I often act as an interim Chief Marketing Officer for clients. The single most common challenge that I face upon starting the engagement is a trough in immediate sales.
Of course this makes sense – when revenue is growing and sales are booming, an organization’s focus is on operations and servicing the business. Once things level out or turn downward, the focus shifts to finding new revenue sources.
The awesome part about this is that it generally signals that management and ownership have finally gotten sick of the seemingly uncontrollable feast/famine cycle that plagues many small and medium sized businesses. I am usually brought on board at a time when the idea of implementing a solid marketing operations strategy is well accepted, but immediate, right-now revenue is down.
That means I start thinking about generating sales and finding deals to close almost immediately. Staying focused on getting new business now is the key to helping the organization create a stronger marketing culture and, well… you know… stay in business.
Here are six strategies that are often the very first things we do to generate new business fast.
1.) Look for deadlines and crises in your target market.
This is really just making use of urgency in your communications. We try to use this urgency to spark new business by showing potential clients and customers that we understand the pressures they are under and are ready to help ease that pain.
If you are a printing company, look to retailers who need holiday signage or catalogs. Benefits company? Use quarterly filing deadlines or implementations of new legislation to get in the door. Career colleges can make use of the New Year’s resolution phenomenon or back-to-school.
The goal is to make a shift in the way you speak to potential clients that reflects some immediate, calendar driven need.
2.) Touch base with proposals and customers you didn’t win.
It’s never fun to revisit failure, but it can often be very profitable. Many choices by potential customers, clients, or students are not really driven by a considered decision that your product or service was inferior. In fact, most folks who reject you the first time around feel bad about having turned you down. (Studies show that it’s harder to say “No” than it is to say “Yes” for many people. )
Look at lost business and try to find contacts that are at a potential natural dissatisfaction point with the choice they made and offer to help them out. If your firm lost a website development gig, contact the client six months in and ask how it’s going. Students who said “no” to admission may have taken a year off rather than going somewhere else. Re-engage with them.
3.) Ask for referrals and new business from past and current clients and customers.
Many businesses run referral and loyalty programs. But that is not the same as having your sales staff make a focused and highly personalized appeal to your past and current client base. No matter the vertical, reaching out and simply asking for more will often yield dividends. And be sure to ask point-blank for that new sale or pointer to another good lead. Ask students and alumni to refer friends or family who would be a good fit for the school. In the commercial sector, make sure that past and current clients know the full range of your services and ask them if they have needs you can meet – or if they know anyone who might have those needs.
4.) Schedule a Value Add Consulting Session with Current Clients.
This tactic is not really applicable to much consumer retail (though for high-end purchases it could work – more on that in a minute). The idea is to offer clients a no-pitch session in your area of expertise.
If you are an ad agency, you can offer to have an hour of phone time devoted to planning the production schedule for the entire scope of a client’s print and media needs for a quarter. If you sell optical cable, have a one-on-one with clients to “personally introduce” what is coming down the pipeline for R&D and how it may effect their upgrade cycle.
And now that we’re thinking about it – let’s say you are a realtor. Go back to folks who bought through you between three and five years ago. Offer to chat with them over the phone about what you are seeing as the most recent trends and valuable improvements in your local market. Look for folks who bought at the middle of their neighborhood or the middle of their range of buying power. Luxury car purchasers could be invited to an event about concept cars from the manufacturer – or better yet, film a “video tour” of what’s new and upload it as “exclusive” content for their eyes only.
5.) Offer Favorable Terms to Current Fence Sitters.
Many of the people deciding on which proposal to accept from vendors just need a little nudge to move them in your direction. One option is to alert them to a “new policy” (or an old policy that you neglected to include in your proposal) that allows them to get a discount for upfront payment of some or all of the amount of the contract award.
Alternatively, you can do the time-tested sales pitch of “I need to make my numbers for this quarter. How about I give you 10% off?” While this tactic will generate sales, it is not one that I am a huge fan of in most situations – especially ones where you are hoping for repeat business from the client. Giving discounts once means you have to keep giving them in order to avoid hard feelings. And one thing that no marketer ever ever wants is to brand their company as a place that encourages haggling.
These are just a few of the simpler tactics I use when clients need an immediate boost in sales. They are not a permanent solution to more entrenched marketing problems and they do not take the place of a well thought out plan. But they do work and can often provide a much needed injection of energy and enthusiasm as well as revenue.
What are your most common tactics for getting more revenue fast?