Here are two questions to put your mind to work:
- Which works best: An inbound call from someone out of the blue, who has heard good things about you and wants you to proceed with a project; or paying a canvasser or outbound seller to attract sales for you?
- Referred leads from satisfied (enthusiastic) clients or a flyer advertising campaign to 10,000 people?
For most readers here, you will probably answer “yes” to the first option in each question, and I admit even people like me — who are professional marketers and understand the basics — feel the same way. We love it when people call us, because of referrals or connections, and enthusiastically request our services, and we hate spending a small (or sometimes) large fortune on paid advertising or sales efforts which fail (and it seems, alas, that most paid advertising just doesn’t work that well, when you first start doing it.)
But there is a deeper issue underlying the story here, and this big difference separates the people who truly succeed and grow in business, and those who just get by.
Of course you should do everything you can to encourage, develop and enhance your client experience and your inbound lead development, especially if you are marketing professional services or even openly bid public works services (because if you think the low bid really wins the job, you are only partially right in some markets, and totally wrong, in others). But you should be sure to systematize and measure these efforts and if you wish to enhance them, allocate a budget and build the work/initiative into your business planning process and annual planning cycle (and yes, these standards of effective business management are necessary. I tried to defy them for several years, ultimately at great expense.)
But if you really want to grow, and you want to gain true control of your business, especially if you ware working with consumers or the retail market, you will need to begin thinking about paid advertising and you will want to develop a formula/technique that allows you to control your leads flow, rather than rely on those wonderful inbound calls. This is not a simple thing to do because you must not just blindly follow the advice of the first person who knocks on your door selling advertising or media services. You need to think and plan your strategy carefully.
Methods to do this:
- Check with your current clients (the ones you enjoy working with the most). Find out what media they watch, what community activities they support, which associations and organizations they respect.
- Seek out independent consulting either peer based through your trade associations, Internet forums like remodelcrazy.com or contractortalk.com, or from generalist or specialist consultants with a good reputation (this is the most expensive option, but could be the best if you wish to speed up the process).
- Validate these observations with conversations with your peers and/or non-competitive businesses similar to yours in other, similar markets.
- Then, put the budget in your plan and make it happen.
(But I admit, with all this lofty thinking, you will still jump through the hoops with joy — and you will find your plans shifting — when you receive the treasured in-bound call from someone who has heard great things about you, or seen your product and simply wants some of it.)
P.S. Thanks to everyone who has voted for their favorite cover for the book. I’ll leave the competition open another two weeks (the cover appearing here is the final of five choices), as we prepare the galleys and index — and share the results with you next week. If you wish to vote, you can cast your ballot here.
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