Big Things, Small Packages

(Listen to this post, here.)

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to get creepy. It’s just a fact: I go upstairs to pee.

I work in an office building that houses five or six small companies (not to brag, but mine is the smallest).

There are two bathrooms – one on the first floor where my office is, and one upstairs.

Ever since the pandemic hit, I go upstairs.

The problem, you see, is that the ground floor bathroom is used a lot.

Not just by my fellow tenants, but by their clients (we have a chiropractor and a therapist in the building), as well as by the mailman and UPS guy, both of whom take frequent advantage of our convenient location.

I’m no infectious disease expert, but statistically speaking, that first floor bathroom is a veritable COVID frappe.

Anyway, last week, our UPS friend dropped off about 100 small boxes in the lobby for the upstairs tenant. The boxes, containing who knows what, are all marked “return to sender.”

The tenants upstairs are hardly ever here. So, after walking past the box pile a few times, I decided to help out by carrying a bunch of them with me each time I made the trip. They weigh next to nothing and I’m going upstairs anyway.

I can’t be sure how many days it will take for me to move all of them, but given my age and how much coffee I drink, I don’t imagine it will be long.

Whatever it turns out to be – and this is the key point, my patiently-reading friend – small, regular actions allow you to get big things done easily. 

After just a few days, grabbing boxes as I walk upstairs has already become second nature.

Small Steps = Effective, Long-Term Marketing

When it comes to professional services marketing, I am often asked to weigh in on speed-related questions:

How do we quickly grow our newsletter list?

What do I say to a prospect to get them to hire me?

How do we get noticed right away on social media?

I have nothing against speed. And I get it, if you’re in a tight spot and need more clients right away, you have few options but to focus there.

But, if you’ve been around for a while and have a bit of breathing room, I encourage you to build a marketing program that, rather than speed- and home-run-hitting-focused, is oriented around completing a set of small, simple steps … over and over and over again.

Doing that will make your marketing easy and predictable. Even, dare I say, enjoyable.

You Need a Stay-in-Touch Plan

I do four marketing things regularly – none of which yields immediate results; all of which generate ongoing word of mouth and bring fabulous clients to my door, year after year:

  1. I publish this newsletter. Every other week, I send it to anyone on planet Earth who wants it.
  2. I stay in touch through email and LinkedIn. I’ve got a list of about 250 people with whom I want to remain connected. I comment on their posts, I respond to their newsletters, I send emails to say hello and see what they are up to.
  3. I send custom “Marketing Tip” cards via snail mail. Once a month, I mail exactly 50 of these. They include a simple insight (e.g., Flaunt Your Smallness, Jumpstart Your Relationships), along with a (typically idiotic) photo of me doing something that represents the tip of the month.
  4. I meet people for coffee or lunch. With the pandemic, of course, it’s now Zoom. But the concept remains: each week, I have a one-on-one meeting with a colleague.

A few things to note about these four activities:

#1. I’m not explicitly selling anything while doing them.

Of course, the point is to generate client work. But when you change your focus from getting hired today to getting hired at some point in the future, your brain naturally shifts from “What can you do for me?” to “What can I do for you?”

#2. These are not the right things; these are just my things.

Yours would likely be different. But like a good exercise program, make sure you combine a range of activities (mine vary in degree of personalization, cost, frequency), and pick things that you don’t hate doing (or else you won’t keep doing them).

#3. The magic is in the repetition.

Doing any of these things once – or twice, or three times – will make not one bit of difference. You may as well not bother.

The power is in doing them over and over again, in combination, for weeks and months on end.

#4. None of this is particularly difficult.

Like carrying boxes upstairs several times a day, after a while, these kinds of things are barely conscious activities.

They are “work,” I suppose. But like making breakfast or yelling at children, it’s just part of a daily routine.

Here’s the bottom line.

Everybody dreams about the marketing homerun – the one big hit that’s going to open the client floodgates forever.

Maybe it’s out there, but I’ve never seen it.

But I can promise you this: If you can stick to a simple, stay-in-touch program that keeps you in front of your existing relationships, over and over again, those would be clients you’ve been chasing will start chasing you.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What would be a good name for a combined chiropractor/therapist business?
  2. What are the odds that the upstairs tenants don’t actually want those boxes moved?
  3. What is your never-miss-no-matter-what marketing activity?

If you liked this article you’ll love the next one (I’ve been holding back on the good ones until you subscribe). Click here to sign up for future posts.

33 thoughts on “Big Things, Small Packages

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Fair enough. Although you can order a salve to stop a persistent itch, which does feel pretty miraculous.

  1. Lisa Jensen

    1. Mind/Body Adjustments
    2. 50/50 – but will they ever know how they got there?
    3. Weekly engagement on Social Media

    Bonus question – How tempting was it to open one of those boxes?

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      It has been quite tempting to take one and see what’s inside, but you’ll be proud to learn that I have resisted!

