Christmas, without the lead-up, would be just a nice day. Without the Christmas pre-sell running all of December, most of November and into October, we’d simply wake up on December 25, open a few gifts, cook great quantities of food, and be nice to our families.

It would be fun (hopefully), it would be relaxing (surely?) but it wouldn’t be the same without the pre-sell.

Pre-sell builds momentum and creates impact. It turns a product or service into an event by creating a lead-up. And it makes selling so much easier.

Lessons from Joseph Pilates

Joseph Pilates was practically unknown when to set up his first US studio in a boxing gym on Eighth Avenue in New York in 1926. As the method created strength and grace in the practitioner, as well as rehabilitating injuries, the studio was perfectly located in the same building as several dance studios.

Turning a class into an event

In the early days of the studio Joseph would announce new classes and then give tiny bits of details to dancers and athletes using the gym, who would spread it around. Then he’d turn people away, even when he wasn’t busy. Legend has it that he’d say: “No, we can’t fit you in, we’re too busy. Call back later.”

Making it a little difficult to attend his classes created mystique, attracting the best dancers and elite athletes, as well as the celebrities who wanted to be part of it.

Joseph tapped into a common marketing method – scarcity – things become more appealing when there are fewer. While businesses frequently exploit this by creating false scarcity as Joseph did, it’s also true for most small business. We have limited spaces available and limited hours in our day – so let people know.

How to create pre-sell

How often have you had a great idea for a retreat, a course, a workshop or other special product and left marketing until the very end? Pre-sell turns this on its head – the first step of pre-sell is simply having your idea.

The announcement is the second step. Too often we postpone this, thinking we first need to have all details confirmed. In fact, the announcement needs few details. You are simply announcing your plans to create anticipation. You may or may not include a date, you may or may not include a price. If you have these details you can put them in but a simple announcement will do.

Don’t stress yourself out at this stage with details. Your announcement can be sparse on details, so long as you are communicating the value and benefits of your offering.

Now the third stage begins – colouring in the details. Again, you don’t need all the details figured out to make this effective, though if you have these worked out by now, you can share them.

Do ensure that you’ve left enough time between this third stage and the actual event. Remember, you are building anticipation. Particularly if your event is oversea, interstate, or significantly more expensive than your normal products, you need to allow enough time for people to make their arrangements.

Go go goodies

Your fourth stage is goodies – which are samples or snippets. Snippets are snacks of information – including information about planned activities, perhaps photos of the venue (if there is one), or announcing any special presenters.

Your samples give an insight into your offering. Samples can be in PDF, audio or video format. They could be a sample of your physical product, if you have one.

Be generous with your snippets and samples – the more value you can demonstrate, the more attractive your offer becomes.

The event

For Christmas, the event is December 25th (or the 24th if you are European). For Joseph Pilates, the event was the class. When marketing a product or service, the event is the day clients commit.

Just about anything can be made into an event, regardless of whether you sell products, offer services or run a purely online business. An event is simply something special.

Do it differently

At the moment, you might be creating your website sales page, emailing your list and waiting for the orders to roll in. If sales are lackluster, then try the pre-sell.

Map out your timeline, starting with the first mention of your idea. Work on your snippets and samples. Put parameters around your dates and availability. If numbers are limited, communicate this. Create mystique, ignite excitement, build anticipation. Turn your sales into an event – and don’t forget to enjoy yourself while doing so.