What if those potential customers aren’t banging down your door in the numbers you’d like?
What are some things you can do quickly and easily to generate additional leads?
Prospecting is crucial to business survival. In order to grow, your business will need to expand its customer base.
To get started, try these nine techniques:
- List the firms that compete with your customers. Each company on that list is a potential new customer;
- Ask for referrals. Offer discounts, freebies or other incentives to customers who bring you new business;
- Build up your mailing list. Mailing lists are a convenient way to identify targeted sales leads for your business. It’s important that you continue expand your mailing list, and update it regularly there’s no gold in a mountain of incorrect information;
- Seek out host-style relationships. Prospect-sharing with related industries or other spheres of influence can provide benefits to both parties. For example, an alliance between a panel beating shop and a car repair shop lets each company recommend customers to the other and creates a more complete service offering. A word of caution: Before you enter into this type of alliance, make sure you can vouch for the other company. Otherwise that company’s mistakes could damage your good reputation!;
- Look outside your niche. Think creatively about other markets that may want your product or service. Visit trade shows in crossover industries for ideas. A good example of a company that expanded its niche business is Amazon.com. It began by selling books online with amazing success, and quickly expanded its horizons to marketing and selling all kinds of products via the Internet;
- Consider modifying your product or service. One way to expand into new markets is to appeal to a broader range of customers. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities that are related to your current business. Case in point: Mercury Interactive invented the testing-tools software industry. These tools let customers check for bugs before computer programs go to market. Not content with its leading market share, the firm made small modifications to its software to check for Y2K problems. Later, Mercury again refined its software to make it applicable to the exploding e-commerce testing market;
- Go global. Don’t ignore potential customers just because they live in a different country. Selling overseas has become much easier in the last several years – particularly with e-commerce. Trade barriers have fallen, while technological advances have simplified cross-border communication. Consider whether your product or service might work well in another country and explore opportunities there.
- Do good deeds and inform prospects of your philanthropy. Community service is always a great way to help your local area, as well as market your business. Environmental groups, for example, will provide your company with referrals if they know you provide environmentally friendly services (your oil-change station recycles used oil) or products (your paper store sells chlorine-free products).
- Position your business creatively. Consider special promotions, different media or other new ways of getting your message out.
What’s the Best Way to Qualify These New Prospects?
When you’re striving to grow your business, it’s easy to get caught up chasing every lead that comes your way. But all potential customers are not created equal; some are more likely than others to turn into sales.
The following five techniques will help you distinguish good potential customers from bad:
1. Define your target market precisely. Break your market down by demographics, geography, industry, company size, budget or other relevant criteria. This will let you focus on the potential customers that closely match your target.
2 Assess need, budget and buying authority. Ask basic qualifying questions that will help you determine whether a potential customers is ready, willing and able to :
- What’s your time frame for this project?
- Who else will be involved in making the decision?
- What’s your budget for this type of product?
- How will you make your decision?
- Are you ready to buy if you find the right product?
- If you determine that our service meets your needs, what will your next step be?
3. Go for “no.”Conventional sales wisdom says that as long as a prospective customer hasn’t said no, then the sale is still alive. But when it comes to rating them, you should push for a decision even if it’s no. Better to learn sooner rather than later that the odds of closing a sale are slim.
4. Evaluate financial or business status. Creditworthy potential customers are preferable to high-risk customers. And stable prospects are better than those in crisis or flux. A company that is merging, downsizing or shifting its core business may be inclined to put off buying decisions.
5. Develop a grading system. Rate potential customers as hot, warm, lukewarm or cold or use a letter grade (A, B, C, D) based on the probability of closing a sale.
Concentrate on hot potential customers, and upgrade or downgrade the others as their circumstances change. Getting information directly from potential customers is still the best way to qualify them. Potential customers will talk to you if you ask the right questions.
But that takes time, and time is money. You’ll want to find ways to question many potential customers at the same time.
Most customers like to be involved in the sales process from the beginning, and answering questions about their needs and preferences makes them feel like they are a part of the process.
Direct mail surveys and quizzes invite responses and garner qualifying information from lots of prospects at one time. Try sending out a questionnaire with a reply incentive to all of your unqualified potential customers.
Are You Offering Enough?
Special offers entice your prospective and current customers to buy from you. But just what is meant by an offer? And how much is too much?
The real purpose of any marketing strategy is to elicit a response. An offer can be simply described as a proposition you make to customers to obtain a response from them. Often this can mean the difference between success and failure of a marketing strategy such as advertising.
Depending on the offer, the number of responses can increase by 25, 50, 100, 300 even 1,000%.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money or effort to achieve these kinds of results. The increase in sales traffic will more than make up for the free items you give away.
Better yet, these new customers are in an excellent position for you to up-sell other items and can be added to your mailing list.
Seven types of offers to put a glimmer in a prospect’s eye:-
The special offer. Offering something extraordinary for free ifpotential customers respond or take a certain action. For example, buy one and get one free.
The free item with purchase offer. Giving something to a customer for making an inquiry, for testing or trying, or for buying your product is one of the most commonly used incentives. An example is the classic bag of coffee beans with the purchase or testing of a new coffee maker.
Host-style relationship free offers. Here you use each other’s products or services as the offer to both your customer groups. For example, free oil change at Company A when you get your car washed at Company B and vice versa.
The early bird incentive offer. An incentive or reward is offered to the customer for getting in early. It can be either a reduction in price or a free item with purchase. For example, the first customers get a cosmetics gift set with the purchase of perfume. This works especially well when the free item is a sample of something else that the customer is likely to want to buy later.
A time limit offer. By creating an offer and placing a legitimate time limit on that offer, you create a sense of urgencyand force a response-either positive or negative – NOW! This doesn’t let readers think, “Hmm, I’ll do that some day.”
Find slow-moving inventory to use for free offers. One way to find an item to give as an offer with purchase and keep your costs down is to look to a supplier or other businesses for slow-moving inventory and buy it from them at low cost.
The referral or bring-a-friend offer. Here you make an offer to your customers based on their referring people to you. Referrals are an invaluable source of inexpensive leads. And when your existing
customers recommend your business to their friends and associates, you’ll build a customer base of more of the type you want to serve.
The items you give away do not have to be extravagant to be effective – everyone likes to receive a gift. But the more value perceived in the offer, the more buzz you’ll generate about your business.
Think All the Fuss about E-Commerce is Just for Techies? A Web Site May Be Your Goldmine!
IntelliQuest Information Group recently released the findings of its e-commerce survey, including consumers’ e-commerce activity, attitudes and plans.
Eighty-one percent of those surveyed intend to shop or buy online in the coming 12 months. Sixty-three percent have shopped online, and 22 percent report buying online in the past 90 days. The survey indicated three to five times more people intend to shop or buy online than are currently shopping.
So don’t count yourself out of the e-commerce explosion.
E-Mail Marketing – Could It Work for You?
If you’re online you’ve probably experienced it-direct mail campaigns via your email inbox! You too can use this technology to reach prospective clients or nurture existing ones.
At a recent Effective Email Marketing conference in the U.S., Geoffrey Ramsey, partner and resident statsmaster for a company called eMarketer suggested that the best opportunity for marketers is email. In fact, he went so far as to say that the results from email marketing where you send an email message to a list of prospects’ email addresses – are an average of 23 times higher than banner ads (online ads you see at the top of a Web site that promote other businesses); with an 11.5% click through rate from email versus a .5% rate with banner ads. (A click through rate is the percentage of people that receive the email and use its links to visit other promotional pages or Web sites.)
Looking at these figures brings back memories of the marketing success many businesses had when Fax machines first arrived. Businesses began mass fax outs of promotional material to reach individuals. Interestingly, that strategy worked for several years as people usually responded to faxes with more urgency than other means of contact. These days email has taken that position.
Most people who are online can’t go without checking their email daily or at least every few days. It has a sense of urgency and importance to it because it is used in so many ways – personal contact, business contact and so on.
Geoff believes there are several reasons for the success of marketing campaigns via email:
1. It’s ubiquitous. It’s now so common, most of your customers will be online or at the very least aware of email.
2. It can drive traffic to your site.
3. It’s the ultimate PR medium to bring news and information onto your prospective customer’s desktop.
4. It gets a response.
5. It’s targetable and customisable – you decide who it goes to, when and why.
6. It’s measurable – you know exactly how many go out versus how many responses you receive. Remember “what you can measure, you can manage.”
7. It can drive sales.
8. It’s very effective for customer service and relationship building.
It’s also a great way to nurture and stay in touch with existing clients. You can email them special reports, news, information, hints and tips-anything that adds value to help build loyalty to your business and keep them thinking of you.
There’s just one word of warning with email marketing: Like any communication with your clients, you don’t want to send emails too often. Base your emails around your customers’ buying patterns. A good rule of thumb is no more than twice monthly.