A great place to market your business-to-business products or services is on the rubber-chicken circuit. Get yourself assigned as a speaker at trade shows, seminars, conventions, and other meetings. The advantage of addressing potential customers from the podium as a certified expert, instead of in their offices as a salesperson, is that you acquire extra credibility with your audience.
It's a tactic used often by Kullman Industries, based in Avenel, N.J. The company erects buildings using modular-construction techniques that president Robert Kullman calls "accelerated construction." These aren't flimsy prefab buildings, says Kullman, and speaking engagements allow him and his executives to educate audiences on how they're different, outside of the selling environment. When the time comes to sell, Kullman has a better-informed and more receptive potential buyer.
Vice-president of sales Chuck Savage keeps an eye out in the trade press for scheduled trade shows, exhibits, conferences, and conventions that will draw potential clients. Then he'll introduce himself in a letter to the head of the association or to the person in charge of the program. He'll offer suggestions for topics he could cover, examples of other talks he's given, and references from organizers of past events.
Savage's dos and don'ts for a speech that will have impact:
* Talk about ideas, not about your company.
* Refer to your industry, not to your company's name.
* Educate, don't sell.
"People will hear your company's name when you're introduced," says Savage, "and afterward they'll want to talk to you. Then you're free to promote the company. Give a good speech, and you'll get your leads afterward."
-- Tom Richman