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I don't like cold calling people either. It stinks. It's time consuming, you have to talk to strangers, and you never know what kind of response you'll get. However, if you want to scratch up some leads pretty fast, it's effective.
For one thing, there are business people out there who prefer to hear a real person's voice on the other end of the phone. For another thing, believe it or not, there are actually people living in the dark ages of the Internet when it comes to their businesses. These people will not know about your products or services if you don't tell them about them.
Now, I'm not saying you should become a telemarketer and go through your phone book calling everyone in your metropolitan area or small town shouting praises about your new venture—but you might want to look into some of the traditional means for scratching up business. This is especially important for those of you who have had Craigslist ads, websites, and blogs up with no bites. Pay attention.
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Direct Copy Mail
Some people call this junk mail, but there are people out there who will open an envelope if it's been professionally addressed and appropriately targeted to the right person. That's the thing about traditional marketing. You don't just throw out a net and pull up everything that gets into it...sharks, dolphins, jelly fish...when you're trying to catch some tuna. No, you do your research.
Sit down, who is your target audience? Are you selling toys? Market to parents and toy shops. Are you selling consulting services? Who is your ideal client? Now, sit down and write a letter to this target customer or client. What are the problems that individual has that you can solve? You might want to hire a professional writer to help you with refining your sales letter.
Research the market in your area. Send your letter to your target market. Start by sending ten letters a day. Wait a week. Call the recipients to follow up. "Hi my name is Janny Jones. I sent you information last week about my new business. Did you receive it? Do you have a moment to talk about how I can help you reach your goals?" Sometimes you'll be hung up on. Sometimes you'll get a "we're not interested right now" response, and sometimes you'll get a bite on your line.
No matter what the response is, aim to send a postcard in a month. have a deal they cannot refuse on that postcard. Now is when you add them on Linkedin or Twitterbook or whatever social networks you belong to. You can send a follow up email. At this point, they've seen your name three times. When they need your service or product, who will they think to call first?
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The Newspaper Ad
Newspaper ads can be expensive—as can any print ad—but the more ways you can get your name and your business name in front of people, the better. Who is Suzie Snowflake going to call when she needs ice for her party? Will it be the person whose website she's never seen or the person who has an ad every week in the Sunday paper? You can bet your bottom she'll pick up and call the name she's most familiar with.
Start with the biggest newspaper circulation you can afford. You should start with a small ad, but not too small. Balance budget with visibility. Consider trading services (or your product) with a graphic designer to get a quality ad design if you need to scale back on your expenses.
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The Trade Article
The trade article might seem like it is a cliché, but it can help establish you as an expert. If you do not write well, consider hiring a writer to create the copy for this article. Provide the writer with what you would like to say and he or she will construct a well-written article. This option is more prestigious for those offering services than it is for those offering products. Be aware that many journals will not allow you to self-promote in their pages. This is okay. If you talk about a topic that is similar to what you do, you can still help get interest in your budding business.
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Leaving a Business Card and Brochure Trail
Anytime you go into a business establishment or meet someone, you should be giving out at least your business card. Do not leave a conversation without giving the person you just spoke with not just one, but two cards. The second card is to pass on. Say Sammy Salesman has been talking to you for the past twenty minutes. You make Super Slurpers—a new kind of awesome straw. Sammy Salesman goes to a business meeting where he learns they are hard pressed to come up with new products to draw kids in for fast food chains. Viola! Sammy Salesman has a business card of yours to pass on to the company CEO.
By that same token, any establishment where others have left brochures or business cards is naked without your information. Remember this. Live by this. When you go into a coffee shop, if they have a spot for business cards or brochures, leave yours. Do so until you are told otherwise. I've had clients find me this way. I've found service-providers this way. It works well.
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Meet the Person as Soon as Possible
People like people. Sure, you can run a business entirely through the Internet, but it will take a while to get that snowball going. If you really want to get the client, set up a meeting with him or her as soon as possible after you generate the lead. Once you meet, face to face, and you charm your prospect, it will be much easier to close the deal or the sale. Get people into your store. The more people you meet and show you deliver outstanding products and services to, the more successful you will be.
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But...I Like Hiding in My Computer Cave!
We all do. But there comes a point where we have to get out of the dark and interact with others. At least, that's what needs to happen if you want your business to really take off. It's not enough to have a great store. If no one knows about it, no one's going to shop at it. It's not enough to be a great designer. If no one's heard of Joey Joffers, no one's going to hire him.
It's fine to use social media and online marketing, just make sure you also use the traditional methods of marketing. Get people's names and email addresses when they come to your website. Send an e-newsletter. But, also send out those postcards. Create a press release to get publicity. Get those customers and clients in face-to-face settings whenever you can. You'll start to see your business come back to life.
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Brennan, M. "6 Online Marketing Mistakes That Will Kill Your Business." Copyblogger.
Carpenter, M. (Feb. 11, 2011) "How Old-Fashioned Marketing Can Supercharge Your Design Business." Web Designer Depot.
Image courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1353144