Every company wants to increase business, to drive up sales and revenues. They may try a variety of tactics, but the results often fall short of expectations. What to do?
To attract new clients, one must be positioned as a leading expert. No one wants to retain the services of mediocrities. One begins to be perceived as an expert by publishing bylined articles, being the subject of press releases and of direct mail solicitations, and by putting on seminars and webinars. One’s years of accomplishment, skills at achieving results, and creativity in overcoming obstacles can all be highlighted and, where possible, made the subject of valuable media stories.
Here’s a concrete example of what I did for one of my clients, an interior design firm. Prior to retaining my services, the principals had been making cold calls and knocking on doors trying to drum up business. They got a few prospects, but an even smaller number of them turned out to be clients. They tried to make deals with leasing agents and building managers, but so does everyone, and the competition is fierce. Raising the ante of incentives can made one feel the need for an ever-faster revolving line-of credit.
They needed to do something new, something different, something that would set them above their competition. Here’s what I did: first, I wrote a case history for a real estate publication in which I explained how an interior design company can make a building more attractive by redecorating its public areas; I used specific examples about how such techniques have been used in a variety of buildings to attract new tenants and reduce the vacancy rate. Once the article appeared, I made reprints of it and mailed it, with a covering letter, to building owners and operators. After ten business days, I had a trained college student working from a script call each of the recipients. The caller tried to set up as many appointments as possible for my client. For each arranged appointment, the caller received additional compensation. Once appointments had been scheduled, I prepared a scripted presentation for my client that included a video of work they had done. What was the result of such a procedure? Voila! New business.
There are, of course, other sources of business for an interior design company, and it is essential to identify as many marketing targets as possible. Another target, for example, was showroom tenants. My client had expertise in designing showrooms for garment tenants. I built on that expertise and wrote an article about how my client helped several showroom tenants improve their images and so increased business. The article contained comments from tenants that confirmed my client’s claims. Again, once the article appeared, I mailed reprints to all local garment tenants who have showrooms. The same follow-up as noted in the previous example was used again.
Before employing this technique, you must identify your market. If you do not, you may be aiming at the wrong target.
Here’s another example. If, let’s say, you own an environmental assessment company, you will want to promote yourself not only to building owners who will need your services if they are to refinance their buildings; but also to mortgage bankers who provide money not only for refinancing, but for initial purchases as well. To help them, I would write an article for my client that explains how one can evaluate an environmental assessment. I would eliminate all technical jargon, tell them what to look for, and what questions they should ask. The article would be placed in appropriate banking and mortgage publications, reprints would be made, and it would be mailed, with a covering letter, to a list of mortgage bankers. Again, there would be scripted follow-up phone calls, appointments for my client, and a presentation script for those meetings. I would also have prepared brochures, so that my client can leave promotional materials with prospective customer/clients.
While many service company executives are intent on generating new business, their efforts to market and promote themselves are often ineffective. The majority of them focus on networking, on making cold calls, and knocking on an endless series of doors. It amounts to playing roulette: it takes many turns of the wheel to hit a jackpot.
Whether one uses a public relations – marketing professional, or takes advantage of one’s own creativity, one should develop a strategic PR/marketing plan that will be effective in producing results. Not to do so means that one will be an “also ran.” And if you’re not a triple-crown contender, you will only run with the pack, not ahead of it.