I’ll bet that when it comes to marketing and sales, you’re handling the big stuff reasonably well: You have a website and maybe a blog; are somewhat active on social media; have a listing in the appropriate directories; network at a couple of conferences each year; and have a decent capabilities presentation.
But so does everyone else!
Where you can really begin to separate your firm from all the others is in how you plan and execute some of the smaller marketing and sales tactics. These are the little things that everyone thinks are easy to do – and they really aren’t that difficult – but they do require some effort to do well.
1. Improve you elevator pitch.
I’ll bet your elevator pitch goes something like this: “Hi. I’m Mike Jones with Jones Research. We’re a full-service shop based in Chicago.” You might even add something like “We specialize in CPG, technology and financial services research.”
Sorry, not very compelling. There have been whole books written on the best way to do this but I’m going to suggest one simple change. At the end of your elevator pitch, add one thing: “And what makes us unique is [insert your big point of differentiation here].” Then dazzle them!
The response you’re looking for is “That’s interesting, tell me more.” By the way, your uniqueness can’t be “We do great work, have great people and really take care of our clients,” because everybody says that.
2. Handwrite thank-you notes.
Old school? Yup! Effective? You bet! Why? Because almost no one does this anymore. Sending handwritten notes after a meeting, presentation, referral or just out of gratitude for a client’s business will help differentiate your firm as much as almost anything else you can do. Yes, it requires a little extra work (at least a little more than sending an e-mail) but things that are worth the effort generally do.
Jack Welch, the long-time CEO of General Electric and modern-day business icon, used to end every day sending out a handful of personalized notes to customers and employees and I’d say he was modestly successful!
3. Enhance your e-mail signature.
Take a guess: In the normal course of business, how many e-mails do you send out to clients and prospective clients every day? If you’re like me, a bunch. And every time you do that, you have the opportunity to impact the recipients’ perception of you and your firm.
First of all, I’m sure your e-mail signature includes your name and title and probably your e-mail address and telephone. But what about links to your Web site, blog, LinkedIn profile, Twitter account and so on? Or what about a marketing message of the month, linking them to a new service, some promotional offer or a download of your latest white paper?
Hint: Whatever you decide, make sure everyone’s e-mail signature in your firm is alike. Consistency is key.
4. Create impressive business cards.
I’m sure you’ve got business cards, but I’m suggesting you ratchet them up a bit. Spend a few extra bucks for good design, good paper and good printing. But don’t stop there. I just went through my Rolodex and at least 80 percent of the cards in it have no message on the back of the card. Why not? The incremental cost is minimal! Take advantage of that little billboard space to display additional information or a promotional offer of some kind.
For example, my business cards are a little over-sized (not a lot – just enough to stand out from the crowd); are printed on extra-think, high-quality paper (so it feels good in your hand); and I use both sides of the cards (see below). Remember, your business card is often the only tangible representation of your firm that a sales prospect will ever see or touch, so make it great!
5. Try A/B e-mail testing.
You work in the research industry … so do a little research. For those unfamiliar with it, A/B testing is the process of analyzing just one element of a marketing campaign across a split audience. It works like this: Let’s say you send out a monthly e-mail to 1,000 people and want to improve your open rate.
- Send an e-mail with Subject Line A to 100 random names on your list. Send out the same e-mail with Subject Line B to 100 different recipients.
- Measure the open rate of each group.
- The e-mail that results in more opens is the winner and the remaining 800 names are sent an e-mail with that subject line.
Assuming the groups were suitably randomized, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the subject line was the only factor that had an impact on open rates. That’s why you only test one variable at a time. More than one and you won’t know which one caused the difference. The winner now becomes the control for future e-mails to compare against.
6. Collect client testimonials.
Do you do good work? Of course you do. But try telling that to a sales prospect. The look you’ll get back will likely be something akin to “Yeah, you and everyone else!” But let your clients say it for you and the response will be very different. When you use testimonials (i.e., letters and quotes), they are taken as gospel because it’s not self-promotional. Not only are those quotes read, but the very fact that you have them is proof that you can deliver on your promises. How do you get them? Simple: Ask! If your work is good, your clients will be happy to help.
7. Test LinkedIn advertising.
What’s the big beef with advertising? Generally, it’s seen as expensive and unmeasureable. While that may be true for some media, it is not for advertising on LinkedIn. Those little text-based ads that you see in the right-hand column are very targeted pay-per-click (PPC) ads. With LinkedIn ads, you can select the geography in which they’re seen, the industry of the people seeing them, their title/job function and even the specific companies (by name) for which they work. You create the ad yourself. You bid on what you’re willing to pay (usually $2 to $5 per click), you determine how long the ad will run and you can cap how much you’re willing to spend (as little as $10 per day). Great control, great exposure, low risk, solid reporting – every reason in the world to give it a try in 2014.
8. Clean up your database.
I can see you now, rolling your eyes at the prospect of having to read through hundreds, if not thousands, of client and prospect records. I get it, it’s no fun. But it is critically important. Clean databases are important for e-mailing and for your sales team (even if it’s just you). They improve efficiency and ensure that the right people get the right message at the right time. Here’s an easy way to do it:
First pass. Clean up any obvious mistakes (e.g., typos, malformed e-mails, improperly-labeled contacts, etc.).
Second pass. Fill in the holes, especially e-mail, type of firm and geography.
Note: You may have to go to a company’s Web site or LinkedIn profile to find some of this data.
Third pass. De-dupe the list.
Now that your list is cleaned-up, two things to remember going forward:
- Keep it clean and updated.
- Take advantage of sorting to send targeted e-mail communications.
Note: I am assuming that you keep track of your clients and prospects in a CRM system of some kind. No? Then make getting one your top priority for 2014.
Stay tuned! Part 2 of this article will be published in next month.
The article was originally written for Quirk’s: http://www.quirks.com/articles/2013/20131227-1.aspx