Like most small business owners, you´re probably working towards wrapping up 2005 as quickly as possible. Some of you had a banner year with new opportunities, challenging clients and infinite possibilities. While others had to work three times as hard just to keep afloat. Regardless of which category you fall into, it´s not too late (or too early) to begin planning next year´s business strategy. A good promotional or business development campaign is like a good investment portfolio. In order to get the maximum return on investment (pun intended) out of either, you must diversify. In other words, don´t rely on one or two marketing ideas for getting your name in front of prospects. For example, most business owners feel that a simple telemarketing program alone is enough to reach potential customers. As a telemarketing consultant, I´m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. Telemarketing alone is not enough! An effective program relies on many different components for reaching prospective customers. Keep in mind that the whole point to business development/promotion is reaching as many different prospects, in as many different forums as possible. Here are a few tips to make sure that you get 2006 off to a great start.
Make a list of your monthly goals in terms of how many new accounts you want to close as well as monetary goals.
Make a list of how you can expand your current product/service. For example if you´re a graphic designer, think about teaching classes on creating a new brochure or direct mail piece to growing firms. Business owners need info on a variety of subjects and as an expert in your field; you are in a unique position to get it to them. Or if you only handle corporate identity pieces, think about expanding into other areas like web design.
While you are expanding, think about other industries that might need your services. Unfortunately we tend to get attached to industries that we do the most business with and forget that there are others who might be interested in our services. For example, I recently discovered a need for my talents within the mortgage industry. Because I never really had an interest in contacting them, I didn´t give it a second thought until I started getting a large amount of calls from them. Now It´s my fourth largest industry (after insurance, computer based firms and graphic design firms.
Think about joining or starting a networking group. This is a great way of promoting your service or product to a number of people. If you decide to start your own group, it´s a great way to showcase your work but also cherry pick the clients you´re most interested in doing business with. It also gives your members a chance to network and share their ideas with others while promoting their company. I started Something to Share Business Resource Group in San Francisco as a way for growing firms to not only network but also get great tips and resources on everything from financing, cold calling, graphic design etc.
Schedule a direct mail campaign every quarter to get your name in front of a targeted audience. This also keeps a fresh flow of contacts in your database for other services and products. I personally like to send out several hundred to verified prospects (the rule is call, mail, call). It´s very important to verify the name of the contact, address etc (call). Next, send the info in a timely fashion. For example. I like to do a mass mailing right before and right after the Christmas holiday. This way you reach those customers who are planning their marketing for next year as well as those planning their campaigns after the first of the year (mail). Finally, and this is the most important part, be sure to verify that the contact received the info and has had time to go over it (call). It is not enough to verify they´ve received it; you must make sure they´ve read it too. Your conversation should go something like" We sent some info out to you regarding our ____ services. It was sent about a week or so ago. Did you receive it? Have you had a chance to review it? What did you think?" Get them to tell you more about their needs and go into how you might be able to help solve their problem.
E-mail campaigns are still a great way of getting your message to your prospects in a fast and cost effective way.
I know most of you don´t like cold calling but believe it or not, telemarketing is still the best and most cost effective means for reaching potential customers.
Networking functions are a great way of meeting prospects face to face. I personally like to attend The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce´s Business after Hours Cocktail Party which is held once a month for both members and non-members .Check with your local chamber to see if they have similar events in your area. Most charge a small fee (the SF Chamber charges anywhere from around $25-$35) to cover expenses and are a lot of fun. This is an excellent way to sample the food at local restaurants (most events are usually held at local establishments) as your fee typically covers appetizers and at least 1 cocktail. Who says you can´t eat at an upscale restaurant for under $50?
Speaking of networking parties. How many times have you attended one, offered someone a business card and never heard back from that prospect? Here´s another way of grabbing a prospects attention, instead of simply handing a business card to someone, try handing an informative company postcard as well as a business card. This way you not only offer a way for the prospect to contact you, but you also specifically promote your business and services without carrying a lot of company literature with you.
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