Why Organ Donation Is The Best

toditbThey met in the hospital waiting room, two strangers facing down their worst fears. What they didn’t know, as they prayed for each other, was that one’s greatest loss would mean new hope for the other.

It’s not that Carman Moloney expected to die. She was just desperate to save her mother’s life. That’s why the trim young woman with the glistening brown eyes and shoulder-length chestnut hair kept a boldfaced card pinned to the sun visor of her car. It was addressed to emergency medical personnel, and it read: MY MOTHER IS ON THE THIRD FLOOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND MEDICAL CENTER. IF I AM IN AN ACCIDENT, PLEASE MAKE SURE MY ORGANS ARE SENT DIRECTLY TO HER. Continue reading »

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Volunteering Is Good For Your Life

These women reached out to help others–and discovered along the way that their own lives changed for the better

vigfylI was feeling pretty sorry for myself,” says Heather Delucci, 32, (at far right) about the state she was in a year ago. Newly separated from her husband of ten years, she was struggling to raise her sons–Ryan, 9, and Tyler, 5–and meet the demands of her job as a budget assistant at the local naval base.

Feeling like she needed a distraction, Delucci called HandsOn Jacksonville, a “fix up” service that matches would-be volunteers with Continue reading »

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Get Crazy With The Photos

gcwtpYou’re busy putting together your fifth monthly newsletter to your clients–you’ve come up with new stories, updated your price lists, and improved your layout. So why are you running the same old, boring product shots? The answer may be that there’s not enough money in the budget for hiring a professional photographer to do a big shoot or an outside artist to spice up your newsletter with illustrations in place of snapshots. Whatever the reason, you no longer have to have the image blues. With software that lets you manipulate images, you can make any picture interesting.

Just what kind of oomph can you add to your images? The answer is anything from a sedately modified effect to an all-out distorted look. The result depends on the effect you choose and the values you use to apply it. The practical applications of products such as Aldus Gallery Effects, Fractal Design Painter and Fractal Design Sketcher, and Micrografx Picture Publisher include enhancing plain-Jane images by using a pastel finish for a softer appearance and quickly turning any image into an illustration with a distorting watercolor effect. Effects like these allow you to transform ordinary, everyday photographs into final art that looks as if it were created with anything from a paintbrush or a graphic pen to mosiac tiles.

IMAGES TRANSFORMED

In order to apply these special effects, you’ll first need to scan your original photographs to create digital files your computer can use. If you don’t own a scanner, most service bureaus will scan prints or slides for a small fee. Or you may be able to use some of the predigitized stock images available on disk or CD-ROM from companies like Corel Corp. and 21st Century Media. These vendors offer their images with almost unlimited rights for use in in-house work.

With your images in hand, it’s time to explore what you can do to them and which kinds of images respond best to which effects. Suppose that you want to include an image of a person–perhaps a picture of yourself in your regular column to your clients–or a product–maybe the plendid Widget that you’ve invented. In cases like these, tread gently. After all, you want your clients to be able to recognize you or your product. Image-manipulation programs often give you such a variety of tools that one of your biggest problems will be keeping yourself from goin overboard.

The best effects for subtly modifying an image, especially if you plan to output to a black-and-white device, are named after black-and-white sketching media, such as dry brush, charcoal, and chalk and charcoal. Also, any texture effect, such as film grain or paper textures, can work quite well because they modulate an image slightly, without drastically changing tonal values. Of course, it’s also the degree to which you implement an effect that determines how the final image turns out. Even the most subtle effects can turn any image into a mess of unsightly blobs if all the variables–brush size for a dry-brush effect, for example–are set to their maximum values.

Next, imagine that you need to bring three diverse images–perhaps head shots of your staff–together onto the same page. The problem is that these photographs may have been taken under different lighting conditions and against different backgrounds, and displaying them as is might ruin the consistency of a document’s look. Luckily, some of the effects we’ve just talked about can be used to unify these images. For instance, applying a texture effect like a film grain will draw the viewer’s eye to the similarities of the textures and play down different lighting and background conditions.

Sometimes you want to avoid the subtle and go all the way, turning an original photograph into an outright illustration. This is a good choice when you’re dealing with original images that may not be of the best quality–a poorly exposed snapshot of a client’s newest factory, for example, may be better off if you make it look like a commissioned watercolor. Any image that is being used as an illustration, rather than to supply pictorial information, is also a perfect candidate for some of the more distorting effects. These are usually of the painterly variety: fresco, watercolor, mosaic, and craquelure.

For something completely different, you can even layer various effects so that an image may be, say, done partially in watercolor and partially in graphic pen. This probably works best on elements that you’ll use to add design impact, like icons.

MAKING THE MODIFICATIONS

Now that you’ve seen what you can achieve, how do you get there? One thing to remember is that not every package offers the same number of effects or even the same kind of effects. But one of the simplest tools to offer a broad range of these capabilities is Aldus Gallery Effects. In Gallery Effects: Classic Art, Volume 1 ($199 for Windows or the Mac), you get a collection of 16 effects, including Film Grain, Charcoal, Watercolor, Chrome, Fresco, and Emboss. Classic Art, Volume 2 ($99) brings you 16 more filters, including Rough Pastels and Photocopy.

These effects all work well on either grayscale or color images in the TIFF, PICT, BMP, or TARGA formats. The Classic Art volumes come as Abode Photoshop plug-in (an industry wide standard for add-on modules for the Mac and PC), so they can be used from within the Photoshop image-editing program or any Photoshop plug-in compatible graphic program, including Fractal Design’s Painter and Sketcher, Aldus PhotoStyler, and Micrografx Picture Publisher. (You don’t have to use Classic Art, Volume 1 from within any of these programs; you can simply make your adjustments directly and then import the files into your page-layout software.) The Gallery Effects collection offers a myriad of image-processing effects and doesn’t force you to become an expert to use them. The Mac version of Gallery Effects applies effects to an entire image only, making it easy to use is somewhat less flexible than a true image-editing or paint program, where you can paint or modify selected portions of an image. The Windows version of Gallery Effects offers the same ease of use but provides more flexibility with three selection tools that can be used to apply effects to parts of an image. You can preview the effect you choose before applying it and vary its intensity or scope.

Other Photoshop plug-ins to alter your images are also available. HSC Software’s Kai’s Power Tools ($199 for the Mac and Windows) has effects that range from mild adjustments to distortions that essentially leave you with an entirely new image. Xaos’s Paint Alchemy and Floppy Full of Brushes ($99 and $20, respectively) and Mac-specific products. Paint Alchemy comes with 75 different preset styles that can be combined with 36 different controls to create millions of custom effects. Floppy Full of Brushes provides an additional 50 effects. These products let you paint effects on sections of an image, or you can make life easier by selecting the entire image and modifying it it one step.

Moving up in terms of options and complexity is Fractal Design’s Sketcher, a grayscale painting program ($149), and its full 24-bit color sibling, Painter ($399). Both are available for Windows and the Macintosh. These packages apply their effects to images saved as TIFF, PICT, BMP, PCX, or TARGA formats in two ways: either on a selected portion (which could be the entire image), or as individual brush strokes. Both also offer a full suite of image-manipulation tools for retouching, such as painting and airbrushing. Fractal also now sells two Really Cool Textures packages for Painter and Sketcher, which add intriguing options for modifying or distorting your images.

High-end–and higher-priced–image-editing programs, like the $895 Adobe Photoshop, $595 Micrografx Picture Publisher, and $795 Aldus PhotoStyler come with their own effects. (Adobe Photoshop is available for Windows and the Mac; the others for Windows only.) Picture Publisher, like most high-end image-editing programs, supports imagers saved in the TIFF, GIF, BMP, PCX, TARGA, EPS, and other popular formats, but it comes with a better selection of effects than most competitors in its class, and it offers one of the best interfaces for selecting them. You turn to its Effects Browser to see the effects grouped in categories, with headings such as Artistic and Color Adjust. Picture Publisher lets you access, modify, and preview all of the effects from within the Effects Browser dialog box. But truly robust image-editing programs like these may offer more features than you’ll need, so think about whether lower-cost options are sufficient for what you require before you buy.

However you choose to get there, applying special effects like these to images to something that can actually deliver on desktop publishing’s original promise–giving anyone access and control over graphic tools.

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Checking On The Legitimacy Of Charities

cotlThat sweet sweater your son has outgrown, that flannel shirt your husband no longer likes, that miniskirt you barely wore–you can’t use them anymore. Someone less fortunate, less picky, undoubtedly can.

So you load your car with bags of clothes and drive to the thrift shop on Main Street. Or you stuff them into one of the donation bins that have conveniently sprung up at the mall. Or, lucky you, a flyer announcing a used-clothes collection lands in your driveway: All you have to do is leave your castoffs at the curb in the specially provided bag.

How wonderful: In the process of cleaning out your closets, you’ve done a good deed. Well, maybe not. Chances are good that that thrift shop, donation bin, and pickup drive have less to do with charity than you think. If you’re not careful, that sweater, that shin, and that miniskirt may only help some savvy merchant make money, good money.

Secret Bedfellows

The Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, and St. Vincent de Paul Society are three charities that direct all the money raised selling old clothes to charitable programs. Last year, the poor carried away from St. Vincent de Paul’s outlets used clothes and furniture worth about $8.5 million. Another $82 million worth were sold at the charity’s own thrift shops or to recycling companies; the profits went to homeless shelters and financial assistance for the disadvantaged. Goodwill–which generates half of its yearly revenues, a whopping $700 million, from old clothes–uses the money for job training for the disabled. In addition to funding such worthwhile causes, recycling clothing also benefits the environment, because the discards get reused instead of clogging landfills.

But hundreds of outfits you may think operate the same way are actually for-profit businesses that have contracts with charities. Under these arrangements, a charity allows a company to use its name to collect donations in exchange for a flat fee or percentage of revenues. What’s the problem? One, the for-profit deal is often hidden from consumers, and two, the amount of money the charities get is often shockingly small. In California alone, thrift shops in partnerships with charities grossed more than $16 million in 1996. But only 6 percent–less than $1 million–was paid out to charities. To wit:

Every chance it gets, Global Thrift Store in Waltham, MA, trumpets its relationship with Child Quest International Inc., a San Jose, CA-based charity that helps find missing children, The store links itself with the charity when personnel answer the phone, and there’s a storefront sign that reads: GLOBAL THRIFT STORE, IN SUPPORT OF CHILD QUEST. Pamphlets about the charity are displayed inside the store. But Global Thrift, by contract, gives Child Quest a scant 3.5 percent of its gross revenues–which translated into $16,355 for the last fiscal year, according to the former executive director. A Global Thrift official refused to say how much money the store made.

The Police Athletic League (PAL) of New Jersey, a charity that sets up recreational programs for kids, has a contract with a for-profit salvage company, PAL Salvage Service Inc., in Brooklyn, which gives PAL only $150 per bin; in 1996, that amounted to $5,000. How much did the salvage company earn? “Have a nice day,” PAL Salvage attorney Dominic Tortorice said when asked.

The Right to know

Charities that enter into such agreements argue that they don’t have the trucks, bins, warehouses, or stores to run a lucrative used-clothing operation themselves, and confess that they are happy to get even a small percentage of the profits versus nothing at all. And the businesses that profit are quick to point out that there’s no law mandating what percentage of money raised must be given to the charity contracted with. Consumer advocates object, saying that all parties have a responsibility to make such lopsided arrangements crystal-clear to donors–instead of trying to create the opposite impression. “Charities are selling their names cheaply and helping organizations mislead the public,” says Dan Langan, a spokesman for the National Charities Information Bureau, a New York–based watchdog group. “It’s an abuse of trust.”

And the for-profits have gained ground from established charities by making it easier to donate clothes. “We can’t provide as many bins or offer as much pickup service as we’d like,” says Rex Davidson, executive director of Goodwill Industries of Greater New York. But too many people don’t realize that the ubiquitous bins or curbside pickups divert a hefty portion of money away from charities. “When people find out about such jokers, they are infuriated,” says Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Jr., a member of the board of Goodwill Industries.

Protecting Your Donation

Before you decide to give away your old clothes, make sure you know the whole story:

Read the fine print on any bin, leaflet, or posting to determine if there is for-profit involvement. D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) New Jersey contracts with a for-profit company, American Recycling Technologies, Inc., in Huntington, NY, which pays D.A.R.E. New Jersey $700 a bin per year for the use of its name. Though the bins prominently learn D.A.R.E.’s name, there is a fine-print disclaimer that reads, in part: NOT REPRESENTED AS A CHARITABLE SOLICITATION. ALL PROCEEDS GO TO THE UNIT OWNER.

Look for fancy footwork in the pitches. American Used Clothing Corporation in Rahway, NJ, distributes flyers soliciting donations that read: IF YOUR CLOSETS ARE OVERLOADED WITH OLD CLOTHES … IT’S A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO SUPPORT OTHERS … ALTHOUGH NOT TAX DEDUCTIBLE, YOUR ITEMS WILL BE GREATLY APPRECIATED IN EASTERN EUROPE. A charity? It’s not registered as such, according to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. The company claims that’s just a technical glitch. “We’re a charitable organization; we’re just not incorporated as such,” said Anita Frydrych, office manager. She also says the company is now in the process of registering as a for-profit doing charitable work.

Be aware that getting a tax receipt for your clothes doesn’t mean that the company is giving all the proceeds to charity. Although you re allowed to write off the full market value of your used clothes, the company is still free to take its huge cut of the profit from their sale–as long as it gives any amount to charity.

THE USED-CAR SCAM

by Ann Reilly Dowd

Giving his broken-down 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity to Handicapped Children’s Services of America and getting a tax write-off sounded like a dandy idea to Jeral Howard of San Andreas, CA. After all, the car was collecting dust 135 miles away in his son’s San Francisco garage. Howard knew that with about 200,000 miles on the odometer, a dead radiator, a dented body, and a peeling paint job, the car wouldn’t be worth much on a trade-in or sale. So when his son told him of a giant billboard soliciting car donations to “save the kids” through the charity, Howard decided to contribute the clunker. “It seemed like a fine time for a burial,” he recalls, “and a good way to do it.”

It wasn’t: Three months later, the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s office alerted Howard that he had donated his car to Fi-Pol, a company set up by David Gainer, who had been banned from engaging in “misleading” fundraising throughout the state because of his previous charity scams. California law enforcement sources say Gainer was collecting as many as 80 vehicles a month in the name of handicapped children, then reselling them at his wife’s used-car lot or for parts or scrap. Executives at Handicapped Children’s Services, a legitimate charity, say their group never got the full 10 percent of total sales revenues that Fi-Poi promised. Says Santa Cruz investigator Joseph Henard: “If this isn’t a pure phony-baloney seam, I’ll eat my hat.” His office and the California Attorney General are weighing legal action against Gainer.

Meanwhile, because Gainer gave the Chew to a Fi-Poi employee without properly transferring the title, Howard got a bill from the state for more than $1,000 in lift a lien on the car. “I’m very upset because this lien is not my responsibility and could damage my credit rating,” says Howard. “This whole experience has been a nightmare.”

It didn’t have to be. Done properly, donating a vehicle to charity can be a win-win transaction. You avoid the hassle of selling the car, while getting a tax deduction along with the knowledge that you’re helping someone less fortunate. Meanwhile, the charity gets a revenue source; charities appear to be receiving more than $100 million a year this way. What’s more, the process helps get many old, unsafe, polluting autos off the road, as the majority of donations are junked or sold for parts. “These programs are the hot new trend in fund-raising because they meet so many different needs,” says Eugene Tempel, executive director of the Indiana University Center On Philanthropy in Indianapolis. “But people need to be careful because there is also great potential for abuse.”

Indeed, a Good Housekeeping probe of car-donation programs found three major risks for the generous at heart:

Siphoned contributions. Choose your charity poorly, and little or none of the money from the sale of your car will make it to a good cause. Instead, the bulk of it will go to a middleman who has been hired by the charity to run the program and is in business to make a profit. Sometimes the charity gets a flat fee, as little as $100 per vehicle. Other times it receives a percentage of the revenues or profits. A disturbing study by the California Attorney General’s office last February of 11 commercial car-donation programs registered in the state in 1996 found that only 19 percent of their proceeds, on average, went to charity. The best program contributed 70 percent; the worst, merely 4 percent.

Hidden tests. If you end up giving your car to a scammer who doesn’t then properly transfer the title, you may be saddled with costly bills for tickets, liens, and other fees, plus a lot of aggravation.

┬áTaxing moments. Should the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) determine that you’ve deducted a contribution to a bogus charity–even in good faith–your deduction could be disallowed and you could be penalized. Warns IRS spokesperson Michelle Lamishaw: “We are keenly aware of this trend.”

The Way Gar Programs Differ

Americans have been giving cars to charities for decades. But what was once a relatively minor fund-raising strategy has turned into a big business, featuring enticing billboards, advertisements, and commercials. And its operators range from the upstanding to the deceitful.

At one extreme are large, established charities, like Davis Memorial Goodwill Industries of Washington, DC, which manages most of its car-donation programs in-house and uses the bulk of proceeds for its stated mission. Every Thursday morning, its auction lot overflows with dealers and average folk bidding on everything from a well-preserved 1964 baby-blue Corvette (which commanded $17,500 last year) to junkers going for as little as $25. Last year, Davis Memorial Goodwill, now the single `biggest used-car dealer in the nation’s capital, sold nearly 4,500 vehicles, grossing $1.8 million. “That makes us very happy,” says Goodwill spokesman Chris Falk. “Not only are we raising money for our mission and helping disadvantaged people find and keep jobs, but we know that when someone can buy a working car for as little as a hundred dollars, she is that much closer to financial independence.” About 25 percent of the 186 Goodwill chapters nationwide accept cars.

Other respected car-donation programs include those run by the National Kidney Foundation (800-488-2277), the Salvation Army (877-386-6577), the American Lung Association (888-300-5864), and Volunteers of America (800-899-0089). Smaller programs can be just as efficient, however, particularly when the cars are given directly to needy families. So it pays to ask your favorite local charity if it accepts cars, even if the group doesn’t run splashy ads saying so.

High-profile promotions, in fact, are no assurance of legitimacy. In 1997, Rabbi Bentziyon Pil and his wife, Mattie Plotkin, advertised heavily on the radio in California, New Jersey, and New York for donations to their Jewish Educational Center, a San Francisco-based charity. The proceeds were supposed to support a private Jewish primary school and bring 12 Russian children who were victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to the United States for medical treatment. Although 12 Russian children did arrive, Belinda Johns of the California Attorney General’s office says they were neither from Chernobyl nor suffering from radiation sickness, as the commercials suggested. Six months later, after a single checkup, they returned home. The school got some money, but so did the rabbi and his wife–allegedly more than $100,000 for personal expenses used to help buy a new $500,000 home and pay for a $30,000 party. The California Attorney General shut down the organization last year, after filing a civil suit charging false advertising and fraud. Pil and Plotkin have disputed the charges. Their lawyer, David Schwartz, attributes their problems to “not dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s rather than any intent to enrich themselves.”

If you want to donate your automobile to a charity, be sure you do it correctly and that the program is on the up-and-up. “As a rule of thumb,” says Indiana University’s Tempel, “I’d want seventy to eighty cents of every dollar raised by car donations to go to the charity.” Here’s how to avoid the shady operators and make the most of your good intentions:

Get your paperwork in order. Make sure that you get a receipt from the charity, not from the towing company or middleman. Bungling your paperwork can be costly. If you are audited and have no receipt or haven’t filed a Form 8283, if required, you may lose the deduction and owe back taxes, interest (recently 8 percent), and penalties of half a percentage point per month. For example, San Francisco accountant Linda Graham estimates that if the IRS disallows a $5,000 deduction you and your spouse took on your 1996 return for donating your car, you could owe back taxes plus as much as $1,580 in interest. If you fail to ante up on time, the penalty clock starts ticking.

To guarantee that the title is transferred properly, make certain that both you and a representative from the charity sign the back of your car’s title document. Also, put down on paper that you are transferring ownership of the car to the charity on the specified date, and be sure someone from the charity signs this too.

Value your donation properly. Don’t be snowed by a pitch suggesting that you can get a bigger write-off by giving your car to charity than by selling it yourself and donating the proceeds. “That’s simply nonsense,” says Larchmont, NY, tax lawyer Julian Block. “The value of your tax deduction for a charitable contribution depends on the fair market value of your car and on your tax bracket.” If you’re in the 28 percent bracket and your car is worth $1,000, you’ll save 28 percent of $1,000, or $280. By donating the car to the charity, however, you avoid owing taxes on the income you’d get from selling it yourself.

It’s your responsibility to determine your car’s fair market value. The best place to start is Kelly’s Blue Book, which lists the value of used cars by make, model, year, and condition. You can find it in your local library or on the Inter: net at http://www.kbb.com. To be extracautious, some accountants suggest attaching to your return a photo of the car and a note from a used-car dealer with his estimate of its resale or trade-in value.

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Make Your Customers Sell You!

mycs“The inspiration for my marketing strategy arrived in the mail,” says Jeanne Mitchell. She operates jTee’s, a wholesale quilted-design T-shirt business, out of he home in Perry, Oklahoma. “For the hundredth time, my book club sent a reminder that I could earn a free book by referring a friend. It suddenly occurred to me that the strategy must work or they wouldn’t keep using it.”

That’s when Mitchell decided to create her own referral-incentive program. She printed 3.5-by-8.5-inch postcards promising her current retailers: “We will reward you for your effort if you help us get the word out.” The card, which includes spaces for the names of the referring and ordering parties, explains the system: Existing customers get one free T-shirt for every 12 ordered by the account they referred. When the new client places an order, Mitchell sends the referring party a coupon redeemable for the merchandise.

The program works because Mitchell’s target market, quilt store owners, constantly exchange products ideas. She places several cards in each order shipped, so she doesn’t even invest a postage stamp. Everyone wins.

“My customers win because they receive free merchandise, and I win because new customers come looking for me,” Mitchell explains. In short, her customers have become her sales reps.

You, too, can turn your customers into a powerful sales force. Rather than waiting passively for word-of-mouth to work its magic, why not give people something to talk about? All you need is an effective referral program (see this month’s feature “How to Reach the Affluent”).

But before you jump into your own program, be aware that referral incentives may not always create a win-win situation. They can backfire if you overstep professional boundaries or put any pressure on your existing customers to send new business to you. An incentive program tends to work best when you never directly ask people to sell for you. Instead, as Mitchell does, just lay the idea of referral incentives before your customers. If they want to pick up the ball and run with it, fine. Otherwise, let go of the idea. Don’t push it.

The referral program you develop will depend on several factors, including the nature of your business, who your customers are, and how urgently you need new business. Outlined below are the three key elements: education, inspiration, and communication.

EDUCATE YOUR CUSTOMERS

Assuming you offer high-quality products or services, your existing customers represent your best source of future business. They’ve experienced the benefits of working with you, so their recommendations carry more weight than a dozen direct-mail campaigns and 10 cold calls combined.

Yet many of your customers probably think you have all the business you need. Others may not realize the full range of products and services you offer. Your circle of influence–family, friends, and former or current colleagues–represents another often-untapped source of referrals. Even if these people don’t need your product or service, they undoubtedly know others who do. However, they can’t refer customers to you if they don’t understand your business.

One easy-to-use educational tool is a capabilities brochure, which presents an overview of your business. After reading your brochure, customers and everyone else in your circle of influence should be able to describe what you do, who needs your products or services, what qualifies you to perform the services or provide the product, what sets you apart from the competition, how long you’ve been in business, and any noteworthy achievements or customers served.

In addition, include a section in the brochure (or prepare a separate flier) describing your referral-incentive program. It should clarify when–under what circumstances–people should refer someone to your business, what procedures they should follow when referring, and how and when you will reward them for referring customers to you. The essential types of rewards include future discounts, free products or services, a referral fee, and gifts.

Here’s a quick test to determine how successful your educational campaign has been to date. “Ask 10 people you know to describe what you do and who your likely customers are,” advises networking-seminar leader Joy Pedersen of Rockaway, New Jersey. “Write down their responses and check whether they have an accurate handle on your business.” Pedersen, founder of four professional networking organizations, including Express Success, also warns: “You might find their misconceptions very disappointing. Just remember, it’s your grade on the line, not theirs.”

INSPIRE YOUR CUSTOMERS

A few kind souls will refer customers to you just for the sheer joy of helping others. And a few other business owners will provide referrals in the hope that you’ll help them in return. Whatever the reason, though, a little inspiration always helps. So states Dianna Booher, corporate trainer and prolific author of 26 books on business communications.

“Whenever we do a corporate program, we ask the customer to write a testimonial letter,” says Booher, who recently moved Booher Consultants out of her Euless, Texas, home when her staff grew to 12. “We sak the customer to document any positive to comments and to address specific issues like why they decided to hire us and what the results were.”

These inspirational letters achieve three objectives. First, writing an endorsement of your business strengthens the customer’s commitment to you. They now have a vested interest in your success. Second, they understand you are in the market for new customers and may immediately refer someone. And third, you have ammunition when seeking new accounts.

Once Booher receives the letter, she sends the customer a gift, such as an autographed book or a cassette tape series. “Customers are always thrilled because it’s so unexpected,” she says. “Often they’ll call to say, ‘I’ve never received anything like this before; no one ever went to the trouble.’” The next time they hear of someone needing a trainer, whom do you think they recommend?

“Even if the referral doesn’t become a paying customer until three years later, we still pay the promised fee,” stresses Booher. Such honesty goes a long way toward inspiring future referrals.

REMIND YOUR CUSTOMERS

Your efforts to educate and inspire your customers will be incomplete without the final component: communication. That’s spelled “f-r-e-q-u-e-n-t r-e-m-i-n-d-e-r-s,” but it’s only the icing on the incentive cake you’ve already baked.

George Churilla–a Tualatin, Oregon, independent representative for several hardware and software companies–is a charter member of the frequent reminder club. He offers a 10 percent finder’s fee (or a prearanged flat fee) to anyone who sends business his way. He says, “People are usually willing to provide referrals, but they just don’t think of it unless you prompt them.” To insure a steady flow, Churilla mails out mini fliers designed to look like $100 bills or fill-in-the-blank checks with the message, “Good toward your next purchase when you refer a friend.”

Churilla also uses a double-sided business card. On the back it reads, “This card is good for [blank].” He says, “I ask everyone I met if he or she knows someone in the market for hardware or software. If there’s the slightest hope for a referral, I’ll fill in the blank with an appropriate motivator.” For example, if the person mentions she’d like to organize her bookkeeping, Churilla fills in: $50 toward the purchase of accounting software (for a referral that spends $500 or more).

“That card is like money burning a hole in someone’s pocket,” he observes. “It’s a constant reminder of the reward that awaits when business is sent my way.”

Still, while it’s heartbreaking to admit, your business isn’t foremost on your customers’ conscious minds. Undeterred, Jim Southwick aims for the subconscious. “I see to it that my customers have subtle reminders of my business throughout their offices,” says the president of Southwick Specialty Advertising in Portland, Oregon.

“Whenever we interact with customers, we leave behind items to remind them of us, whether coffee mugs, Post-it notepads, or memo cubes,” he says. “So even when we’re not around, we’re still communicating our name.”

But without regular communication, these little gifts might be meaningless. So Southwick regularly mails out idea catalogs, holiday promotions, and update fliers to spark a referral. Whenever he ships an order, he includes a handwritten thank-you note. In closing, Southwick will suggest the customer let him know if any of her colleagues need his help.

When he receives a referral, he immediately sends a gift and a note assuring the customer he will take excellent care of her business associate. Southwick says, “I’m constantly communicating the message: ‘Good things will happen if you refer business to us.’ “No wonder referrals represent more than 25 percent of his business.

Whatever communication techniques you choose–whether it’s handwritten notes, novelty items, newsletters, new product announcements, or fill-in-the-blank cards–your objective remains the same: to continually educate your customers and keep them motivated to send business your way. Once customers realize that their referrals will be richly rewarded, they probably won’t mind receiving helpful reminders. In fact, they’ll welcome them.

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Marketing To The Rich

mttrNelson Paramus was a struggling investment consultant for years before striking it big. His marketing methods were, well, primitive. Anyone who was breathing was a prospect. Moreover, of Paramus’s clients, who came from a hodge-podge of occupations and industries, only a handful invested more than a few thousand dollars. So he decided to focus his efforts on clients with higher disposable incomes.

Among the hundreds of well-to-do respondents whom I’ve interviewed at my organization, the Affluent Marketing Institute, word-of-mouth endorsements were most influential in their decisions to patronize businesses. In fact, high-quality products or services–while important–have little to do with the buying habits of the affluent. I suggested to Paramus that he concentrate on the food distribution–service trade, because few investors targeted the affluent in this industry. Then I asked him whether any of his clients were in the food business, and he said he’d had only one. Today, he has many more. After winning the respect of a multimillionaire–and gatekeeper who helped him penetrate this market niche–Paramus does not mamage investments anymore. Instead, he’s built an impressive client base, whose business he refers to other money managers.

Before you develop a marketing strategy, address this question: What types of industries within your trade contain the highest concentrations of affluent individuals? One way to find such a group is to contact your local chamber of commerce or state trade bureau. They can tell you your area’s top industries according to sales revenue. Many of the suppliers to these industries are also affluent.

Enterpeneurs like Paramus who’ve succeeded by influencing the influential already know the secret: Enhance the concerns of others before seeking business for yourself. For instance, the most important thing you say to convert a prospect into a devoted client is, “Given me a stack of your business cards. I have many clients who are likely to buy from you.” You’ll see from the case studies here that a client will go far out of his way to endorse you if you do something extraordinary. So to begin building your customer base, think about what you can offer. Then use one or all seven of the following networking approaches.

1 THE TALENT SCOUT

Armed with the names of wealthy opinion leaders in the food distribution-service industry, Paramus took the talent scout approach. First after learning that most of his potential clients read Food Distribution magazine, he called the editor and said, “I hve some financial articles to contribute. Would you accept them?” The first was published two months later. This enhanced his credibility.

Next, Paramus sent a letter to the heads of 25 food trade associations announcing the formation of his Food Industry Advisory Council, offering the investment advice and speaking skills of investors he knew. Within a week, Mary, head of one of the most influential groups, contacted Paramus asking if he knew of someone who could speak at a local trade show about the financial market’s impact on the food industry. So–acting as talent scout–Paramus provided the services of a top food industry analyst as the featured speaker. How was Paramus rewarded? Mary endorsed him. At his first association meeting, Paramus left with 320 business cards from affluent attendees. Better yet, after Mary opened an account with him, 10 more accounts were started from the attendee list. Why did Marv the millionaire respond positively? Because Paramus addressed Mary’s needs before mentioning his own.

Now Paramus asks his clients to acknowledge their best suppliers. He, in turn, asks these suppliers for their suppliers. Because most feel that by ignoring Paramus they’ll tarnish the relationship with their clients, names are offered. Targeting suppliers of suppliers is a productive way to obtain prospects and build a network.

2 THE REVENUE ENHANCER

Fred Peterbaum, an independent businessman who owned an equipment distributorship, was a conduit of critical information about the construction business in his area. He was among the first to know when a major construction job was about to start. He visited sites every workday. And building contractors who anticipated successful bids would place orders with Peterbaum–but not only for equipment. You see, they viewed him as a for-free headhunter, a person who’d provide them with the names of talented craftspeople. In essence, Peterbaum acted as a revenue enhancer, an informal development agent for his own customers. His referral system, based on his genuine desire to help clients, was simple: You can’t tell equipment to a customer who has no customers. In return, Fred Peterbaum’s customers, who paid on time, made endorsements on his behalf.

3 THE ADVOCATE

J. Conrad Peterbaum, Fred’s son, is successful for similar reasons. Not only is he a talented dentist, but he’s also an advocate for his patients. He goes beyond fillings ane extractions. He establishes rapport.

Early in his career, many of his patients in the practice where he was a partner were members of an airline union. One Monday morning, Peterbaum read an article that reported the airline was considering having its planes repaired in a Third World country to save money. Not long after, the president of the machinists union was sitting in his chair. After discussing the news, the president admitted that he and his constituents were frightened. Immediately, the two began to think of solutions. Peterbaum, playing the role of advocate, offered to write letters on the union’s behalf and to have all his patients address petition cards to their congressional representatives requesting the government do something. The campaign succeeded, and the airlines backed down. But by now, Peterbaum had quite the practice and launched his own. So the president of the machinists union, who felt indebted, took out a large ad listing Peterbaum’s new address in the monthly magazine distributed to airline employees. Unpon reading the ad, scores of pilots and corporate executives sought out Peter-baum’s service. As advocate for his patients’ causes, he was given access to the airline’s network. Today, Peterbaum has more airline employees as patients than any other dentist, with 1992 revenues exceeding $4 million.

