Historically, OCS has not been successful at advertising by direct mail, radio or television. Our industry has focused on generating live leads to expand through telemarketing lead generators, door-to-door selling, trade shows and Internet mechanisms.
What has been most effective is using simple internal advertising methods to generate additional product sales from within our present account base, as well as identifying new accounts through lead referrals from customers. Also effective for leads is the interest attracted by display advertising on the service vehicle bodies.
Let's take a look at how to inexpensively advertise to current customers in order to expand business without breaking the bank.
Advertising on your invoices is a surefire way to stimulate additional sales. Several people will view your coffee bills in your client's offices, starting with the people who sign for goods and approve payments and, finally, the bookkeepers who pay the bills.
The two areas on your invoices most useful for sales promotion and product publicity are the back and the front right sides. I suggest you print advertising messages in a different color from the standard typography of your bills or statements. On your computer system, it is easy to insert a message for any specials that you may be running -- for example, SPECIAL for MARCH: purchase any 2 boxes of Hot Chocolate and receive 10 packages of OREOS (60 cookies) for FREE! Attach product description sheets or flyers to your invoices or statements. This will not increase your postage costs.
Company trucks are very effective advertising media for increasing account rosters. While the initial cost to create an effective ad on your vehicles may be high, in the long run (amortized over four years) this technique is very cost-effective. What you have here is a large moving billboard to show and tell many thousands of potential customers what you do, using both words and colorful graphics. If you serve the larger cities, use the tops of your trucks for advertising as well, since many people will look out of their office windows and see your ad below. Many OCS companies display invitations on their trucks -- Please ask our driver for a company brochure -- for example.>
A phone message-on-hold is a very effective method for telling customers what you are offering, while they're waiting for assistance. This is a good time to announce specials for the month or season. Messages should be changed at least three times per year to focus on seasonal products and holidays. Adding light background music will enhance messages.
Glass bowls and air/thermal pots are viewed by all the employees who visit the break area, and imprinting them is a reliable way to show your coffee-drinking customers what other hot beverages you offer. Personalize your beverage dispensers by printing directly on the pots: We offer Hot Teas, Flavored Coffees, Cocoas, Apple Cider and Soups. Make sure that you print your company logo on your pots, as well as your phone number and Web address, especially if you serve restaurants. You never know when new customers may be created from drinking your coffee while dining at their favorite eateries.
Coffee boxes or cases are, in my opinion, one of the best media for communicating with customers. There are five sides on a carton that can be viewed, so print on all of them. Besides your phone number and logo, list all the categories of product you provide. Include specialty and flavored coffees and teas, other hot beverages, paper products, janitorial supplies, snacks, cold beverages and water cooler services. Don't forget to include some pictures of water coolers and single-cup brewers. Many OCS firms design their boxes so customers can use them as a storage system for files after they're emptied.
Sending newsletters to your customers can be extremely effective at increasing product usage, promoting new services, garnering potential customer referrals and building all-around good will.
New promotions can be easily explained in a newsletter, and if you run pictures of your equipment and product offerings, sales will increase. The newsletter creates opportunities to ask clients for referrals. Set up an incentive program; for example, offer gift certificates or free goods when customers list several names of other businesspeople and their companies, whom they think would benefit from your service.
Use your newsletter to reinforce your company's image. Talk about your staff, a new GPS system that will make deliveries faster, your customer service order people (with their pictures) and any interesting news about your company or products that can increase goodwill and strengthen the bond between your company and your customers.
Company product brochures are a lifeline for any OCS company that wants to grow. Imagine going into a restaurant and sitting at your table without a menu, and the server asking you for your order. "If you don't tell, you don't sell!" You already have the buyers' attention, so make it easy for them to place orders by presenting a beautifully laid out and graphically appealing menu describing your total product line. Reach out to your largest suppliers and see if they can co-op some of the cost of creating this menu.
It is up to you to take the bull by the horns and promote your company in as many ways as possible. Who could be a better audience than your own satisfied customers?
Let me know if you have other methods for promoting sales. I can be reached at (516) 241-4883 or OCSconsultant@aol.com.
LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer in office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and after 22 years merged it with Dell Coffee, of which he became president in 1991. Sales at Dell topped $7 million dollars. Rashkin is also a founder and officer of Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage Products Association. His industry honors include NCSA’s (now NAMA) Silver Service Award and NBPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award; he was inducted into NBPA’s Hall of Fame in 1996. His marketing excellence earned him NBPA’s Crystal Bean Award and three NCSA Java Awards. He is a frequent speaker at national and local trade conferences, consults on OCS sales and marketing and has is the author of two OCS training programs.