Are you a consultant or business owner looking for the best way to build your practice? You need to create a programme that combines sales and marketing to get the bottom-line results you need. Business consultants thrive in all fields. Whether you’re a computer, wedding, nursing or agricultural consultant, it takes a lot more than a business card and an accompanying brochure or website to move your prospects through the sales cycle. Here are three steps to grow your practice:
1. Create sales support tools. Interpersonal relationships are at the heart of a successful company, and sales tactics and techniques play as strong a role in building your business practice as marketing. It’s essential to create a unified group of collateral materials that support the sales process and establish your company’s image and marketing themes.Think through your typical contact sequence and list the types of tools necessary to support your efforts. For example, a first meeting with a prospect may require a business card, a company brochure or an information package. For your second meeting, you may need a presentation and a summary to leave behind. If you don’t already have all the collateral materials you need, fill in the gaps. Make sure your tools have a unified design theme, colours and copy points. This will ensure your marketing materials reinforce your image and core message every step of the way.
2. Commit to an annual campaign. Many consultants fall short when it comes to establishing a well-rounded marketing programme, leaving the entire weight of the company’s success resting squarely on their sales abilities. Well-targeted and planned marketing efforts can reduce the need forconstant sales activity by producing leads and moving prospects further along in the sales cycle.
You have cold, warm and hot prospects at any time. Cold prospects are best reached through search media, including print directories and online paid search. Print advertising in targeted publications will reach both cold and warm prospects.
Other tools for motivating warm prospects include direct mail (particularly mail to business-to-business prospects) and e-mail to permission-based, in-house lists that send click-throughs to a professional website. When it comes to hot prospects, one-on-one interaction is usually required to close sales.
3. Ask for business. If referrals play an important role in building your practice, you need a total marketing campaign targeting influencers or influentials. For business-to-business marketers, influencers are professionals who work with your best prospects and recommend consultants in your field. (Tax preparers often recommend financial consultants, for example.) If you’re targeting influencers for referral business, first identify them through networking or gathering basic intelligence, and set up one-on-one meetings to learn about their needs. Then it’s essential to build relationships over time using a combination of phonecalls, e-mail, direct-mail newsletters or postcards, meetings and more. For consumer marketers, influentials may be your prospects’ friends, neighbours or family members since these people are most likely to generate word of mouth. Advertising, PR and direct-mail campaigns can be effective ways to reach and motivate influentials. So can making referral requests. For example, an energy consultant who has just completed a successful evaluation of a client’s home could leave behind a satisfaction survey asking for referrals. To build your practice, design an integrated sales and marketing programme, including sales support materials via marketing campaigns. Reach out to your best prospects, and watch your business take a successful leap forward.