How to Sell Online Backup Services (part 2)
The Online Backup business is booming. Independent Service Providers like most of us are benefiting from a rising tide of public awareness in Online Backup as an inexpensive and better alternative to tapes and CDs. This article is Part 2 of the chapter, “How to Sell Online Backup.”
The Online Backup Guide for Service Providers is a complete 196-page guide on starting and operating an Online Backup Service – the latest revision of Rob Cosgrove’s industry defining RBS Book originally published in 1987. The entire book is being published here, chapter by chapter.
Traditional advertising like print media, radio, television and outdoor have never shown a high ROI with Online Backup. You might never sell an account directly from traditional advertising, but it is valuable as one of those “six contacts” you have to have with a prospect before he becomes a customer.
PR (Public Relations, or simply Publicity)
PR has a high ROI for Online Backup Services. However, don’t confuse “publicity” with “advertising.” Advertising is where you buy ads specifically designed to sell your service and ask for immediate action – YOU control the editorial content. Publicity, on the other hand, is a discussion of your service by a third party – you do NOT necessarily control the content. But, you CAN greatly influence it.
Publicity has been called the “secret pathway” to business success everyone wants. It’s often called “free advertising,” but this is incorrect. It is neither “free” nor is it “advertising.” And, it’s not always good. Bad publicity can ruin a company, where good publicity can make it rich.
Although publicity isn’t technically “free,” it IS often at a low price. In order to get publicity, you have to convince publishers, reporters, producers, bloggers or others that your service is worthy of their time and their valuable editorial space.
So, in essence, you have to “sell” your service to those who might publish something about it. This can require telephone calls, personal visits, postal charges, wire service fees, and other indirect expenses. You might want to hire a professional to put together a press kit for you, or to write your press releases.
However, all of these potential costs of obtaining publicity almost always far outweigh the benefits of the right mention at the right time in the right publication or web site. Here’s an example.
I used to advertise in a magazine called Home Office Computing. I paid about $2,000 a month for a 1/6 page black and white ad near the back of the magazine. In December of 1995 my Remote Backup Service Business Kit was favorably reviewed in an article in that same magazine.
Our sales as a direct result of that one article were three times our normal sales from our ad in the same magazine. It cost us about $50 for long distance calls, printing for a press kit, and overnight postage to get it to the reviewer. (These days reviewers expect emails and PDF documents, so you will rarely have an overnight charge.)
You should strive for as much good publicity for your business as possible. Your publicity efforts should be well thought out and pre-planned for maximum results.
The first and basic form of obtaining publicity is through what is known as the press or news release. This is generally a one page story about your service, or a current event related to data loss or disasters affecting business data. These publicity stories are generally sent out to all the various media: local newspapers, radio and TV, trade publications, their online versions, and bloggers.
It’s important to note that at the bottom line of a publisher’s decision to use or not use your release are these questions:
- Does it fit in with the publication’s or web site’s theme?
- Is it timely? Is it related to current events?
- Does it support other stories and articles?
- Would my readers (listeners) be interested in this?
- Will it sell papers or generate clicks on my ads?
- Can I use this to generate buzz or attract ads?
- Is this good for search engine optimization?
The timing of your press release is always important. Try to associate your press release with current events in the news. A story on a large office building burning, leaving hundreds of businesses without access to their data, should prompt you to get a publicity release out to all the media on how your service could have helped.
Look for disasters in the news, especially ones that affect business. Storms, earthquakes, fires, chemical spills, power outages – all these are potential vehicles for a timely press release, except in cases where lives are lost.
There’s another kind of timing to keep in mind – publication deadlines. For best results, always try to time it so your material reaches a newspaper editor in time for the Sunday paper. This is because that’s when the papers have their greatest circulation, the most space is available, and the readers have the most time to read the paper.
For articles you’d like to appear in the Sunday paper, you’ll generally have to get your releases in at least nine days prior to the date of publication. If you’re in doubt, call and ask about the deadline date.
Deadlines don’t usually matter to bloggers. A writer using you as a source will always tell you what his deadline is.
Writing Your Own Press Releases
The word “press release” seems to scare most people to death. On top of that not many people take the time to even think of writing their own press release. This chapter will help clear up some of the mysteries surrounding this simple form of marketing.
Press releases are great. You couldn’t buy the kind of exposure a good press release will get you. Your potential clients are much more likely to believe your claims if they read about them in an article in the newspaper than if they see them in a paid advertisement. And believe it or not, most publications print them verbatim.
Press releases can be so important that some hire professional writers to write them. This chapter will teach you how to write your own.
The first thing you have to remember is that a Press Release is a “news” item. It needs to “inform” people, NOT sell them something. For example, you are reading this book because you want to learn something that will BENEFIT YOU. You aren’t reading it to hear me pitch my industry-defining RBackup and Mercury Online Backup software.
The sales circulars you print and mail sell your service. A press release informs others about your service. Instead of your main objective being to sell your service and have the customer send in an order immediately, a press release informs the customer exactly how your service could benefit their lives.
This must be conveyed in the form of a “newsworthy” press release. If you have a sales circular to sell your service, you can turn it into a Press Release without much difficulty. It’s just a new marketing angle of presenting your service to the public.
The following is an example of a real press release I used in January, 1994. This release is still being quoted today.
1 January 2011
For Immediate Release
Local Company Launches Automated Offsite Backup Service
Remote Backup Systems, a developer of microcomputer software and industrial instrumentation, has announced the introduction of a service providing automated backups for PC-compatible computers and networks.
“People out there are playing Russian Roulette with their businesses,” explains Rob Cosgrove, President of RBS. “Everybody hates to do backups – many have never done one correctly and don’t even know how!”
Cosgrove continues, “So they have this massive amount of data upon which their entire business relies, and absolutely NO protection for it. With no way to recover from even a minor glitch, if the computer hiccups, business screeches to a halt. Many people don’t realize that the value of their data can easily exceed the cost of their computer itself.”
Proper backups, Cosgrove says, require the regular, scheduled removal of complete copies of data from the computer and the premises. These copies must be verified, stored offsite, and rotated regularly. Proper backups can substantially minimize losses due to computer failure. Even a total failure like a catastrophic fire that destroys the computer itself can usually be recovered within 24 hours using new or loaner equipment and RBS’ backups.
Using custom software and an Internet connection, RBS’ system automatically performs unattended offsite backups at night, when most businesses are shut down. All the customer has to do is leave the computer or network turned on for the night the backup is scheduled.
Here’s how it works. At a preset time late at night, the customer’s computer automatically wakes up and prepares its data for backup. When the data is ready, the computer contacts RBS’ computer and transmits the data. RBS’ computer verifies and stores the backup. The next morning, the backup is transferred to a tape and deposited in a fireproof vault in Memphis.
Customers pay a monthly fee. The pricing plan is similar to that of cellular telephones, and ranges from $25 a month to $250 a month depending on usage.
Remote Backup Systems can be contacted at 901-000-0000.
Here’s a great test for a real press release. Since your final sales pitch is included in the last paragraph read the press release aloud. Would it still be worth reading WITHOUT your sales pitch? If so, it’s probably a good press release.
Press releases come in many forms. However, the basic rule of thumb still applies. If you’ve never written one before it may be a little difficult. Don’t despair. Grab the latest daily newspaper and read some of their informational articles. Notice how each article is written and pattern yours after the same format. After you do a few of them you’ll be able to “get the picture.”
Press releases are usually written in the journalistic “inverse pyramid” style of writing. The most important information in the article is contained in the headline. Then, information decreases in importance deeper into the article. This style allows for quick newspaper reading. You can stop anywhere you like when you’ve read enough of an article, and be sure that you haven’t missed anything more important than you’ve already read.
Remember to write the note: “For Immediate Release” at the top. If you are only sending the press release to one publication tell them it’s a “first run.”
Following is an example of a cover letter (or email) you may want to include. Cover letters are becoming less important as time goes on.
1 January 2011
Metropolis Daily Mirror
1234 Main Street
Metropolis, New York 00000
What if your building burned, and all of your computer files with it? Would you be able to recover quickly and carry on business as usual?
Most businesses couldn’t. One study reports that businesses lose two to three percent of their gross sales within eight days of a continuing computer outage. The same study reports that those who lose the use of their computers for ten days will never fully recover. Half of these will be out of business within five years.
Another study discloses that nearly half the companies that lose their data in a disaster never reopen.
These are alarming statistics, and I can change them.
My company does automatic, unattended, offsite backups of critical computer data over the Internet. Our system operates at night when businesses are closed.
The enclosed press release describes my service in greater detail. If you’d like more information, please phone me at 000-000-0000.
Thank you for your time.
For wide distribution electronically you can use any number of free or paid press release services. The paid services are considered more authoritative and will get wider and more effective distribution. Just search for “press release service” in your favorite search engine.
Part 3 of this chapter will be posted here on April 5.
Rob Cosgrove is the President of Remote Backup Systems, founder of the Online Backup Industry, and a vocal advocate for maintaining the highest standards in Online Backup software. His latest book, the Online Backup Guide for Service Providers: How to Start and Operate an Online Backup Service, is available online now, on Amazon.com, and at bookstores.
Remote Backup Systems provides brandable, scalable software and solutions to MSPs and VARs enabling them to offer Online Backup Services.