Starting in first grade at recess and continuing at the workplace water cooler, we have always yearned to know the inside story.
Maslow should have included getting the scoop in his hierarchy of human needs. Addressing this need when marketing to a prospect works just as well.
If you sell a product or service to another business, you know it is critical to establish and maintain a meaningful dialogue with prospects. Examples are everywhere and can be seen at most good Web sites, as well as in more traditional media.
An example from the Internet is as follows. Once a prospect or other interested party has been successfully urged to visit a Web site, that person is often asked to register an e-mail address to receive ongoing information of value. The new e-term for this is permission marketing. A good business-to-business example of this can be found at www.connectspace.com. To receive business leads, a visitor must divulge his or her identity and register so that a connection can be made between a potential buyer and a seller.
Long before there was an Internet, this was known as exchanging information of value. One example is the telemarketer who calls to offer a free informational seminar or white paper in return for an executives commitment of time and interest.
Regardless of the buzzword or what medium is used to disseminate information of value, the process is the same. Establish a dialogue with your audience, offer value, deliver what you promised, and hopefully, you will build better relationships. The right medium will help you break through the clutter caused by information overload.
My e-mail newsletter, Re-Focus to Grow, is an example. Starting in the spring of 1999, I felt a need to keep in touch with my network of more than 1,000 business friends in and around Cleveland. While advertising or spamming them would be unacceptable, sharing my stories and observations was appropriate, so I began to assemble stories, articles and news about my business.
Next, I needed to implement the newsletter on a shoestring budget. Here is how I did it.
- A review of my Rolodex revealed that 50 percent of the business cards included an e-mail address. Calls by my assistant yielded e-mail addresses from another 35 percent. Only one individual declined to provide an e-mail address. This was flattering and confirmed the value of first establishing personal relationships, then maintaining them with technology.
- Next, I had to produce the newsletter. Writing it started out taking two days, but both the time it took and quality of the end product have improved. I am currently re-engineering the format for the third time to keep it short, punchy and to the point.
- The effort of sending this newsletter is divided among maintaining e-mail addresses, writing/editing issues and producing the mailing using Microsoft Word and Outlook. I have also sent it out as a live Web page. If a reader keeps a live connection to the Internet, he or she can click on an icon. Thanks to Joe Palko (JPalko@fancemail.com, www.fcsmail.com) for introducing me to this application.
Feedback has been positive and the value to my business has been high (including leads for consulting, speaking, writing, training and testifying). Most important, I have been able to keep in touch and hear from my business network, which is vital to a one-person consulting business.
Perhaps making an offer to exchange information of value would help your firm find, keep and grow more customers as well.
Andy Birol is president of PACER Associates, which provides expert advice to owners who need to grow their businesses offline and online. Birol can be reached at (440) 349-1970 or at www.pacerassociates.com.