In a previous post I discussed two of the initial keys to business growth: customer research, and the value proposition. The importance of each cannot be overstated.
But wait, there’s more! Understanding your target market and developing an offer that solves a problem for that target market are only the beginning. If you want people to purchase your product, you must engage them, interact with them, and inform them that it is available.
Make a list
Many new businesses fall prey to the “Field of Dreams” fallacy. The fact is, what works in Hollywood movies does not translate well into successful business strategy. In other words, just because you have built something, does not mean that anyone will come.
Through your market research you’ve already identified, in general terms, who your best prospects are: their location, age, gender, interests, and so on. Now you’ve got to make contact with those people, and inform them that your product is available. Pique their interest.
If your product is a mass-market consumer good and you have the budget for a major campaign, you can get a bulk rate from the post office and send your mailer to every residence within a certain geographic region.
If you’re a local small business, you will probably do best by starting with a specific list of potential customers. You can buy a list, or you can make a list. (Statistically, lists developed in-house get a better response rate.) Whichever way you develop the list, the important point is to start with one.
If you’re in a B2B field, list all the companies that you want to be your customers; then try to make a list of the essential contacts at each of those companies. (This may take some sleuthing, including public records, Jigsaw.com, and even phone calls to the prospect’s front desk staff.) If you’re selling directly to consumers, try to target a subgroup (“niche”) that has certain important characteristics in common, and make or buy a list of the individuals who fit that description… along with their addresses and other important information.
In her helpful article on the same topic, Inc. magazine’s Elizabeth Wasserman recommends prospecting through networking: and not just the quick and easy, “click friend” online social networking, but the real, old-fashioned, in-person social networking that takes place at local Chamber of Commerce events, for example.
Contact your list
Next comes the hard work. You’ll need to formulate a message that resonates with your target customers. Whether you decide to write a personal letter to a few important individuals, or send out a mass-mailing that targets a large group, your message should resonate with the recipients as though it were meant for them personally.
Introduce yourself. Try to get the prospect to make some response. Track the responses. Follow up on the responses… and also follow up on the prospects who did not respond.
Once you have established a relationship with the prospect, especially if they have responded to your marketing message, then you can contact them more directly; for example, by calling them on the phone, or sending them an e-mail. At this point, you’re no longer cold-calling. They know who you are, and they’re expecting your call. This is not a cold call. I prefer to think of it as a “warm call.”
Better yet, your prospect may have contacted you in response to your message. In that case, they’ve given you permission to contact them, and you are just following up, as you should.
In person, online, or just through the mail
This is not the only way to generate sales leads. Your business might implement it differently. You might only do the direct mail and skip the “warm call.” You might even be able to skip the mail and contact your prospect through other channels: in person at a business group meeting, for example, or through social media, if that seems appropriate. Regardless, high-level selling requires highly focused targeting, messaging, and communication.
It helps if they’ve already heard of you
While you’re busy prospecting, other marketing methods should be used at the same time.
For example, your prospects will be more receptive to a peronal letter if they have already heard of you: from the radio, from the web, from the TV, from the newspaper. When it’s time to grow your business rapidly, you will probably be looking at engaging in some form of advertising, and possibly advertising in multiple media.
The best case scenario is if your prospect has already heard of you from their friends. Nothing can top the ROI of referral marketing. You can encourage referrals by asking your existing clients to refer new business to you, and by offering promotions and rewards for customers who make referrals.
Get help generating sales leads
If you would like some help with your customer research, your list-building, your messaging, or your marketing campaign development, please don’t hesitate to contact Mardesco.
We’re here to help you make that sale.