How to Market Your Business in a Tough Market Using an Old Fashioned Tactic: Things are tough right now. People have cut back on frivolous spending and many businesses are hurting like never before. Large and small companies alike have sliced their advertising and marketing budgets drastically in an effort to stay afloat. But, as a small business, you simply MUST, MUST, MUST stay in front of customers to succeed. Here are tips to help you effectively use a low-cost, grassroots tactic to keep you in front of old customers and to get you in front of new customers in a tough market that won’t cost you a cent.
Ring, ring, ring! Remember that old tried and true telephone? Use it. Cold calling is a good way to touch clients without spending a cent. There are many schools of thought on cold calling, but I can say with certainty that it works in my business.
Honesty, most people DON’T like to cold call. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who enjoys it, but when your back is against the wall and you have to save your business, cold calling as a low cost marketing starting point is a no-brainer.
I used to be a telemarketer for a newspaper in New York City. We had to call people to introduce them to the new newspaper and to see if they had anything they wanted to promote for FREE in the classified section of paper. Even though we were giving away advertising for free (it really was!), it was tough. It was a New York City market, and I can tell you, some New Yorkers can be pretty brutal on the phone in the mornings. But the truth is, once I got through my tenth or eleventh call that first day, it really wasn’t so bad and I turned out to be one of the offices top producers.
Here are my personal rules of thumb in cold calling:
Know WHO you’re calling. Don’t just pick-up the phone book and start calling people, have a plan, know who you want to touch. For example, if your business is web design targeting small businesses without websites, find the Chamber of Commerce’s website for your county. Most of them have a public, online directory. Sift through the directory and contact those businesses who don’t have websites listed, or who have inactive websites. Not only do they need your web design service, but they are the type of business that realizes the value of spending money to grow their business (re: they have paid a membership to join the Chamber).
Know WHAT you want to get from your cold calling effort. For example, are you trying to setup a meeting? Are you touching base with old clients to remind them you’re out there? Are you trying to get someone to commit to buying something from you on that call? Are you following up on materials you’ve sent them? Or, are you trying to get your company name out there?
If you’re new to cold calling altogether, consider sending a brochure or post card to the prospect the week prior. Then, follow-up with them to make sure they received the mailer and see if they have any questions about it. This way, you have a purpose for calling them. If they have not received your mailer, you can verify their mailing address and tell them you will put another mailer in the mail immediately. If they have received it, use it as an opportunity to see if they need a meeting to discuss how your product or services can help their business. If they say no, ask them if you can keep them on your mailing list and see if they’d prefer to receive emails from you instead (this will cut down on your mailing costs). The main thing is you will have established a “dialogue” with a new prospect.
Here’s another tip to get you going with cold calling. If you’re really freaked out about getting on the phone to grow your business, call prospects in the middle of the night when you knooooooow no one will answer. (I suggest using this tactic ONLY when you know you’re calling companies with regular business hours. You don’t want to wake a business owner at 3:00 AM with a cold call!)
Here’s an example: My business is a property preservation type company that works primarily with realtors. If I wanted to use this middle-of-the-night tactic, I’d call the realtor’s main office and simply leave a voicemail message as such: “Hi, this is so-in-so from… (company name). I’m calling to let you know my company is here to service you. We handle everything from… (go into brief list of company’s services/products). You can reach us back at… (company’s phone number) or visit us online at…. (company’s website address). We look forward to hearing from you.”
Hang up, on to the next one. (Middle-of-the night calling is a breeze; but, again, be certain you’re calling companies with regular business hours.)
Another rule of thumb for me is to create a script. You may stray from your script a bit, but it will be kind of like Little Linus’ blanket (remember Charlie Brown’s friend) when you first start out. Have a prepared telephone script as your “security,” backup, and as a firm guideline to keep you on point with what you want to achieve through your cold calling efforts.
Another rule of thumb is to follow-up and follow-through. If you tell the prospect you will send them a new mailer, do it immediately. If you say you will follow-up with them again in a week to make sure they received it, do it. The formation of your business’ image in that prospects mind begins to form the moment they hear your voice.
Don’t forget to start your cold calling efforts with a number goal in mind. How many cold calls do you want to make per day? Do some research in your industry re: statistics to see how many calls you will need to make to be effective in your efforts. Couple your cold calling effort with something else, another form of touching potential clients.
In business, you need to reach prospects a certain number of times to penetrate their minds, win mind share, when it comes to your product or service. So make sure you’re not only cold calling, but staying in touch via email, setting up a low cost mailer program (postcards are great!), submitting press releases to local media about your company’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition — what sets you apart from the masses), putting out fliers and door hangers if appropriate for your business, cladding your car with magnetic car signs, etc.
WARNING: When a prospect asks you to remove them from your call list, do it immediately, and don’t call them again. There are strict DO NOT CALL laws. Visit this link for more info on DO NOT CALL guidelines: ftc.gov/donotcall and the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry.
Remember, if your advertising budget is tight and you don’t know how to get the word out about your business, go back to basics: pick up the telephone and saturate your target area with your business’ name using old fashioned tried and true cold calling.
Good luck with your cold calling efforts!