4 THE MENTOR

I recently received a phone call from Mr. Gordon, a financial consultant for a regional brokerage house, requesting permission to reprint part of my book, Marketing to the Affluent. After a brief conversation, I asked him what industries he was targeting. He replied that he was pursuing the construction industry. As it turns out, Gordon wisely spent several hundred dollars to become a member of a construction trade association–the one with the highest concentration of wealthy business owners and executives. For his money, he got a biweekly newsletter, a journal, and a directory of who’s who in construction contracting. But the most interesting comment Gordon made during our conversation concerned the association’s newsletter: He’d persuaded its editor to add a Winners Profile section in which he would interview people about their achievements and then write profiles to be published in the newsletter. What a splendid way to meet winners of multimillion-dollar contracts and to be recognized as an industry columinst! Although Gordon is not paid for his service, he is able to teach the association members how to market to other business owners-thus becoming a mentor to the movers and shakers in the construction industry. In this way, he is using his know-how to fill the role of expert and mentor.

5 THE FAMILY ADVISER

Carmine Stardust runs a high-grade limousine service in Los Angeles. He always puts prospects first. During the L.A. riots, he never refused to accommodate their needs. On one occasion, Stardust picked up an influential executive at the airport and drove him to his home 70 miles south of the city. The client revealed that he was concerned about his two daughters: They commuted to a college in the middle of the riot area and were scheduled to take their the final exams the following day. Because of the college’s decision to remain open during the unrest, the two had to take their exams or they would not graduate. Stardust’s client, however, refused to let his girls drive to school–nor would he be able to take them himself. Acting as a family adviser, Stardust said, “There’s no reason for you girls to miss their exams. Have them ready tomorrow. I will escort them to her classroom, wait till they finish, then drive them right home. Standard rate, no extra charge.” The client was thrilled. Whenever he can, that influential executive actively makes referrals on Stardust’s behalf.

6 THE PURCHASING AGENT

Art Gifford, a CPA, is the best networker I’ve come across. When he founded his company 11 years ago, he employed three CPAs. Today, he has 34 accountants, 20 support staffers, and more than 800 clients. All of his prospects became clients because of his network system. Yet he’s never fail to make a sales call.

Currently, Gifford’s network includes owners of automobile dealerships. Why would auto dealer go out of his way to make referrals on an accountant’s behalf? Because Gifford often acts as a purchasing agent of cars for cleints. When prospects walk into his office, he spends 15 minutes asking them about their problems and needs. It’s all part of his intelligence-gathering ritual.

From this, he learned that many prospects don’t have the time to shop for the best bargains on cars. So Gifford began maintaining a list of selected dealerships that sell luxury automobiles as well as owners and top sales reps that give Gifford’s clients significant discounts. Now, when a client tells Gifford that he’s shopping for a new car, he’s handed a copy of the list. Or Gifford will actually negotiate the purchase or lease himself–that is, he’ll do the price haggling. He explains: “A wealthy client decides to buy two Mercedes. I say, ‘Before you do that, where are you getting them and how much are you paying? Maybe I can save the money.’ So I call a dealer on my list, and we end up saving my client $8,000.” Acting as purchasing agent, he also subscribes to publications that list the estimated value of used cars. Now are all the dealers on Gifford’s referral list his clients? No, but they will be soon. Since he sends them business, most reciprocate with referrals.

7 THE LOANS BROKER

So you know you must go beyond offering core services to clients. But what can you offer? Consider this: There’s nothing more important to the affluent than obtaining financial credit. I found a positive relationsship between income and credit use. For example, the average American household spends $700 annually in interest on loans; households in the $1 million-plus income bracket spends more than $150,000.

How can you leverage these credit needs to play the role of informal loan broker for your customers? Train yourself: Scan the papers for reports that identify start-up credit suppliers: examine the yellow pages. You’re likely to find more than 100 firms that lend money.

Take P.W. Charles, a money manager. During the early stages of his career, Charles prospected small banks that had no in-house investment experts. He’s successful today because he offered revenue enhancements and investment advice. With many of his clients, he didn’t limit discussions to investment topics. When someone said they needed money, he’d refer them to his network of banks.

By sending dozens of clients to these banks each year, he also build a solid client base of bankers. In light of this, banks within his area were delighted to have him manage their funds. Interestingly, even senior officers began opening accounts. Today, his network is no longer limited to small banks. Loan officers from two of the largest commercial banks in his region have accounts with him and refer business his way. Why would senior loan officers direct business to Charles and not to their own trust departments? Their departments rarely, if ever, send business to the loan officers.

What all these individuals have in common is something the dictionary defines as symbiosis–the union of two dissimilar organisms in a mutually beneficial relationship. I call it networking.

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