In a turbulent economy, marketing and sales strategies must be altered. Here' s a sampling of the new approaches companies in a variety of industries are taking to increase sales - or at least hold them steady.
Expand your sales force and marketing teams without hiring additional staff.
Partners and principals traditionally were responsible for generating new business at design firm Corey McPherson Nash in Watertown, MA. The rest of the staff did not participate in sales and marketing efforts. To keep the studio viable these days requires having more people out on the street representing you, says partner Andrea Nadaff. Following September 11, the firm extended the responsibility to include four directors, Nadaff says. Now directors' hours are tracked to determine how much time they' re spending on bringing in new business.
Each director is responsible for maintaining call lists for networking and referrals - and they' re accountable for follow-up. Nadaff explains that you are successful if you get a name of a referral who tells of a potential project. To facilitate the process and help build directors' confidence, the directors role-play during the meetings - playing the parts of prospects and designers, and troubleshooting awkward calls, she adds.
At Leapfrog Solutions, a marketing and communications firm, a sales coach comes to the office each Monday morning, and strategy lunches are held each Friday, says Lisa Martin, Leapfrog' s president. Designers now help generate leads, and all employees are encouraged to do the same.
Leapfrog' s senior designer suggested the company market itself as a woman-owned firm to the " quasi-government" sector in and around the company' s office in Fairfax, VA. The designer had worked for a company that had successfully pursued such a strategy. Prior to September 11, the firm had not considered going down that road, but its proximity to Washington, D.C., gives it good access.
Take one-to-one and value-added approaches to marketing.
At Pinnacle Technology Solution, an IT staffing and services firm in Troy, NY, one-to-one marketing through seminars is taking precedence over mass marketing through billboards, traditional advertising, and direct mail. " This was done to enhance the overall quality of the experience that our candidates and clients receive from Pinnacle," says Greg Moran, Pinnacle' s president. Testing and assessment services, formerly an additional sale, are now included in the executive search process as a value-add, according to Moran.
Enter new markets.
" I had always marketed to New York City graphic design firms, smaller advertising agencies and production firms," says David Drucker, of highresolution printing in New York City. About 18 months ago when business in his industry was at an all-time low, Drucker obtained a low-interest credit line through American Express, part of which was used to increase his marketing and introduce products marketed on plastic and other unconventional printing materials. Instead of mailing to his own list, he bought a list of prospective clients.
He had been reading about the growth over the previous five years of various industries in New York City. " The film industry had grown 46.5% while the printing industry had grown only 2.5%. We also were doing a good volume of business with a well-known jewelry retailer on Fifth Avenue," he says. He added these two industries to his mailing list. The first mailing was produced on a clear plastic postcard and gave a price list and testimonials. The second was produced on a card with a high-gloss plastic lamination. The result? Highresoution is now working with three film studios and four jewelry companies, Drucker says.
While Pinnacle Technology Solution' s 40% growth forecast has not been altered, the steps to achieve this growth have, according to Moran. The sales plan was reworked to shift the focus from regional companies in the northeastern United States to information security companies and local and state governments. " This market was too horizontal for today's economic climate," Moran says. The sales staff is now required to schedule at least 40 meetings a month with state governments and 20 with information security firms throughout the country.
Alter your marketing message.
The current marketing message we' ve been sending out is " our products are cool," says Ken Hey, chairman and CEO of Sunstream Corporation, which designs and distributes boat lifts for recreational lake boats. The company' s remote-controlled Sun Lift is hipper than the competition' s, but in a down economy people are less inclined to make that a caveat for high-end purchases. So the company in Kent, WA has more than doubled its marketing efforts and is repositioning its products.
The new focus is on the security and peace of mind a boat lift can provide, according to Hey. Eighty-five percent of boats that sink sink at the dock, he says. With these lifts, you can protect your boat by keeping it out of the water.
Reach out to existing and prospective clients with a message for the times.
For the first time in its history, the Washington, D.C., food bank was empty recently, according to Leapfrog' s Martin. Corporate donations that had in the past been earmarked for the food bank and other local charities are now being made to September 11 funds. Leapfrog traditionally sends year-end baskets to clients, but this year it's sending Thanksgiving cards to clients and prospects. Clients will receive a notice in the Thanksgiving card that Leapfrog is making a donation -- made up of company and employee contributions -- to local charities in their clients' names.