I think most of us would agree that times are tough. The continued uncertainty surrounding the economy is arguably more damaging than the recent recession itself. We know what a recession is because we’ve seen one before. The uncertainty on the other hand is a different beast. There is no way of knowing what to expect and very little by way of prognosis being offered by our leaders. We have the usual helpful comments coming out of Westminster telling us we need to work harder to achieve growth (damn, why didn’t I think of that?) but that’s about it. What we need is are real answers that we can implement and effect change.
Spam is an unsolicited mailing that comes through your letterbox or is sent to your office uninvited. The top Direct Mail companies use lists of people that have opted-in to receive information from certain specified categories of products and services. The great thing about a quality mailing list is that the people on the list have already shown intent towards what you are approaching them with – this is half the battle when trying to sell to new customers.
The uncertainty is not going away any time soon and there is nothing that any of us can do to effect it on a macro level so how should business managers deal with it? The answer is simple – Invest in sales and marketing.
Winning new clients is the lifeblood of any business so no matter what is happening in the marketplace we need to make sure that our businesses are generating a constant stream of new business enquiries. This is an incontrovertible fact. Without new business, we are living on borrowed time.
So the key question is not how we deal with uncertainty because this is beyond our control. The key question is how we can take charge of our own destiny and make things happen irrespective of market conditions/uncertainty. What this means in reality is that you need what the government seem unable to provide – yes that’s right – a plan for growth.
Being the generous, community spirited company that we are we thought we’d share some simple thoughts on how to generate new business. And what better way to tell the story than through the eyes of a market trader.
Walk through any market in the world and you will hear the shouts of the stallholders, quite literally, communicating with their market. Each stall bustles with energy as they vie with each other to attract the attention of the customer. It is usually he (or she) who shouts loudest that wins this competition. Sure, the quality of the product matters a great deal as does location and price, but unless a customer actually knows you exist, price, location and quality are irrelevant.
The market trader may have the benefit of being in close proximity to his customers and being able to use a simple means of communication to get his message across but we should not underestimate or undervalue the basic premise of his approach. The premise being that if we know who are potential customers are and where we can find them then we can deliver our message to them with ease.
In a business-to-business context we obviously do not have the trading floor or a shop front to help us achieve this goal. The business-to-business equivalent of the trading floor is our customer database. In a B2B context, a database is without question, the most important tool your company has for generating new business enquiries. And as we have already said without new enquiries, you are living on borrowed time.
So what is a customer database? How can you get one if you haven’t already? How do you use it to fuel your growth strategy? A customer database is simply a list of clients who you have worked with in the past, who you are currently working with now or who you aspire to work with in the future. The list will contain the name of the key contact – the decision maker. (Don’t waste your time and money marketing to anyone who is not in charge of a budget.) It will also contain their contact details, ideally including email address, postal address and phone number. The number of contacts on your database depends on the capacity your company has to manage the enquiries it generates. If you are unable to follow up enquiries quickly and professionally, this tells you that you need to recruit someone to help you do this or reduce the size of your database. If you have not already got a database then get in touch and we can help.
Once you are happy that you have an up-to-date database, how do you use it help your business grow?
We already know the marker trader’s footfall is the equivalent of our database. So what else can we learn from this analogy? We know that the market trader changes his message throughout the day to reflect the needs of his business. So for example, whereas he might announce lower prices on his fresh produce towards the end of the day, you might want promote a particular product or service that provides a better margin or perhaps free up some capital by selling some old stock. You might want to announce a price increase, you may want to advertise a good news story or a new case study. Having a database of customers allows you to communicate all of these messages, and more, directly to your market.
A regular channel of communication with your database does not just allow you to make company announcements and deliver sales messages. It also enables you to build brand awareness by affirming and reaffirming your company’s association with whatever product or service you offer and with your values and ethos. Regular and consistent communication with your customers will lead to a continuous stream of new business enquiries. Handle new enquiries with care and they will inexorably lead to new clients and growth.
There is nothing more complicated to fuelling the growth of your company than opening up an effective means of communication with your market. Take the proactive approach and apply this simple formula and you will reap the rewards irrespective of market conditions. Ignore it and you are leaving the success or failure of your company to chance.
Develop a strategic marketing strategy that ensures you are communicating with your current and prospective database in a planned & on-going basis. Make sure you have a mix of marketing and communication methods, you should be using at least 7! These could include e-mail broadcasts, business networking, leaflets, social media, direct mail etc.
So don’t delay – start talking to your database now – we do and it works!