From the September 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

When Dan Murphy and Brian Scoggins first started concocting their own barbecue sauces, their products were real crowd-pleasers. "Everyone kept telling us we had the greatest barbecue sauces in the world and we should do something about it," says Murphy. "Fourteen years ago, we did."

Now the co-owners of Johnny D's Barbeque Co. in Cypress, California, have a larger audience--and a lot more competition.

But Murphy, 39, and Scoggins, 46, found a way to make their barbecue bastes and marinades the ones that people sniff out of the crowd: They throw a good old-fashioned barbecue and let their South Carolina-style sauces do the talking.

"Our products are so different," explains Murphy, who hopes to gross $600,000 this year, "you just have to barbecue with them so people can get an idea what we're all about."

Nowadays, you can spot the pair throughout the country at barbecue competitions, special events and charity functions. In May, they even trekked to England for a barbecue and blues festival.

Typically, tasters will buy the marinades and bastes on the spot, but Johnny D's also sells nationwide through gourmet grocers, butcher shops, barbecue specialty stores and mail order. Each sauce goes for around $4 and is suited for a particular meat--like HawgWash for pork, Angus Stock for beef or Bird Bath for chicken.

Hungry, anyone?

Eye-Catchers

Give adcentives your clients will treasure.

Give a client a pen with your logo on it, and it might end up in the trash. Stick your logo on a stainless steel commuter cup or a stress ball, and you can bet your client won't let it get lost in the shuffle.

The point? "By making your advertising specialty different, you get clients' attention," says Rick Crandall, author of eight marketing books and owner of Select Press, a Corte Madera, California, publisher of marketing books and newsletters. "If you give away something clever and interesting, they'll remember you and tell others about you."

That means staying power that could lead to loyal customers, old and new. "It's best to give clients something that'll sit on their desks--not in it--so that your name is always right in front of them," says Crandall.

The most common adcentives are calendars, T-shirts, mouse pads, refrigerator magnets and key chains. All good choices--but how can you be more original?

Add your logo to diskette carrying cases, ID holders for use at conferences, letter openers, license plate frames, calculators, memo holders or cellular phone carriers. Depending on the client, you could also try yo-yos, puzzles and games, holiday novelties, shoelaces, towels--even toothbrushes or suntan lotion.

There are literally thousands of promotional products on the market, so consider hiring a consultant to develop a theme appropriate to your budget. You can also try organizations like the Advertising Specialty Institute (http://www.promomart.com) and the Promotional Products Association International (http://www.ppa.org) for fresh ideas, or consult your Yellow Pages for local dealers.

Just make sure the adcentive makes sense for your company, and get to it. "Tie it in to your business," advises Crandall. "Try to customize it to your [target market]."

Free For All

Referral incentives: A painless way to get new customers

Let's face it: Unless you're selling $100 bills for 50 cents apiece, it can be tough to sell your product or service. Competition is fierce in every market, and people need a reason to choose you over Joe Schmo down the street.

Enter referral incentives--those nice freebies you offer clients in exchange for new blood. "I can't think of one [type of] business that shouldn't go after referral business," says Jay Conrad Levinson, author of the Guerrilla Marketing series of books and The Guerrilla Marketing Newsletter. "It's much easier to grow your business that way--you keep your marketing costs down and your profits up because you're not spending money on getting new customers."

Bottom line: "People like free things, no matter what they are," says Levinson. "They motivate action." Give customers something that connects with their initial purchase--for example, a free CD to clients who purchase a stereo and refer friends to your business. You can also offer discounts or request a few names of potential clients at the cash register.

Referral incentives aren't a new concept, but they're frequently forgotten in the quest for the holy new customer or under the misconception that an incentive program will be too costly. "One of the most [common mistakes] is not having a set way to get referrals," notes Levinson. "[Your technique] needs to be formalized in writing, and all employees should be trained to do it. It's very low-cost compared to mass marketing [techniques]."

Testing, Testing

What's your Marketing IQ?

Get out your No. 2 pencils. Or rather, get out your mouse and get online--it's test time.

If you've ever wanted to measure your marketing know-how, check out the Marketing IQ test from Copernicus (http://www.copernicusmarketing.com), a marketing strategy consulting and research firm in Newton, Massachusetts.

If you're like most entrepreneurs who've taken this test, you might fall somewhere in the "typical marketer" range, where you could stand some brushing up on marketing basics.

One important question: "Businesses today invest more money in finding new customers than in further developing current customers." True or False? True--but more important, why does that matter? "A loyal customer is worth five times more than a new customer," says Kathy Backus, a marketing and public relations consultant and owner of Backus CommuniKations in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. "A lot of companies work so hard at getting more people in the door, they lose sight of their current customer base."

Here's another: "Every company should strive to hold on to all its customers." True or False? False. "Not every customer is valuable," says Backus. "It can actually cost you more to retain some customers."

There are plenty of other valuable nuggets in this test, so check it out for yourself. And act accordingly to step up your Marketing IQ.

Senioritis: The 50-plus generation comprises one-third of the U.S. population and will grow more than 40 percent over the next 15 years.

Sweeten the deal: Try tailoring your products for a particular holiday. For this past Father's Day, for instance, See's Candies offered chocolate cigars and ties, and also marketed everyday items like peanut brittle as something every dad would love.

Fast Track

Name and age: Fran Lent, 42

Company name: Fran's Healthy Helpings, a healthy frozen food company for kids based in Burlingame, California

Starting Point: $130,000

1999 sales projections: $3 million

The skinny: Lent knew she had a good thing when she dreamed up Fran's Healthy Helpings. "With my husband and I both working, there wasn't much time," recalls Lent, whose two little ones were just getting out of baby food at the time. "But I would have felt guilty if I'd given my kids junk food. Then I thought, `There must be a business opportunity here.' "

Hey Mikey, they like it: Through market research, Lent found that parents liked the idea of heating up simple, healthy eats for their kids (no shocker here). But the real key to Fran's? Kids actually like the stuff--probably because they get to eat things like Lucky Ducky Chicken, Wacky Whale Pizza and Soccer-oni and Cheese.

Entree-ing the market: Fran's, now in 3,000 grocery stores nationwide, maintains an edge by pairing itself with other kid-friendly folks and donating a portion of profits to organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Recent endeavors include nutrition talks by the Fran's registered dietitian at Gymboree play centers and sponsorship of the children's music group Cotton Candy Express. "We look for strategic partners that have already captured the same consumer we're trying to capture," says Lent. "Our message is that we care about kids' well-being."

Contact Sources

Johnny D's Barbeque Co., (800) BASTE-IT, http://www.bbqn.com

Select Press, Box 37, Corte Madera, CA 94976, rpcrandall@aol.com