Marketing 101: Eight keys to successful new-business prospecting

In a complex, connected world where your small-business competitors are proliferating with the speed of the Internet, you can’t afford not to pay better and closer attention to your customer base.

And you can’t spend so much time and effort on getting much-needed new business in new niches and new markets, that you allow the loyal customers you already have to languish — and possibly drift away — for lack of your apt attention.

Because time is money, and money fuels your business, here are eight, quick reminders about how best to get more business for your small company … and how you can hang on to the business you’ve got:

1. Keep in mind that the competition is super-tough and getting tougher.

Researchers say there are at least 60 competitors for each sale made every day in any given business situation. Do you know who’s got their eyes on your customers? Know your competition, and keep updating that knowledge base regularly.

2. Targeting is a good way to fight the competition.

Know what makes your company and your products (or services) stand out from the crowd, and zero in on those sales points. In a nutshell, that’s the secret of brand marketing. Find the niche message that appeals to your customers, and sell that “brand business” to your prospects.

3. Avoid the Silicon Valley syndrome.

Don’t fall for the media-hyped myth that technology is the answer to all your problems. There’s four times as much business in applications of existing technology to traditional products and services, than there is to applications of hyper-new technologies. You don’t have to be first on the block to try something new.

4. Emphasize the small and entrepreneurial.

Bigger isn’t usually better. Most new business in this country is generated by small, new companies, so let them know you appreciate their business, however small it may be initially, and that you share their entrepreneurship values.

5. Retention is as important as attraction.

Don’t take your current customers for granted, even during an all-out new-business push. Make an extra effort to serve them better by exploring new ways your company can serve them and meet their needs. They’ll appreciate the effort.

6. Advertise, but don’t over-advertise.

Analysts estimate that tens of millions of dollars in business-to-business advertising and promotion is wasted every year. That’s because many companies don’t do their homework and so the advertising misses its mark. Others advertise before they’re ready, and then can’t produce or deliver what they’ve promised.

7. Develop an effective system of follow-up.

Attracting a new customer is only part of the job. Keeping it in your “sold” column, and keeping the customer serviced, requires your strong commitment.

8. Persevere.

More than 80 percent of new businesses falter in the first two years because they run out of money or give up in exhaustion. If you’re realistic about what you do, what you can achieve and how long it will take to reach your goals, you can make your business work for you, even in lean times.

By staying on top of trends in your business, keeping an eye on the competition and doing your absolute best to provide top-notch services and products to your current and potential new customers, you’ll not be just one more competitor — you’ll be a successful competitor!

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