by Barb Headrick
How do you make company owners aware that you operate a service-oriented firm? How do you convey to your clients the strong moral convictions by which you conduct your business? How do you share your "Mission Statement"? The answer is not simple, but has become increasingly obvious to those seeking to make a living by either self-employed means or as an integral part of any firm, whether large or small -- a commitment to perform some form of direct marketing and/or long-range business development activities.
These are the 90's .. a time of extreme competitiveness, tighter company budgets, and downsizing. So how do you maintain your sales volume from the previous year and/or grow to your desired or anticipated potential? The answer, again, is "marketing" - the present-day buzz word for "advertising" and/or "selling" your services.
The term "marketing" has become relatively commonplace, but the concept requires much more. Marketing, by definition and by nature, is a long-term proposition. It requires a strong commitment to time, energy, and expense to perform the far-reaching steps required to undergo and successfully perform a comprehensive marketing program.
The logical first step is a "plan". Without a marketing plan, you become "reactive" to the marketplace, and may spend extra dollars to "advertise" your services or plan a one-time expensive media splash. With the onset of a total marketing program, however, you can plan well in advance what monies will be spent and what expectations may reasonably be realized.
The road to a marketing plan begins with one step - a goal. It may be to increase sales by a reasonable percentage or simply obtain long-term employment. Whatever your goal, it is generally attainable through hard work and commitment. Marketing provides the avenue to guide you toward your projected goal and make the best use of your advertising dollars.
What works for retailers, doctors, or accountants, however, may not necessarily work for your business or service. You aren't advertising a "close-out" sale, weren't recommended by the local medical bureau, and can't help your client save on his quarterly taxes. What, then, will bring new customers to your door?
As with all services, relationships must be established; in many cases, you are attempting to replace a firm or product with which the customer is familiar or even satisfied. Customer satisfaction and/or service is critical - taking care of your client's needs, meeting his time frames, and working within his established budget are all critical for repeat opportunities. But, again, how do you get that client in the first place?
Some firms employ a Director of Marketing or a full division of marketing specialists to perform the critical sales calls, brochure preparation, and media notices. Some hire outside professionals, such as an advertising agency, for mailing campaigns.
Working as an independent consultant, home-based business or sole proprietor, however, means that you, alone, are the sole marketer for your firm (you). That means you are responsible for "The Plan, The Data Base, The Cold Calls, The Follow-up". You don't have a team to call upon to undertake your marketing needs. Yet, you seek the same result -- increased awareness of your capabilities, specialties, and expertise.
Effectiveness is measured by increased activity, thereby creating increased project opportunities, which in turn creates increased sales volumes. The path is clear ... some form of salesmanship is necessary to compete in today's highly-competitive marketplace.
Obviously, any service industry depends upon building and establishing relationships with potential clients. How do you make them aware that your services are the ones they should use -- regardless of whether your rates are lower than others, higher than others or simply competitive? Of course, the bottom line is their primary consideration .. so how do you convince them to use your services and/or products, and to change to you from another firm?
We, in Marketing, believe the answer is to initiate and utilize the "plan". YOU know you are credible, well-informed, experienced, responsive, and service-oriented. Now let them know, too. Getting from Point "A" to Point "Z" requires commitment, time, and money.
Marketing -- Business Development -- Advertising -- Sales -- whatever you choose to call it -- creates the avenue for end users to "beat a path to your door."