7 different ways to attract prospects to your business
photo by frumbert
Everybody wants to grow their business and although there are lots of ways to grow the bottom line through cost savings, operational efficiencies and stuff like that, most of the focus is on getting more potential customers – which puts us into Marketing!
Here’s the definition of marketing that I use: Marketing is everything you do to get a person or a group of people to contact you with the intention of possibly trading money for a product or service you provide.
It’s clear, concise, doesn’t get confused with sales or customer service and it leaves a lot of room for creative possibilities – which is where the opportunities are. 10 years ago, your marketing direction would have solely included things like Direct Mail, Ads (newspaper, magazine, etc.) and some kind of networking or cold calling. All of those can still be viable strategies but there are lots of other ways to look at marketing these days.
How many of the following ideas have you considered as you built your 2009 marketing plan?
1. Be Social
Online Social Networking is quickly moving towards the mainstream for business opportunities. A lot of the people I talk to don’t see the point – “Why would I want to chat online with a bunch of people I don’t really know…and who has the time anyway?”.
The point from a business perspective is the same as it is for offline networking – it’s an opportunity to build up a network of people that Know, Like and Trust you as a business provider so that when they or someone they know needs your product or service, they will contact you (with the intention of trading money for your product or service).
Even better than offline networking, the online world has a great set of constantly evolving tools that can help you find people, share information, present yourself and interact a lot of different ways.
Recommendation for getting started: I strongly suggest that LinkedIn is the right place to start for most businesses – Do a search for a Getting Started Guide for LinkedIn or just start using it.
2. Get Local
Last year I wrote a post about the importance of optimizing your business for local search (i.e. Overland Park Chiropractor). More and more people are searching for what they want and need online and they mostly do it from a local perspective (bad news for printed yellow pages, but it can be great news for you!).
This is the kind of optimization for your website that’s not really ever done…but even if you just do the basics, you will be a lot better off and likely ahead of the pack.
Recommendation for getting started: Here’s a great ‘basics’ article on local search that will give you some ideas – and here’s a post that’s a comprehensive coverage of a lot of great resources for local search. Spend a little time learning and then start small and do a little every couple of weeks.
3. Network – with a purpose
Pretty much everyone knows that they’re ‘supposed’ to network and I know a lot of people will go to Chamber events or other similar events so they can check the box that they did their monthly networking. If you ask them, they’ll tell you that networking isn’t very effective, at least for their business (and they way they’re going about it, that’s true).
Networking if done right, can be an extremely effective marketing tool, but it’s got to start with the right mind set and it’s a long term strategy (think farming rather than hunting).
Recommendation for getting started: I put together an extensive report on how you can use networking to build your business – you can download it for free from here.
4. Join a Referral Group
There’s definitely some overlap between networking strategies and referral groups – you can certainly do either one and do well with it, but if you do general networking and belong to a good referral group, it can be really productive – you may not have to much other marketing!
Referral groups are groups of business owners that meet on a regular basis for sole purpose of helping each other out with referrals. Done right, it’s almost like having an extended, focused, word of mouth sales force talking to people on your behalf. This is a strategy that you have to commit to and you will need to find a group that you like and is a good fit for your kind of business (ideally at least half of the other members regularly talk to your target market).
There are existing groups out there (like Business Networking International www.bni.com or other ‘tip clubs’) or you can start your own group (a lot more work up front, but you can really customize it to fit your needs).
Recommendation for getting started: Learn what’s available in your area. If you’re in Kansas City, consider this an open invitation to meet with my BNI chapter just to check out the concept. We meet on Wednesdays during lunch time – most groups meet early in the morning. It won’t be a fit for everyone, but we’re always looking for new members that want to grow their business – Contact me if you’d like more information.
5. Be an Expert
More than likely, you or several people in your business are experts at what you do. You may or may not be ‘world’ class, but the odds are that you know more about your field than 99% of the people that you talk to every day (which makes you an expert).
The real question is, what are you doing to demonstrate that expertise? If you’ve got competition out there (and everyone does), then potential buyers are making decisions on your products and services based on your credibility and expertise among other things. What can you do to demonstrate your depth of knowledge?
This strategy isn’t for the faint of heart and it doesn’t happen quickly, but the upside is that once you’ve reached an acknowledged level of expertise, you are no longer a commodity – people will pay a premium for you or your company.
There are lots of ways to demonstrate your expertise – what works for you will be determined by your comfort level and what works for your industry. Here are a couple of possibilities to consider:
- Write reports, whitepapers, how to documents, a blog – tailored to your industry and business, some kind of valuable document that your target market would love to learn more about.
- Speaking engagements and workshops – Cost effective ways to add value to your target market and simultaneously position you as an expert.
- Source for TV, Radio, News and articles – develop some relationships with people that cover your industry and help them with the stories they’re doing.
Recommendation for getting started:
Pick a topic that clients are always asking about and pull together a strategy for a good way to educate them and provide value.
6. Be Transparent
The world is tired of pre-packaged, everyone looks the same solutions. One of the things that makes you uniquely different is that…you are you. It’s amazing the number of businesses that hide behind a business name, logo and brand and never share any kind of personal information – people love a story and they want to do business with a person. Especially a person they get to Know, Like and Trust.
There are plenty of things you don’t need to be sharing – it’s equally important to retain a level of professionalism, but buyers are searching high and low for an element of personality that stands out from the crowd – you need to give it to them.
Recommendation for getting started: Review what your prospects and customers see about you and your company (brochures, websites, ads, etc.) and figure out a way to get more of you or your companies personal style and personality into those materials – check out my previous post on Becoming Transparent for some other ideas.
7. Be Focused and Consistent
Ironically even though I’m advocating that you should be trying different things to market your business, one of those ideas is the importance of staying focused and consistent on whatever strategies you do pick.
It’s easy to fall into a trap of doing marketing when you find some free time, or signing up for an ad campaign for a local magazine just because the salesperson was convincing that day. The unfortunately reality is that marketing for the most part is a long process that really rewards consistency. However, that doesn’t mean sticking with an ad for 12 straight months when you can’t clearly see any return on your investment.
It does mean it’s important to map out your strategies, work them and then make a rational, fact based determination on whether they’re working or not. Time is measured in quarters, not in weeks. It’s better to do 3 things well than 6 things just as placeholders. Check out my post from a couple of months ago about the importance of marketing consistency.
Recommendation for getting started: Draft out an annual plan for your marketing efforts and pick 3 to 6 things that you are going to do throughout the course of the year to market your business. Commit to activities to support those efforts and then track how well you’re doing against those commitments. Update and adjust quarterly and always keep in mind that your time and money is an investment and should have a clear payback – if not, stop doing it.
Hopefully at least one or two of these ideas will spark something for you. Let me know of some different marketing ideas that you might be considering for 2009 and share them in the comments below:
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach