21 Ways to Bring in the Business
Laura Tiffany, Entrepreneur
Despite your desperate hopes and prayers, business isn’t just going to wander into your business. You need to get out there and hustle, and we’ve got the tips to help you do it.
1. Create quality marketing tools. This doesn’t mean you need to allot 75 percent of your budget to printing costs, presentation slides and a Web site. But it does mean you need to put deep thought into the cohesive image you want to present. “Sit down and make a list of everything you’re going to need each time you make contact with a prospective customer or client, including a stationery package, brochures and presentation tools,” advises marketing expert Kim T. Gordon, president of National Marketing Federation Inc.and an Entrepreneur.com columnist. “Then, if you can’t [afford] to print it all at once, at least work with a designer and a copywriter to create the materials so you have them on disk.”
If even this sends shivers down your bank account’s spine, find creative ways to deal with it: Hire an art or marketing student from the local university, or barter your services with other homebased entrepreneurs.
2. Greet clients with style. Voice mail may not seem like a component of your marketing plan, but if a potential client calls and your kid answers, that client will be gone before you can even technically call him a client. So get yourself a professional voice-mail system (even the phone company offers options) with several boxes, advises Gordon, so callers can press “1” to hear more about your services, “2” for your web and e-mail addresses, etc.
3. Focus as narrowly as possible. Instead of trying to reach all the people some of the time, narrow your target audience to highly qualified prospects. Instead of going to seven networking groups once every two months, go to the two groups with the best prospects every week. “Instead of marketing to 5,000 companies, [find] several dozen highly qualified companies and make regular contact with them,” says Gordon. Call them, mail your marketing materials, and then ask to meet. It’ll save you money and time.
4. Make the most of trade shows. Here’s a hodgepodge of tips, courtesy of Rick Crandall, a speaker, consultant and author of marketing books:
• If you don’t get a booth beforehand, try to find someone who might want to share their space with you. You help them run the booth, and they get a local who can show them the town.
• If you decide not to get a booth, go anyway. You can always do business with the exhibitors—just be sure to respect their time with “real” customers before you approach them as a peer looking for some B2B action.
• After the seminar, be absolutely, positively sure that you follow up on your leads. What’s the point of attending if your leads end up in the trash? The Center for Exhibition Industry Researchsays 88 percent of exhibition attendees weren’t called by salespeople in 2000. Try to improve that stat.
5. Conduct competitive intelligence online. When Joyce L. Bosc started Boscobel Marketing Communications Inc.in 1978 in her Silver Spring, Maryland, home, she had no clue what the competition was doing. Today, she points out, homebased entrepreneurs have it a lot easier. “As a homebased business [in 1978], how would you even find out what your competition was doing, what they were charging or what kind of clients they had?” says Bosc, whose company now has 18 employees and is no longer homebased. “Today, that information is completely at your fingertips.” So find your competitors’ sites and get clicking.