One thing I have learned over the years in business is that in order to grow you have to keep up with the changing world of marketing. When I started my business 16 years ago, there were no smart phones, websites were electronic business cards and Facebook was a place to play Farmville - business was primarily conducted by phone. Today we employ inbound marketing techniques that drive people to our site and an algorithm-based software to track and sort leads. So out with the old and in with the new? Well, not exactly. It's more like add the new to what always worked...and that's face-to-face meetings and networking.
In 2004, I would make phone calls all day long, then travel all over for meetings with the hope of a call back. Later, I hired sales staff to share our services and story and hand out literature that would only explain a portion of what we really did. Our story and services are quite complex. It was a while before even my family could explain what I did. After some time, I decided I needed to take a new look at how I was marketing my business and what it was costing me.
Having been introduced to inbound marketing a few years ago, I spent two years driving tens of thousands of people to our site to see our blogs and videos as well as our development process content. We seemed to be doing a decent job at branding ourselves as experts in our business, but we were not getting the right people to the site. So, I'm thinking, “...what is the value of all the work in blogs and articles and shared knowledge? It seems the people I'm trying to meet aren’t on the Internet trying to meet me.” And I was partially right. The people that I am trying to connect with are over-achievers and heads of technology departments, not inventors looking for a cheap solution to make a million bucks. These over-achieving entrepreneurs are working towards solutions in their labs, not on Facebook or LinkedIn. Not to say there aren’t plenty of over-achievers on those platforms, just not always the ones I want to connect with.
This summer I embarked on a networking and knowledge journey that took me on an unusual path. I started with a few meetings in New England, and although the meetings were primarily for clients with suppliers, they were still with the decision makers for the companies; engineering managers and owners, and I still saw a boost of Internet activity on our social media platforms after each meeting. It was that activity, which led to follow-up calls and a wave of referrals and introductions, including compliments on the site content. What started with the thought of traveling up to New England to meet with a clinician and few vendors, ended up with a networking mind map that led from one contact to another and after 2.5 months we had visited ten states and attended 18 unique and valuable meetings with clinicians, vendors and clients, expanding our resources for our existing clients and our own resource base exponentially.
I have talked with many friends that have businesses that insist that the direct contact over the phone is the only cost effective way to get a sale. I would argue that is not a complete statement. It may be true in your business that direct contact may be required for a sale, but it also does not mean that direct contact will ensure a sale. In a business with complex planning and risk, our society is now turning to the Internet for confirmation of proficiency and performance. A business that cannot back up the claims of a personal meeting with online content that supports their presentation, experience, knowledge and frankly legitimacy in that industry, will have a much more difficulty closing a sale.
Today, anytime I talk shop with a business owner I ask if they have a blog page and if not, how are they providing useful content to their clients that defines them as an expert in the field they work in.
In summary, it may be, all the technical articles, awards, patents, and testimonials in the world don’t equate to work – you will inevitably need to engage people, but the you still need to show them the breadth of your capabilities and knowledge. That can’t always be done face-to-face. Use the tools the Internet provides and add a blog to your website, create a YouTube channel, educate people on how you can help them and are different than everyone else.