Get the Business You Want

Many shops that do great work don’t see enough opportunities, even in a better economy.

If you are getting all the business you want, you can pass on this month’s column, or better yet, drop me a note on how you are doing this, and I will feature you in an upcoming column. However, if you’re like most companies, you’re not getting all the business you want, need and demand. Why not? You’re good at what you do. So there’s been a downturn this year, but still, why are you suffering just as much as your competitors who clearly are not as good as you?

The answer in many cases is that you are not seeing enough opportunities. If you are seeing plenty of opportunities, but not closing enough of them, let me know, and we can cover that in a future column. Many shops that do great work don’t see enough opportunities, even in a better economy. I thought it might be useful to share what is usually the root cause of this with all of you.

First, I ask, “Where do new opportunities come from?” If you’re like most of the shops I talk with, the answer is “word of mouth” or referral from current customers. That’s great, but for many of you, referrals or word of mouth alone won’t get you the level of business you aspire to achieve.

What should you do? The answer you might hear from experts is “marketing.” In this case, we are really talking about a subset of marketing, which is marketing communications. This can include activities that involve “communicating” with potential customers in any number of ways such as direct mail, telemarketing, Web site and e-mail marketing. It can also include non-direct communication such as advertising in trade publications or local publications, or on the radio or TV, which probably is not a good use of your money.

The key to successful marketing communications is to know who to communicate with, and what you want to tell them, which will cause them to take the action you want them to take. That action might be to call you with a job to quote, call you to discuss capabilities, be open to a call from you, visit your Web site, and so on.

Before you can invest in effective marketing communications, answer these questions:
Who is your target customer? What kind of companies do they likely work for (and if you know the specific companies, even better)? Who, by job title(s) at least, is the right person for you to be talking to within those companies?

What makes your shop different than other shops? Please don’t say it’s your equipment. That may be true, but does your customer think about the equipment you have or rather the job he/she wants you to do for them? Too many shops focus on the equipment and not on the outcome it produces for the customer. Think like a customer and ask yourself, “What makes you valuably different for your potential new customer?”

Once you know who to target and what they can buy from you that others can’t provide at all, or at least as well as you do, then you can consider a marketing communications effort to attract new customers. Until you can answer the who and what piece, you will be wasting your time and money on any marketing communications activities you try. The only people who make money on those campaigns are the agencies or people who produce them.

What approach should you take to communicating? Direct mail is usually the best way to start because an e-mail list of prospective customers is difficult to attain and most aren’t set up for telemarketing. That leaves direct mail and your Web site. We’ll talk about the power of your Web site in an upcoming column.

You don’t need to become a direct marketing expert, but instead, find a freelance person who is. Tell them who you want to target and what makes you different. They can take it from there.

Mitch Goozé is a partner with Customer Manufacturing Group, a marketing consulting company. He can be reached at (408) 987-0140 or at mgooze@customermfg.com