Time-efficient marketing

One of the simplest, cheapest and most time-efficient ways of growing your business is to impress your existing clients to such an extent that they are willing to recommend you to their own contacts.


One of the simplest, cheapest and most time-efficient ways of growing your business is to impress your existing clients to such an extent that they are willing to recommend you to their own contacts.

One of the simplest, cheapest and most time-efficient ways of growing your business is to impress your existing clients to such an extent that they are willing to recommend you to their own contacts.

But while it may be tempting to think that such referrals will start to flow providing you do a good job, Business Link for London‘s Alastair Fraser argues that it is essential to take a more proactive role in the process.

“Often companies don’t go out and do this,” explains Fraser, himself a former engineering consultant. “You have to say to the client or supplier ‘have you been satisfied with my service.’ If the answer is yes then ask ‘would you be willing to refer me.'”

Even once they agree do not rest on your laurels. If they say they are going to recommend you to someone specifically, phone them up a few weeks later and ask if they have had the chance to do that.

“If necessary, hand them a few business cards as this will act as a reminder”, recommends Fraser.

Providing you are fairly well regarded within your sector, another useful marketing strategy is to seek coverage in the trade press. Contact a selection of trade magazines and ask for a copy of their forward features list. It may be that they are planning to write an article you are well placed to offer advice on, and this is a great way of getting your message across to prospective customers.

“Ask your existing clients for permission to use them as case studies,” suggests Fraser, if that is relevant to the article, and try to build up a relationship with those writing for the magazines you are targeting. This makes it far more likely they will turn to you for comment as and when appropriate articles come up.

If you can afford to, employ a PR consultancy to help you. They will already possess many contacts and will offer considerable assistance in writing suitable articles. If you can’t afford PR, try your hand at writing something yourself or contact advice agencies like Business Link, who should be able to give you a few pointers.

To Fraser, networking is also a key issue. “Participate in as many events as possible where there is [an optimum] number of prospective customers in one place” he suggests. “Try contacting your local Chamber of Commerce, Business Link or trade body” as they may organise such events from time to time.

But don’t just be satisfied in turning up and speaking to people. Fraser believes that if you’re good at what you do, you could write a paper and see if you can present it at an event. Perhaps discuss successful case studies – again with your client’s permission – as this will give those attending a chance to find out what you are really about.

And remember, advises Fraser, “always make sure you sell the benefits of what you do, not specifically your methods, when talking to potential clients.”

Finally, make sure your fee structure is appropriate. It is essential that you charge enough for your services to enable you to set aside at least one day a week to concentrate on tasks such as marketing.

One way of guaranteeing you do this is to be as selective as possible with the jobs you accept. Compromising the quality of your work purely for revenue is not the way to build a sustainable business.

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(28/8/2003)

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