In the spring of 1997, I left corporate employment and started a traditional one-person consulting business. Motivated as much by fear as by purpose, I created a service around a specific process tailored to help business owners focus on their best ways to find, keep and grow more customers.
I invested in basic promotional and technological tools and networked to find clients. Fortunately, I was successful and my business grew.
But last March, business slowed because my sales funnel was too empty after two major client relationships ended. Embarrassingly, I had forgotten to keep practicing what I preach. Even worse, I saw that my previous efforts were antiquated, random and disorganized. It left me two choices: stop growing or rebuild.
Over the last four installments, Ive outlined a process for helping a company focus on its best ways to find, keep and grow more customers.
Much had changed since 1997. Im now part of a new industry I call Entrepreneurs eXchanging and Providing Expertise through Relationships and Technology, or the EXPERT Industry for short. As a result of corporate downsizing, the Internet, easy-to-use personal technology, business owners needs for more specialized knowledge workers and everyone craving more independence, control and quality relationships, a new form of business has emerged. More than just corporate refugees, we knowledge workers have a unique network and work style
In Northeast Ohio alone, there are hundreds of individuals who are in the EXPERT business. Business owners are also part of the EXPERT Industry, as they seek scarce human resources, which ultimately may change their approach to business.
With that in mind, I set out to refocus my firm, much as I do for my clients. Twenty years in corporate America taught me that conventional sales, marketing and customer service efforts often fail to really find, keep and grow more customers.
Many execs are frustrated with the results of their investments and seek unconventional assistance. I was no different, and once I realized it, I was able to take the necessary steps to change my business approach.
First, I defined my best and most profitable use what is it that I was good at. The answer required a bit of self-reflection, but it was right there in front of me: the ability to synthesize and refine complex problems and then help force the implementation of simple solutions.
Thats useful for any business, because its imperative to break down problems in order to develop ways to expand a customer base. Furthermore, the EXPERT Industry requires a unique set of skills, such as a high preference for independence and facts over administration, bureaucracy and politics.
Next, I defined my target market: businesses that sell their expertise or market a customized product to other businesses. I recognized that the service those people needed was development of a clear focus and process to grow their companys top line.
Then, I distilled the crucial intersection of the three PACER circles into one concise statement that described what my business did: PACER Associates works with companies who need to focus on their best ways to find, keep and grow more customers. We work with businesses that sell their expertise or market a customized service to other businesses.
Finally, I set out to reconstruct my sales funnel.
Regardless of the funnel stage, all my efforts were centered on building awareness and relationships, using technology wherever possible. This is something I remained true to, in spite of having too few prospects in the funnel.
I defined my suspects as any business that sells expertise or markets a customized product to other businesses. I marketed through articles, speeches, seminars and my Web site, targeting presidents or business owners who were familiar with me through someone they trust and, independently, read about or saw my work. I also produced a free e-mail newsletter for more than 600 subscribers, and set out to develop referrals through clients and others in the EXPERT Industry.
Interestingly enough, the best sources of referrals turned out to be those EXPERTs who went through the PACER Process. This led to another development the PACER Referral Network where business owners can register their businesses online. This exposes people to the PACER process while they exchange free referrals with other EXPERTS.
The net result is that I reinvented my business and put safeguards into place to ensure Id continue to practice what I preach to clients. The experience taught me that regardless of the size of your company, using the PACER Process was an intensely investigative and personal experience that results in a deeper understanding of ones business, marketplace and customers.
And, I found that doing so in light of the emerging EXPERT Industry would certainly help almost any provider or buyer of business products and services. Having a carefully focused message and a stable process for finding, keeping and growing more customers is the reward for the effort.