In Part 1 of this two-part article, we discussed eight “little” ways a company can improve its marketing and sales in 2014 without spending much – if any – money. To recap, the list included:
- Improve you elevator pitch.
- Hand write thank-you notes.
- Enhance your e-mail signature.
- Create impressive business cards.
- Try A/B e-mail testing.
- Collect client testimonials.
- Test LinkedIn advertising.
- Clean up your database.
I hope you’ve had a chance to give a few of them a try! Here are seven more to include in your business development plans this year.
9. Use HYHAU.
Try this: Every time someone calls to request information or an RFP, ask “How’d you hear about us?” (HYHAU). Then make sure to record and track the responses. No, this is not nearly as detailed and accurate as some of the technology solutions available but if you’re not ready to make that kind of financial or operational commitment, this is a no-cost way to get an order-of-magnitude estimate on how your marketing initiatives are performing. Just make sure that everyone at your firm who works the phones is prepared to do this.
Note: At times, you may need to ask a follow-up question. Let’s say that you have banner ads running on four different Web sites simultaneously and the response to the HYHAU question is “I saw your ad online.” The follow-on question might be “Do you remember which website?”
10. Create an editorial calendar.
Most firms in our industry are engaged in some sort of content development and marketing (e.g., tweeting, blogging, writing articles, producing case studies, etc.). But here’s the problem: We’re often inconsistent with our content publishing and usually struggle with what to write about. To help with both issues, spend a little time on the front end developing an editorial calendar. Use the calendar to outline what you will write about, who you’re writing for, when you will write it, who might be called on to help and what form (i.e., blog, article, case study, etc.) it will take.
To make it easy, start with a simple spreadsheet with spaces for daily, weekly and monthly activities. Add a column for other happenings at your firm (e.g., product launches, new hires, attending conferences, etc.) that could be integrated into the content.
Hint: Tackling an entire year is difficult. Consider starting this process one quarter at a time.
11. Gather competitive intel.
Do you know who your top competitors are? The breadth of their services? Their areas of expertise? What they’ve been up to lately?
At least once this year, schedule some time to really dig into the Web sites, blogs and social media sites of your top four or five competitors. Not sure who they are? That’s OK. Pick four or five firms with a profile similar to yours and go to work on them. Either way, you need to have an understanding of the competitive pressures you face in the marketplace. As you read through the sites, print out the important pages, put them in a binder and make some notes on each firm.
- What services do they offer? Any changes since the last time?
- How are they differentiating and positioning themselves?
- Is there anything truly unique about what they’re doing?
- What expertise do they espouse?
- What’s new in their News section?
- Do they list any clients?
Then, after you’ve gathered all that data, do a little critical analysis: What are the pluses and minuses of these competitors when compared to your firm? Have you learned anything that’s going to have an impact on how you conduct business going forward?
12. Don’t make decisions in a vacuum.
You’re smart and experienced but from a marketing and sales perspective, your opinion is only half the equation. What matters just as much (actually, even more!) is what your clients and ex-clients think. Remember, the buyer’s perception is the seller’s reality.
Stop assuming that you know what your clients think of you and what they want. Take a little time to simply ask them. Whether it’s an online survey, telephone call or in-person visit, the goal is to get answers to the following questions:
- “What do we do right and what do we do wrong?”
- “How/where can we get better?”
- “Why do you use us?”
- “What do we do, if anything, that’s unique?”
- “Why did you leave us? Who do you use now? And why?”
Build this into your routine. Ask these questions of your clients annually.
Hint: As a senior executive, let me challenge you to pick up the phone and talk with just one client or ex-client per week. Over time, you’ll be amazed at the feedback you amass.
13. Take advantage of OPD – other people’s data.
How many names do you have in your CRM? How about the number of LinkedIn connections? How’d you like to increase your exposure to 10 times as many? You can, but you’ll need access to other people’s data.
The best and easiest way to do that is to place small banner ads in the e-newsletters that publishers send out to their subscribers and associations send out to their members. These organizations have spent years building and managing a highly-qualified subscriber/member list – it’s their livelihood. For a small fee, you can take advantage of all of their hard work and good name.
Think of it this way: The likelihood that a Quirk’s subscriber will open an e-mail from Quirk’s is significantly higher than the likelihood that they’ll open an e-mail from you. More importantly, its newsletter will expose your firm to literally tens of thousands of potential new sales leads.
Further, your ad in its e-newsletter comes with an implied endorsement, simply by virtue of the fact that your message is being delivered under its banner.
14. Develop a better capabilities presentation.
I have written and spoken at length about how to enhance PowerPoint presentations to better engage your audience. But here are three other related items that can improve your success rate, as well:
- Create several versions of the presentation. One strategy is to create a targeted presentation for each industry that you serve. If you know what methodology or applications they prefer, you could create versions based on that. Really want to close that big client? Create a customized presentation focused exclusively on them.
- Learn to deliver the presentations remotely with a platform like GoToMeeting or Webex. Not only is this an efficient and cost-effective way to communicate, it is especially important when your business development efforts are phone-based. (Hint: Consider creating a shorter version of your full presentation. Shorter slide decks lend themselves better to remote presentations.)
- “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice!” If you’re the one delivering the presentation, gather some colleagues, deliver the presentation to them, then ask for their honest feedback. Have a sales rep who sells for you? Have him/her deliver the presentation to you. You need to need to make sure that they are representing your firm in the way that you think they are. (Hint: Practice even goes for remote presentations.)
15. Keep an eye on the industry.
What trends are happening in the industry? Are your competitors or clients in the news? If so, what for? An easy way to stay on top of the MR industry and everything in it is through the use of Google Alerts. Google Alerts provide you with daily/weekly feedback e-mails from Google as it goes out and searches the Internet for the words or phrases you select.
Best uses: competitors’ company or key employee names; client or prospect names; hot MR industry trend words; and even your own firm’s name.
Hint: Put your search terms in quotations (e.g., “qualitative research”) to enhance the relevancy of the searches.
Planning and discipline
One final point: Things that are easy to do are also easy NOT to do. Don’t fall into that trap. While pretty simple of the surface, tackle the above ideas with the same planning and discipline as you would exhibiting at a conference or rebuilding your website. These may be smaller initiatives but they are no less important.
Good luck and good marketing.
This article originally appeared in Quirk’s: http://www.quirks.com/articles/2014/20140227-2.aspx.