  2. Caryn Fogel

    Michael, I appreciate your wit! “Not to brag, but I’m the smallest” and “like yelling at the children, it’s part if the routine.” You present some great tips that remind me to keep upping my LinkedIn game. And your second discussion question was my first thought when I read about the boxes! As for a chiropractor/therapist combo? Head Back to Health. I’m on my first cup of coffee so that’s the best ai can do right now.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Caryn, I have to say, “Head Back to Health” may be the most brilliant business name I have ever heard for this combo (not that I’ve ever heard of this combo). Fabulous R U.

  3. Carole Seawert

    One of my regular marketing actiivities is my ‘Top Tips Tuesday’ post that I issue on (you’ve guessed it) a Tuesday.

    I’m also a great fan of postcards by snail mail. They get noticed.
    Quick question: do you send your 50 postcards to the same 50 people or do you have a longer list and each person gets a card every few months??

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Same 50. I think that if I spread it around, and each person received three a year (or something), it would be like doing one pushup.

      Note, by the way, that the 50, are a subset of the 250, who are a subset of the greater newsletter list. It’s kind of a sliding scale where, based on my admittedly subjective decisions about who is most ‘important,’ I am able to treat different people differently in my marketing.

  4. Jan Gallagher

    Michael, I don’t have any witty comebacks for your questions. I just want to thank you for bringing both laughter and great professional insights to my inbox every other week. Your emails are always a bright spot in my week. I try to copy your technique in my own e-letter, writing in my own authentically human voice with my own (perhaps less quirky?) sense of humor. Thank you!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Your #1 is creative, Richard, but a tad alarming! Maybe going the other way: Thera-practor (sounds like an empathetic dinosaur).

  5. Evelyn Starr

    1. Aligned in Body & Mind
    2. Higher than you think – who wants 100 boxes returned?
    3. My monthly newsletter – 107 months straight and counting; handwritten new year’s cards – 20 years and counting

  6. Brianne Vander Neut

    I’m terrible at naming things…hence all my pets are named after movie characters and my own business is named after my pets.
    I would have a) opened a box and b) stacked them in such a way that the owners of the boxes would have to crawl through a box fort to gain entry to their office…but then my mom says I’m a sh$% disturber.
    More than posting on my media accounts, I never miss engaging with my followers. It serves a few purposes – I like them and want to know how they are. It keeps me up to date on what’s important to them and keeps me front of mind for when they need me.

  7. Hayley

    Just want to give a shoutout to anothet thing you do – reply to emails even from people at the other side of the world who will never make it to your ice cream parties and will be unlikely to pay for your services. Love your newsletter and look forward to reading it every fortnight. Just reading ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch and he devotes a chapter to the impact of handwritten thank you notes.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Yes, I am a big fan of thank you notes, too. Their lack of scalability and associated cost lets people know there was some effort. Plus, given how little “real” mail we all get these days, I suspect they have a near 100% open rate!

  8. Maren Morgan

    How many simple (elementary school math) equations can you make using 11 20 20? For example : 20 divided by 20 equals 1 times 1 [or 1 divided by 1]

    20 x 1 = 20 divided by 1

    and so on.

    Something to ruminate on during all the treks to the bathroom . . .

  9. Harold Waisel

    1. Back Crack Quack
    2. 50/50 – wouldn’t be surprised if it’s some marketing swag they wanted to get rid of
    3. Sad to say, used to write my newsletter monthly, then I got “busy”, and haven’t written in about 2 years. But I do read yours every month!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      1. A thousand points to you, Harold, on that company name!
      2. The upstairs tenants are the BAA, who manage the marathon among other things. Maybe there’s a gold medal in one of them I could find.
      3. Start again on yours!

  10. Kitty Love

    1. Head and Bones

    2. 9/10 the boxes need to be sorted upstairs

    3. I post a card from my Oracle deck everyday on Instagram and Facebook. I recently added an independent blog based on your advice.

  11. Uros

    1. Real-Axe
    2. Hahah you’re *the king of metaphore.. I read your emails just to see how you’re gonna relate to a business point.. great job sir, the best actually
    3. Honestly I regularly promise myself to start weekly emailing next Monday. But this Monday is different (which makes it the same) Philosophy is beautiful, eh?

  12. Isabelle Baker

    I am imagine that very soon you will answer an unexpected knock on your office door – one from a delivery person asking if you might know where a big pile of boxes are, as they are there to pick them up…

    No good deed goes unpunished .

    I don’t really believe that, but this could go many ways. Please update us.

    Belinda is my coach and encourages everyone to
    follow you. This is how I found your newsletter and look forward to.

    The number of emails I delete is: almost all of them. The topic is almost always: Buy, buy, buy. But yours is so relationally-based and funny. It’s just great thanks! Isabelle

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Haha, I was afraid of that too, Isabelle! Update: I got into the office today and all boxes are gone – the ones on the first floor and the ones I carried upstairs. No other information!

  13. Brandon

    What would be a good name for a combined chiropractor/therapist business?

    “We Can Help You Feel It In Your Bones!”

    What are the odds that the upstairs tenants don’t actually want those boxes moved?

    “You can help them bring the boxes back downstairs to the dumpster.”

    Happy Holidays! I’ve been locked down for seven months, so I have revised my
    email reading regimen.

    Hope all is well in Massachusetts!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *