If your philosophy as an entrepreneur is, “If I build it, the customers will come”, you shouldn’t be in business.
Gaining new leads is the single most difficult challenge for any business, particularly if it is a new one or trying to establish itself in the market. But while marketing might sound incredibly daunting, it is something that every business owner has to face in order to survive and thrive. New leads mean new business – it’s that simple.
The last few years have been tough all round for many businesses in all sectors, but the good news is that 2013 is looking positive. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, SMEs were “cautiously optimistic” for this year.
That means, if you haven’t thought of it before – now is the time to begin growing your business through marketing. The first thing to do is not panic. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the concept of marketing, but breaking down each component into bite-size chunks can make all the difference.
Here are just some of the things you should be doing now:
1 Be proactive
Businesses aren’t waiting to contact you about your service or product – they don’t have a crystal ball, either, so get yourself out there. Whether this means networking at breakfast meetings, attending relevant conferences or joining in local business groups, you have to get yourself known in your relevant sector or the area you are targeting.
You may find it useful to join a professional membership body or group as these can help with industry insight, legal advice and so on. However, start-up experts Enterprise Nation found recently in a survey among its members that they aren’t so popular with micro businesses and SMEs.
Be proactive also means using any leads that you get – be persistent in following them up and do it in a timely manner. If you learn that a business needs a solution to a problem now that you can resolve, don’t sit on the information for a week or a month – contact them now.
Every day that a lead goes by without you following it up, you are losing business and credibility.
Regardless of whether or not you have a corporate logo, you and any employees you have form part of your corporate brand. If you are representing your company on business, you are the brand – that means being professional, courteous and polite. If the chemistry is right, trust will follow (see the next tip about making it personal). Of course, the corporate brand is central to who you are. Read what Richard Branson, surely one of the UK’s best-known entrepreneurs, thinks of branding here.
3 Make it personal
Companies don’t make decisions about contracts – people do, so it is crucial that your lead-chasing is done professionally. Don’t go into email marketing like a bull in a china shop – that will only serve to annoy them (and it is important to be remembered for the right reason). Give yourself time to build up a relationship with the key people in your target companies, and ask for feedback on your product and service. Show that you value your clients’ or prospective customers’ opinions. If something is wrong, show the customer how you plan to fix it; if the feedback is good, use this to increase your reputation.