Your Competitors are not Your Enemies!

Remember that you have much in common with your competitors: similar customer pool, similar staff pool, similar industry memories!  Consider partnering arrangements in order to consolidate experience as well as resources, and pursue work that otherwise might be outside of your ambit.

Nothing Like WOM!

Word of Mouth is the most powerful form of marketing.  Ask your existing clients, and your suppliers too, for names of people they know who could benefit from your services or your product. Much business is still done through personal introductions and a recommendation from a client you have served well has far more impact any advertisement.

Use the Press !

It’s free and there’s nothing as powerful as a mention by 3rd party.

Your news will be of interest to someone out there – let them know by sending regular press releases to publications and websites read by those who need to know what your company is doing.

It could be that you have opened a new branch; that a recently recruited staff member has skills in a new area; or that you have introduced a new product or service.  Is your company hosting, or speaking at, a forthcoming seminar?  Has the person or organisation that you sponsor got news to tell?  Is your company celebrating its birthday? Maybe you have won a new contract recently.

Apart from the publicity a job advertisement achieves for your company the creation of new jobs is regularly reported in the media.

And of course an increase in profits, sales or share value is always a story worth telling.

If you can’t think of anything that you think is newsworthy, perhaps there is something happening in your industry that you could comment on?  Papers regularly quote industry sources when reporting industry news.

Most large companies are well aware of the value of the press but many smaller companies under-rate the interest there could be in their success, nationally or locally, in the papers, journals or on the web.

So get the thinking cap on and see what free publicity you can achieve for your company.

Eyes Wide Open!

Consider sales training for all your team – not just your salespeople.  Is everyone in your company aware of the full extent of your products and services?  Do they know all the various applications for each product/service?

How effective are your salespeople at selling add-on services and additional products/services from other areas of the company?  Even a small increase in the value of each sale goes some way towards making up for decreases in volume.

Turn all your staff into salespeople by making sure that everyone becomes skilled at spotting business opportunities.

In a company I worked with previously, we ran a reward scheme for tips received from staff members.  At each monthly staff meeting prizes ranging from scratch-cards to dinners-for-two were handed out for viable tips sent to the Marketing Department.  We also ran a league and awarded points for each viable tip presented that led to a proposal being made; where we gained a new client, the points and prizes awarded were appropriately higher.  At the end of the year the person with the greatest number of points won a holiday.

The benefits of everyone in the company being a salesperson will have positive repercussions setting you up for extraordinary success when the market picks up again.

Are we really “Rip-Off Ireland”?

An upset client told me recently that two of his longest-standing customers had “shopped around” and left him for a cheaper supplier.

With the press awash with stories of “rip-off Ireland” few people are spending without checking out the competition.  So how do you convince your customers to stay with you when you know your product or service is not the cheapest available?

First ask yourself and your staff how you arrived at your price point. By identifying your input costs, your business processes and your method of pricing, you will discover areas where changes could be made and savings achieved.  Then pass the savings on to your customers.

But what if your company prides itself on delivering a high-class service or product?  Then make sure to communicate these values to your customers.  Tell them you appreciate their business and remind them of the added-value service your company provides.

Price sensitive customers exist in all areas of business, in all economic climates.  If you compete solely on price, you will end up in that “race to the bottom”.  Don’t grieve departing price-sensitive customers too long – instead focus your Business Development activities on replacing them with customers who value a high-class service.  And make sure to deliver a high-class service!

Reach Out !

In these tough times everyone wants to know “how can I get more business without spending much money, and preferably spending nothing at all”.  Unfortunately there is no easy answer to this; in general, the old rule applies “you have to speculate to accumulate”.

If we decide to cut back on the highly visible costs of advertising and sponsorship, we will still need to deploy staff time in taking extra special care of our valued existing clients, without even considering the time needed for chasing new business opportunities.  Staff time, although less visible, is expensive.  Do the costings if you dare!

Consider new distribution channels for your products.  Could your suppliers and/or clients sell your products/services to their client base? Could you sell your products/services over the internet?  Could your product/service be bundled with another product/service to create a greater value offering?  Could you sell your product/service further up or down the supply-chain? Would your existing clients recommend you to their contacts? Have you ever asked them for names of people who might appreciate your product/services? Consider those companies you have links with who could have databases of contacts that would be very useful to you. Could you advertise in their communications to this database?

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