It’s taken a while, but I’ve recently come to realise that it takes a lot longer than you think to get your business up and running.
From a standing start of no customers to being able to pay the bills can take many months. That’s not to say that some businesses don’t get off the ground very quickly – picking up an early contract for example, but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Ignoring (for the sake of this blog) all the other things you need to do when starting up your business, generating sales has got to be the number one priority. If the right people don’t know about your products or services, having the slickest behind the scenes processes matters for naught.
I was rather naïve thinking I only needed a couple of marketing strands going. Which is pretty foolish from an ex marketing director! I thought that the model I’d been told would work, would work. Networking and seminars. That was all that was needed. And the odd attendance at exhibitions.
‘Know, like, trust’ – that statement beloved of networking groups, whilst somewhat clichéd, is so true. And that can take in excess of six months of dedication to start to bear any fruit. Certainly in my line of business where I work with companies on their strategies to help them achieve their business dream, people need to trust me to know I’m going to do a good job for them. People may well be more willing to take a risk on a lower cost item, but they are still going to have to be convinced before they part with their hard earned money.
The big challenge with both networking and seminars is finding the right people. There’s all this talk of being in the ‘right room’ and it’s so true. How many divorce lawyers would you find at a wedding fair? Now that really would be a case of blind optimism over reality!
But there’s networking and there’s networking.
There are loads of articles on how to network properly – have business cards, have a strong 60 seconds, do presentations, talk to lots of people, follow up, have one to ones. That’s pretty much networking in a nutshell. The challenge is finding the right place to network. That’s been my biggest revelation and toughest challenge so far. I always assumed I would work through the room i.e. even if the people at my networking meeting weren’t the right people, they would know the right people who they would refer to me. This may well work over time, but it’s not a sure fire method early on.
It’s always good to ask people which networking groups they go to and which ones work best for them and why. Remember though – what may work for them, may not work for you. Is their right room, your right room?
My challenge is finding the owners of small companies with three plus employees. They generally aren’t at the networking groups I go to. Very busy running their businesses I should think.
I also run seminars. Which are well attended. I try to invite potential referral partners so they can see me in action and get a feel for my capabilities.
Social media for small businesses
I then latched on to social media and wrote a whole content marketing strategy. Which has been a very useful exercise as it made me focus on who my key customers are, what their issues are and what sort of information would be useful for them.
Ideally your social media strategy should include your website, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, possibly Facebook and places where your (potential) customers may be lurking.
This is now up and running and I have in excess of 1,200 followers on Twitter now. Which is great. The next challenge, having got all this exposure going, is to start converting it into business.
Phase two marketing
Email marketing to businesses
There is a resurgence of email marketing in the world of B2B. But it has to be good email marketing. Talk to an expert. There are some good blogs out there. Also check this organisation out – they run a very interesting webinar on the eight essentials you need for email marketing
Buying email lists for mailing
This is more difficult to do. There are lots of list sellers out there. It is important to do your research before you buy. See if they will let you buy a smaller amount first to trial before you go large. Data gets out of date very quickly and you need to ensure that people have opted in to the list before you start contacting people.
As difficult, if not more difficult than buying lists. It is increasingly difficult to use telemarketing to get appointments. It’s not impossible, but you have to really research to get a good telemarketer. And then give them a really good brief. And tie them down to strict criteria as to what a successful appointment is. And only pay them on results.
As with list buying, I would suggest a trial run with them of getting them to get you five appointments, seeing how they go and dependent on that, either hone your brief or find someone else.
It’s not cheap, so you don’t want to waste your money unnecessarily. And a cold appointment is far harder to convert into a client as they have no context when you turn up. Expect a certain amount of frostiness and wariness when you arrive. But take heart in that they’ve agreed to see you – something must have piqued their interest…
Joining the dots
This was the big light bulb moment for me. I’d been doing lots of activities, largely in isolation from each other. When what I need to be doing is cross fertilising. This to me means ensuring that my blog is posted across the social media. And not just posted, but done so in a meaningful way so that it is of use and also moves people towards an action goal. The blog can have excerpts cut out of it and used multiple times in twitter. They can all tie in to an email marketing campaign which may be around getting people to a seminar – see my full picture below:
Phase three marketing
I pooh-poohed an article the other day that said 95% of sales people would make the first call, 50% would make the second follow up call and only 10% would make the third. But apparently 60% of buyers say yes after the fifth no. I pooh poohed it because how would they know? If you’re down to 10% at the third call, who are these people making the fifth call and what is the pool of people they are talking to to come up with the 60% statistic. It didn’t seem a statistic that held up to good scrutiny. Well, my scrutiny anyway. So at a networking meeting, I asked Nicci who runs Sales Coaching programmes and she said that it’s the five ‘touches’ that are important. Not five calls. This made more sense and which ties in with my joining the dot approach. As long as you can add value in those five touches i.e. have a good reason to be in touch with the person you want to do business with at least five times, you stand a better chance of getting the business.
- Be patient
It takes time. Get to the end of your tether. And then keep going.
- Be clear about why you are doing what you are doing
Sales appointments, getting people to seminars, getting them to sign up to newsletters. Whatever it is – make sure that’s the message that’s getting out there.
- Keep trying different activities and testing them.
Drop the ones that aren’t working
- Make sure the different activities interlink
You are building up a more cohesive picture with an overall drive to your objective – just coming at it from different angles.
- What works will become clearer over time
As you can see from my build up, it’s only now that I’m finding out what is going to work for me. You will need to find a mix that works for you. And it will be a mix.
- Don’t beat yourself up
It’s all a learning process and you wouldn’t have known what you know now back then.
If you want to know more – contact me firstname.lastname@example.org