Three (New?) Ways To Pursue Your Customers.
Three (New?) Ways To Pursue Your Customers.
That Your Competitors Probably Are Not.
Someone asked me to address a group of CEOs and owners on sales and growth in early January. Not a big deal, usually, as I’ve done this so many times before. Show up with a canned talk, adjust the slides a little, and give everyone a little something to work on within their businesses.
And then I began digging into what these businesses were. A law firm.
A bank. Architects. A manufacturing company. Retirement communities. Property management. Treatment facilities. Not exactly the standard business with a sales team.
But all wanting to grow and think about sales.
The standard sales team material wouldn’t really help them. So I’d have to dig a little deeper. After 2 hours of not going back to sleep early this morning, I figured I should spend the energy on this issue.
Below are my thoughts for any business going after a market.
Many organizations seeking to grow typically opt for one of two playbooks: what’s comfortable for them, despite the consequences, or what everyone else in the industry does.
In the first instance, doing what’s comfortable costs the business heavily in terms of opportunity. For many people, this is networking at the same Chamber function, with the same BNI group, or calling on the same channel partners. It’s not wrong. It just denies the company an opportunity to create new business. I remember seeing a business go under because the owner wouldn’t try something new during the downturn of ‘08-09.
In the second, management says, “We’re good at X,” which is usually the operating of the business in question, and they default to standard biz dev practices.
For many organizations, it’s building a sales team, despite the cost financially and from the owner’s time.
For some, especially services, there’s a heavy emphasis on in-person networking.
For others, there’s a lot of investment in advertising – billboard, print, etc…
The challenge with this is that some companies aren’t good at doing what others do, and can’t invest like others can to become good at it. In some cases, the management team isn’t built so as to pursue the same route as other firms.
How else to go after the business we want?
The following are three thoughts – though not explicit prescriptions – for owners and managers seeking growth contrary to the status quo or what everyone else is doing.
How does your market want to buy? Who are they?
We often make assumptions about the best way to reach our customers. This is a combination of having built an operation one way, with one customer acquisition model, and not considering how the buyer we’re chasing thinks and buys.
Let me give a real-world example. At Beneplace, we had a history of calling directly on HR leaders to find opportunities. We had enough success to grow it that way to 16.9 mm per year top line, and because the margins were so rich, and people made so much, there wasn’t much thought to grow more aggressively, despite the industry need to do so. That’s another story.
We began introducing more sophistication into the calling efforts and saw a lot of lift. But we realized there was a level of resistance we weren’t getting past, and a lot of the market we were passing on because they weren’t ready to buy “now.” We knew they may be ready in 6, 12, 18, or 24 months. But we weren’t capturing them into a relationship because, well, we didn’t have a way to interact if they weren’t buying now.
There were two other data points we worked with. Our buyers were very conservative, needed to avoid the perception of risk, and didn’t want to go out on a limb. They also LOVED to consume content.
So we invested in an ongoing webinar series. We did research on topics that related to what we did but were really relevant to them. We compiled our research into scorecards, checklists, and workbooks. And gave them away to webinar attendees. The webinar wasn’t a sales pitch, but was heavily content-based. We did, however, ask them if they wanted to meet with us at the end to learn more about what we were doing.
The result? We booked 4-5 meetings per webinar, and we usually ran 2 per month. It became a consistent producer of lead flow and eventually, business.
This was a lower cost of acquisition than building and managing the outbound team. If this program is handled deftly, over time it will compound lead flow while driving down the cost of acquisition. 3 years after we built a lot of those assets, they still produce downloads and leads each week.
Given who your customer is, and how they behave, what can you do differently to reach them and engage them?
Go direct? Partner with a channel? Host dinners they’re invited to? Start a membership entry point? Create an educational course?
Where are holes in your current operation that offer a great potential lift for very little effort?
Last night, I attended a networking dinner. A longtime friend’s wife was asking me about my business. I shared with her a little about the world of consulting, training, and coaching. But I knew she was in the salon business.
“I love your business,” I said.
“Yes. The unit economics, the ability to scale, the way you can get leverage with the right labor, and create a great customer experience. The ability to adjust pricing. All of it. Love it,” I told her.
“Hmmm. I hadn’t thought of that.”
The conversation then turned to sales, since it’s where I’ve developed a reputation, and she had questions about growing sales. “Well, your business isn’t about the hand-to-hand sales, but about marketing. You collect emails, right?”
“Yes,” she said.
“And do you email your list?”
“No,” she said.
For this woman, the hard work of building a list of customers had been done. Yes, she can assess recency and frequency of purchases, and that would help her segment. But more importantly, she needed to communicate with them regularly. Especially because she KNEW when she’d be slow.
And she had a pretty surefire way to offset slow seasons by simply putting a basic email strategy.
What is in front of you that you’re not taking advantage of?
- Are you not emailing?
- Are you emailing and not calling?
- Are you leveraging social opportunities?
- Are you not seeking referrals?
- Are you not grading your referral sources?
- Are you working on a referral or partner channel?
Very often, there are green shoots somewhere, but they need tending.
Other times, there’s simply great soil with plenty of sunlight we simply need to drop seeds into.
How are you naturally built? Work with that.
All of us are in sales and/or marketing. We may not want to admit it, but if we’re in commerce or non-profit or politics, we’re in sales and marketing.
You may work in credit, or finance, or accounting, or consulting, or product, or project management. You may own the company. Or be the president with a small equity stake. But you’re in sales and marketing. Don’t be fooled by departmental divisions.
At some point, you’ll think, “I need to be pushing this business forward somehow.”
Here’s what 15 years or so of consulting has taught me if nothing else: people will only do things they really don’t want to do if there’s some burning desire or desperate need to do it. It’s the problem with prospecting for most businesses: once the principal beneficiaries of prospecting have reached a comfort zone financially, they back off the hard work.
But prospecting and marketing never stop because no one other than the IRS has a permanent customer.
So we have to determine what we like doing. Or can make ourselves do it. And somehow build that into our awareness efforts.
Matt Risinger of Risinger Build liked making YouTube videos about home remodeling. Guy got really good at it. It turned into its own revenue stream while creating awareness.
Some people are amazing at finding and nurturing connections. If they are, it needs to be baked into their work week, assuming the connections eventually bear fruit.
Some people just get social media, or at least one of its derivatives. They enjoy it, see it as a game, and like working to make it more effective.
Others write. Some speak. Some call strangers. Others host dinners or write ads, or dig into Facebook or Google ads.
The promotion needs to happen. Somehow, somewhere. And frankly, we all need to add to our skill set in being stewards of our business.
This is different from your comfort zone. This is about creatively engaging your natural interests and repurposing them for promotional ends.
Pick one you can enjoy enough to commit to learning. For me, it’s writing. It’s something I enjoy enough to do consistently so that it bears fruit while compounding. (Content can last and create a tail.)
Writing also has the added benefit of helping us think more clearly.
I’ll do the work. It interests me. It expands my skill set. And I’ve got the natural curiosity for this thing to keep leaning into it, working at it, refining it. I can’t say that for other efforts.
What do you enjoy doing that could get you in front of your target audience? What do you want to learn to do?
Note: Find one thing in the world of marketing you have enough curiosity about to start with. It won’t take long till you’re dangerous enough to be effective.
Love to hear your thoughts on any of the above. It would also be great to hear additional insights you’ve gained in reaching your audience outside your competitors’ playbooks and what’s in your comfort zone.
Email me at Adam@thenorthwoodgrp.com