Whenever possible, business owners should be encouraged to tap into their existing resources, both as a way to generate new leads and to start key business conversations. This is a topic that we've also discussed in great detail in our recently published eBook titled "Advertising in Uncertain Times.”
Overall, most businesses have underutilized resources that already exist - particularly when it comes to advertising - that can help generate leads and navigate relationships during uncertain times. While it's important for businesses to look for new and cutting-edge tools and strategies, it's equally as important to make sure you are maximizing what you already have. In our conversations with business owners, we find that many have valuable resources at their fingertips, but are just not using them as effectively as they could. Here are four basic examples:
Success in terms of business is all about relationships - this is true regardless of the type of organization you're running. Because of that, it's important to acknowledge that your existing contacts and customers already have a relationship started with your organization. Tapping into them is the fastest way to expand sales.
Begin by first collecting contact information from everyone you can. Then, be sure that you're working on an effective system for staying in touch on a regular basis. Make sure they're aware of the products and services you have available because you never know what they might be interested in.
Another existing resource that a lot of small business owners, in particular, tend to underutilize is social media. Yes, it takes a significant investment in time and effort to maintain those profiles on sites like Facebook and Twitter and to garner new followers. But it's an investment that will more than pay off in the long run.
At a bare minimum, organizations should be regularly engaging with their followers on these various platforms. This is one of the most effective ways to build a strong brand and establish yours as a trusted voice to be recognized.
Of course, this will take planning to achieve which is why, if possible, many choose to have a dedicated social media manager in this role. Factors like regular posting with helpful, high-quality content, the sharing of photos of happy staff and customers, brief video content, links to other resources and more will help your business come across not only as helpful but engaging as well.
Again - don't underestimate what a big impact hiring a professional to help can make. Social media strategies are every bit as much an art as they are a science. You need to know what to post, where to post it and how to take advantage of things like paid ads and retargeting. All of this makes your customers far more likely to engage on a regular basis.
Another area that has sadly become something of a lost art in recent years is the concept of the follow-up.
Every day you're likely to meet new people, be it via phone, email, or even text. It's crucial that you do not allow these to become simple one-off interactions. It costs very little to follow up with people and the more you do, the more likely you are to let these meetings blossom into long-term relationships.
Think for a moment about how much it's possible to gain after an introduction. Making yourself available to answer questions, address concerns, offer helpful advice, or just say "thank you" are wonderful opportunities to separate yourself from your competitors. You would be surprised by how few people seem willing to take this step.
So again, make a list of the people you're meeting, and don't be afraid to make that phone call. It takes very little effort to send an email just to continue the conversation and check in on someone. It's also a great way to circle back around after a sale to see if there are any other products or services that someone may want to buy, too.
Finally, we arrive at the concept of networking - one of the major themes that tie all of these tips and recommendations together.
If you want to meet new people, make industry connections and generate new leads, sometimes you have to get out of your building and go to where the people actually are. Examples of this include attending industry trade shows and similar events that will be filled with like-minded individuals. You could also join community organizations or volunteer to help a local charity in the name of your business. In all likelihood, you'll want to explore all of these possibilities.
Make cold calls when you have the time to do so in your schedule. Introduce yourself. Look someone in the eyes and shakes their hands. Ask for referrals. Get them to tell you more about what they do. Most importantly, be sure to tell your story (and the story of your business) in the most compelling way that you can.
Even if someone can't necessarily help you today or even six months from now, you never know when that is going to change. But don't forget that this is a two-way street. It's not enough to make a connection under the assumption that someone will be able to help you. You also want to find out how you can help others, too.
Yes, it's absolutely true that the business world is changing and new resources are being developed all the time. A version of this article written 15 years ago likely wouldn't place such a large emphasis on social media, for example. But make no mistake: you do have existing resources that are available to you that are just as effective as they ever were. It would be a shame not to take advantage of them.