the first dozen times I drove past.

Perhaps I was in a hurry or my brain had flipped to auto-pilot as I found myself in a familiar place just a couple blocks from home. 

After a couple of weeks, I finally noticed there would sometimes be people standing by the small table – a couple with their bikes parked on the sidewalk, a young woman stopping while walking her dog, a middle-aged man pausing during a run. 

It wasn’t until one warm weekend afternoon that I finally recognised what was going on. 

Traffic had backed up, and I found myself sitting in my car directly across from the table, waiting for the light ahead to change. There, sitting at the small table, was a young boy, no more than 10 years old. A sign hanging from the front of the table simply read, “Cold Drinks – 50 cents.”

I finally had noticed what is, in many regions of the United States, referred to as a neighbourhood “Kool-Aid stand.”

A time-honoured ritual of youth that provides young children with something to do on hot days, while serving as a primer on the basics of running a small business.

A stack of paper cups, a couple of packets of Kool-Aid sweetener, some water, a tray of ice cubes, and a serving pitcher, and you are in business. (The table is optional, but it helps build confidence with customers not wishing to be served drinks off the sidewalk.)

This Kool-Aid stand, however, was different because it was not there one day – or one hour – and then gone the next. Rather, it had become a fixture on the road leading into my neighbourhood.

For this reason – and because of the heat of the day – I stopped on my way back from errands to quench my thirst.

Little did I know that, in addition to purchasing a delicious cold drink, I was about to receive remedial training on sales and marketing basics from a 10-year-old. 

Clients often ask, “When is the best time to sell a subscription?” And my answer is always, “Now.” My conversation with the 10-year old entrepreneur reinforced what I have learned over three decades.

Sell across all channels, all the time. While our focus is e-marketing, we should never forget to take advantage of the significant reach our client’s print and digital products provide.

Yes, send an e-mail, but also include the same offer in single-copy inserts, direct mail, Web banner ads, rack cards, kiosk flyers, and crew doorknob hangers.

Multiple contact points result in message frequency that builds comprehension and increases total exposure and, ultimately, the total response to your offer. 

Provide prospects with multiple reasons to purchase. Your publication provides subscribers with both qualitative and quantitative benefits, and they likely base their purchase decisions on a combination of attributes.

Whether it’s the opportunity to keep track of local government or sports teams, or paying back the cost of their subscription through coupon savings, it is important to appeal to both qualitative and quantitative benefits in your subscription sales message. 

Give prospects a reason to buy now. Even the best offer, whether measured based on price or value, needs a “call to action” to stimulate action (purchase) on the part of prospects.

A limited time offer always generates more orders than an offer that can be obtained at any time. An offer with a deadline of this Friday is better than an offer that is good until the end of the month. 

Let others help you sell.  While going it alone can provide a sense of personal accomplishment, partnering with other internal departments or external businesses can have a dramatic impact on your sales results.  From local group’s fundraising efforts to natural tie-ins (coffee and a paper), seek out others to help you sell your subscriptions. 

Would you buy what you are selling? Sometimes we forget to step back and evaluate our sales message objectively. Is your sales message clear? Does it clearly communicate the price and terms? Will the five paragraphs of two-point disclaimer copy impact response to your offer? 

Devote time every day to selling. Designate a minimum of two or three hours a day to selling subscriptions. There are myriad things to do each day that have absolutely nothing to do with selling subscriptions. So it is imperative that you carve out time – each day – to focus on selling subscriptions.

Ask yourself, “What does this have to do with selling subscriptions?” And if the answer doesn’t come quickly and easily, stop what you are doing and start selling. 

The neighbourhood Kool-Aid Stand reminds us that we need to be everywhere prospective subscribers can be found. Make sure you set up your “Kool-Aid stand” every day on as many corners as possible to reap the greatest return on your selling efforts.

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