One of the most common issues I'm asked about is how to raise the profile of a business to attract more clients.
This is an important issue no matter how small or large your business may be.
For example I'm working with a client in Brisbane who is well established in their industry. They've been operating for many years and have a very good client satisfaction rate. However, their flow of new clients is very unpredictable. And there's still a heck of a lot of potential clients who don't even know this firm exists.
So I've worked with them to create a program that will lift their industry presence, but in a way that emphasises their highly professional approach and expertise.
This means they'll be:
> Exhibiting at key trade shows where they'll get to meet prospects in person.
> Speaking at industry events.
> Pro-actively arranging personal meetings with major corporate prospects.
> Promoting the business to previous clients and industry contacts.
> Creating a follow up plan for all contacts.
> Updating marketing material to address important client concerns (identified through in-house research), including the creation of fact sheets to help clients make the best decision for their circumstances.
> Advertising in niche trade publications.
You might notice that the first five points all revolve around personal contact. Because many service businesses gain clients through recommendations and networking, it's vital that personal contact is the centre of a service business marketing strategy.
Key Point: You must "Structure-in" points of contact.
Researchers have shown that prospects buy after having had from 7 to 12 contacts with a business. A contact may be a personal visit or receiving information in the mail. So it's important to try and structure-in as many points of contact as possible with prospects and referrers.
I use the term "structure-in" as it makes us focus on the planned nature of the sales process. We need to carefully assess how we can create meaningful points of contact, and how to advance the level of interest clients have in our services as we progress.
Another example is a small web design firm based in Sydney. The partners in this recently established business approached me because although they have great web design credentials, they lacked the industry contacts and 'visibility' to attract new clients. As you might guess, their top priority is to get in touch with suitable prospects and start making points of contact.
Initially this means:
> Quite a deal of networking.
> Telephone calls to prospects.
> Creating simple yet functional marketing material.
> Developing a structure for their sales process.
> Conducting informative presentations to small groups of prospects.
> Writing topical articles for inclusion in industry specific publications.
This type of marketing program concentrates efforts on the key service marketing concepts of:
* Generating referrals
* Direct approaches
When working on ways to raise the profile of your business, remember prospects are trying to identify a service provider they can rely on to give them the result they are looking for.
Key Point: Focus on your knowledge.
So don't just focus on your 'technical' skills. Many service providers provide similar services at a technical (or functional) level. Give prospects a good reason for choosing your service over others. Build your profile on your knowledge and insights - show how you can help your clients achieve their objectives.
And don't be put off by the nature of the task. Building the profile of your business means getting in front of people. You'll need to do this at networking events, at speaking events, publishing your thoughts, or by directly contacting prospects. If you really dread any form of "self promotion" then you might have to change your thinking.
Key Point: Networking works. So use it!
However, as a starting point, if you need some tips on the art (and manners) of networking Australian-style then I recommend a visit to Robyn Henderson's site http://www.networkingtowin.com.au/ and Robyn's e-book "Networking for Success" has some great tips on how to do it right.
Recent statistics show more and more people are leaving corporate jobs (by choice or force) and moving into self-employment. In the U.S. alone, a new business is formed every 11 seconds. A similar trend is occurring in Australia. So you're not alone in your quest for visibility.
All hands on deck. Hoist the mainsail. Put yer back into it now?
© 2006Marketing Nous Pty Ltd
Stuart Ayling runs Marketing Nous, an Australasian marketing consultancy that specialises in marketing for service businesses. He helps clients to improve their marketing tactics, attract more clients, and increase revenue. Stuart also offers telephone consultations and runs regular marketing seminars. For additional marketing resources, including Stuart's popular monthly newsletter, visit his web site at http://www.marketingnous.com.au.