Minority Contractor on Marketing to Customers – by Chia-Li Chien

In my first business, I was a federal minority subcontractor providing software development servicing to the energy industry. Even with only one client and one type of revenue source, I still didn’t put forth any sales and marketing efforts.

So when I started my management consulting business in 2004, I had to learn how to market my business to small and mid-sized companies. Today, as I try to grow my business, my needs for marketing and sales have evolved again. I need more sophisticated processes. So I hired an event specialist to follow-up with networking and special promotion e-mail campaigns after my speaking engagements. In so doing, I discovered that my company has multiple prospect lists: There’s one in my e-mail marketing online system, one in my e-mail systems, one in my centralized online systems (mostly spreadsheets) and one in my accounting system. I must consolidate these valuable lists so I can do more business. In other words, I have to conquer the chaos.

For advice on how to do that, I turned to Clate Mask, also an interviewee in the Business Value Drivers (BVD) study. Co-founder and CEO of Infusionsoft, Mask is a small-business growth expert who has worked with thousands of entrepreneurs and co-authored The New York Times bestseller, Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy.

I wish I could clone myself’ is probably the phrase most often uttered by overworked, overstressed and underpaid small-business owners, Mask says. Mask discussed some mistakes he says that prevent small businesses from growing.

*Lack of consistent new leads follow-up. Studies show that 80% of people buy between sales contact # 5 and # 12. Yet most people stop following up after attempt # 3, Mask says. Can you imagine how much it may cost your company if you do not continue following up after only three attempts?

*Limited post-sales follow-up. How many times have you purchased something, never to hear from the company again? Mask asks. Entrepreneurs don’t pay attention to repeat customers, yet it is less expensive to retain repeat customers than acquire new customers. Have you sold everything you can possibly sell to your customers?

*No time for nurturing relationships. We all know that people buy when the time is right for them, not when you’re anxious to sell, Mask says. Take time to close deals. People buy from those whom they know; use your time effectively to build that relationship.

*Not getting paid on a timely basis. I always tell clients not to finance their clients’ purchases. Yet many businesses let their accounts receivable sit there until there is a cash-flow problem. Automatic billing is a great way to keep track. Then get on the telephone if a client or customer hasn’t paid. Don’t be their bank.

*Inconsistent marketing and sales process. The worst thing that could happen in your company is to have each sales and marketing employee say different or conflicting things when working with clients or prospects. You don’t have to use a script, but consistency will help your team close more deals.

To grow your business, here are three things Mask recommends you consider implementing:

*Consistently spend the right amount of money and time in marketing. Many entrepreneurs have an on-off relationship with marketing; you must have a consistent method for generating leads. Dedicate a set amount of time to marketing and market consistently.

*Stop trying to do everything yourself. Entrepreneurs are proud control freaks. Most don’t trust other people to do things the right way. Build an organization or surround yourself with people who can do what you’re not good at doing or don’t want to do. Hold them accountable to drive results. Your way may not always be the best way.

*Have a systematic follow-up process on a weekly basis. Acquisition of new clients is expensive. It’s more expensive if you don’t follow up with your leads. Consistently reaching out to new and existing clients is crucial. Communicate effectively and stay in front of clients and prospect with value-added messages. This also shows your work ethic and business integrity. Although I have paper processes in my company, I’m guilty (as are many businesses out there) of not having a central location for sales and marketing processes. I am now in the process of consolidating my five lists into Infusionsoft. It does take time to consolidate lists and the marketing and sales processes along with accounting systems integration. The hard work will pay off soon, though. I’m already seeing a steady sales increase, all because I have an improved system.

 

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