There are many things, of course, but I think there are three things more important than all else. First, you need to build Your List. Notice that's "Your List" and not "a list." It does very little good to buy a list and then send out post cards. Those people are total strangers. They have no reason to pay attention to you or to even open a letter from you.
Don't misunderstand me: You can turn a list of strangers into a list of potential clients. But it takes time. You need to cultivate them. Send them regular newsletters. Invite them to luncheons. Send them tips and tricks for being more productive. Eventually, they will feel as if they know you. They will "warm up" and become warm prospects instead of strangers.
The other way to build your list is to collect business cards, follow up, and do all the things we mentioned above. This kind of list will always be just a little warmer because you've actually met these people. Every personal interaction with someone makes them just a little warmer. So you can see how people in the first group move to the second group as they attend your events or come to see you at a Chamber get together.
Cultivate your list. Love your list. Nurture your list.
And don't worry about how large it is. Commit to growing you list and it doesn't matter if you start with zero prospects today. Collect cards and grow it to 10, 25, 100, 500, and beyond. Buy a list as large as you can afford to mail to regularly. That might be 100, 500, or 5,000. But whatever you do, get started today.
Your prospect lists are your single greatest source for future business!
Second, you should have a consistent Look and Feel. That is, you should be intentional in the way you you show up at events, in postal mailing, in email, and so forth. Your message should be consistent. Your colors should be consistent.
You are your brand. Be your brand.
If you control the way your business shows up, you build a positive image. It's a strange thing about people: When we know about a company or recognize a logo, we develop a sense of familiarity and trust over time. But you need to be presenting a consistent look and feel in order for this to happen.
Third, you must have a marketing budget. Some people say that small businesses, and small service businesses in particular should not spend money on marketing. I completely disagree.
If you don't do marketing, people will have no idea who you are. It's okay to start small. But if you want new clients, then marketing is pretty much the way you're going to get that. How much? Well, that's hard to say. Personally, I think very small service businesses should plan to spend about 10% of their profit on marketing.
If you make a profit of $120,000 per year, that's an easy $1,000/month on marketing. That might seem like a lot if you haven't done anything, but just remember: You need to sign ONE new client to make that pay for itself.
Eventually, this percentage needs to climb up. For larger companies it will be closer to 30%. But if you find something that works, there's no hurry in getting to that number.
You can spend that on mailings, events, Chamber membership, or whatever you wish. Be very careful to track what works! If you pay Chamber membership for a couple of years and have zero new clients from that activity, stop doing it! Don't waste your money on activities that worked for someone else you met. Measure your results and invest money in things that work for you.
Most importantly: Start today if you haven't been doing anything.
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